The Townley Discobolos, a drawing by an unknown artist
About AD 1792
The Discobolos ('discus-thrower'), is a marble copy of a lost bronze original by the Greek sculptor, Myron. It was found in 1791 in the Villa of the Emperor Hadrian at Tivoli, outside Rome. Charles Townley purchased this sculpture from Thomas Jenkins, a dealer in antiquities. It was restored in Italy but with an alien head set at the wrong angle. Townley knew of another copy, then in the Palazzo Massimi in Rome (now in the Museo Nazionale Romano delle Terme, Rome). It showed the original composition: with the athlete looking back with his eye firmly on the discus.
Townley remained convinced that his version was not only correctly restored but that it was the best example. He believed that the variation in the head of his Discobolos was an attempt by its sculptor to improve upon Myron's original.
The setting of the head at this angle was chosen by the Italian restorer Abbaté Visconti precisely because the downward gaze works so well to suggest a harmonious and balanced action. Apart from the angle of the head this sculpture is thought to copy closely the action of Myron's bronze.
This was Charles Townley's last important purchase.
B.F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)
A. Wilton and I. Bignamini (eds.), Grand Tour: the lure of Italy (London, Tate Gallery Publishing, 1996)