The Temporary Exhibition of the Mechanism and the Antikythera shipwreck...>>

Marble statue of a boy

Material: Parian marble
Provenance: Antikythera shipwreck. From the material retrieved in 1900-1901 (13.12.1900)
Date: Early 1st c. BC
Dimensions: H. with plinth 1.115 m., h. of plinth 0.075 m.
Exhibition Place:Temporary Exhibitions Wing, Room II

The left side of the statue is corroded, but the right is in exceptionally good condition. Where preserved by being protected from stone-eating organisms in the sediment on the sea bed, the marble skin is uniformly smoothed and polished. The inherent plinth bears traces of finishing with a point and claw chisel. Its original outline is preserved only behind the figure's right leg. The left arm was separately made, as was the upper part of the head and hair. The joint between the right upper arm and forearm, however, seems more likely to be due to a repair immediately following retrieval.

Such a means and position for effecting a join was unusual in antiquity, as the other sculptures from the wreck demonstrate. Breaks exist on the right shin directly below the knee and above the ankle, also on the support joining the plinth with the statue's left thigh. A third of the support, as well as the left leg down to the knee, is completely destroyed by sea water. A quadrilateral strut joins the right elbow to the thigh; another such beneath the right knee is fractured in the middle. The middle and ring fingers on the right hand are broken; the gap between the thumb and forefinger is bridged by a very thin strut.

The boy is depicted nude and half bent-over with his head raised. He stands full on his left leg, extended and bent at a right angle at the knee. The right leg, also slightly bent, is drawn back and only the toes rest on the plinth. The upper part of the torso leans sharply forward. The left upper arm, to judge from the small preserved section, was held up and to the front. He turns his head back, with his gaze following the direction of his arm. The right arm is lowered, its palm slightly open.

The figure is balanced between tension and relaxation. Like a tightly-drawn bow, movement runs from the right leg across to the outstretched left arm; the arrangement of both the head and so the boy's gaze follow the same course. The body reflects this uneven distribution: the tension-filled left side contrasts with the right side "sinking" slowly and languidly downward. One can even discern a difference in the modeling, by comparing the deep groove of the spine with the shallow transitions on the relaxed right side.

Similar antitheses are also found in the facial features. The boy's round head, with its low forehead, soft cheeks, large and round chin and fleshy lips contrast with the angular, raised eyebrows that wrinkles the forehead, and the hard contours of the eyes and eyelids. The wings of the nose are very delicately rendered, while the ears are depicted as large and fleshy, almost swollen. The contour of the face is clearly delineated by the hair, which has been finished with the point and is arranged in zones around the head.

Many interpretations have been proposed for the figure. It has been interpreted as a youth in the aposkopein (?ποσκοπε?ν) pose, as a warrior, hunter, knuckle-bones player (?στραγαλίζων), as a barbarian (Gaul?) imploring the magnanimity of his victorious opponent, as Aktaion hidden among the trees and endeavouring to catch sight of Artemis, as Lykaon, the next-to-youngest son of the Trojan king Priam, fallen on his knee and supplicating Achilles to grant him his life, as a small satyr provoking a nymph, and as a charioteer. However, the most likely interpretation is that of a pancratiast or a wrestler represented at the moment of assuming his position just prior to the match. His stance and expression assume the presence of a second opposing figure, which would have been his mirror copy. Doubtless he formed part of a group. Comparisons of the boy's face with other sculptures permit this work to be securely dated to the early 1st c. BC: namely with portraits from Delos dating around 100 BC or immediately after, and specially with the statue of a boy from the Italian villa at Fianelle Sabino near Rome.

Bibliography: Π. Καββαδίας, Ανακοίνωσις περί των εκ της παρά τα ?ντικύθηρα θαλάσσης αγαλμάτων, ΠΑΕ 1900, 95-98, fig. 2. P. Κabbadias, The Recent Finds Off Cythera, JHS 21 (1901) 207-208, no. 7, fig. 5. Γ. Νικολαΐδης Κρης, Άγαλμα λίθινον εξ Αντικυθήρων, ΑΕ 1903, 201-206. Ι.N. Σβορώνος, Το εν Αθήναις Εθνικόν Μουσείον. Ο θησαυρός του ναυαγίου των Αντικυθήρων, Αθήναι 1903, Vol. Α, 66-69, no. 25, pl. ΧΙΙ,1. Frost 1903, 230-232, no. IV, fig. 3. Β. Στάης, Τα εξ Αντικυθήρων ευρήματα: Χρονολογία, προέλευσις, χαλκός έφηβος, Αθήνησιν 1905, 44, 49, fig. 19. Stais 1910, 71-72. F. Studniczka, Archaologisches aus Griechenland, AA 36 (1921) 334-338, figs. 13, 15. F. Studniczka, Ein vermeintlicher Kriegsheld. Marmorstatue von Antikythera neu gedeutet, Winckelmannsfeste des Archaologischen Seminars der Universitat Leipzig am 17. Dezember 1921, Leipzig 1921. S. Papaspiridi, Guide du Musee National. Marbres, bronzes et vases, Athenes 1927, 83 (with false inv. no. 2774). P.C. Bol, Die Skulpturen des Schiffsfundes von Antikythera (AM - Beih. 2), Berlin 1972, 69-72, no. 25, pls. 38-40 and pl. 41,6. G. Hubner, Der Portratkopf. Uberlegungen zu pergamenischen Portratplastik vom 2. Jh. v. Chr. bis in augusteische Zeit, in: M.N. Filgis - W. Radt (eds), Die Stadtgrabung: Das Heroon, AvP XV.1, Berlin 1986, 131, pl. 47,7. Chr. Vorster, Die Skulpturen von Fianello Sabino. Zum Beginn der Skulpturenausstattung in romischen Villen (Palilia 5), Wiesbaden 1998, 33. B.S. Ridgway, Hellenistic Sculpture III: The Styles of ca. 100-31 B.C., Wisconsin 2002, 74, 98 note 17, pl. 27. Ν. Καλτσάς, Εθνικό Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο. Τα Γλυπτά. Κατάλογος2, Αθήνα 2002, 299-300, cat. no. 626. Chr. Vorster, Die Plastik des spaten Hellenismus - Portrats und rundplastische Gruppen, in: P.C. Bol (ed.), Die Geschichte der antiken Bildhauerkunst IIΙ: Hellenistische Plastik, Mainz am Rhein 2007, 310, fig. 304. Ν. Kaltsas - Ε. Vlachogianni - P. Bouyia (eds), Τhe Antikythera Shipwreck: The Ship, the Treasures, the Mechanism (Catalogue Exhibition, National Archaeological Museum, April 2012 - April 2013), Athens 2012, 104-105, cat. no. 50 (Ε. Vlachogianni).

Position in the museum