Metropolitan Museum of Art presents The Boxer: An Ancient Masterpiece

. June 10, 2013

The over-life-size bronze statue Boxer at Rest a realistic ancient Greek sculpture created between the late fourth and the second century B.C., on loan from the Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme—will be shown outside Europe for the first time in The Boxer: An Ancient Masterpiece, a special presentation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on view through July 15, 2013.

Boxer at Rest, Greek, Hellenistic period, late 4th–2nd century B.C. Bronze with copper inlays, H. 128 cm (50 3/8 in.). Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome, inv. 1055. Lent by the Republic of Italy. Image courtesy Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma – Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.

Boxer at Rest, Greek, Hellenistic period, late 4th–2nd century B.C. Bronze with copper inlays, H. 128 cm (50 3/8 in.). Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome, inv. 1055. Lent by the Republic of Italy. Image courtesy Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma – Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.

The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, and the Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. Support is provided by Eni, the main sponsor of the exhibition.

The statue was excavated in Rome in 1885 on the south slope of the Quirinal Hill near the ancient Baths of Constantine, where it is thought to have been displayed. The sculpture was buried intentionally in late antiquity, possibly to preserve it against the barbarian invasions that ravaged Rome in the fifth century A.D. The broad-shouldered, lanky pugilist is shown seated, resting after a match. His gloves—which are highly detailed—identify him as a boxer.

The athlete’s many head wounds are consistent with ancient boxing techniques, in which the head was the main target. The copper inlays, indicating blood, heighten the effect. The boxer’s right eye is swollen, his nose is broken, and he breathes through his mouth, probably because his nostrils are blocked by blood. His scarred lips are sunken, suggesting missing teeth. The ears, swollen from blows, indicate possible hearing loss. Drops of blood from the wounds on his head have trickled down his right arm and leg. Wear on the foot and hands suggests that they were touched frequently in antiquity, possibly in veneration.

Because the iconography is related to statues of Herakles sculpted by Lysippos in the fourth century B.C., the Boxer at Rest may have been meant to celebrate a mythical—or real—boxer, who was glorified for his endurance and courage. Scholars have long debated the date of the statue, placing it anywhere from the middle of the fourth century B.C. to the middle of the first century B.C. The sculpture is an exceptional work in bronze from the Hellenistic period (323–31 B.C.) and is of outstanding artistry.

The exhibition is featured on the Metropolitan Museum’s website (www.metmuseum.org)

Category: Antiquities

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