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Work Statue of Paris, known as the Lansdowne Paris

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

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Paris

© 2002 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

The Paris from the Lansdowne collection is one of numerous Roman copies of a famous original. The Trojan hero is shown as a youth, wearing a Phrygian cap. The figure's youthful appearance, the crossed legs, and the use of a prop for the figure to lean on indicate that this is an imitation of a sculpture dating from the 4th century BC, most likely a bronze completed by the painter and sculptor Euphranor towards the middle of the century.

The Lansdowne statue: an effigy of Paris

The archaeological digs led by Gavin Hamilton in the Emperor Hadrian's villa in Tivoli in 1769 uncovered some forty marble statues of figures from Greek mythology and Egyptian gods. Among them was this figure of a beautiful young nude male. The statue, doubtless part of the decoration of this prestigious villa, was purchased by the Louvre in 1988. It had previously been in the collections of Lord Lansdowne and R. Peyrefitte. The handsome youth is depicted nude, leaning nonchalantly against a tree trunk, his left hand on his hip. He is wearing a Phrygian cap, usually worn by people from the Orient, so the figure was immediately understood to be Oriental. Some experts identified him as Ganymede because of his similarity to Roman copies of Ganymede, the handsome young lover of Zeus, with an eagle. Others, however, identified the figure as Paris, prince of Troy and legendary shepherd, and this identification is now generally accepted.

The classical aesthetic of the 4th century BC

This statue can be identified thanks to a number of copies dating from the imperial era of an original work sculpted at the end of the classical period. The appearance and pose of the youth and the composition of the work reflect the aesthetic canon of sculptures dating from the 4th century BC, bearing witness to the efforts of the sculptors to extend the limits of this canon. Paris, the Trojan hero, is a youthful, delicate figure. His frame is graceful, adolescent, almost feminine. His body is barely marked by the lines of the muscles, which have been carefully softened. The legs are crossed, underlining the jut of the hips. The artist thus reaches beyond the contrapposto position perfected by Polycletus a century previously, throwing the figure off-balance to the point where the use of a prop is necessary. The tree trunk thus plays a dual role, both as a decorative, realistic element used to suggest the setting of the scene, and as a support for the figure.

A copy of the bronze Paris by Euphranor

The original from which this work was copied is generally attributed to Euphranor, a Greek painter and sculptor active in Athens in the mid-4th century BC. In his Natural History (34.77-78, 128), Pliny the Elder writes that Euphranor sculpted a much admired Paris-Alexander, possibly in bronze. Pliny also comments on the style of the figures, writing that he found the bodily forms too slight and the heads too large for the bodies. The statue from the Lansdowne collection seems to correspond to this description. Light has recently been shed on Euphranor's career thanks to the identification of one, perhaps several, of his original works-the marble Apollo Patroos in the Agora in Athens and the bronze Athena in Piraeus. However, neither of these works can really be compared to the work copied by the Lansdowne Paris. Consequently, the attribution of the original to Euphranor remains uncertain.

Bibliography

J . Raeder, Die Statuarische Ausstattung der Villa Hadriana bei Tivoli, 1983, p. 42-43, n I 16
N. Dacos, "Le Pâris d'Euphranor", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, 85, 1961, p. 371, 374-379, fig. 4

Technical description

  • Paris

    Early 2nd century AD

    Provenance: Hadrian’s Villa, Tibur (near Rome), Italy

  • Marble

    H. 1.65 m

  • Discovered by Gavin Hamilton in 1769 at Tivoli
    Former Landsdowne collection (1930 sale), then R. Peyrefitte collection
    Purchased in 1988

    N° d'entrée MNE 946 (n° usuel Ma 4708)

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

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