Boxer at Rest

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Boxer at Rest
Terme Boxer, Boxer of the Quirinal
Boxer of Quirinal (Mys from Taranto) - Lateral View.jpg
Year330 to 50 BC
MediumBronze statue
LocationPalazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome, Italy

The Boxer at Rest, also known as the Terme Boxer, Seated Boxer, Defeated Boxer, or Boxer of the Quirinal, is a bronze sculpture, a Hellenistic Greek original,[1] of a sitting nude boxer at rest, still wearing his himantes (Ancient Greek: ἱμάντες, romanizedhimántes, plural of ἱμάς, himás, 'a leathern strap or thong'[2]), a type of leather hand-wrap. It has been given various dates within the period of about 330 to 50 BC. It was excavated in Rome in 1885, and is now in the collection of the National Museum of Rome, normally displayed in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.[3]

The Boxer at Rest is one of the finest examples of bronze sculptures to have survived from the ancient world; survivals from the period are rare, as they were easily melted down and transformed into new objects. The work comes from a period in Greek art where there is a movement away from idealized heroic depictions of the body and youth, and an exploration of emotional as well as psychological themes and greater realism. These traits are typical of Hellenistic art and thoroughly displayed in this sculpture, making it a hallmark of the Hellenistic style.


The Boxer is one of two unrelated bronzes (the other being the unidentified Hellenistic Prince) discovered on the slopes of the Quirinal within a month of each other in 1885, possibly from the remains of the Baths of Constantine. It appears that both had been carefully buried in antiquity. The archaeologist Rodolfo Lanciani, who was present at the sculpture's discovery, wrote:[4]

I have witnessed, in my long career in the active field of archaeology, many discoveries; I have experienced surprise after surprise; I have sometimes and most unexpectedly met with real masterpieces; but I have never felt such an extraordinary impression as the one created by the sight of this magnificent specimen of a semi-barbaric athlete, coming slowly out of the ground, as if awakening from a long repose after his gallant fights.

Description and Interpretation[edit]

View of the back of the sculpture
Experimental color reconstruction of the bronze statues from the Quirinal, Liebieghaus Polychromy Research Project (Brinkmann & Koch-Brinkmann)
Detail of the head

The statue is a masterpiece of Hellenistic athletic professionalism, with a top-heavy over-muscled torso and scarred and bruised face, penis bound by a kynodesme, cauliflower ears, broken nose, morton's toe and a mouth suggesting broken teeth.[3][5] The boxer was also depicted as bearded, which would have been a typical characteristic of ancient boxers.[6] R.R.R. Smith believes that the statue does not show a true portrait: this is genre realism, individuality removed in favor of a generic character of "boxer".[7] A reconstruction project executed by the Frankfurt Liebieghaus Polychromy Research Project and headed by Vinzenz Brinkmann follows the interpretation of Otto Rossbach (1898)[8] and Phyllis L. Williams (1945)[9] and identifies the statue as Amykos, King of the Bebryces.[10][11]

In 1989, both bronzes were meticulously conserved by Nikolaus Himmelmann, in preparation for their exhibition at the Akademisches Kunstmuseum in Bonn.[12] The sculpture is soldered together from eight segments, separately cast through the lost-wax process; the joins have been filed and finished to be virtually invisible. The lips and wounds and scars about the face were originally inlaid with copper, and further copper inlays on the right shoulder, forearm, caestus and thigh represented drops and trickles of blood. The fingers and toes were worn from being rubbed by passers-by in ancient times, which has suggested that the Boxer was carefully buried to preserve its talismanic value, when the Baths were abandoned after the Goths cut the aqueducts that fed them.[13] These baths remained mostly unused until the 6th and 7th century when Pilgrims being treated nearby in the Xenodochium of Santi Nereo ed Achilleo were buried at the location of the baths.[14]

The statue was displayed in the United States for the first time from June to July 2013 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as part of the "Year of Italian Culture in the United States".[15]


External video
Thermae boxer Massimo Inv1055 n7.jpg
video icon Apollonius's Boxer at Rest, Smarthistory[16]

The literary and aesthetic reception of the statue continues to be of high regard for its aesthetic virtues. In 1991, Thom Jones wrote "The Pugilist at Rest", a short story which includes the aesthetic reflection upon the statue's rare quality as seen through the eyes of a worn and weary boxer contemplating its inspiration. He suggested that the sitter may be the famed Ancient boxer, Theogenes. During the time of its display in New York during the summer of 2013 (ended 20 July), New York magazine published on 15 July 2013 a full page dedication to the special qualities and attributes of the statue.[citation needed]

Jerry Saltz, the author of this magazine article enumerated the six distinctive features of the statue as follows: (i) The Pose, distinct for its massiveness and "elemental" form, (ii) The Face, noted for the large brow and columnar neck, (iii) The Blood, noted by its inlaid copper upon the bronze statue itself, (iv) The Scarred Genitals, distinct for being infibulated for cultural and aesthetic purposes of ancient times, (v) The Hands, noted for being astounding yet gentle at the same time, and (vi) The Foresight, referring to the sculptor's strength of vision which resembles and conjures Goya's Giant as well as comparison with "Velazquez and Rembrandt", as Saltz completes his list.[citation needed]

The Italian poet Gabriele Tinti has written essays and some poems on sculpture and presented a series of readings in front of the statue at the J. Paul Getty Museum with the actor Robert Davi and at the National Roman Museum with the actor Franco Nero.[17] On 2 August 2019, American actor Kevin Spacey read Tinti's poetry inspired by the statue at the National Roman Museum in Palazzo Massimo.[18]


  1. ^ Salazar, Alejandro Cantarero de; Santos, Alicia Esteban (6 October 2020). Greek Lyric Poetry and Its Influence: Texts, Iconography, Music and Cinema. ISBN 9781527560468.
  2. ^ ἱμάς. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  3. ^ a b Gardner, Helen; Kleiner, Fred S. (2013). Gardner's art through the ages: a global history (14th [revised and enlarged] ed.). Australia. ISBN 978-0-8400-3078-8. OCLC 894921256.
  4. ^ Lanciani, Ancient Rome in Light of Recent Discoveries (1888:305–306), quoted in Sean Hemingway, "The Boxer: an ancient masterpiece comes to the Met", 2013; accessed 29 June 2013.
  5. ^ "The Story Behind the "Greek Foot" and its Medical Explanation". Greek Reporter.
  6. ^ Arenas, Amelia (1999). "The Boxer". Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics. 7: 120–126 – via JSTOR.
  7. ^ Smith, R. R. R. (1991). Hellenistic Sculpture. London. pp. 54–55.
  8. ^ Otto Rossbach: Amykos. In: Festschrift für Otto Benndorf zu seinem 60. Geburtstage gewidmet von Schülern, Freunden und Fachgenossen. A. Hölder, Vienna 1898, pp. 148–152 (digital copy).
  9. ^ Phyllis L. Williams: Amykos and the Dioskouroi. In: American Journal of Archaeology. Bd. 49, Nr. 3, 1945, S. 330–347, doi:10.2307/499627
  10. ^ Vinzenz Brinkmann, Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann: Die sogenannten Quirinalsbronzen und der Faustkampf von Amykos mit dem Argonauten Polydeukes. Ein archäologisches Experiment. In: Vinzenz Brinkmann (ed.): Medeas Liebe und die Jagd nach dem Goldenen Vlies. Exhibition catalogue Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt 2018. Hirmer, Munich 2018, p. 80–97.
  11. ^, The Quirinal Bronzes reconstruction project (Making of) on YouTube
  12. ^ Himmelmann, Nikolaus (1998). Herrscher und Athlet: Die Bronzen vom Quirinal. Milan: Olivetti.
  13. ^ Hemingway 2013.
  14. ^ Piranomonte, Marina (2008). The Baths of Caracalla : guide. Italy. Soprintendenza speciale per i beni archeologici di Roma (1st ed.). Milano: Electa. ISBN 978-88-370-6302-3. OCLC 233929517.
  15. ^ "Art - June 2013 - Italy in US 2013: Year of Italian Culture in the United States". Archived from the original on 20 June 2013.
  16. ^ "Apollonius's Boxer at Rest". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
  17. ^, National Roman Museum
  18. ^ "Kevin Spacey Reads Poem About Dejected Boxer at Rome Museum". Hollywood Reporter. 2 August 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2019.

External links[edit]