1 Study of the Borghese Gladiator, Anomymous Artist


Title: Study of the Borghese Gladiator

Artist/Source: Unknown

Date: circa 1600

Medium/Technique: red chalk on paper

UCL Art Museum #4726 (Grote Bequest, 1872)

This drawing was probably made at the time the original sculpture of the Gladiator was found among the ruins of Nero’s palace on the site of ancient Antium, south of Rome. The life-size marble statue, dating from the Hellenistic period (323 BC – 146 BC), is signed on the pedestal by Agasias, son of Dositheus. The figure’s pose with his extended left arm and upward glance indicate he is not a gladiator but instead defending himself against a mounted horseman.

The statue has long been greatly admired as a representation of a human ideal, providing artists with a canon of proportions. In the eighteenth century copies of the sculpture proliferated, and could be found at Windsor Palace,Knole, Wilton House, Petworth and Houghton Hall. Tourists visiting the Borghese Villa in Rome, where the original was placed on display, clearly sought to bring back their own souvenirs of Rome and the Villa’s glorious collection. Napoleon Bonaparte’s purchase of the sculpture from the Borghese family for the Louvre in 1807 would have contributed to its renown. In the nineteenth century the sculpture was believed to represent the mighty but flawed fighter Achilles, and became increasingly influential for the study of artistic anatomy.

Related works:

Small-scale bronze sculpture of the Gladiator (in UCL storage)

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