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A ROMAN MARBLE TORSO OF AN ATHLETE
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN 
A ROMAN MARBLE TORSO OF AN ATHLETE

CIRCA 1ST-2ND CENTURY A.D.

Details
A ROMAN MARBLE TORSO OF AN ATHLETE CIRCA 1ST-2ND CENTURY A.D. Over-lifesized, standing in contrapposto with his weight on his right leg, his left advanced, his shoulder slightly twisted accentuating the powerfully-modelled body, the right arm raised, the left lowered and projecting forward, the musculature of the body well modelled with front pectoral and stomach muscles 37 in. (94 cm.) high
Provenance
with Galerie Marc Lagrand, Paris.
Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008), acquired prior to 1974.
Collection Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé; Christie's, Paris, 25 February 2009, lot 680.
Private collection, Switzerland.

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Lot Essay

PUBLISHED:
'Les années 20 revues dans les années '70: chez Yves Saint Laurent par Philippe Julian', Connaissance des arts, December 1973, p.103. 'Architectural Digest Visits: Yves Saint Laurent', Architectural Digest, September/October 1976, p.112-119.

This powerfully muscled torso of an athlete is a Roman copy of a lost 5th Century B.C. Greek bronze original. By the early Imperial period the Romans had developed a love of all things Greek in art and culture, and the fame and skill of the Greek sculptors was not lost on the Roman elite. As D. E. E. Kleiner explains 'They were introduced to Greek art...by the abundant display of plundered Greek masterworks in Roman triumphal processions. After the supply of originals dwindled, whole schools of copyists began turning out near replicas and new variations to fulfil the demands of a seemingly insatiable Roman audience' (Roman Sculpture, Yale, 1992, p. 4).

With right arm raised and left arm held slightly in front, the pose of this impressive athletic torso recalls that of the 'oil pourer' traditionally associated with Polykleitos and his followers. From the raised right hand the athlete is shown in quiet repose, pouring oil from a vessel into a bowl held across his abdomen in his lowered left hand. For a closely related example see the marble figure in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Skulpturensammlung, Dresden, (inv. no. Hm 67) in H. Beck et al., Polyklet: Der Bildhauer der griechischen Klassik, Mainz, 1990, pp. 619-620, no. 146. For another variant with the right arm not so highly raised at Petworth House, England, cf. J. Boardman, Greek Sculpture, The Classical Period, London, 1985, fig. 231. The classical canon of contrapposto stance and subtle twist to the body are masterfully rendered in the torso above to produce a tour de force of Roman Imperial sculpture.

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