The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of March 23, 2018

Statuette of an Athlete, 510-500 BC

bronze (solid cast), Overall: 21.5 cm (8 7/16 in.). John L. Severance Fund 2000.6

This bronze statuette brilliantly and uniquely represents a fleeting transitional moment in the history of Greek sculpture. Between 510 and 500 BC, Greek sculptors moved away from the surface patterning of the Archaic period toward a revolutionary breakthrough in the natural representation of the human form. This change would determine the essence of the early classical figural style known as the "Severe Style." With its striding pose and raised arm, the statuette demonstrates, more clearly than any surviving Greek sculpture in the round, this new understanding of the way the human body moves. The figure's nudity, impressive physique, short hairstyle, and distinctive pose all indicate that an athlete (most likely a javelin thrower) is represented. Today's enthusiasm for and celebration of both sports and athletes come directly from the ancient Greek idea of the victorious athlete as the embodiment of arete (excellence). The heavy, sharply defined musculature suggests a master sculptor from the Peloponnesus--the peninsula forming the southern part of Greece. Although damaged in antiquity, the figure's power and confidence remain compelling.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

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