Borghese Gladiator

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Borghese Gladiator
Borghese Gladiator Louvre Ma 527 n1.jpg
Artist Agasias of Ephesus (signature)
Year c.100 BCE
Type Marble
Dimensions 199 cm (78 in)
Location Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Borghese Gladiator is a Hellenistic lifesize[1] marble sculpture actually portraying a swordsman, created at Ephesus about 100 BCE.

Sculptor[edit]

The sculpture is signed on the pedestal by Agasias, son of Dositheus, who is otherwise unknown. It is not quite clear whether the Agasias who is mentioned as the father of Heraclides is the same person. Agasias, son of Menophilus may have been a cousin.[2]

Rediscovery[edit]

It was found before 1611, at Anzio south of Rome, among the ruins of a seaside palace of Nero on the site of the ancient Antium. From the attitude of the figure it is clear that the statue represents not a gladiator, but a warrior contend­ing with a mounted combatant. In the days when antique sculptures gained immediacy by being identified with specific figures from history or literature,[3] Friedrich Thiersch conjec­tured that it was intended to represent Achilles fighting with the mounted Amazon, Penthesilea.[4]

The sculpture was added to the Borghese collection in Rome. At the Villa Borghese it stood in a ground-floor room named for it, redecorated in the early 1780s by Antonio Asprucci. Camillo Borghese was pressured to sell it to his brother-in-law, Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1807; it was taken to Paris when the Borghese collection was acquired for the Louvre,[5] where it now resides.

Misnamed a gladiator due to an erroneous restoration, it was among the most admired and copied works of antiquity in the eighteenth century, providing sculptors a canon of proportions. A bronze cast was made for Charles I of England (now at Windsor), and another by Hubert Le Sueur was the centrepiece of Isaac de Caus' parterre at Wilton House;[6] that version was given by the 8th Earl of Pembroke to Sir Robert Walpole and remains the focal figure in William Kent's Hall at Houghton Hall, Norfolk. Other copies can be found at Petworth House and in the Green Court at Knole. Originally a copy was also located in Lord Burlington's garden at Chiswick House and later relocated to the gardens at Chatsworth in Derbyshire. In the United States, a copy of "The Gladiator at Montalto"[7] was among the furnishings of an ideal gallery of instructive art imagined by Thomas Jefferson for Monticello.[8]

In painting[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Height 1.99 m.
  2. ^ PD-icon.svg "Agasias". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  3. ^ The phenomenon is noted by Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique: the Lure of Classical Sculpture, 1500-1900 (Yale University Press), 1981, who offer numerous examples of fanciful 16th to 18th-century identifications.
  4. ^ Friedrich Thiersch, Epochen der bildenden Kunst, 1816-25.
  5. ^ Inventaire MR 224 (n° usuel Ma 527)
  6. ^ A copy of the Borghese Gladiator in a similar central position in a Dutch garden, appears in a painting by Pieter de Hooch in the Royal Collection (Lionel Cust, "Notes on Pictures in the Royal Collections-XXVIII. Two Paintings by Pieter de Hooch", The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 25 (July 1914:205-207, illus pl. 1).
  7. ^ Possibly referring to a statue that used to stand in the large hall of Sixtus V's Villa Montalto in Rome, described in the artist Willem Schellinks' Dagh-Register, an unpublished manuscript describing his travels in 1646 and 1661-65, (Royal Library, Copenhagen, NKS370, vol. II, 718.) as "een statue van den Gladiator, swart marmer", "a statue of the Gladiator, black marble"
  8. ^ Seymour Howard, "Thomas Jefferson's Art Gallery for Monticello" The Art Bulletin 59. 4 (December 1977:583-600); see Appendix B note 8.
  9. ^ Louvre catalogue entry
  10. ^ The Course of Empire-Destruction

References[edit]