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This artwork, Monumental Roman Bronze Torso, is currently for sale at Harlan J. Berk Ltd..
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, Monumental Roman Bronze Torso
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TITLE:  Monumental Roman Bronze Torso
WORK DATE:  circa 201 - 300
PERIOD:  3000 B.C.–400 A.D.
CATEGORY:  Sculptures
SIZE:  h: 31 x w: 22.2 in / h: 78.7 x w: 56.4 cm
STYLE:  Classical
PRICE*:  285,000 US$  (Convert prices to your currency with our Currency Converter)
GALLERY:  Harlan J. Berk Ltd.  +1-312-609-0016  Send Email
DESCRIPTION:  This torso of a muscular nude male is over life size. At a height of 31” (and a width 22 ¼”), it is proportioned to a complete figure roughly 7 feet tall. The powerful impression created by the figure is a matter of presentation as well as size; the main features of the anatomy are articulated in forceful terms. The pectorals swell, the waist is sharply pulled in below the rib cage, the external obliques bulge out over the hips, and the muscles of the belly are set off clearly. The surface modeling of the torso may originally have been quite restrained. The ribs, for example, are indicated only with subtle undulations. The lower part of the belly is flat and the navel is defined in dry and linear terms. Several features, such as the veins running through the external obliques, are articulated with special care. Particularly attractive is the chiseled finishing of the pubic hair, which forms a rich, complex tangle. Reading the anatomy is complicated by the damage the sculpture underwent in antiquity. The torso clearly was crushed and shattered, leaving its upper and lower edges as jagged breaks. The linea alba is deeply indented, but this may in large part be due to the ancient catastrophe. The indentation between the pectorals may originally have been relatively shallow, since the linea alba does not descend much below the ribcage. Normally the indented linea alba continues down to the navel. The indentation below the proper right side of the rib cage may also be accentuated as a result of ancient damage.

The torso presents much evidence of the elaborate procedure necessary to produce a large lost-wax casting. Many casting flaws were plugged with small bronze squares, some of which have fallen out over the centuries. Two larger casting flaws have cast-on repairs. A striking feature of the torso is the strong inclination of the pectorals, which slope downward from left to right. This is inclination is balanced a slope of the pelvis in the opposite direction. This strong contrast of axes and the large, firmly convex pectorals indicate that the composition was based on the art of the Greek sculptor Polykleitos, who was active in the second half of the fifth century B.C. and whose works were a major influence throughout the rest of Classical antiquity. In Polykleitos’ famous and often-copied compositions, the Diskophoros, the Doryphoros (fig. 1), Herakles, and the Diadoumenos, musculature was more powerfully articulated than in the work of any other Classical sculptor, and, as here, tilting axes in chest and pelvis were strikingly evident. In his elaborately balanced system for articulating the athletic male body (commonly called “contrapposto”), the pelvis was higher on the side of the weight-bearing leg and sloped down toward the relaxed leg. As here, the weight-bearing leg was always the right. Correspondingly, the shoulders of Polykleitan statues took a pronounced counter tilt, sloping downward toward the weight-bearing side. In spite of similarities in basic conception, it seems unlikely that the torso belonged to a replica of one of the statues of Polykleitos. The articulation of the belly muscles does not correspond exactly to Polykleitan prototypes. The linea alba, as mentioned above, does not continue down to the navel, and a waistline does not continue across the front of the figure, as in replicas of the works of Polykleitos. The scale might also be a little too large. According to a recent survey, the largest marble Polykleitan statues are likewise almost seven feet tall, but the measurements seem to include low bases, which were carved with the statues and add roughly six inches to their height. With its slightly larger scale, this torso seems more likely to belong to the realm of Roman bronze statues of emperors and major paternal gods, which could reach seven feet ten inches, as in the case of the Claudius from Herculaneum and the “Trebonianus Gallus”, in the Metropolitan Museum, New York . Furthermore, the left arm of this torso may have been in a raised position, judging by the relatively small, high gap where it was broken away. Except for the Diadoumenos (an athletic male – probably Apollo – binding his head with a ribbon), which had both arms raised, Polykleitan statues had their arms in a lowered position. If the original left arm of this torso was raised, the composition should be interpreted as a nude Zeus or Jupiter holding a long scepter. The image appears frequently in Hellenistic Greek numismatics, primarily as the chief divinity on coins of Aigai in northwest Anatolia and of the Achaian League in central Greece. In his outstretched right arm Zeus held an eagle in the one case and a Nike in the other. In Roman coinage the figure appears as Jupiter Tonans under Augustus, Jupiter Custos under Vespasian (69-79 A.D.), and Jupiter Conservator under Macrinus (217-222 A.D.) (fig. 2) . In his right hand, Jupiter Custos pours a libation, while the other two types hold a thunderbolt. Roman statuettes also give an idea of the composition; a statuette formerly in the Fleischman collection shows a Polykleitan image of the nude Jupiter with left arm raised (fig. 3). It is not impossible that this torso originally had a portrait head and represented a Roman emperor as the king of the gods. Emperors were often represented as Jupiter wrapped in a mantle. At times they were also portrayed as the nude Jupiter. A relevant case is provided by a bronze statue of Lucius Verus (161-180 A.D.) in the Levy-White collection from Burdur, Turkey (fig. 4). The emperor’s head is a realistic portrait, but his nude body is idealized and muscular. The pose and conception are generally similar to this torso, although Verus’ pectorals are not as massively Polykleitan as here and Verus’ right (rather than left) arm is raised. The back of this torso has a dynamic curvature, but its simple rendering makes it evident that it was meant to be placed against a wall or in a niche, a kind of display characteristic of Roman Imperial times. Since the nipples are cast together with the rest of the torso, it is likely that it dates no earlier in than the second century; in earlier times nipples were often inlaid with copper. Most replicas of Polykleitan statues date no later than the second century A.D. One feature, however, suggests that this derivative of Polykleitan style might be later and stem from Severan times. The elaborate chiseling of the pubic hair resembles the treatment of beards in portraits of Macrinus (217-218 A.D.) in Belgrade, Serbia (fig. 5) and Alexander Severus (222-235 A.D.) from Carnuntum (fig. 6), Austria. The comparison with the latter is particularly close, since in these two cases, the hair is not indicated with locks cast in relief but is rendered entirely with chiseling. A date in the range of 217-227 thus seems possible.

ONLINE CATALOGUE(S):  Harlan J. Berk Inventory Catalogue
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