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Work Statue of a wounded Galatian

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Hellenistic Art (3rd-1st centuries BC)

Wounded Gaul?

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Hellenistic Art (3rd-1st centuries BC)

Author(s):
Marie-Bénédicte Astier

This Gallic warrior (known to the Greeks as a Galatian) is recognizable by his tousled hair and oval shield with a central band. Although badly wounded, he is poised to fight back. The piece shows the rather baroque aesthetic prized by Pergamene sculptors. It was inspired by a sculptural group dedicated at the Acropolis in Athens around 200 BC, commemorating the victory of the Pergamene kings over the Galatians.

A wounded Gaul

This remarkable alabaster sculpture depicts a Gallic warrior, known to the Greeks as a Galatian. Certain accurately-researched details, such as the oval shield with a central band, show the care taken by the sculptor to convey the warrior's ethnic origins. His tousled hair reminds us that the Gauls smeared their hair with pitch to make their appearance more terrifying. Weakened by a thigh wound, the naked combatant is down on one knee. He fights back fiercely, armed with a double-edged sword and protecting himself with a shield, of which only the strap around the left hand remains.

A commemorative group

The "barbaric" Gauls appeared in Greek art following the Galatian invasion of 280 BC and their defeat on a number of occasions by Attalus I, king of Pergamon, including the battle of the River Caicus in 237 BC. To celebrate the glory of the Pergamene sovereigns, Attalus dedicated two commemorative statuary groups depicting defeated Gallic warriors. The first was erected at Pergamon and the second, which was smaller and probably made of bronze, was dedicated at the Acropolis in Athens around 200 BC. Described by Pausanias in his Guide to Greece (I, 25, II), the group portrayed various combat scenes: the battle of the Giants (Gigantomachy) and the Amazons (Amazonomachy), the battles of the Athenians against the Persians, and the defeat of the Gauls at the hands of the Attalids. Several small Roman copies of the various combatants, in marble, are preserved in Naples, Venice, Aix-en-Provence and the Vatican. The present statue is a copy of this type, faithful to traditional representations of mythological battles and similar to the sculptural decoration of the Parthenon. The original groups presented the Pergamenes as the new defenders of the Greek world, following in the footsteps of the Athenians. Other, larger copies of defeated Gauls can be found in Rome: the Dying Gaul in the Capitoline Museum, and the Gaul Committing Suicide with his Wife. Inspired by the same impulse to glorify the Attalids, they attest to the popularity of this theme during the Hellenistic period.

A baroque aesthetic

This statue, which is a Roman copy, reflects the baroque aesthetic of the mid-third century BC. Pergamon was one of the movement's principal centers. The theatricality and dynamism of the composition, which can be viewed from all sides, is typical of Pergamene sculpture. The forceful movement, the naturalism of the wound, the exaggerated musculature and the figure's expression impress the viewer with their dramatic intensity.

Bibliography

Collectif, D'après l'Antique, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2000, pp. 158-159, n 13
Andreae (B.), Schoenheit des realismus, 1998, pp. 184-193
K. Kaberam (K.), Die Antikensammlung des Kardinals Scipione Borghese, Worms-sur-Rhin, 1995, p. 222, n 117, fig. 79

Technical description

  • Wounded Gaul?

    Roman, Imperial (1st-2nd century AD)

  • Alabaster

    H. 97 cm; L. 75 cm; W. 52 cm

  • Formers Orsini, Farnese and Borghese collections
    Purchased in 1807

    Inventaire MR 133 (n° usuel Ma 324)

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Salle des Caryatides
    Room 17

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