This exceptionally fine and rare head comes from the statue of an athlete shown scraping oil from his naked body with a strigil after exercising. The lips were originally overlaid with copper, and the eyes inlaid with stone, glass, and metal. The complete statue was probably a version of the bronze Apoxyomenos (“Scraper”) by Lysippos, the court sculptor of Alexander the Great, datable on stylistic grounds to around 340–330 B.C. The Kimbell’s thick-walled bronze is the finest of the surviving casts of the head of this much-copied figure. It fits well with what we know of Lysippos’s distinctive style as described by Pliny in the first century A.D., particularly the emphasis on the athlete’s carefully modeled hair. Lysippos introduced a new canon of proportions for the ideal male body, with slimmer limbs, smaller heads, and a more fluid musculature than his fifth-century-B.C. predecessors. Taking nature rather than other sculptors as his teacher, he was renowned for his fastidious attention to even the smallest details of his figures, which were said to lack only movement and breath.
Adult: Head of an Athlete (Apoxyomenos)
Senator Bernardo Nani [1712-1761], Venice.
Lucien Guiraud (Hotel Drouot, Paris),
sale June 14 and 15, 1956, no. 106 (as 16th century);
Hans Calmann [1899-1982], London and Somerset;
by descent (in Calmann family);
auction, Sotheby’s, New York, June 14, 2000, no. 60;
purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 2000.