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Head of Atlas

Olympia, Temple of Zeus, Apples of the Hesperides metope, reconstruction ...

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Detail of leg

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Full side view

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Three quarter figure

Collection: Olympia Archaeological Museum
Title: Olympia Atlas Metope
Context: From Olympia
Findspot: Excavated at Olympia
Summary: Herakles and the Apples of the Hesperides
Material: Marble
Sculpture Type: Architectural
Category: Statuary group
Placement: East Metope 4
Style: Early Classical
Technique: High relief
Original or Copy: Original
Date: ca. 470 BC - ca. 457 BC

H 1.60 m (approximately square)

Scale: Under life-size
Region: Elis
Period: Early Classical
In Group: Olympia Metopes

Subject Description:

The metope which describes the collection of the Apples of the Hesperids (the fouth on the East side) is composed of the strong vertical elements: Athena on the left, Herakles in the middle temporarily supporting the Heavens and Atlas, who has just returned from collecting the apples, on the right. Athena appears more mature here than the youthful figure in the Lion and Stymphalian Birds Metopes and wears a simple, ungirt Doric peplos without armor or shoes. She faces forward but turns her head to the right, toward Herakles, while raising her arm to take the burden of the heavens from Herakles as once again he changes places with Atlas. Herakles, also clearly more mature than he appeared in the earliest metopes in the series, is shown in profile facing right. The cushion on his shoulder has enabled him to bear the weight more easily. Atlas closes the right side of the composition, facing right toward Herakles. His arms are held forward full of the golden apples, the location of the tree which produced them a secret known only to him. The scene takes place as the Labor is about to be completed, in a characteristically Early Classical manner.

Condition: Nearly complete

Condition Description:

Approximately three-quarters of this metope has survived virtually intact. Athena is complete but for small chips; Herakles is lacking below the knees; Atlas is missing below the hips except for several individual fragments of his legs. Surface of large piece relatively well preserved.

Associated Building: Olympia, Temple of Zeus

Sources Used:

Stewart 1990, 142 ff.; Brommer 1986; Boardman 1985a, 33ff.; Mallwitz & Herrmann 1980, 161ff.; Robertson 1975, 276 ff.; Ashmole 1972, 27 ff.; Ridgway 1970; Ashmole & Yalouris 1967