Borghese warrior
 Brief Identification

The sculpture above is titled the Borghese Warrior or Borghese Gladiator. It was made by Agasias of Ephesus, crafted of marble, and is 1.99 m tall. It was discovered in the ruins of an imperial palace in Anzio, Italy. The sculpture was made c. 100 BCE and demonstrates the tendency in the late Hellenistic period to refer back to the Classical ideal of the importance of the athletic and youthful body. [See]

Technical EvaluationEdit

The sculpture was crafted out of marble, which was the primary material used by sculptors due to its ability to be highly polishable and durable. Agasias would have used a method of pointing to form his piece of art. He would have first created a model or cast of the sculpture of another material. He would have then marked points on the cast and used a pointing machine to transfer the points on the cast to the stone block. These points would be drilled into the cast at the required depths to provide the artist an idea of how much marble must be removed to create the desired shape. The extra marble would then be chiseled away until the rough shaping created by the marked points remained. Agasias would have used chisels of varying sizes, flat and pointed, as well as files to create the detailed features of the sculpture. When completed, sand would be buffed on the surface to give the sculpture the desired polish and sheen. [See]

This method of pointing and the use of marble began in 7th century Greece and was common practice in the 6th century. [Richter 1970] However, the use of drills was innovative for the time and allowed the artist to create sculptures with greater precision and make several that were very similar. Earlier artisans created the points in the marble using a hammer and chisel technique which not only took longer to conduct, but also had to be done with greater caution as it was easier to cause unwanted fractures in the marble's surface.

Marble was a common material of great abundance in Greece but was rarer in other parts of the world. It was also a more expensive material than other stones and was harder to transport due to its weight. [See] The artist Agasias was from the city of Ephesus which was originally Greek and later Roman. The sculpture is inspired by a bronze sculpture by Lysippos in the fourth century BCE and was recreated in marble for a Roman client. [Laisne 1995]

The sculpture was found in Anzio during excavations conducted by Cardinal Scipion Borghese and added to his collection around 1611 AD. It was then restored by artist Nicolas Cordier who added the right arm. The statue was transferred to the Lourve in 1808 when Napoleon I purchased the collection from his brother-in-law, Prince Camille Borghese.  Currently, the statue resides in the Lourve Museum in Paris, France. [See]

The Borghese Warrior sculpture is an exaggeration of the style of Lysippos. It was signed on the tree trunk by the artist, Agasias. The body is stretched forward in a long line and each arm and leg stretches out in a different direction. This allows the artist to demonstrate his anatomical knowledge and emphasizes the three dimensional effect Hellenistic artists aspired to achieve. The subject of a strong warrior in the midst of battle reflects back on the Classical period of Greek art which was devoted to the glorification of the healthy athlete. [Beiber 1955]

Local Historical ContextEdit

The object was most likely created in Ephesus, an ancient city in present day Turkey, which was orginally Greek and later part of the Roman empire.  Ephesus was later the capital of Roman Asia, with a population of 250,000 to 500,000. Gaius Maruis ruled over the Roman territories as consul from 107-86 BCE. [See]

Artists were able to make a decent living in the late Hellenistic Era as Romans absorbed Greek culture and wealthy Romans sought to adorn their homes with Hellenistic sculpture. Beginning in the fourth century, elites sought to create their own personal museums. [Reeder 1988] Even those of the lower classes sought smaller replicas of famous pieces of varying sizes and time periods. [Neer 2012] According to Richard Neer, "under Roman rule, Greek sculptors and painters flourished; it was they who, often as not, turned out the countless reproductions of Classical masterpieces that decorated the villas and bathhouses of the Romans. There had probably never been a better time to be good with a chisel or a paintbrush, or to know how to work bronze." [Neer 2012, 379]

Artisans and merchants who were successful were able to position themselves in the middle class of Roman urban life. Roman artists typically worked from a repertoire of prototypes and rarely made unique works of art. Therefore, being a Greek artisan, or even a Roman artisan who incorporated his own unique elements, made one more successful and higher in society. Those less succesful independent artisans found employment in public works projects by local magistrates who sought to incorporate Greek architecture and sculpture into their cities. [Mayer 2012]

World-Historical SignificanceEdit

According to Margarete Bieber, "the importance of Hellenistic art to the world's history of art is indeed this fact: that as it had explored and sometimes exhausted all possibilities for artistic representation it was of a universal character and could form the base not only for Roman but for all European and, therefore, finally for American art." [Bieber 1955, 6] Hellenistic art has served as a basis for further generations of artistic styles because of its ability to combine classical and modern aspects. Greek art was reborn in the European Renaissance and the US "Greek Revival." [Bieber 1955]

Hellenistic art contributed methods of creating art as well as qualities artists of today strive to achieve.  The Borghese Warrior was used during the 19th century in Europe and America as a model for young artists to learn the human form. [Bieber 1955]

Suggested BibliographyEdit

Barralialter, Xavier, Bruneau, Philippe and Torelli, Mario. Sculpture: The Great Art of Antiquity from the Eighth Century BC to the Fifth Century AD. Koln: Taschen, 1991.

Bieber, Margarete. The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age. New York: Columbia University Press, 1955.

Laisne, Claude. Art of Ancient Greece. Pierre Terrail: Finest S.A./Editions, 1995.

Mayer, Emanuel. The Ancient Middle Classes: Urban Life and Aesthetics in the Roman Empire, 100 BCE - 250 BCE. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Neer, Richard. Greek Art and Archaeology: A New History c. 2500 - c. 150 BCE. New York: Thames & Hudson Inc., 2012.

Reeder, Ellen. Hellenistic Art in the Walters Art Gallery. Baltimore:Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, 1988.

Richter, Gisela M. A.. The Sculpture & Sculptors of the Greeks. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970.

Collins, Neil. "Marble Sculpture (c.600 BCE - present)." Encyclopedia of Art.

Jenkins, Neil, Mirza, Sumair, and Tsang, Jason. "Roman Rulers." Rome Unleashed.

Marie-Benedicte, Astier. "Fighting Warrior." Musee du Lourve.

McGinn, Sheila, The Ephesus of St. Paul & Associates. First Century Ephesus. PowerPoint. .