A Hellenistic bronze statue fragment
Lot 39W
A Hellenistic bronze statue fragment
Sold for £20,000 (US$ 33,457) inc. premium
Auction Details
A Hellenistic bronze statue fragment A Hellenistic bronze statue fragment A Hellenistic bronze statue fragment A Hellenistic bronze statue fragment A Hellenistic bronze statue fragment A Hellenistic bronze statue fragment
Lot Details
A Hellenistic bronze statue fragment
Circa 2nd-1st Century B.C.
From a life-size bronze of an equestrian figure in military dress, the right arm upraised, wearing a tunic with a leather vest over the top, the tasselled ends visible at the shoulder beneath the metal cuirass, the shoulder straps of the cuirass decorated in relief with a star and lion's head, the folds of the cloak draped over the right shoulder and around the body, strapping at the waist, with three fragments of other parts of the figure, 23in (58.4cm) high, mounted


  • Provenance:
    English private collection, London, gifted to the present owner in the 1960s by Jimmy McMullen of Obelisk Gallery, Crawford Street, London.

    The posture of this torso suggests that the figure was originally mounted on horseback, with the right arm raised to brandish a weapon. The dynamic movement of the drapery as it flows out beneath the raised arm gives a vitality to the piece very much in-keeping with Hellenistic art. Equestrian statues were common in the Hellenistic period, 'both naked and cuirassed, and were perhaps more often used for kings than others': R.R.R. Smith, Hellenistic Sculpture, London, 1991, p.19.

    Such compositions have their origin in the bronze victory group by Lysippos of Alexander the Great on horseback, commemorating his defeat of the Persians. This piece is lost but a slightly later bronze example found at Herculaneum and now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, inv. no. 4996, gives a sense of what this piece would have originally looked like. Cf. C.C. Mattusch, Pompeii and the Roman Villa, London, 2008, no. 116.

    Relatively few bronze cuirassed busts such as this have survived, even in fragmentary condition. There is a bronze torso from an equestrian statue wearing a cuirass in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, (acc. no. 2003.407.7) which has been dated to the Hellenistic or Imperial periods, circa 2nd Century B.C.- 2nd Century A.D. In the late Hellenistic period, Roman generals and Imperium-bearers in the East adopted this iconographic tradition which then eventually became part of the repertoire of Imperial public sculpture. Due to the scarcity of surviving bronzes of this type it is very hard to date many such equestrian torsos securely as Hellenistic or Roman.

    However the New York example has none of the energy and movement of this piece and other Hellenistic examples. For example, the mid-3rd Century B.C. equestrian figure on a metope from a funerary naiskos in Taranto, cf. A. Stewart, Greek Sculpture, Yale, 1990, no. 658. This demonstrates similar flowing drapery and power.

    There are also surviving free-standing marble examples of equestrian officers dated to the 2nd-1st Century B.C. One found in Milos, now in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens (inv. no. 2715) where the horse still remains, demonstrates the a type of drapery drawn around the right side of the torso and then tucked into the waist strapping. It seems likely that this is how the drapery would have been arranged on this fragment.

    For other examples and further discussion of the type, cf. I. Laube, Thorakophoroi: Gestalt und Semantik des Brustpanzers in der Darstellung des 4 bis, 1 Jhr,. v. chr., Leidorf, 2006.
  1. Claudio Corsi
    Specialist - Antiquities
    101 New Bond Street
    London, W1S 1SR
    United Kingdom
    Work +44 20 7468 8333
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 8283