Old Glory

Boxer at the Metropolitan is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: At the Met, an ancient Greek bronze gives a golden view of boxing.

(Courtesy Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme; photo illustration at right by Lucy Hogg)

The image at left shows a lovely Hellenistic Greek bronze, made around 300 B.C. and now on loan to the Metropolitan Museum from the Museo Nazionale Romano in Rome. If this is late, “decadent" Greek art, I’ll take more of it, any day. It’s an extraordinarily powerful thing, and gives a really touching view of an aging but still powerful boxer. The wall texts claim that Greek aristos themselves used to box, as a sign of martial prowess, and I love the idea that this represents an elite figure rather than a “mere" athlete. It also seems that this statue, which we would classify as a lesser “genre" subject, was so highly valued in ancient Rome that it was deliberately buried to protect if from marauding hordes. One thing the Met’s texts don’t broach: That it may be that ancient bronzes were originally presented highly polished, like brass (or gold), rather than with the dark patina we’re used to seeing on them. That’s what the manipulated image at right presents, and it seems to make sense to me, as a different image of the pomp of antiquity – of a piece with the fully painted marbles that we know were also the norm.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.