Head of Meleager.

Marble. Roman copy after a Greek original ca. 340—330 BCE.
Height 30 cm.
Inv. No. I 1283.

Vienna, Museum of Art History, Collection of Classical Antiquities
(Kunsthistorisches Museum)

From the Este collection, 1923.
According to the Greek myth, Meleager, the son of King Oeneus of Calydon, joined numerous other heroes in hunting a dangerous boar that had been ravaging the country. Meleager gave the prize of victory as a gift to the huntress Atalante. However, war broke out over the spoils, in the course of which Meleager killed his uncle, the brother of his mother, Althea. In revenge, she caused Meleagers death by throwing into the fire a log that at his birth had been said to have the same span of existence as his life.

The head entered the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities from the Este collection in 1923. It was part of a statue of a type that has been preserved in another Roman copy at the Vatican. There Meleager is depicted as a hunter taking a break after having killed the boar. The hunting spear is leaning against his left shoulder, and his right hand is placed in a relaxed position on his back. This state of relaxation is only internal, however; the hero appears to sense his tragic fate. His head is turned in a lively manner towards his left shoulder, his deep-set eyes gaze into the distance, and his mouth is open in an expression of impassioned tension. Emotional expression and restless motifs of motion — elements that had an important influence on the development of Hellenistic sculpture — are stylistic features connected with the sculptor Scopas from the island of Paros. Particularly in the figure of a dancing Maenad, an impression of which is conveyed by a smaller copy in the Dresden Albertinum, emotionalism and impassioned motion are heightened to the point of ecstasy. Partially preserved pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Athena Alea at Tegea (Arcadia) provide a basis for judging the art of Scopas. In the eastern pediment of the temple, on which Scopas worked as an architect, is a depiction of the Calydonian boar hunt. Together with the artists Timotheus, Leochares and Bryaxis, Scopas also created the sculptural decoration for the giant tomb of the tyrant Mausolus in Halicarnassus soon after 350 BC.

(ρρ) 2006. Photo: Sergey Sosnovskiy (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Text: museum inscription to the sculpture.
© 2006. Text of description: A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Edited by Wilfried Seipel. Vol. 4. Masterpieces in the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities. Kunsthistorisches Museum. SKIRA, 2006, p. 52, cat. no. 13.
Keywords: marble head of Meleager Meleagros Meleagrus by Greek sculptor Scopas from the Este collection Inv No I 1283
History of Ancient Rome