Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rare Hellenistic Sculpture on Public View

A rare look at a hidden masterpiece...
[T]he 16th Palazzo Giustiniani, which houses the offices of the President of the Italian Senate, and was the site of the signing of the Italian constitution in 1947, is a government building and is normally off limits. But until May 16 the palazzo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. to showcase a Hellenistic Greek bronze statue of a boxer that is usually housed in the Palazzo Massimo near the train station. The Palazzo Massimo is one of several buildings that together constitute Italy’s national collection of Roman art.

[Archivio fotografico Ufficio Stampa / Senato della Repubblica, reprinted by the New York Times]

The boxer was discovered on the Quirinale hill in 1885, during a vast building campaign undertaken whilst Rome was in full transformation as the capital of the relatively new Italian state. Originally, the statue, which various archeologists have dated to around the end of the fourth and the second century B.C., probably decorated the Thermal Baths of Costantine.

He’s depicted naked, in repose after a fight, his face bruised and battered, his nose squashed, his right eye bloody, his ears swollen by repeated blows. Drops of blood, or sweat, have dripped onto an arm and his right leg. The wounds and drops were originally inlaid in copper. it’s an uncommonly realistic statue.

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