Diskobolos, 450 BCE

The statue of the Diskobolos (discus thrower) is by an Early Classical master named Myron. The only one that exists today is a Roman marble copy of the Greek original. During this period, demand for Greek marble statues was so high that Greek artists were unable to keep up. So, an actual Roman industry devoted to making Greek copies developed. Romans usually used a cheaper kind of marble. Thus their replicas have a different appearance than the Greek originals. Also, Roman replicas often could not stand on their own (since the original Greek statues were created with such precision that only in that particular position would the figure be able to stay in balance) so copyists would often add in tree trunks to hold up the statue. There is such a tree trunk in the Diskobolos (because of the dynamic position of the figure, it is difficult for the replica to balance since it is not as precise). Roman copyists sometimes added their own touches to the sculpture as well. For example, sometimes a mirror image of the original was created for a particular setting. Despite these discrepancies between the Greek originals and the Roman copies, the Roman replicas are indispensable today. According to Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, without them it would be impossible to reconstruct the history of Greek sculpture after the Archaic period.

Myron’s discus thrower is sculpted in a dynamic position full of action. His limbs are in profile while his chest is frontal. The body is twisted and the muscles in use can be seen. What adds to the dynamics of the sculpture however is the two intersecting arcs, one formed by tracing the two arms and the other formed by tracing the head, chest, and the right leg. Myron has depicted the athlete’s body in a state of tension, like a bow stretched out, about to be released at any second. However, this tension is not reflected in the discus thrower’s face. His face is expressionless and does not even face the viewer.

I am very impressed by this statue. Given such a dynamic and active position of the discus thrower, I can’t believe that the original statue was actually able to stand on its own! I can’t believe the precision of the human form and the modeling in the muscles— it makes the marble statue come alive!

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