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The “Antikythera Youth” – The Antikythera Shipwreck

Material: Bronze
Dimensions: H. 1.96 m.
Provenance: Antikythera shipwreck. From the material retrieved in 1900-1901
Date: Ca. 340-330 BC
Exhibition place: Room 28, inv. no: X 13396

Mends at the base of the neck, left shoulder, chest area, lower abdomen and upper part of the buttocks. The outer ankle of the left leg has been repaired. The objects the figure once held in its hands and the inlaid irises of its eyes are missing.

The statue was first mended in 1901 by the Greek sculptor P. Kaloudis. In 1902, the French sculptor A. Andre, rejoined the fragments and made numerous mends. The result was deemed only partially satisfactory, and so in 1947 it was decided the work would be taken apart and reassembled by a team of specialists. The team included the sculptors A. Panagiotakis and N. Perantinos (in an advisory capacity), master technician I. Bakoulis, painter A. Kontopoulos and chemist V. Zisis from the National Archaeological Museum. The work, which continued until 1953, was conducted under the supervision and ongoing guidance of the National Museum’s then-Director, C. Karouzos.

During its reconstruction, it was determined by existing “seams” that the statue was constructed with the indirect casting method from 12 separate pieces. The inlaid parts, which were of different materials (eyeballs and irises for the eyes, eyelashes of metal sheets, lips and nipples of a reddish alloy composed of a purer copper, teeth of metal sheets) were set before the separately-cast parts were welded together.

The young, nude male is shown standing in a frontal pose. He is supported by the entire sole of his left leg; the right leg, bent at the knee, is set obliquely towards the right and withdrawn, with the two inner toes resting on the ground. The figure raises and extends diagonally the right arm; the left arm is lowered, relaxed, and close to the body. His head is inclined strongly right, without focusing his gaze on the object he once held in his right hand. The short hair is arranged in wavy, overlapping curls, which are rendered with particular detail and plasticity.

The “Antikythera Youth” has been variously interpreted as Apollo, a “Learned” Hermes holding a caduceus and declaiming, Heracles with club or lion-skin, a victorious athlete holding as prize a spherical lekythion, a sphere, a wreathe, a phiale, or an apple. The figure has even been considered the funerary statue of a young man.

The majority of scholars are divided between the two most prevalent views. The first, which was originally proposed by I. Svoronos, identifies the figure as the Argive hero Perseus, displaying in his right hand the head of the Gorgon Medusa, grasping her by the hair, and holding in his other hand the adamantine harpe (sickle) with which he beheaded her. This interpretation is based on comparable scenes on vases, but above all on coins and ring bezels from Roman Argos. However, the sculpture is missing requisite identifying elements such as the chlamys, winged sandals and Hades’ magical Helm of Darkness, which made the hero invisible.

The second view, initially proposed by V. Stais, identifies the Ephebe as the Trojan hero Paris, holding the Apple of Discord in his extended right hand and the bow – symbol of the slaying of Achilles – in his left. The second interpretation focuses on the characteristics that make up the multi-faceted nature of Paris as the judge of the goddesses, lover of Helen, and slayer of Achilles. Its basis is the description in Pliny (ΝΗ ΧΧΧIV 77) of a statue of Paris by the sculptor Euphranor. However, the absence of basic identifying elements of the hero, including the spear, the mantle (chlamys) and Phrygian cap, is surprising.

Generally speaking, the figure adopts the Polykleitan motif of support, which relies on the principles of contraposto. However, the projection and extension of the right arm, which intensifies the sense of the third dimension, and the turn of the head towards the side of the relaxed rather than the stable leg contribute to the deconstruction of the Classical Polykleitan contraposto correspondence. Furthermore, the slenderness of the legs and smaller head in relation to the torso constitute a new proportional relationships vis-a-vis the Polykleitan “canon”.

The statue, which is today widely regarded as an original, dates to the decade 340-330 BC. But its attribution to a specific artist finds scholars divided. An artist from the circle of the Parian sculptor Scopas, or the Corinthian sculptor Euphranor (whose works, however, are characterized by Attic influences) are among the candidates. At any rate, the majority of scholars, who consider the “Antikythera Youth” a work of the Argive-Sicyonian school of successors to Polykleitos, would prefer to attribute it the Sicyonian Kleon, a sculptor of the “third generation” of the school’s artists, on “the road towards Lysippos”.

Βibliography: Ι.N. Σβορώνος, Το εν Αθήναις Εθνικόν Μουσείον. Ο θησαυρός του ναυαγίου των Αντικυθήρων, Αθήναι 1903, Τόμος Α΄, 20-28, no. 1, pl. Ι-ΙΙ. Β. Στάης, Τα εξ Αντικυθήρων ευρήματα: Χρονολογία, προέλευσις, χαλκούς έφηβος, Αθήνησιν 1905, 51-66. Χρ. Καρούζος, Χρονικόν της ανασυστάσεως του χαλκίνου Νέου των Αντικυθήρων, ΑΕ 1969, 59-79. P.C. Bol, Die Skulpturen des Schiffsfundes von Antikythera, Berlin 1972, 18-24, πίν. 6-9. C. Maderna, Die letzten Jahrzehnte der spatklassischen Plastik, in the volume: P.C. Bol (ed.), Die Geschichte der antiken Bildhauerkunst II: Klassische Plastik, Mainz am Rhein 2004, 320-321, 353, 359, 368, fig. 293a-e.

More information at: http://www.namuseum.gr/

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