Giacobbe Giusti, Diadumenos

Giacobbe Giusti, Diadumenos


Giacobbe Giusti, Diadumenos

The Athens example, with the quiver in view. National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Giacobbe Giusti, Reconstruction, in a patinated cast at the Pushkin Museum, Moscow

The Diadumenos (“diadem-bearer”), together with the Doryphoros (spear bearer), are two of the most famous figural types of the sculptor Polyclitus, forming a basic pattern of Ancient Greek sculpture that all present strictly idealised representations of young male athletes in a convincingly naturalistic manner.

The Diadumenos is the winner of an athletic contest at a games, still nude after the contest and lifting his arms to knot the diadem, a ribbon-band that identifies the winner and which in the bronze original of about 420 BCE would have been represented by a ribbon of bronze.[1] The figure stands in contrapposto with his weight on his right foot, his left knee slightly bent and his head inclined slightly to the right, self-contained, seeming to be lost in thought. Phidias was credited with a statue of a victor at Olympia in the act of tying the fillet around his head; besides Polyclitus, his successors Lysippos and Scopas also created figures of this kind.


Roman copies

Both Pliny’s Natural History and Lucian‘s Philopseudes[2] described Roman marbles of a Diadumenos copied from Greek originals in bronze, yet it was not recognized until 1878[3] that the Roman marble from Vaison-la-Romaine (Roman Vasio) in the British Museum and two others recreate the lost Polyclitan bronze original.[4] Pliny recorded that the Polyclitan original fetched at auction the extraordinary price of a hundred talents, an enormous sum in Antiquity, as Adolf Furtwängler pointed out.[5] Indeed, Roman marble copies must have abounded, to judge from the number of recognizable fragments and complete works, including a head at the Louvre, a complete example at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, another complete example at the Prado Museum, and another complete example of somewhat different character, the somewhat below lifesize Roman marble Farnese Diadumenos at the British Museum, which preserves the end of the ribband falling from the right hand. Another version in the British Museum, slightly damaged but in otherwise reasonable condition, is from Vaison in France. Freer versions were executed in reduced scale as bronze statuettes,[6] and the head of Diadumenos-type appears on numerous Roman engraved gems.[7]

The marble Diadumenos from Delos at the National Museum, Athens (right) has the winner’s cloak and his quiver laid upon the tree stump, hinting that he is the victor in an archery match, with perhaps an implied reference to Apollo, who was conceived, too, as an idealised youth.

Giacobbe Giusti, Head of the Diadumenos

Modern reception

A mark of the continuing artistic value placed on the Diadumenos type in the modern era, once it had been reconnected with Polyclitus in 1878, may be drawn from the facts that a copy was among the sculptures ranged on the roof of the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, when it was completed in 1889,[8] and that the Esquiline Venus has sometimes been interpreted as a female version of the diadumenos type (a diadumene, or woman tying a diadem).

Giacobbe Giusti, Head of the Diadumenos type



  1. Jump up ^ In Hellenistic times the diadem became a symbol of royalty; in the Polyclitan Diadumenos, however, the action is still a simple tying-on of the winner’s headband.
  2. Jump up ^ Pliny’s Natural History, xxxiv.55f; Philopseudes, 18, praising the Diadoumenos for its beauty
  3. Jump up ^ Adolf Michaelis, 1878. “Tre statue Policlitee”, Annali dell’Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica pp 5-30, noted in Haskell and Penny 1981:118, note 11.
  4. Jump up ^ The hands have been lost.
  5. Jump up ^ Furtwängler, Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture: A Series of Essays on the History of Art (Heineman) 1895:245, in a chapter “Diadumenos and Doryphoros” that recreates Polyclitus’ artistic development in confident detail that would no longer be considered possible.
  6. Jump up ^ For example, the bronze statuette conserved in the Cabinet des médailles of the Bibliothèque nationale
  7. Jump up ^ The less often seen full figure appears on a plasma gem described and illustrated by Sidney Colvin, “A New Diadumenos Gem”, The Journal of Hellenic Studies 2 (1881:352-353)
  8. Jump up ^ Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, 1981. Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900 (Yale University Press), p. 107.


  • Herbert Beck, Peter C. Bol, Maraike Bückling (Hrsg.): Polyklet. Der Bildhauer der griechischen Klassik. Ausstellung im Liebieghaus-Museum Alter Plastik Frankfurt am Main. Von Zabern, Mainz 1990 ISBN 3-8053-1175-3
  • Detlev Kreikenbom: Bildwerke nach Polyklet. Kopienkritische Untersuchungen zu den männlichen statuarischen Typen nach polykletischen Vorbildern. “Diskophoros”, Hermes, Doryphoros, Herakles, Diadumenos. Mann, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-7861-1623-7



Giacobbe Giusti, Apollo di Mantova

Giacobbe Giusti, Apollo di Mantova

Particolare del tipo “Apollo di Mantova” conservato al museo del Louvre. Copia romana in marmo del I-II secolo a.C., derivante da un originale greco del V secolo a.C. attribuito a Policleto.

L’Apollo di Mantova, con le sue varianti, è tra le prime forme di statuaria del tipo Apollo citaredo, in cui il dio solare raffigurato in piedi tiene la cetra nel suo braccio sinistro. Il primo esempio di questa tipologia di scultura greca è stato rinvenuto a Mantova e della città ha pertanto assunto anche il nome.

Questo Apollo è una copia imperiale romana datato tra la fine del I secolo e l’inizio del II, modello esemplare di Neoatticismo ispirato da un presunto originale in bronzo realizzato all’incirca verso la metà del V secolo a.C.; ha uno stile del tutto simile alle pere derivanti dalla scuola di Policleto, ma leggermente più arcaico. La cetra se ne stava appoggiata al braccio sinistro esteso in avanti.

Nell’esemplare conservato al museo del Louvre ed alto 1,13 m. rimane un frammento indicante la torsione fatta assumere dallo strumento musicale contro il muscolo bicipite brachiale del dio in posizione tesa.

L'”Apollo di Mantova”.

In seguito sono state trovate più di una dozzina di repliche dello stesso tipo e fattura, tra cui quelle principali sono conservate al museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli (un bronzo trovato a Pompei antica) e al museo archeologico nazionale di Mantova. L’originale andato perduto sarebbe stato, come detto, prodotto in bronzo; a volte è stato indicato in qualità di possibile autore il maestro di Fidia, Egia o Egesia, ma non esistono esempi superstiti del suo lavoro a poter fare da modello comparativo.

Un’altra copia in ottone di epoca romana si trova al Fogg Art Museum, la più antica struttura museale d’arte dell’università di Harvard.


  • Congdon, Lenore O. Keene Congdon, 1963. “The Mantua Apollo of the Fogg Art Museum”, American Journal of Archaeology 67.1 (January 1963), pp. 7–13.

The Apollo of Mantua and its variants are early forms of the Apollo Citharoedus statue type, in which the god holds the cithara in his left arm. The type-piece, the first example discovered, is named for its location at Mantua; the type is represented by neo-Attic Imperial Roman copies of the late 1st or early 2nd century, modelled upon a supposed Greek bronze original made in the second quarter of the 5th century BCE, in a style similar to works of Polyclitus but more archaic. The Apollo held the cythara against his extended left arm, of which in the Louvre example (illustration) a fragment of one twisting scrolling horn upright remains against his biceps.

More than a dozen other replicas of the type have been found, the principal ones being those conserved in the national museums of Naples and of Mantua.

The lost original would have been bronze. The name of the teacher of Phidias, Hegias of Athens is sometimes invoked, but there are no surviving examples of Hegias’ work to judge from.

Examples include:

The Naples Apollo of Mantua, a bronze found at Pompeii, in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples (inv. 5630).
The Louvre Apollo of Mantua, formerly in the Bibliothèque Mazarine, entered the museum in 1871.
The Fogg Art Museum Apollo of Mantua, a Roman bronze[1] head of the Apollo of Mantua type, originally about one-third lifesize.


Giacobbe Giusti, Polykleitos

Giacobbe Giusti, Polykleitos

Giacobbe Giusti, Polykleitos

Naples National Archaeological Museum

Polykleitos’ Doryphoros, an early example of classical contrapposto

Polykleitos was an ancient Greek sculptor in bronze of the 5th century BCE. His Greek name was traditionally Latinized Polycletus, but is also transliterated Polycleitus (Ancient Greek: Πολύκλειτος, Classical Greek Greek pronunciation: [polýkleːtos], “much-renowned”) and due to iotacism in the transition from Ancient to Modern Greek, Polyklitos or Polyclitus. He is called Sicyonius (lit. “The Sicyonian”, usually translated as “of Sicyon”)[1] by Latin authors including Pliny the Elder and Cicero, and Ἀργεῖος (lit. “The Argive”, trans. “of Argos”) by others like Plato and Pausanias. He is sometimes called the Elder, in cases where it is necessary to distinguish him from his son, who is regarded as a major architect but a minor sculptor.

Alongside the Athenian sculptors Pheidias, Myron and Praxiteles, he is considered one of the most important sculptors of classical antiquity. The 4th century BCE catalogue attributed to Xenocrates (the “Xenocratic catalogue”), which was Pliny’s guide in matters of art, ranked him between Pheidias and Myron.[2]

Early life and training

As noted above, Polykleitos is called “The Sicyonian” by some authors, all writing in Latin, and who modern scholars view as relying on an error of Pliny the Elder in conflating another more minor sculptor from Sikyon, a disciple of Phidias, with Polykleitos of Argos. Pausanias is adamant that they were not the same person, and that Polykleitos was from Argos, in which city state he must have received his early training,[3] and a contemporary of Phidias (possibly also taught by Ageladas).


Polykleitos’ figure of an Amazon for Ephesus was admired, while his colossal gold and ivory statue of Hera which stood in her temple—the Heraion of Argos—was favourably compared with the Olympian Zeus by Pheidias. He also sculpted a famous bronze male nude known as the Doryphoros (“Spear-carrier”), which survives in the form of numerous Roman marble copies. Further sculptures attributed to Polykleitos are the Discophoros (“Discus-bearer”), Diadumenos (“Youth tying a headband”)[4] and a Hermes at one time placed, according to Pliny, in Lysimachia (Thrace). Polykleitos’ Astragalizontes (“Boys Playing at Knuckle-bones”) was claimed by the Emperor Titus and set in a place of honour in his atrium.[5] Pliny also mentions that Polykleitos was one of the five major sculptors who competed in the fifth century B.C. to make a wounded Amazon for the temple of Artemis; marble copies associated with the competition survive.[6]


Apollo of the “Mantua type”, marble Roman copy after a 5th-century-BC Greek original attributed to Polykleitos, Musée du Louvre

Polykleitos, along with Phidias, created the Classical Greek style. Although none of his original works survive, literary sources identifying Roman marble copies of his work allow reconstructions to be made. Contrapposto was a posture in his statues in which the weight was placed on one leg, and was a source of his fame.

The refined detail of Polykleitos’ models for casting executed in clay is revealed in a famous remark repeated in Plutarch‘s Moralia, that “the work is hardest when the clay is under the fingernail”.[7]

The Kanon and symmetria

Polykleitos consciously created a new approach to sculpture, writing a treatise (Kanon) and designing a male nude (also known as Kanon) exemplifying his aesthetic theories of the mathematical bases of artistic perfection. These expressions motivated Kenneth Clark to place him among “the great puritans of art”:[8] Polykleitos’ Kanon “got its name because it had a precise commensurability (symmetria) of all the parts to one another”[9] “His general aim was clarity, balance, and completeness; his sole medium of communication the naked body of an athlete, standing poised between movement and repose” Kenneth Clark observed.[10] Though the Kanon was probably represented by his Doryphoros, the original bronze statue has not survived. References to it in other ancient writings, however, imply that its main principle was expressed by the Greek words symmetria, the Hippocratic principle of isonomia (“equilibrium”), and rhythmos. “Perfection, he said, comes about little by little (para mikron) through many numbers”.[11] By this Polykleitos meant that a statue should be composed of clearly definable parts, all related to one another through a system of ideal mathematical proportions and balance.

The method begins with one part, such as the last (distal) phalange of the little finger, treated as one side of a square. Rotating that square’s diagonal gives a 1 : √2 rectangle, suitable for the next (medial) phalange. The method is repeated to get the next phalange, then (using the whole finger) to get the palm; then using the whole hand to get the forearm to the elbow, then the forearm to get the upper arm.[12]


Polykleitos and Phidias were amongst the first generation of Greek sculptors to attract schools of followers. Polykleitos’ school lasted for at least three generations, but it seems to have been most active in the late 4th century and early 3rd century BCE. The Roman writers Pliny and Pausanias noted the names of about twenty sculptors in Polykleitos’ school, defined by their adherence to his principles of balance and definition. Skopas and Lysippus are among the best-known successors of Polykleitos.

Polykleitos’ son, Polykleitos the Younger, worked in the 4th century BCE. Although the son was also a sculptor of athletes, his greatest fame was won as an architect. He designed the great theater at Epidaurus.

The main-belt asteroid 5982 Polykletus is named after Polykleitos.

Works of Polykleitos

The statue of Diadumenos, also known as Youth Tying a Headband is one of Polykleitos’ sculptures known from many copies. The gesture of the boy tying his headband represents a victory, possibly from an athletic contest. “It is a first-century A.D. Roman copy of a Greek bronze original dated around 430 B.C.”[13] Polykleitos sculpted the outline of his muscles significantly to show that he is an athlete. “The thorax and pelvis of the Diadoumenos tilt in opposite directions, setting up rhythmic contrasts in the torso that create an impression of organic vitality. The position of the feet poised between standing and walking give a sense of potential movement. This rigorously calculated pose, which is found in almost all works attributed to Polykleitos, became a standard formula used in Greco-Roman and, later, western European art.”[14]

Another statue created by Polykleitos is the Doryphoros, also called the Spear bearer. It is a typical Greek sculpture depicting the beauty of the male body. “Polykleitos sought to capture the ideal proportions of the human figure in his statues and developed a set of aesthetic principles governing these proportions that was known as the Canon or ‘Rule.’ ”[15] He created the system based on mathematical ratios. “Though we do not know the exact details of Polykleitos’s formula, the end result, as manifested in the Doryphoros, was the perfect expression of what the Greeks called symmetria.” On this sculpture, it shows somewhat of a contrapposto pose; the body is leaning most on the right leg. “The proportions of the Doryphoros together with the perfect balance between tension and relaxation, create a visual image of harmony.”[16] The Doryphoros has an idealized body, contains less of naturalism. In his left hand, there was once a spear, but if so it has since been lost. It was believed that either the sculpture was a normal civilian, or he could be Achilles going off to war. The posture of the body shows that he is a warrior and a hero.[17]