Myron ("discus thrower", Greek:
Δισκοβόλος, Diskobólos) is a Greek sculpture that was
completed toward the end of the Severe period, circa
460–450 BC. The original Greek bronze is lost but the work is
known through numerous Roman copies, both full-scale ones in marble,
which was cheaper than bronze, such as the first to be recovered,
the Palombara Discobolus, and smaller scaled versions in bronze.
A discus thrower is depicted about to release his throw: "by sheer
Kenneth Clark observed in The Nude, "
Myron has created
the enduring pattern of athletic energy. He has taken a moment of
action so transitory that students of athletics still debate if it is
feasible, and he has given it the completeness of a cameo." The
moment thus captured in the statue is an example of rhythmos, harmony
Myron is often credited with being the first sculptor to
master this style. Naturally, as always in Greek athletics, the
Discobolus is completely nude. His pose is said to be unnatural to a
human, and today considered a rather inefficient way to throw the
discus. Also there is very little emotion shown in the discus
thrower's face, and "to a modern eye, it may seem that Myron's desire
for perfection has made him suppress too rigorously the sense of
strain in the individual muscles," Clark observes. The other
Myron embodied in this sculpture is how well the body is
proportioned, the symmetria.
The potential energy expressed in this sculpture's tightly wound pose,
expressing the moment of stasis just before the release, is an example
of the advancement of Classical sculpture from Archaic. The torso
shows no muscular strain, however, even though the limbs are outflung.
1 Reputation in the past
Discobolus and Discophorus
Discobolus Palombara or Lancellotti
4 Townley Discobolus
5 Other copies
6 See also
7 Notes and references
8 External links
Reputation in the past
The discobolus motif on an Attic red-figured cup, ca. 490 BC, is
static by comparison.
Roman discus thrower from Stabiae, Villa Arianna, 1st century AD
Discobolus was long known from descriptions, such as the
dialogue in Lucian of Samosata's work Philopseudes:
"When you came into the hall," he said, "didn't you notice a totally
gorgeous statue up there, by Demetrios the portraitist?" "Surely you
don't mean the discus-thrower," said I, "the one bent over into the
throwing-position, with his head turned back to the hand that holds
the discus, and the opposite knee slightly flexed, like one who will
spring up again after the throw?"
"Not that one," he said, "that's one of Myron's works, that Diskobolos
you speak of..."
— Lucian of Samosata,
Philopseudes c. 18
Discobolus and Discophorus
Prior to this statue's discovery the term
Discobolus had been applied
in the 17th and 18th centuries to a standing figure holding a discus,
a Discophoros, which
Ennio Quirino Visconti
Ennio Quirino Visconti identified as the
Discobolus of Naukydes of Argos, mentioned by Pliny (Haskell and Penny
Discobolus Palombara or Lancellotti
Discobolus Palombara, the first copy of this famous sculpture to
have been discovered, was found in 1781. It is a 1st-century AD copy
of Myron's original bronze. Following its discovery at a Roman
property of the Massimo family, the Villa Palombara on the Esquiline
Hill, it was initially restored by Giuseppe Angelini; the Massimi
installed it initially in their
Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne
Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne and then
at Palazzo Lancellotti. The Italian archaeologist Giovanni Battista
Visconti identified the sculpture as a copy from the original of
Myron. It was instantly famous, though the Massimo jealously guarded
access to it (Haskell and Penny 1981:200).
Adolf Hitler negotiated to buy it, and eventually succeeded in
1938, when Galeazzo Ciano, Minister of Foreign Affairs, sold it to him
for five million lire, over the protests of Giuseppe Bottai, Minister
of Education, and the scholarly community. It was shipped by rail to
Munich and displayed in the Glyptothek; it was returned in 1948. It is
now in the National Museum of Rome, displayed at the Palazzo Massimo.
Discobolus at the British Museum, Roman copy with
incorrectly restored head.
After the discovery of the
Discobolus Palombara a second notable
Discobolus was excavated, at
Hadrian's Villa in 1790, and was
purchased by the English antiquary and art dealer established in Rome,
Thomas Jenkins, at public auction in 1792. (Another example, also
found at Tivoli at this date, was acquired by the Vatican Museums.)
The English connoisseur Charles Townley paid Jenkins £400 for the
statue, which arrived at the semi-public gallery Townley commissioned
in Park Street, London, in 1794. The head was wrongly restored, as
Richard Payne Knight
Richard Payne Knight soon pointed out, but Townley was convinced his
was the original and better copy.
It was bought for the British Museum, with the rest of Townley's
marbles, in July 1805.
Discobolus in the National Roman Museum in
Palazzo Massimo alle
Other Roman copies in marble have been recovered, and torsos that were
already known in the 17th century but that had been wrongly restored
and completed, have since been identified as further repetitions after
Myron's model. For one such example, in the early 18th century
Pierre-Étienne Monnot restored a torso that is now recognized as an
example of Myron's
Discobolus as a Wounded Gladiator who supports
himself on his arm as he sinks to the ground; the completed sculpture
was donated before 1734 by
Pope Clement XII
Pope Clement XII to the Capitoline Museums,
where it remains.
Yet another copy was discovered in 1906 in the ruins of a Roman villa
at Tor Paterno in the former royal estate of Castel Porziano, now also
conserved in the Museo Nazionale Romano.
In the 19th century plaster copies of the Discobolos could be found in
many large academic collections, now mostly dispersed.
Athletes and athletics in ancient Greek art
Notes and references
^ Woodford, Susan. (1982) The Art of Greece and Rome. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, p. 16. ISBN 0521298733
^ a b Clark, Kenneth. (2010) The Nude: A study in ideal form. New
edition. London: The Folio Society, pp. 134–135.
^ An explanation for his inefficient discus throwing could be that the
ancient Olympic sportsmen had a set rotation of three quarters before
the discus was thrown. This rotation could well have been a deliberate
handicap to make the sport more difficult.
^ The Lucian reference and Quintillian, ii.13.xviii-x, are noted by
Haskell & Penny 1981, p. 200.
^ Tony Kitto, "The celebrated connoisseur: Charles Townley, 1737-1805"
Minerva Magazine May/June 2005, in connection with a British Museum
exhibition celebrating the bicentennial of the Townley purchase.
[permanent dead link]
^ Haskell, Francis & Penny, Nicholas (1981), Taste and the
Antique: the Lure of Classical
Sculpture 1500-1900, New Haven: Yale
University Press, pp. 200 & 227., ISBN 0-300-02641-2
Kenneth Clark illustrated it in the 1956 edition of The Nude, fig.
130, p.241, as "after Myron".
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Discobolus.
Discobolus A discussion about the sculpture between Dr. Beth
Harris & Dr. Steven Zucker on video at Khan Academy/Smarthistory
British Museum collection record, GR 1805.7-3.43 (
Skulpturhalle, Basel collection record (German), 69-30/SH 948
Capitoline Museum collection record,