The group of four Riace Warriors (1986-89) are the culmination of Frink's many representations of the male nude. The inspiration came from the the discovery, in 1972, of two fifth century, over-life-sized Greek bronzes in the sea off the coast of Calabria, Southern Italy. Unlike the classical calm of much of the art of this period, the sculptures had an air of savagery and an uneasy edge which is explained in their meaning; these warriors were mercenaries who took their payment in the form of certain sacrifices which they demanded.
Frink had read about the bronzes and saw them in a show in Florence, immediately responding to their sinister beauty, their thuggishness appealing to a preoccupation she had long held. The series of Riace bronzes which she produced drew on this combination of brutality and barbarism; her figures are stockier than their ancient prototypes but they have the same keen, alert sense of danger and readiness for action.
Frink also experimented with different kinds of patination on the Riace figures and produced some with their faces marked out in white, increasing the sense of unease and alienation, their true expressions masked. As Frink explains, 'The Riace Warriors could be translated into something else. It depends on the viewer. The idea is that something might be bursting out of these people. They're restraining or constraining vessels of skin and muscle and sinew which something else might possibly burst out of - that's the feeling I want to get. It's interesting how much you can put into a piece of sculpture, and how it changes as you build it up. Often they're accidental changes which may suggest something else, so that you start to push things in another direction. It's all very flexible' (see E. Lucie-Smith and E. Frink, Frink a portrait, London, 1994, p. 126).