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Work Torso of the "Diadumenus" type

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

Torso of the "Diadumenus" type

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

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

Author(s):
Lepetoukha C.

This torso is one of a prolific series of ancient replicas which are generally agreed to echo the Diadumenus ("he who attaches" a band around his forehead), a bronze produced c.440-430 BCE by Polyclitus.
Polyclitus was fascinated by the male form and its reproduction according a system of skilful calculations that he set out in his treatise, the Canon. The Diadumenus was the fruit of this intellectual approach, which was of seminal importance in the history of Greek sculpture.

The Diadumenus

This fragmentary torso is one of a series of replicas (the finest of which is in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens) which enable us to build up the original pose. We have to imagine a young athlete, naked and standing with his weight on his right leg, his left leg slightly drawn back; his arms raised, he was caught in the gesture of tying a victory band around his temples.

Polyclitus and the Canon

In this type of statue we see echoes of a bronze statue created c.440-430 BCE by the sculptor Polyclitus; indeed a Diadumenus by this artist is mentioned in literary texts. More convincing still is the undeniable resemblance between this type and the Doryphoros: the most celebrated work by Polyclitus, known to us through a number of copies, which is regarded as the illustration in sculpture of his treatise the Canon.
The Canon is characteristic of the intellectual movements of the mid-fifth century BCE, a time when philosophers, architects and sculptors were engaged in a quest for an ideal of beauty by means of numerical systems. Polyclitus applied these theories by creating statues of athletes whose entire physique was dictated by detailed calculations.
In this way he established a model of balance which was highly influential. This was achieved through a system of opposing responses (the line of the pelvis, for instance, is the inverse response to the line of the shoulders - the "contrapposto"), and by an intellectual approach to anatomy in which nothing is fortuitous. Hence the thoracic arch responds to the arch formed by the groin, while the width of the pectorals is equal to the distance between them and the navel and also to the distance between the navel and the genitals. The harmony of the whole is also achieved by the legibility of the "muscular breastplate", separated into clear and well-defined masses.

A different interpretation of the Canon

The Diadumenus offers a more flexible solution to the principles set out in the Doryphoros, however, and in this sense it offers a variation on the Canon. The movement caused by the raising of the arms creates a vertical momentum, and modifies the muscular responses of the torso. The anatomy thus becomes slenderer, while the pose is softened by the accentuated slope of the shoulders. The general impression is one of greater lightness in the proportions, which in some people's view has suggested corruption by Attic art, but which in any case justifies a later date for this work than for the Doryphoros.
However natural his pose may appear, the Diadumenus should not therefore be viewed as the representation of any individual athlete savoring his victory. It is rather the result of rigorous intellectual research, which finds its three-dimensional expression in this idealized, rigorously considered anatomy. This physique created through mathematical calculation renders the Diadumenus the ideal, and not the portrait, of an athlete, and places him definitively in a world beyond our own.

Bibliography

T. Lorenz, Polyklet, Wiesbaden, 1972, pp. 24-6.
D. Kreikenbom, Bildwerke nach Polyklet, Berlin, 1990, n V15, p. 120, p. 192.
C. Rolley, La Sculpture grecque, II, Paris, 1999, p. 35.

Technical description

  • Torso of the "Diadumenus" type

    Roman, Imperial
    first half of 2nd century AD?

  • Marble

    H. 85 cm

  • Former Campana collection
    Purchased in 1863

    Inventaire Cp. 6595 (n° usuel Ma 1027)

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Athena gallery (also called the Melpomene gallery)
    Room 15

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Additional information about the work

Formerly restored as Germanicus