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Updated: 27 April 2015
Marble head from a statue of a wrestler. It was originally crossed with straps tied under the chin, intended to hold pads to protect the ears. The straps were probably made of metal, representing the leather headgear worn by many athletes in antiquity.
- Height: 26.67 centimetres
Probably a Roman copy of a Greek original of the 3rd century BC.Cook 2011, nr. 67:
‘A small head of an athlete 30 [Scudi]’ (TY 8/4).
This entry for Townley’s account book for 6 March 1772 marks the earliest record of a purchase direct from Gavin Hamilton. It was transcribed into ST 1 (fo. 23r) as ‘a head of an athlete’ with a note that it was charged in the list of marbles bought from Hamilton, where it appears as ‘head of an athlete less than life’ at £7 (ST 1, fo. 17v). This description and price are also given in TY 10/3 (fo. 31). I have found no other record of this purchase in Townley’s papers, but it seems that the most likely identification of the head is Smith 1748, which has a band or strap passing across the forehead and over the head, and fastened with a knot under the chin. Taking this for phorbeia, Smith identified the head as that of a trumpeter, while acknowledging that the form of the strap was unusual. Smith was surely mistaken here: the head is simply that of an athlete.
The head is possibly the one sent to Jenkins by Townley mentioned in TY 7/313, and as ‘a head delivered to me’ in an account from Jenkins (TY 8/74/8).
The head does not appear in any of Townley’s lists or catalogues, nor in the lists compiled by Combe, unless it is the ‘small head’, no. 6 in the supplementary list for the street drawing room (GR 7, TY 18/4). Neither the supplementary list nor the receipt add any detail to confirm this. This head was registered as 1805.7-3.248 but marked ‘not found’ in the 1848 Townley register.
- Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808) X.41.
- A Guide to the Graeco-Roman Sculptures in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities (Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum) (2 vols., London 1874 [2nd ed. 1879] and 1876), II, no. 149.
Greek & Roman Antiquities
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Object reference number: GAA8724
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