A marble statue of a naked young man that was on display in the permanent exhibition of the Department of Classical Antiquity on the second floor of the Archaeological museum in Zagreb damaged in earthquake

A marble statue of a naked young man that was on display in the permanent exhibition of the Department of Classical Antiquity on the second floor of the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb damaged in a series of earthquakes of March 22, 2020.

The Conservation-restoration laboratory examined the sculpture and established that the sculpture sustained significant damage in the earthquake. As a consequence of it falling from its pedestal, the sculpture broke into numerous pieces of different size, whereby some of the breakage occurred in places that had previously been restored, and some in completely new parts of the sculpture. Due to the high degree of damage, and the weight of the sculpture, the conservation-restoration works will, undoubtedly, be long, and will most likely take place in one of the specialized foreign laboratories that have been working with the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb for many years.

The marble sculpture of a naked young man was discovered between 1820 and 1825 near the church of St. Duje in Solin (southeast of Manastirine), and it arrived to the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb from Split in 1870, as part of Vicko Solitar’s inheritance.

When it arrived to the Museum, the sculpture was broken in several places: the torso above the navel, the middle of the right upper arm, the middle of the right thigh and the knee, the accompanying laurel tree, the connection between the left leg and the body, at the knee and the ankle, where several other marble fragments were also damaged. Some of the parts of the sculpture were completely missing – the head and the neck, both arms above the elbows, the penis, a piece of clothing and body at the left hip, the right knee and a piece of the leg (replaced by plaster), and the back half of the six-sided base. Additionally, a part of the big toe on the left foot, the chlamys and the surface of the body were also missing.

The naked young man, as stated above, was discovered without his head, and a female head, which is clearly not a part of the original statue, was put in its place after it arrived to the Museum (this portrait is also kept at the Museum, and probably portrays empress Livia). Both the naked youth and the female head, both of which display early classical influences, were, according to available data, discovered together.

All of the parts of the sculpture were pieced together by O. König, a sculpting professor from Vienna, under the supervision of professor Alexander Conze, a classical archaeologist.

The figure of the naked young man is standing, approximates human dimensions, is leaning on its right leg, with the left leg slightly stepping to the front. He is only wearing a chlamys, which is, above the right shoulder, attached by a large round clasp. The creases of the cloth reveal traces of crimson paint that was originally used to dye the chlamys. The lowered right arm was attached to the right thigh with an connecting bar that might have contained a laurel branch, if this indeed is a depiction of Apollo. In that case, a bow and arrow would be in the left hand. There is a laurel tree next to the right leg.

The sculpture is extremely elegant – a slim body and long legs – but the young man has accentuated musculature. It was originally interpreted as Apollo in scientific publications, although no attributes of Apollo have been preserved. The closest analogy is a sculpture that has, unfortunately, also missing its head, and which is interpreted as an ideal statuary type of Hermes, made in the tradition of late Polykleitos young men (Polykleitos – a Greek sculptor and theoretician from Argos). The academic Nenad Cambi, while interpreting this sculpture, pointed out that it could also be an imperial statue, considering the hole for attaching the head, or a depiction of the Greek hero Dimomedes, whose cuklt was popular in the Adriatic.

What is certain, judging by the style and the skillful modeling of all, even the most intimate details of the sculpture – is that this is a first-rate product, i.e. an import from workshops in Rome, which can be dated to the period of Tiberius’ or early Claudius’ rule.

A sculpture of this quality proves that copies of classic Greek sculptures started to arrive to Dalmatia already a few decades after Roman rule had been established in the area. The appearance of top-notch copies is a cultural phenomenon that can be observed in all newly-conquered Roman provinces, where classical art was accepted by both Italian and other immigrants from the Mediterranean, as well as by the local population. Importing such monuments contributed to the process of immersing the local population into the culture of the ancient world, thereby making it their heritage as well.


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