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Head of Meleager, 50 B.C.–A.D. 100

After Skopas

This head is from a Roman copy of a full-length statue by the famed fourth-century-B.C. Greek sculptor Skopas. It showed the mythological hero Meleager with a hunting dog and the head of the Kalydonian boar.

Along with Praxiteles and Lysippos, Skopas was one of the great sculptors of his age, renowned especially for his depictions of gods. His style was notable for its introduction of an intense depiction of human emotion into the previously more reserved psychology of Greek classicism. Typical of Skopas’s innovations are the slightly parted lips, the low forehead that protrudes over the bridge of the nose and eyes, and the heavy roll of flesh swelling over the outer corners of the eyes. These elements—all of which would be further exaggerated in Hellenistic sculpture—contribute to the quality of barely suppressed agitation.

According to Homer, the Kalydonian boar was sent by Artemis to ravage the countryside after Oeneus, king of Kalydon and Meleager’s father, failed to sacrifice to the goddess. Meleager then led the hunt to kill the boar, but in its aftermath quarreled with his mother’s two brothers and killed them. Learning of this, his mother, Althaea, set in motion the dire prophecy that the Fates had decreed soon after Meleager’s birth—that he would die when a brand, then on the fire, had burned out. Althaea now took out the brand, which she had hidden for years in a chest, and brought about her son’s death. Fourth-century-B.C. artists favored narratives such as this, which humanized the gods and involved mythic heroes in the sufferings and imperfections of man.


(Auction, Münzen und Medaillen, Basel,) 6 May 1967, no. 201;

(Charles Lipson, Boston);

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1967.

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