The Lancellotti Discobolus
Parian marble.
Roman copy from an original by Myron of the 5th century BCE.
Height 155 cm (without the modern base).
Rome, Roman National Museum, Palazzo Massimo alle TermeInv. No. 126371.

The Lancellotti Discobolus.

Parian marble.
Roman copy from an original by Myron of the 5th century BCE.
Height 155 cm (without the modern base).
Inv. No. 126371.

Rome, Roman National Museum, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
(Museo nazionale romano, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme)

Origin:
Discovered in 1781 within the confines of the Villa Palombara on the Esquiline.
The right calf, the fingers of the left hand, the oval base englobing the ancient plinth and perhaps the lower part of the disc are restorations. The right arm and the left foot have been reattached.
Description:

The Lancellotti Discobolus

Discovered in 1781 within the confines of the Villa Palombara on the Esquiline. The right calf the fingers of the left hand, the oval base englobing the ancient plinth and perhaps the lower part of the disc are restorations. The right arm and the left foot have been reattached.
Parian marble.
Ht. 155 cm (without the modern base); inv. 126371.

The statue is known as the “Lancellotti Discobolus” or discus-thrower, because for a long time it formed part of the private collection of this family in Palazzo Lancellotti in Rome. In 1938, it was acquired by the Glyptothek of Munich, where it remained for ten years; by 1953, it had entered the Museo Nazionale Romano. It represents a young nude athlete caught in the final phase of movement preceding the launching of the discus. The statue is conceived for a view from the right side — the only one that allows a complete reading of the athletes movement. His upper body is bent forward and twisted to the right, while the corresponding arm is extended upwards and behind him at the point of maximum exertion, as is underlined by the tension throughout his entire musculature. His right, weight-bearing foot is firmly fixed on the ground — the toes are literally dug into the earth — while the left is curled behind, with the toenails barely touching the surface. The head, with close-cropped locks laid flat against the scalp, follows and emphasizes the body’s movement. Just above the forehead one can see two elevated pointing knobs used by the copyist as reference points for the reproduction of the statue. The copyist also added the support in the form of a palm-tree trunk against the left leg and the brace which links the fingers of the left hand to the right calf. The detailed analysis of the musculature, the rendering of the hair and the choice of depicting the athlete in a frozen moment of intense action all suggest a date for the original in the period of the Severe style; scholars generally consider it a work from between 460 and 450 BC. In 1781, two years after its discovery, G. B. Visconti proposed identifying the Lancellotti statue as a replica of the bronze Discobolus that ancient authors (Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, II, 13, 8) attribute to Myron, a Greek sculptor from Eleutherai, at the border between Attica and Beotia, who was especially renowned for his representations of athletes and animals caught in the most disparate phases of motion and rendered, according to the sources, in a manner which almost surpassed reality (cf. Pliny, Natural History, XXXIV, 58, where the author praises the sculptor’s veritas and symmetria). The works of Myron were for this reason highly valued by Roman collectors, as borne out by the presence in the capital of other famous creations attributable to him, such as the group of Athena and Marsyas and the Perseus. There are several copies in Rome of the Discobolus. in addition to the more famous Lancellotti Discus-thrower, the replica from the imperial villa at Castelporziano and the two from Hadrian’s Villa are worth mentioning.

Discus-throwing is a sport of very old origin, already known in the time of Homer (Odyssey, VIII, 186 ff.), whose heroes practiced with stone discuses. In the Classical period — from which we have evidence of bronze discuses — discus-throwing was included among the sports of the Olympic pentathlon together with the long-jump, footrace, javelin throwing and wrestling. On the basis of a reproduction of the statue in a gem with the inscription “Hyakinthos,” at present conserved in the British Museum, Lippold has argued for an identification as the Spartan hero loved by Apollo and accidentally killed by him while practicing his discus-throwing.

The most accredited hypothesis, however, remains that of Fuchs, according to whom the Discobolus represents not a mythological figure, but only a prizewinning athlete in this specialty, in accordance with a widespread usage in Greece.

Statues of discus-throwers in the Roman period come, for the most part, from villas belonging to prestigious exponents of nobilitas; a link of this type is also possible for the Lancellotti Discobolus, and gains plausibility in that the Renaissance villa Palombara, where the statue was discovered, is built on the site of Roman villas dating from the late Republican period.

The sharp-edged carving of the eyebrows and the pronounced form of the tendons (particularly visible in the arms) permit us to date the copy to the late Hadrianic or Antonine period.

Brunella Germini
Literature:
G. Lippold, Handbuch der Archäologie, III, 1, Munich, 1950, p. 137, pl. 48, 1. 2;
W. Fuchs, Die Skulptur der Griechen, Munich, 1969, p. 176 ff. no. 2269;
Museo Nazionale Romano, Le sculture, A. Giuliano ed., I, 1, Rome, 1979, pp. 184—186, no. 120 (D. Candilio);
W. Hautumm, Die griechische Skulptur, Cologne, 1987, p. 170 ff.;
R. Neudecker, Die Skulpturenausstattung römischer Villen in Italien, Mainz am Rhein, 1988, pp. 60—64;
A. Giuliano, L’identificazione del discobolo di Mirone, in Scritti in onore di Giuliano Briganti, Milan, 1990, pp. 11—19, p. 11 ff.;
Standorte, Kontext und Funktion antiker Skulptur, K. Stemmer ed., Catalog of the exhibition (Berlin, November 29 — June 4, 1995), Berlin, 1995, p. 431 f., D 22 (H. Schwarzer).
Credits:
© 2005. Museo Nazionale Romano. Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. English Edition. Edited by Adriano La Regina. Electa, 2005 (First Edition 1998), pp. 130—131.
© Photo: Archivio SAR.

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Keywords: γλυπτική sculptura sculpture sculptural scultura skulptur ρωμαϊκό roman romana romano romani römisch römische römisches römischen römischer romain romaine romains romaines ρωμαϊκό αντίγραφο roman copy copia romana römische kopie copie romaine ἄγαλμα άγαλμα statua statuae statue statues statui statuen statuons parian marble roman copy the original of myron mirone statue of ephebe athlete sport sportsman youth discobolos discobolus discus-thrower discus throw throwing lancellotti inv no 126371
History of Ancient Rome