Discobolus (discus-thrower) by Myron
Although we do not have the original bronze sculpture, we can study Myron’s Diskobolus by using some of its numerous Roman copies. We have been able to determine which copies are the most accurate through a description from the work of an Early Roman author, Lucian of Samosata’s Philopseudes,: “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” (Haskell, 200). Most significantly, this account tells us that the original statue depicted the discus-thrower looking back at the discus, telling the viewer that this is the final moment before the action is to take place.
Not only was Diskobolus highly prized by the Ancient Romans, but it was also extremely influential in its time. The twisted, contorted pose of sculpture set a precedent for the Hellenistic era. We see a man with his knees bent and spine twisted, coiled and ready to release the discus rather than an athlete holding a discus in a contrapposto pose. Myron maintains the sense of balance and order the contrapposto pose creates by having the arms and the back of the discus thrower create two intersecting arcs that are completely congruous. “Myron has brought to his new aesthetic ideal the refinement of a mathematical proposition: curved versus straight, smooth versus angular, closed versus open.” (Woodford, 90).
Myron’s Diskobolus was ahead of its time in many ways. The extreme pose of the discus-thrower in motion sets it apart from many other Classical sculptures. Polykleitos’ Doryphoros epitomizes the Classical obsession with creating an idealized human figure in contrapposto. In both sculptures, the proportions and perfect musculature represent the magnificence of the human above all else. Similarly, Diskobolus does not depict an individual, but rather a generalized athlete figure. The face lacks expression; the vacant eyes and facial muscles are not tensed or concentrated as one might expect them to be (Pollitt, 49). In this way, Diskobolus combines qualities from both the Classical and Hellenistic eras to create a unique and beautiful work of art.
Humanism in Classical Greece was characterized by a regard for mankind and human life in all aspects of society above all else. As Protagoras said: “Man is the measure of all things.” The discus thrower is exemplifying perfect technique, which allows the viewer to conclude that the throw will be successful. The idealized human form and implication of success in the statue can be seen as an illustration of humanism. Myron shows us that not only does man have the perfect form, but he is also perfect in his actions. Rather than depicting motion itself, Myron chose to depict the potential for motion: the moment with the most tension possible. We can see that the discus thrower also exemplifies sophrosyne through his control over his body. There is palpable tension that is balanced in the tensed muscles and the intersecting arcs of the arms and the back of the figure. Not only does the discus thrower exemplify humanism through his perfect body and athletic technique, but he also demonstrates the perfection of human rationality and reason through his perfectly balanced pose and intersecting arcs of his back and his legs.
Haskell, Francis & Penny, Nicholas, Taste and the Antique: the Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981. Print.
Pollitt, J. J. The Art of Ancient Greece: Sources and Documents. Cambridge [England: Cambridge UP, 1990. Print.
Woodford, Susan. An Introduction to Greek Art. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1988. Print.
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