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The Historic Plaster Cast Collection

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The images features a plaster cast of a muscled male torso resting on a block. The arms are missing but one shoulder is raised while the other drops down.

Open Access

Torso of Poseidon

Figure M, West Pediment, Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens
Artist: Unknown Greek Artist Primary
Date: 438 BCE - 432 BCE
5th century BCE
Dimensions: 42.5 x 39 x 23 in. (107.95 x 99.06 x 58.42 cm)
Object Type: Plaster Cast
Creation Place: Europe, Greece
Medium and Support: Plaster cast after Pentelic marble original
Credit Line: Gift of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004
Accession Number: 2019.04.01
On View: Quick Center Lobby

What is this massive and muscular torso? It was once part of a complete marble figure of Poseidon, a god who ruled the seas and was known as the “earth shaker.” In Greek art, Poseidon is consistently shown as a mature man who wears a beard and tousled hair and has a well-developed muscular body.

The city that would be named Athens was the subject of a famous chariot race between the Olympians Athena and Poseidon, known as the Contest for the Land of Attica. Whoever arrived first on the Acropolis would have naming rights to the city. Athena arrived first and struck the ground with her spear tip causing an olive tree to spring up, hence the city name Athens (Athena in Greek). Poseidon arrived and struck the ground with his trident causing sea water to bubble up.

Poseidon disputed the outcome, angered that Athena had been declared victor. What happens when two immortal Olympian deities clash? Zeus intervened by hurling a massive thunderbolt to separate the dispute between these two formidable gods. Our plaster cast shows Poseidon’s torso filled with exertion as he leaps from Zeus’ thunderbolt. Not even an Olympian can survive the destructive powers of such a weapon.

Our historic 19th-century plaster cast is made from two large pieces, they are all that survive of the original massive marble figure of Poseidon. One piece can be seen at the British Museum, part of the shipment of Acropolis marbles sent by Lord Elgin to London in the early 19th century. The other piece, mostly the front of the torso, is on display in the Acropolis Museum in Athens. Importantly, our plaster cast of the Poseidon torso is unusual for it fuses together the two fragments into one coherent whole.


Catalogue of the Collection of Casts. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1910, 65, #487


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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.
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."
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.
Genre and tradition concerning the study of a culture's body of myths, belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition in an authoritative and official fashion and through symbolic narrative, iconography, or characterization, usually through the forms and personalities of deities.
Triangular gable walls above the horizontal cornice of a classically treated building; also, triangular or roughly triangular elements, sometimes curved, or broken at the center, surmounting porticoes or openings. Common also on furniture, including as bonnet tops.
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."
One of the twelve gods of Olympus, son of Kronos and Rhea. He was the god of the sea, lakes, rivers, springs and seafarers.

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