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Head of an Athlete

Provenance: Donna Jacobs Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, 1982.
George R. Francoeur Trust, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1982-2020, acquired from the above.

Following in the footsteps of the classical tradition, this commanding portrait of a handsome youth recalls the masterpieces of the Greek sculptors of the fifth and fourth centuries BC. The image of the idealised male athlete in preparation for his contest, in action, or enjoying the success of his achievements, was immortalised in bronze and marble by the leading sculptors of the day, such as Polykleitos, Lysippos, and Myron, in celebration of the victors at the Games.

The image represented here recalls in particular Polykleitos’ Diadoumenos, literally, ‘the one who binds his hair with a diadem’, which represents the victorious athlete tying the victor’s ribbon about his head.

The fame of these illustrious Greek artists and their work was well-known by Roman sculptors of the Imperial period. Greek sculptors in Athens and Rome prided themselves in producing replicas of well-known statues as well as creating new compositions that drew inspiration from or combined various earlier Greek styles. The present head is one such example of a sculpture most likely commissioned to satisfy the appetite of wealthy Romans who sought to acquire pieces for their villas that evoked the sophistication and high culture of Classical and Hellenistic Greece.

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