Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Apoxyomenos, Namesake of Vicolo dell'Atleta

Translation of the ancient Greek: a man wiping himself off or, more succinctly, the wiper (or in some translations, the scraper). I love these nice, literal titles. The man in question is using a stirgil (a curved spatula-like instrument) to wipe off his sweat. Looks a bit like a medieval torture device!

As I mentioned in my last post, this is the work that the charming alley in Trastevere was named for. Luckily they decided against calling it Wiper Alley. No, Vicolo dell'Atleta sounds a hundred times more appealing. Although in the act of wiping, an athlete he is. A runner, as attested to by his long, lean, muscular thighs, (makes me want to go for a run myself) and he has just completed a race.

The work is a first century AD marble copy of the Greek bronze original, cast by Lysippos of Sikyon back in 330 BC. It seems that Lysippos was a bit of a rebel, developing his own personal artistic style, elongating his figures' limbs and making their heads slightly smaller. "Other artists make men as they are; I make them as they appear," he proudly stated.  Perhaps his daring new style was what earned him the job as court sculptor to Alexander the Great. This copy, also created in Greece but at a much later date, lives in the Pio Clementine Museum at the Vatican Museums, after its long sleep in the bowels of the Trastevere synagogue.

Photo sources: 1, 2
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