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Visitor trails Greek Sculpture, The Human Body

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities - Length: 1 hr 30 mins - Tour days: Monday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

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Victoire de Samothrace (détail)
Victoire de Samothrace (détail)

© R.M.N./G. Blot

00Introduction

Of all the works in the Louvre, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo are among the most admired: in their striking depiction of the human form they encapsulate the "Greek spirit." This circuit traces this artistic quest of sculptors who had an indelible influence on Western art.

Inspired essentially by the human body, Greek artists created an art on a human scale and focused on the human form, in contrast with earlier ancient civilizations which had always concentrated on the unreachable world of the gods.
In ancient Egyptian religion, the god Thoth was the creator of writing, and therefore of artistic representation, which was considered magical and potentially alive.
Necessarily perfect from the outset, this art created in the service of the gods and the dead was constrained by fundamental principles that were essential to the balance of the universe. Egyptian conservatism in this field for over three thousand years is thus not hard to understand: within such a highly structured framework, innovation was minimal and risky.
In Greece, however, all human creation was striving toward perfection, and constant improvement was necessary to win the favor of difficult and capricious gods. The concept of "agon," or competition, was the driving force behind Greek society, spurring artists from every city to make constant innovations from generation to generation. Thus in less than seven centuries the simple forms of the Geometric style were to evolve into figures such as the Venus de Milo and the Borghese Gladiator.
And thus too, over the last millennium BC, Greek civilization was to lay the foundations for the whole of Western art.

 

How to get to the next stop:

Carry on toward the Denon wing. After the ticket and security check, take the left-hand staircase to the former stables of Napoleon III, now the Preclassical Greek gallery, where the Greek sculpture tour begins.

Têtes de statuettes féminines
Têtes de statuettes féminines

© R.M.N./H. Lewandowski

01Heads of female figures

These works, the purity of whose lines has such a strong appeal for us today, are only part of an imposing statue. Other examples may be seen in the left-hand display case. As their precise function remains obscure, they are customarily included under the generic description of idol (from the Greek "eidolon," image).
Made on the island of Amorgos in the Cyclades, these "Cycladic" idols, together with the paintings from Cretan palaces and the Mycenaean sculptures and terracottas displayed in the following showcases, were created during the third millennium BC.

How to get to the next stop:

Go toward the display case on your left, labeled "Époque géométrique" (Geometric period).

Gallery of pre-Classical Greek art, Geometric period display case
Gallery of pre-Classical Greek art, Geometric period display case

© Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier

02Gallery of pre-Classical Greek art: Geometric period display case

Chronologically, the Geometric period was the first phase of Greek art. This was the period when the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet, and when the Iliad and the Odyssey were composed by the poet we know as Homer. The name given to the period derives from the simple geometric motifs used to decorate pottery between around 900 and 700 BC. Human and animal figures became widespread on vases and small bronzes toward the end of this period, during the 8th century BC.
The first Greek sculptures were often small bronze statuettes some ten centimeters high, offered as ex-votos or gifts for the gods in important temples such as the sanctuary of Olympia, the most famous of them all. Even when sculpted in the round, their forms were made up of triangles and other basic shapes.
Many sculptures were thus made in order to give pleasure to the gods; indeed the Greek word "agalma," which we translate as "statue," means "object of joy." In their efforts to gratify the gods to an ever greater degree, each successive generation of artists introduced innovations in their quest to reproduce human and animal forms as faithfully as possible. This quest would reach its culmination only three hundred years later, in the early Classical period.

How to get to the next stop:

Continue to the next display case, in the middle of the gallery.

Statuette féminine dite "Dame d'Auxerre"
Statuette féminine dite "Dame d'Auxerre"

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

03Statue of a woman, known as the "Lady of Auxerre"

The Orientalizing period, corresponding roughly to the 7th century BC, saw the birth of a great tradition of sculpture. Merchants, usually of Phoenician origin, brought fabrics, ivory and jewelry, so ensuring the spread of motifs from Egypt and the Levant. A Greek colony, Naucratis, grew up in the Nile Delta, and ancient writers tell us that two sculptors from Samos learned their skills in Egypt. The Greeks were quite unabashed about this overt imitation, the philosopher Plato even going so far as to declare that all borrowings from other civilizations were improved by the Greek "genius"!
Although only 75 cm tall, this "Lady of Auxerre," whose identity remains unknown to us (she came to light at an auction in Auxerre in the late 19th century), is one of the earliest examples of stone statuary.
Almost certainly sculpted in Crete in the last third of the 7th century BC, the figure seems still to be imprisoned in the block of limestone from which she is carved. Some areas of the statue were colored, as indicated by the incisions on the garment. The hair, which forms a heavy frame around the face and lends the figure a slightly Egyptian air, is characteristic of the "Dedalic" style, which flourished during the Orientalizing period. Other examples may be seen in the display case to your right.

How to get to the next stop:

Continue to the next large statue, in the middle of the gallery.

Corè
Corè

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

04Kore from the Cheramyes group

In the Archaic period, around the 6th century BC, sculptors moved from statuettes to statues, and from limestone to marble. Two types of statuary introduced at this time were to persist throughout the history of Greek art: the nude male youth ("kouros" in Greek) and the clothed young woman ("kore"). These subjects offered sculptors an opportunity to study the positioning of muscles on the skeleton and the folds of a garment on the body.
Statues of young women generally depicted servants in the eternal service of the gods, often shown with an offering. In the Temple of Hera in Samos, this kore was one of a group of statues offered to the goddess Hera by one Cheramyes, as indicated in the inscription running along the edge of the veil on the figure's thigh.
The artist sought to render the impression of a real body under the garments - note the curve of the belly and the swelling chest, as though breathing in. He also played with the textures of the clothing, rendering the fine transparency of the veil held by the thumb of the right hand, the tight, parallel folds of the chiton (the linen tunic), and the heavy fall of the himation (the woolen garment fixed on the right shoulder with pins, forming a fan-shaped swathe of small folds).

How to get to the next stop:

Turn to the two male torsos a few steps behind you and to the right.

Torso of a kouros
Torso of a kouros

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

05Torso of a kouros

The kouros – a standing figure of a youth in a strictly frontal pose, his left leg advanced and his arms by his sides - was also borrowed from Egypt.
Nudity was fairly exceptional in Egyptian art, however, unlike in the Greek world, where it was part of a way of life. Athletes were naked, particularly at the great Panhellenic games in which all the Greek city-states participated, such as those at Olympia. For the Greeks, depictions of nudity could be viewed as an assertion of their identity, and even a demonstration of their civilization.
These statues also depicted divinities and their servants, victorious athletes, and even the dead on their tombs. Their religious function dictated a conservatism in form, and these images were used by artists throughout Greece.
Nevertheless, art historians are able to determine the provenance of a work by its style, which varied between city-states and artistic "schools": a kouros by an Athenian sculptor would not be the same as one from Argos. Artists sought above all to create a perfect, timeless image, while introducing an increasing degree of realism through more accurate representations of the bone and muscle structure. This progress toward a more faithful rendering of the body enables us to classify these works chronologically.
Accordingly, the rendering of the ribcage and the abdominal muscles in these two works indicates that they were separated by an interval of twenty years.

How to get to the next stop:

Carry straight on to the display case containing a male torso and the neck of a horse. On the way you will pass another kouros, this time from the island of Paros. Note its much more rounded form.

Tête de cavalier
Tête de cavalier

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

06Head of a horseman, known as the "Rampin Horseman"

Here again, in this sculpture found on the Acropolis in Athens by the French diplomat Rampin in the 19th century, the anatomy appears to be delineated rather than modeled. The work is distinguished, none the less, by the originality of its pose and the slight break from the frontal approach. Seated on his horse, now fragmentary, the Rampin Horseman wears a wreath of leaves indicating that he is a victorious athlete (his body, here represented by a cast, is in the Acropolis Museum).The hair and beard are depicted with great delicacy.
A perpetual smile lights the faces of works from the Archaic period, a feature borrowed from contemporary Egyptian work, and also a technical solution for the rendering the lower part of the face. It should not be interpreted the expression of an emotion, as even the dead are represented in this manner.
Traces of a red color heighten the eyes, hair and beard and it is even possible to distinguish a small mustache.
The original appearance of these marble statues was very different, however. All Greek sculptures - whether in the round or bas-reliefs - featured painted details and metal inlays, although only a few works have retained traces of their colors, now much faded. Since the Renaissance's rediscovery of these works, bleached by centuries spent underground, we have tended to think of Greek sculpture as being uniformly white, and we would doubtless be surprised to see them in their original multicolored glory!

How to get to the next stop:

Continue to the large torso standing at the foot of the stairs at the end of the gallery, in the center.

Torse masculin
Torse masculin

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

07Male torso

This statue, now broken, was reused in the Roman theater at Miletus, as indicated by two holes made in the back in order to secure the statue with metal tenons.
A characteristically Greek spirit of competition between artists lay behind the rapid strides made towards increasingly faithful depictions of reality. Realism was finally achieved in the early Classical period (480-323 BC), and this torso dating from 480 BC offers a lifelike representation of a human body. The rendering of the abdominal muscles and the indentation of the ribs is convincing, but traces of the recent Archaic style may still be detected in the highly decorative treatment of the pubic hair and the pronounced hollow of the back.
The pose of the figure is quite unlike the rigid stance of the kouros, however. The rendering of the right shoulder blade shows that the arm was stretched out in front. The right hip is higher than the left and the right buttock more contracted than the other, indicating that the man stood with his pelvis tilted and his weight shifted naturally on to one leg.
At this time Classical sculptors were making advances in several areas, but focused mainly on the rendering of the male body, later shown in motion. The Archaic smile also vanished.
All these characteristics can be seen in the fragments of decoration from the temple at Olympia, at the top of the stairs. A model of the temple enables visitors to place these fragments in their original context.

How to get to the next stop:

Take the corridor on the left - with the Venus de Milo standing at the far end - past the Salle de Diane, a temporary exhibition space, and turn right. You are now in the Galerie Melpomène, where a huge Roman statue of Melpomene, the Muse of tragedy, stands at the far end on the left.

Tête d'Iris dite "Tête Laborde" : fragment de figure féminine du fronton ouest du Parthénon
Tête d'Iris dite "Tête Laborde" : fragment de figure féminine du fronton ouest du Parthénon

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

08Head of Iris, known as the "Laborde head"

The sculptor and architect Phidias oversaw the reconstruction of Athens at the time of Pericles, around 450 BC. He was also in charge of the decoration of the Parthenon: a superb treasury (a building used to house ex-votos) for the statue of Athena presented to the goddess by the Athenians in gratitude for their victory over the Persians. Standing twelve meters high, the statue was composed of sheets of ivory and gold (weighing a ton!) attached to a wooden framework. "Chryselephantine" statues of this type were the most prestigious of all. A small-scale Roman copy in marble stands against the left-hand wall.
Phidias was also responsible for another similar statue: the Zeus of Olympia, considered in Antiquity as one of the seven wonders of the world. A reconstruction of it can be seen in the model of the temple at Olympia.
This impassive face detached from a pediment, timeless and serene, was composed according to a system of proportions. It measures three times the length of the nose, which starts from the forehead, in "Greek-profile" style. No temporal, human expression disturbs its abstract perfection. It was a divine beauty, a Platonic ideal that the artist sought to depict, not a worldly reality. In the 4th century BC, Plato wrote that no artist could attain ideal Beauty, far removed from the accidents and illusions of human life. Only a rigorous intellectual quest might achieve it, supported if necessary by concrete images, but only in order to transcend them.

 

Plaque dite des Ergastines : fragment de la frise est du Parthénon
Plaque dite des Ergastines : fragment de la frise est du Parthénon

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

09The "Plaque of the Ergastines"

Certain details on this fragment of the east frieze of the Parthenon, such as the rendering of the muscles and the veins in the men's arms, and the woven texture of the borders of the peplos (the woolen robe worn by the young women in the procession), indicate a degree of realism, none the less. Moreover, the now-vanished colors of blue and gold would have tempered the work's present austerity.
Some historians view Classical art, of which this is such a fine example, as marking a perfect balance between the two competing trends of abstraction and realism in art. In an impressively succinct analysis, Goethe observed that the Greeks did not portray gods as humans, but rather created humans in the image of the gods.

 

Aphrodite, dite Vénus de Milo
Aphrodite, dite Vénus de Milo

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Anne Chauvet

10Aphrodite, known as the "Venus de Milo"

The Hellenistic period (323-31 BC) was the last great era of Greek history. Alexander the Great left behind him an immense empire, which soon became a number of separate kingdoms, each a center of artistic activity with a variety of interests. Then during the 2nd century BC, as they lost their political independence and eventually became citizens of Rome, Greek artists renounced this originality in order to satisfy the huge Roman demand for Classical art.
The Venus de Milo, or rather the Aphrodite of Melos (from the name of the island where the statue was found in 1820), is one of the last great Greek originals.
Here again we see a reinterpretation of the precepts of Polyclitus: the canon is more slender, the head smaller, and the chiasma seems to become three dimensional in a generous spiral. The influence of Praxiteles can also be felt in a composition that echoes the Venus of Arles. The statue was almost certainly created in around 100 BC, in the "Neoclassical" style that was so much to the Romans' taste, combining a Classical, impassive face with the realistic elements of Hellenistic nudity. Note the contrast between the neutral, Classical face and the naturalistic, Hellenistic rendering of the body's full curves.
Seductive as we still find her today, would she retain her charm for us if she also recovered her missing arms, jewelry and coloured finish?

 

Torso of the "Diadumenus" type
Torso of the "Diadumenus" type

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

11Torso of the "Diadumenus" type

The Classical period is marked by great artists known to us solely through Roman copies of their works. The Romans were great lovers of Greek art and made numerous reproductions of famous works, which they used to decorate their gardens, gymnasia and baths. These copies, mostly marbles after bronzes cast in the Christian era, enable us to trace the careers of some sculptors to a certain degree. Greek and Latin texts also offer valuable information, unfortunately without any illustrations. Hence we know that around 440-430 BC, in a work now lost, the sculptor Polyclitus of Argos was also preoccupied with the question of how to render an ideal of beauty. This he defined as the Canon - "rule" in Greek - a term we continue to use today in an expression signifying that beauty is the product of a subtle mathematical calculation! Polyclitus formulated a system of proportions - the height of the head being a seventh of that of the whole body - and of an opposition between the shoulders and the hips, creating the impression of a muscular body at rest. The dynamics of this image are constructed around a large X - the letter chi, from which the word "chiasma" was used to denote this artificially constructed pose, also known by the Italian term "contrapposto." This torso of an athlete tying a victory band around his head illustrates this new manner of defining the body.

How to get to the next stop:

Continue to the statue of a woman holding an apple in her hand, on the right in front of a window.

12Aphrodite ("Venus Genitrix")

In 430 BC an epidemic of the plague ravaged Athens, just as the Peloponnesian Wars between the Greek city-states were erupting. In the crisis of morale that ensued, the Greeks began to doubt their gods who allowed such calamities, and artists, perhaps seeking to forget the disasters around them, started to explore the gentleness and grace of the female form.
The figure of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, became increasingly important. Born of the sea, she was depicted in ever more revealing fashion. Female nudity was still very rare at the time, being reserved for the courtesans depicted on banqueting vases.
The drapery reveals more than it conceals, the damp folds of the fabric clinging to her curves and converging on the triangle of her pubis. The goddess's graceful gesture as she draws her robe back on to her left shoulder is characteristic of the mannerism in vogue at this time.
The tilt of the head is new, as the goddess seems to incline herself benevolently toward the worshipper. But the features closely resemble those of the Parthenon head. The face is still timeless and impassive, with only the hair and the addition of jewelry (note the holes for earrings) rendering it more feminine. The canon and chiasma of Polyclitus lend the figure a certain heaviness, however. As you look around, you will notice how these artists all used the same set formulae, while each adding a new touch (shifting the weight to the other leg, perhaps, or leaning the figure on a column).

How to get to the next stop:

Continue to the far end of the gallery, where copies of Praxiteles' works are displayed. On the right of the huge statue of the Muse Melpomene, which has no connection with the sculptor, is a headless female nude.

Torse féminin du type de "l'Aphrodite de Cnide''
Torse féminin du type de "l'Aphrodite de Cnide''

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

13Female torso, of the Aphrodite of Knidos type

In the 4th century BC, the Athenian sculptor Praxiteles unveiled the goddess Aphrodite completely, so paving the way for all the female nudes in Western art. The Venus found in Arles, to your left, reveals only her torso, while the completely naked Aphrodite of Knidos holds her garment in her left hand and hides (or points to?) her pubis with her right. The small display case by the window contains other more complete versions of this statue.
It is this pose, rather than her scarcely voluptuous anatomy, that accentuates the figure's femininity, the curve of the hip and the thighs held together. The line of the back is particularly well observed. This was a new approach, as the artists of the late 4th century BC broke with the traditional frontal pose (note the back of the Venus Genitrix farther down the gallery).
In her time, this Aphrodite was as famous as the Mona Lisa today, although it was her "dewy-eyed" gaze, as described by the writers of antiquity, that most impressed worshippers. A number of versions are presented on the right, but none of them can do full justice to the delicately tinted marble original.
On your left is a copy of another work by Praxiteles: the Apollo Sauroctonus. The ferocious god who slayed the serpent Python, guardian of the Delphic Oracle, is here depicted as a slender youth leaning gracefully on a tree trunk and teasing a lizard. The new religious sensibility of the times produced a rejuvenated image of the gods.

How to get to the next stop:

Go into the adjoining gallery, where you will find the Venus de Milo's back view.

Hermès à la sandale
Hermès à la sandale

© R.M.N./H. Lewandowski

14Hermes tying his sandal

The Salle des Caryatides contains Roman copies of Greek Hellenistic originals, all of which are now lost. In front of the fireplace is the work of Lysippus, and farther down are statues illustrating the range of artistic endeavor in this remarkable period full of contrasts.
The work of the bronze sculptor Lysippus, a contemporary of Praxiteles and official portraitist to Alexander the Great, focused above all on the male body. A very large number of works are attributed to his workshop.
The image of Hermes tying his sandal while listening to the orders of his father, Zeus, is characteristic of Lysippus's artistic endeavors. It should be remembered, however, that the head, which comes from another copy of the same work, is too small here, and that the incongruous supporting tree trunk under the thigh was added by the Roman copyist when he transposed the bronze original into marble.
Lysippus reworked Polyclitus's canon by lengthening it. The proportions are freer, the head now an eighth of the total height of the body and the muscle structure more slender - except, of course, in the statue of Heracles to your right. The artist sought in addition to situate the figure in a space that was also that of the observer, with a play of light and shade.
To your left is a group of portraits of philosophers, around Lysippus's portrait of Alexander. Full-scale portraits were favored by Hellenistic sculptors, but their Roman copyists unfortunately only reproduced the head.

How to get to the next stop:

Head toward the statue of a man hanging from a tree by his wrists, on your left.

The Flaying of Marsyas
The Flaying of Marsyas

© R.M.N./H. Lewandowski

15The Torment of Marsyas

The Hellenistic period produced totally new and often very powerful works, sometimes described as "baroque." The sculptors of Pergamon in Asia Minor produced studies of pathos, pain and death, with groups of combatants captured in poses that positively explode into three dimensions. The bulging muscles, finely traced ethnic features and carefully observed blood flowing from wounds were all new departures.
Equally powerful and innovative is the figure of the satyr Marsyas, hanging from a pine tree and about to be flayed alive for daring to challenge Apollo in a musical contest. Here, the problem of weight that taxed sculptors of the Classical period is avoided, and the male body becomes a subject for anatomical study, almost an écorché already. Light and shadow define this tense body, portrayed with poignant and unflinching realism. Some have even suggested that this image was later to be an influence on depictions of the Crucifixion. Shadows scan the satyr's tormented features as he gazes at his torturer and executioner.
The same pitiless realism is also visible in the treatment of the imaginary portrait of Homer a little farther on, near a window on the left. The bushy beard, heavy eyelids over sightless eyes and flesh sagging with age are all features of the Pergamon baroque style.

How to get to the next stop:

Continue to the end of the gallery by the Caryatids, until you reach the figure lying on a mattress (the latter sculpted by Bernini in the 17th century).

16Hermaphroditos Asleep

When Hermaphroditus, son of Hermes and Aphrodite, rejected the advances of the nymph Salmacis, the latter begged Zeus to join their two bodies as one for all eternity, so creating the bisexual being depicted here. In a surprise effect of high drama, the observer who moves round to the front of this languorous female body is presented with an unabashed and unambiguous rendition of the male genitals.
The sinuous curve of the graceful body and the treatment of the flesh and the face echo of the work of Praxiteles, but the play of opposites (recto/verso, feminine/masculine, sleeping/twisted pose) stems from the taste for contrasts and the bizarre that was very much part of the Hellenistic spirit.
Is this work simply an erotic game, or is it an interpretation of philosophical ideas on the nature of Love, such as those expounded in Plato's Banquet? Artists of this period were certainly fascinated by abstruse allegorical themes that today often seem impenetrable.
The Child with a Goose, which you have just passed, is the first portrayal of a real child rather than a miniature adult, as had been the norm hitherto. Yet its precise meaning remains obscure.
Similarly baffling is the group of a mischievous Eros sitting astride and teasing an ageing centaur. Influenced by Pergamon models, this work offers piquant contrasts between extreme youth and age and between the human and animal worlds.

How to get to the next stop:

Turn around to see a squatting female nude, opposite the Child with a Goose.

Aphrodite accroupie
Aphrodite accroupie

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

17Crouching Aphrodite

Artists of the Hellenistic period made frequent use of Classical themes, producing countless depictions of the naked Aphrodite in an infinite number of variations on Praxiteles' sculpture of Aphrodite bathing. Here the goddess is seen squatting to perform her ritual ablutions, in a pose that takes the Polyclitian chiasma and turns it into a rotating, pyramid-shaped composition. This twisting pose also allowed the sculptor to indulge his evident delight in the depiction of the folds of the generous, sensual figure, now much more voluptuous, while at the same time creating a skillfully balanced composition. The hand that can be seen on the goddess's back belonged to the young Eros, now missing.
This type of work was reproduced endlessly by Roman copyists for the decoration of baths.
Other images of the goddess can also be seen in this room, together with the Three Graces, in which the sculptor plays on front and back views of the same female nude.

How to get to the next stop:

Leave the Salle des Caryatides by the way you entered and turn right, past the Salle de Diane again and the fragments from Olympia, to climb two flights of steps. You will find yourself at the foot of the staircase of the Winged Victory of Samothrace (Daru staircase).

La Victoire de Samothrace
La Victoire de Samothrace

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

18Winged Victory of Samothrace

An original masterpiece almost certainly destroyed by an earthquake, the Winged Victory of Samothrace was discovered in innumerable shattered fragements on the island of Samothrace in the northeastern Aegean by a French vice-consul in 1863. The right wing is a plaster copy of the left wing, the only one to survive. The cement base under the statue's feet is also modern; the goddess of victory would have been depicted alighting directly onto the deck of a ship. The statue stood on a hilltop, positioned obliquely within an aedicule or tabernacle, which explains why the right side is less carefully worked. In true Hellenistic manner the figure is presented in spectacular fashion, her wings and robes fluttering in the breeze.
Victory, Nike in Greek, is captured alighting on the deck of a ship to which she brings the favor of the gods. Her right hand, found in 1950, enables us to reconstruct her original gesture, announcing this event with raised hand.
Certain stylistic details indicate that this monument was probably an ex-voto offered to the gods by the inhabitants of Rhodes, in gratitiude for a naval victory of around 190 BC. The proportions, the rendering of the body, the treatment of the draperies and the figure's sweeping, dramatic movement all bear witness to the quest for realism in the Hellenistic era.

How to get to the next stop:

Go back down the stairs and along the gallery, among the Roman sarcophagi. At the far end on the left is a large statue of a man caught in movement.

Guerrier combattant, dit <i>Gladiateur Borghèse</i>
Guerrier combattant, dit <i>Gladiateur Borghèse</i>

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

19Fighting Warrior

The name "Gladiator" given to this warrior from the Borghese collection, bought by Napoleon in 1807, is erroneous, as there were no circuses in Greece. The statue depicts a fighter captured in mid-struggle, beating off an enemy who attacks from above, almost certainly on horseback. The brassard for a shield can be seen on his left arm. By contrast the right arm, holding the pommel of a sword, is a restoration probably dating from the 17th century.
Protected by his shield, the warrior prepares to deal a counter-blow in a gesture that forms a powerful diagonal slicing through the space.
An original masterpiece of the late Hellenistic period, created in around 100 BC, this is one of the very few signed statues to have survived. An inscription on the tree trunks reads, "Agasias of Ephesus, son of Dositheos, made [this statue]".
As indicated by the tree trunk, this work was probably made from a bronze, but far from being a mere copy it embodies the artistic endeavors of the Hellenistic period, most notably in its mastery of three-dimensional representation. Agasias probably took his inspiration from a work by Lysippus, whose canon he stretched even farther and combined with innovations of his own time. The head is here very much reduced in size, and the supple, slender muscle structure is as detailed as an écorché, echoing the researches of artists of the Pergamon baroque.

How to get to the next stop:

To return to the Hall Napoléon under the Pyramid, go down to the ground floor and cross the Galerie Daru (Room B).

 

Author(s): 

Sandrine Bernardeau, R.M.N. lecturer