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The Historic Plaster Cast Collection

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The image features a plaster cast of a block which displays a centaur in battle. The half horse, half human figure rears up as if in battle, with its curled tail in the bottom left corner. The head and arms have been broken off as well as parts of the legs.

Open Access

Centaur Fighting Lapith

South Metope 5, Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens
Artist: Unknown Greek Artist Primary
Date: 447 BCE - 442 BCE
5th century BCE
Dimensions: 54 x 53 x 12.5 in. (137.16 x 134.62 x 31.75 cm)
Object Type: Plaster Cast
Creation Place: Europe, Greece
Medium and Support: Plaster cast after Pentelic marble original in the British Museum, London
Credit Line: Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004
Accession Number: 2019.04.12
On View: Bellarmine Hall Cast Corridor

The Parthenon’s Doric frieze originally had a total of 92 carved metopes, which was unusual for a temple of the Doric order. All four sides depicted mythological battles, which required the sculptors and designers to invent new compositions to fill the many marble panels. The earliest battle appears in the east metopes where the Olympian Gods fight the earth-born Giants. Moving in temporal progression, the south metopes show Lapiths fighting Centaurs at a Wedding Feast. The west series, with Amazons fighting Greeks (possibly Athenians), alludes powerfully to the Persian Wars. In contrast, the north metopes provide an account of the Sacking of Troy, a legend that perhaps has now achieved comparable status with the other great mythological battles.

The fullest account of the battle between the Lapiths and Centaurs at the Wedding Feast is recorded by the 1st-century poet Ovid, in his Metamorphoses. Here we read that Pirithous, the Lapith King, invited his neighbors, the centaurs, to his wedding with Hippodame. The half-man, half-horse creatures, emboldened by drink, assaulted the women of the wedding party including the bride. The Lapiths leapt up from their dining couches to rescue the women and to attack the Centaurs.

A violent skirmish between a Lapith and a centaur is depicted here. The latter’s body creates an almost perfect diagonal line through his rearing pose, as he kicks his forelegs wildly in the air. The centaur wears a cape, and his muscles are well-defined; his body is tense and ready to attack.

Today only the centaur is seen on the metope, but 17th-century drawings of the Parthenon metopes (attributed to Jacques Carrey) make apparent that the centaur was battling a standing Lapith youth, whose wrist can be seen pushing against the bearded chin of the centaur.

This cast was taken from the marble original now located in theBritish Museum in London .


Catalogue of the Collection of Casts. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1910,67, #512-29


Click a term to view other artwork with the same keyword

Athenian Acropolis
An ancient citadel located in the city of Athens containing the remains of several ancient buildings including the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike.
A group of humans from Greek mythology that were beleived to have inhabited Thessaly. They are mentioned as having participated in the journey of the Argonauts as well as the Trojan War. They are frequently depicted in art fighting the Centaurs at a wedding feast in a battle known as the Centauromachy.
Pentelic marble
A famous Greek marble quarried at Mount Pentelikon near Athens. It is pure white but may turn yellow after long exposure to air; a few miniscule veins of talc sometimes cause a faint greenish tint. It was used in antiquity as early as the 6th century BCE and continued to be popular for both sculpture and architecture; both the sculptural decoration and the architectural members of the Parthenon are made of Pentelic marble.
High Classical
Refers to the middle phase of the Greek Classical period and style, from around 450 BCE to around 400 BCE. In sculpture it is characterized by the complete mastery of the ideal human form, represented in balanced, subtle movement and with drapery that clings to the body to reveal the form beneath. In vase painting, it is characterized by an increased refinement and variety of human forms and facial expressions. In architecture it is characterized by a lightening of proportions and a refinement of earlier established orders.
public domain
Land owned and controlled by the state or federal government. Also, the status of publications, products, and processes that are not protected under patent or copyright.
The higher and usually fortified sections of ancient Greek cities, typically containing temples and some public buildings and used as places of refuge.
Ancient Greek
Refers to the culture and styles of ancient Greece, generally excluding modern and prehistoric periods, but including periods between around 900 BCE to around 31 BCE. For the culture of Greece in general, including modern Greece, see "Greek."
Panels between triglyphs in the Doric frieze, often carved.
An ancient temple on the Athenian Acropolis dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos during the 5th century BCE. The structure was built to commemorate the Greek victory over the Persians and also served as the city's treasury.
A mythological battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs frequently depcited in ancient Greek art. This event is described as taking place during the wedding feast of Peirithoos, the King of Thessaly. The Centaurs, who had been invited guests, became violently drunk and attempted to kidnap the Lapith women in attendance. The Lapiths ultimately defeated the Centaurs and forced them out of the region.
Three-dimensional works of art in which images and forms are produced in relief, in intaglio, or in the round. The term refers particularly to art works created by carving or engraving a hard material, by molding or casting a malleable material (which usually then hardens), or by assembling parts to create a three-dimensional object. It is typically used to refer to large or medium-sized objects made of stone, wood, bronze, or another metal. Small objects are typically referred to as "carvings" or another appropriate term. "Sculpture" refers to works that represent tangible beings, objects, or groups of objects, or are abstract works that have defined edges and boundaries and can be measured. As three-dimensional works become more diffused in space or time, or less tangible, use appropriate specific terms, such as "mail art" or "environmental art."

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