Collection: Athens, National Archaeological Museum
Title: Olympia Boxer
Context: From Olympia
Findspot: Found at Olympia, north of the Prytaneion, in the Sanctuary of Zeus (in 1880)
Summary: Head of a boxer
Object Function: Victory
Sculptor: Suggested attribution to Silanion
Material: Bronze
Sculpture Type: Free-standing statue
Category: Single sculpture?
Style: Late Classical
Technique: Hollow cast
Original or Copy: Original
Date: ca. 350 BC - ca. 325 BC
Dimensions: H. 0.28 m
Scale: Life-size
Region: Elis
Period: Late Classical

Subject Description: This rare work of Classical bronze portraiture shows an aging man, with sagging cheeks, squinted eyes with crow's feet, and a fleshy, knitted brow. The swollen lid of the right eye and the puffy cheeks seems to indicate the injuries that the athlete would have suffered. He is bearded and his hair is curly and tousled, radiating from a central point on the back of the head. A wreath on his head indicates that he was a victor. The wreath is comprised of a branch twisted at the back, with its ends cut at angles. Gouges in the branch, at regular intervals (0.02 m apart) mark the location of missing leaves.

Form & Style: Because of the high quality of the workmanship scholars have attempted to attribute this work to a particular artist. A favored candidate is the Athenian sculptor, Silanion, who was known to have made a portrait of a boxer, Satyros of Elis (victor in the 332 or 328 Olympic games), which Pausanias saw at Olympia: Paus. 6.4.5.

Condition: Head only (nearly complete)

Condition Description: The portrait is broken off at the neck. The tip of the nose has corroded away, as has the surface of the mustache. Only two leaves of the wreath remain.

Technique Description:

The curls were cast separately and then soldered to the head. The inlaid eyes rested on ledges ca. 0.02 m wide. The lips are also inlaid, so that they are sharply delineated although they seem to have been made of the same metal as the head. No teeth are visible. Details on the hair and beard were inlaid, with a finer blade used for the twisting curl ends, and yet a finer blade (?) used to mark the herringbone pattern of the eyebrows.

Mattusch (86) notes that the the top of the head was cast separately, and joined at the wreath, so that the curls above and below do not match up.

Sources Used: Mattusch 1996, 84-87, fig. 3.5; Boardman 1995, fig. 44; Stewart 1990, 180, fig. 514; Karouzou 1968, 177-78

Other Bibliography: Finn & Houser 1983, 7, 37; Lullies & Hirmer 1979, 97; Bol 1978, 114-15; Robertson 1975, pl. 160a; Charbonneaux et al. 1972, 212; Herrmann 1972, 172; Boardman 1967, 444; Richter 1965, 47; Laurenzi 1941, 101 no. 34; Rodenwaldt 1936, 53; E. Schmidt, "Silanion der Meister des Platonbildes," JdI 49 (1934) 193; Lawrence 1927, 16; Hyde 1921, 255H. Schroder, "Über den Marmorkopf eines Negers in den Königlichen Museen," 60. Programm zum Winckelmannsfeste (Berlin 1900) 16; Friedrichs & Wolters 1885, 145, no. 323; Furtwängler 1880, 10-11, no. 2