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Graeco-Roman torso of an oil-pourer

Greek island marble

Height: 43cm

Museum number: M455

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 368help-vermeule-catalogue-number

On display: Sepulchral Chamber
All spaces are in No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields unless identified as in No. 12, Soane's first house. For tours https://www.soane.org/your-visit

Curatorial note

This badly battered small torso clearly preserves the pose of an athlete pouring oil from an aryballos (a small spherical or globular flask) held in the elevated right hand into the left hand which is brought across the abdomen (the break at this point shows where the arm was sculptured).

We may conjecture that this torso had the usual points in common with the several surviving variants of this type, notably the statues in Munich, Dresden, and at Petworth House (Furtwängler, Mp., pp.257-261; Picard, Manuel, II, pp.696ff., fig. 280): the weight of the figure was thrown on the left leg and the head was turned towards the left. Like the two similar small adaptations in the Vatican (Amelung, VC, I, Braccio Nuovo, nos.99, 103, pls. XVI, XVII), this torso is based on the most popular type of oil-pourer, the figure known best from the life-size torso in Dresden (Br.-Br., pl.133 and especially 134b which illustrates the proximity of the Soane figure when compared/viewed from the back which is, in spite of the vertical mounting bar, better preserved). We are safe in following Prof. Furtwängler's suggestion that the original of the Dresden statue and its parallel variants must be sought for among the work of Attic sculptors of the end of the fifth or beginning of the fourth Century. The evidence of the Vatican statues indicates that sets of athlete figures were placed around not only gymnasia but the recreational areas of Roman Villas; these would also feature an apoxyomenos, like another piece in the Soane collection M322. Both Furtwängler (op.cit., p.262) and Amelung (VC, I, no.105, p.120) place this oil-pourer and the original conception of the Soane apoxyomenos in the same school, probably perhaps by the same or two allied masters. The first types of each may have been, like their many later variants, executed together as part of a series of gymnasium figures. The motive of the Dresden oil-pourer became (later in the fourth Century) in the hands of the celebrated Greek sculptor Praxiteles, the 'Satyr pouring wine', best known from a statue also in Dresden (Furtwängler, p.310ff., fig.131; Richter, Sculpture, p.265f., figs. 682-684).

The small marble versions of the Apoxyomenos (Soane M322/Vermeule 367) and the Oil-Pourer (Soane M455/V368) are discussed in their Graeco-Roman decorative settings, in The Burlington Magazine, CX, October 1968, p.552, figs. 5-7

Provenance help-art-provenance


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