Athena of Marsyas Group, frontal view

Athena of Marsyas Group, legs from left

Athena of Marsyas Group, view from back left

Athena of Marsyas Group, legs in left profile

Athena of Marsyas Group, torso from back left

Athena of Marsyas Group, view from right

Collection: Paris, Musée du Louvre
Title: Copy of Athena of the Athena and Marsyas Group
Summary: Young Athena from the two-figure group with the silen Marsyas
Object Function: Victory?
Material: Marble
Sculpture Type: Free-standing statue
Category: Original/copies
Style: Early Classical
Technique: In-the-round
Original or Copy: Copy
Original: Athena and Marsyas Group

H 1.46 m, (compare to H of Frankfurt Athena, including head 1.73 m)

Scale: Under life-size
Period: Roman

Subject Description:

Statue of a young Athena in peplos, usually accepted as the Athena which together with a statue of Marsyas comprised a two-figure group by the sculptor Myron. The identification of the group is based on several kinds of evidence: literary references, images of the group on coins and vases, and a number of copies which clearly derive from a single archetype, probably in bronze.

The most complete copy and the only one which preserves the head is in Frankfurt. The copy in the Louvre exhibits slight differences but is clearly based on the same original. Athena steps to the left, placing her weight on her right leg and trailing her left leg behind. She looks back over her left shoulder — at Marsyas, from whom she is stepping away. She wears a belted Doric peplos with an overfold which reaches to her hips. The portion of the drapery over the upper torso forms a large "V" in front which descends to the waist, with a mass of narrow folds to the side of each breast. In the center below the waist is a single, very wide fold, again emphasized by the numerous smaller folds to either side. The skirt of the peplos descends in unbroken vertical folds over the weight leg and between the legs, while the fabric is caught over the knee and calf of the free leg.

Our knowledge of the sculpture stems from Pausanias's statement (Paus. 1.24.1 that he saw a group on the Athenian Acropolis of Athena striking Marsyas as she threw away her flutes. Amelung recognized that the Frankfurt Athena type and a certain 5th century satyr type (best copy in the Lateran) conform closely to images of such a group on coins and an oinochoe in Berlin (Berlin F 2418). The multiple copies in marble in addition to the representation on coins and vases make it clear that the group was very famous. Since Pliny (Pliny NH 34.57) tells us that Myron made a Minerva (=Athena) and a satyr gazing at pipes, and the date of the sculptural prototypes (not long after the mid-5th century) is in line with his career, it is assumed that the group is by him.

The subject stems from the story of Athena's invention of the double flutes. She saw a reflection of herself while playing them one day and, disliking the image of her puffy cheeks, threw them on the ground. Marsyas saw them and moved to pick them up. Apparently Athena did not strike him literally, but with her eyes, as a warning that he was not to touch the things of the gods. This is the moment represented. He could not resist the temptation and later lost his skin for daring to challenge Apollo's musical preeminence. That image of Marsyas was also immortalized in sculpture, but at another time.

The combining of the Frankfurt Athena and Lateran Marsyas has occasionally been questioned. The fact that he, a mortal, should be as tall as the goddess has been bothersome, but in fact his head does not rise above hers. Her small scale and slight body frame are explained by her young age, appropriate in the case of such youthful vanity. A young Athena was also represented on the Olympia metopes, though perhaps not as young as she is here. A second problem according to some scholars concerns the date of the Lateran Marsyas type, i.e. whether he is not an invention of the later 5th century. However, comparison with the Parthenon sculptures suggests that he could be contemporary. The subject of Marsyas begins to appear on Athenian vases at about the same time. Melanippides also wrote a play about him. Although its date is not known, it is possible that the play provided the inspiration for the outpouring of visual images. It has also been suggested Myron's group may have been designed in honor of a victory by that play in a dramatic contest (Boardman 1956

Condition: Intact

Condition Description:

Statue of torso in one piece with plinth. Broken at neck, right shoulder and left elbow. Fragments of drapery also missing, especially lower edge of overfold, along the vertical folds and in the back where the peplos closely follows the arms.

Sources Used: Stewart 1990, 147; Boardman 1985a, figs. 61-64; Daltrop 1980; Robertson 1975, 341ff.; Schauenburg 1973; Eckstein & Beck 1973; Ridgway 1970, 85f.; Charbonneaux 1963, 24; Boardman 1956, 18ff.; Carpenter 1941 (against Myron); Pollak 1909, 164ff.

Other Bibliography: CVA, W. Berlin ii, pls. 147:1,3 and 150:2 (Berlin F 2418)