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Post Lot Text
A ROMAN MARBLE MINOTAUR
CIRCA 1ST-2ND CENTURY A.D.
The hybrid monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man, depicted with his musculature and details of the head finely sculpted, the head angled down and to his left, with the skin rippling along the neck at the merge of the two species, the naturalistic bull head with curly hair along the poll, bulging almond-shaped eyes, an elongated muzzle and deeply drilled nostrils, deep recesses for the separately-made and now-missing horns, originally standing with his weight on his left leg, his right advanced, his left shoulder lowered, compressing the muscles along his left side, the right thigh with a finished surface on the underside and a square mortise for further attachment
According to Greek mythology, the Minotaur was the offspring of Pasiphaë, the wife of King Minos of Crete, and a bull. King Minos kept the bull in a labyrinth beneath the royal palace, offering to him as feed a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens from Athens. The Athenian hero Theseus came to Crete in the third group of victims. With the help of Mino's daughter, Ariadne, he dispatched the monster and escaped from the labyrinth.
The encounter between Theseus and the Minotaur was a favorite of Athenian vase-painters in black figure during the 6th century B.C. See, for example, fig. 16, p. 91 in Tsiafakis,"\KPELWRA\k" Fabulous Creatures and/or Demons of Death?" in Padgett, ed., The Centaur's Smile, The Human Animal in Early Greek Art. The myth has continued to be depicted in the artistic tradition throughout history, fascinating artists including Rodin, Dali and Picasso.
The subject is preserved from antiquity in a few examples in marble, thought to reflect a marble group of Theseus and the Minotaur attributed to Myron. For two such examples, both positioned differently from the present piece, see no. 169 in Kaltsas, Sculpture in The National Archaeological Museum, Athens and no. 137 in Giuliano, et al., Museo Nazionale Romano, Le Sculture.