Wednesday, October 10, 2012



IF you are in Portland, Oregon, be sure to check out the Portland Art Museum where you have a rare opportunity to see one of the most famous pieces of sculpture in the world -- a statue which once graced Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli.

The DISCOBOLUS is the centerpiece of the British Museum's traveling exhibition "The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece," a collection of more than 130 objects of Greek and Roman antiquity. 

The show opened this week and runs through January 6, 2013.

Hadrian loved all things Greek and the "Discobolus" was sculpted during his reign
based on a lost Greek original from 450-440 B.C.

That means you will be looking upon a statue which Antinous may have seen, and which Hadrian most certainly gazed upon since he had commissioned it for his sprawling villa outside Rome.

The statue,  the most iconic work in the show, depicts a discus thrower frozen in the instant before he launches the disc. This is the first time ever that the "Discobolus" has ever been loaned out by the British Museum.

The contours of the marble sculpture are predictably smooth and cool. Yet the precise articulation of his physique, the balanced contrast of tense and relaxed musculature, and the fluid, natural trajectory of his implied movement animate the figure like a coil poised to spring.

The obsessive detail and slavish devotion to the ideals of beauty evident in "Discobolus" tells us much more about the values and culture of the ancient Greeks than the figure depicted. 

While the "The Body Beautiful" accounts for nearly every stage of physical life, the emphasis is decidedly carnal. 

Not only did the Greeks privilege nudity more than other ancient cultures (their contemporary Persians considered the nude body shameful, for instance), much of their artwork and artifacts seem designed to stoke the sexual appetite.  

Don't pass up this opportunity to see a sculpture which Hadrian commissioned for his own home.


  1. "I saw this picture in the school library where someone's face was all made up of fruits and vegetables," my son said. "Would be cool to have one of those in my room."
    He and I searched for art about "vegetables" in and immediately found this one,, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, which fits the bill to the nearest pear.

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