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Group 2 Presentation 05 28 14 The Seated Boxer

Topics: Ancient Rome, Roman Empire, Rome, Italy, Boxing / Pages: 2 (660 words) / Published: Apr 11th, 2015
The statue portrays a boxer seated with his arms resting on his knees, his head turned to the right and slightly raised with mouth open (fig. 4). The figure is naked except for his boxing gloves, which are of an ancient Greek type with strips of leather attached to a ring around the knuckles and fitted with woolen padding (fig. 5), and the infibulations of his penis by tying up the foreskin, which was both for protection and an element of decorum. The boxer is represented just after a match. His muscular body and full beard are those of a mature athlete, and his thick neck, lanky legs, and long arms are well suited to the sport. His face exhibits bruises and cuts. His lips are sunken as though his teeth have been pushed in or knocked out. His broken nose and cauliflower ears are common conditions of boxers, probably the result of previous fights, but the way he is breathing through his mouth and the bloody cuts to his ears and face make clear the damage inflicted by his most recent opponent. The muscles of his arms and legs are tense as though, despite the exhaustion of competition, he is ready to spring up and face the next combatant.
The quick turn of his head is emphasized by drops of blood—represented by inlaid copper—that appear to have just fallen from his face onto his right thigh and arm Similarly realistic impressions occur in other Hellenistic bronze sculptures such as the Horse and Jockey from Artemision in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Like the Boxer at Rest, this large-scale sculptural group was most likely a monument to athletic victory, perhaps representing the moment when the jockey, his horse still in mid-gallop, turns to look back at competitors as he crosses the finish line. The sculpture also makes use of inlays to great effect, most notably the brand in the form of a winged Nike bearing a victory wreath on the horse's right rear haunch. The Nike brand would have been of a contrasting metal such as gold, silver, or even copper to give the appearance of seared flesh.

At the Museo Nazionale Romano at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome (, I came upon the life-size portrait of a boxer, post-fight, seated and grimacing. The intensity of pain and exhaustion on the gouged and bleeding face and trembling body of this late Hellenistic Greek sculpture (3rd -2nd century BCE), was palpable. It is one of the most famous bronze statues from ancient times, and rightly so. Although I had never seen it before, I was overwhelmed by the transformation of pain into bronze, a parallel of recent photos of our contemporary Olympic athletes after their strenuous competitions ( Ancient Romans loved ancient Greek statues and amassed large private collections of them.
Detail of Hellenistic Sculptor, The Seated Boxer, 3rd century BCE, Bronze
Ancient Greek and Roman sculptures were a fundamental influence on Italian Renaissance artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and their contemporaries. The revival and rebirth of classical philosophy, art and ideals propelled Raphael, for example, as he developed his monumental fresco, The School of Athens (1509 – 1511), commissioned by Pope Julius II, for the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican apartments. While I did not visit the fresco this trip, I did study the unbelievable drawing/cartoon (cartone) that, against all odds, was saved and now hangs in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. VIDEO -

Apollonius, Boxer at Rest, 100-50 B.C.E., bronze (Palazzo Massimo, Museo Nazionale Romano)

Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker

This Greek bronze was found in 1885, buried, possibly purposefully, on the Quirinal, one of the seven hills of Rome. It has been suggested that this sculpture may represent the Olympic champion, Theogenes.

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