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Agias of Pharsala, the Pankratist, Son of Agnosios

Agias, Daochos Monument
Artist: Lysippos (active 370 - 300 BCE)
Date: 337 BCE - 333 BCE
4th century BCE
Dimensions: 81 x 25 x 19 in. (205.74 x 63.5 x 48.26 cm)
Object Type: Plaster Cast
Creation Place: Europe, Greece
Medium and Support: Plaster Cast
Credit Line: Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Accession Number: L1991.17
This work is not currently on view

Attributed to Lysippos
(Greek, active ca. 370-ca. 300 BCE)
Agias of Pharsala, the Pankratist, Son of Agnosios,
ca. 337-333 BCE
Plaster cast from original Pentelic marble copy of original Greek bronze
Archaeological Museum, Delphi

Around 335 BCE at Delphi, Daochos II, tetrarch of Thessaly, erected a monument to honor his ancestors and to pay homage to the god Apollo. The dedication consisted of eight freestanding statues representing several generations of family members arranged on a long marble pedestal, as well as the colossal statue of a seated Apollo. It was within this assembly that the striking figure of Agias stood. A Thessalonian prince who lived during the 5th century BCE, Agias was an accomplished boxer. Originally he would have worn a wreath on his head, signifying victory.

Somewhat distinct stylistically from the other statues of the Daochos monument at Delphi, Agias is the only figure of the nine to have been attributed to the sculptor Lysippos. This attribution is uncertain since the marble Agias of the Delphi group is thought to be a copy after a lost bronze original by Lysippos. Nevertheless, the work exhibits a number of traits characteristic of the artist, whose innovations in anatomical representation distinguished his work from other Greek sculptors of the same period. Exhibiting a high degree of verisimilitude, Lysippan figures are generally tall and slender with smaller heads. These proportions differ from the earlier Polykleitan canon of proportions, and tend toward a more accurate representation of the human form. This is reflected in the sculptor’s minute attention to detail. The gentle indentations that delineate Agias’s powerful calves, for example, are treated with as much care and precision as the gradual swell of his pectoral muscles or the earnest line of his jaw.

One is immediately struck by Agias’s contrapposto stance, in which his right leg supporting his weight. The strong S-curve of his torso creates a double shift in weight, an innovation introduced in the 4th century BCE. Upon closer inspection, the figure conveys a latent physical power that is intentionally held at bay. Perhaps the most arresting aspect of Agias is his convincing three-dimensionality. Historically, freestanding figures were intended to be viewed frontally. Unlike earlier figures, however, Agias maintains the same absolute visual integrity when examined from any angle. (K.A. Schwab)


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