Borghese Gladiator

The Borghese Gladiator is a Hellenistic lifesize marble sculpture actually portraying a swordsman, created at Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

 about 100 BCE. It is signed on the pedestal by Agasias, son of Dositheus
Agasias, son of Dositheus
Agasias , son of Dositheus, was an ancient Greek sculptor of Ephesus. One of the productions of his chisel, the statue known by the name of the Borghese Gladiator, is still preserved in the gallery of the Louvre. This statue was discovered among the ruins of a palace of the Roman emperors on the...

, who is otherwise unknown.


It was found before 1611, at Nettuno
Nettuno is a town and comune of the province of Rome in the Lazio region of central Italy, 60 kilometers south of Rome. It is named in honour of the Roman god Neptune...

 south of Rome, among the ruins of a seaside palace of Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

 on the site of the ancient Antium
Anzio is a city and comune on the coast of the Lazio region of Italy, about south of Rome.Well known for its seaside harbour setting, it is a fishing port and a departure point for ferries and hydroplanes to the Pontine Islands of Ponza, Palmarola and Ventotene...

. From the attitude of the figure it is clear that the statue represents not a gladiator
A gladiator was an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals. Some gladiators were volunteers who risked their legal and social standing and their lives by appearing in the...

, but a warrior contend­ing with a mounted combatant. In the days when antique sculptures gained immediacy by being identified with specific figures from history or literature, Friedrich Thiersch
Friedrich Thiersch
Friedrich Wilhelm Thiersch , was a German classical scholar and educationist.-Biography:He was born at Kirchscheidungen...

 conjec­tured that it was intended to represent Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

 fighting with the mounted Amazon
The Amazons are a nation of all-female warriors in Greek mythology and Classical antiquity. Herodotus placed them in a region bordering Scythia in Sarmatia...

, Penthesilea
Penthesilea or Penthesileia was an Amazonian queen in Greek mythology, the daughter of Ares and Otrera and the sister of Hippolyta, Antiope and Melanippe...


The sculpture was added to the Borghese collection
Borghese collection
The Borghese Collection is a collection of Roman sculptures, old masters and modern art collected by the Roman Borghese family, especially Cardinal Scipione Borghese, from the 17th century on. It includes major collections of Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian, and of ancient Roman art...

 in Rome. At the Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese may refer to:*The Villa Borghese Pinciana , the villa built by the architect Flaminio Ponzio , developing sketches by Scipione Borghese, who used it as a villa suburbana, a party villa, at the edge of Rome, and to house his art collection.**The Galleria...

 it stood in a ground-floor room named for it, redecorated in the early 1780s by Antonio Asprucci. Camillo Borghese was pressured to sell it to his brother-in-law, Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1807; it was taken to Paris when the Borghese collection was acquired for the Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

, where it now resides.

Misnamed a gladiator due to an erroneous restoration, it was among the most admired and copied works of antiquity in the eighteenth century, providing sculptors a canon of proportions. A bronze cast was made for Charles I of England
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 (now at Windsor
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, notable for its long association with the British royal family and its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it...

), and another by Hubert Le Sueur
Hubert Le Sueur
Hubert Le Sueur was a French sculptor with the contemporaneous reputation of having trained in Giambologna's Florentine workshop, who assisted Giambologna's foreman, Pietro Tacca, in Paris, finishing and erecting the equestrian statue of Henri IV on the Pont Neuf...

 was the centrepiece of Isaac de Caus
Isaac de Caus
Isaac de Caus was a French landscaper, and architect. He arrived in England in 1612 to carry on the work that his brother Salomon de Caus had left behind. He is noted for his work at Wilton House, and Lincoln's Inn....

' parterre
A parterre is a formal garden construction on a level surface consisting of planting beds, edged in stone or tightly clipped hedging, and gravel paths arranged to form a pleasing, usually symmetrical pattern. Parterres need not have any flowers at all...

 at Wilton House
Wilton House
Wilton House is an English country house situated at Wilton near Salisbury in Wiltshire. It has been the country seat of the Earls of Pembroke for over 400 years....

; that version was given by the 8th Earl of Pembroke to Sir Robert Walpole and remains the focal figure in William Kent
William Kent
William Kent , born in Bridlington, Yorkshire, was an eminent English architect, landscape architect and furniture designer of the early 18th century.He was baptised as William Cant.-Education:...

's Hall at Houghton Hall
Houghton Hall
Houghton Hall is a country house in Norfolk, England. It was built for the de facto first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, and it is a key building in the history of Palladian architecture in England...

, Norfolk. Other copies can be found at Petworth House
Petworth House
Petworth House in Petworth, West Sussex, England, is a late 17th-century mansion, rebuilt in 1688 by Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, and altered in the 1870s by Anthony Salvin...

 and in the Green Court at Knole
Knole House
Knole is an English country house in the town of Sevenoaks in west Kent, surrounded by a deer park. One of England's largest houses, it is reputed to be a calendar house, having 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards...

. Originally a copy was also located in Lord Burlington's garden at Chiswick House
Chiswick House
Chiswick House is a Palladian villa in Burlington Lane, Chiswick, in the London Borough of Hounslow in England. Set in , the house was completed in 1729 during the reign of George II and designed by Lord Burlington. William Kent , who took a leading role in designing the gardens, created one of the...

 and later relocated to the gardens at Chatsworth in Derbyshire. In the United States, a copy of "The Gladiator at Montalto" was among the furnishings of an ideal gallery of instructive art imagined by Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 for Monticello
Monticello is a National Historic Landmark just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, United States. It was the estate of Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia; it is...


In painting

  • Having seen the sculpture on his Italian travels, Rubens included a figure of Fury in the same pose (seen from behind) in one of the scenes of his allegorical Palais de Luxembourg cycle of paintings for Marie de' Medici
    Marie de' Medici
    Marie de Médicis , Italian Maria de' Medici, was queen consort of France, as the second wife of King Henry IV of France, of the House of Bourbon. She herself was a member of the wealthy and powerful House of Medici...

    , the Conclusion of the Peace at Angers, conserved at the Louvre; the figure of Fury is bottom right.
  • The figure in the water (Brook Watson
    Brook Watson
    Sir Brook Watson, 1st Baronet was a British merchant, soldier, and later Lord Mayor of London, perhaps most famous as the subject of Watson and the Shark , a painting by John Singleton Copley which depicted a shark attack on Watson as a boy, as a result of which he lost his right leg below the...

    ) in Watson and the Shark
    Watson and the Shark
    Watson and the Shark is the title of a 1778 oil painting by John Singleton Copley, depicting the rescue of Brook Watson from a shark attack in Havana, Cuba. The original of three versions by Copley is in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.....

    by John Singleton Copley
    John Singleton Copley
    John Singleton Copley was an American painter, born presumably in Boston, Massachusetts, and a son of Richard and Mary Singleton Copley, both Irish. He is famous for his portrait paintings of important figures in colonial New England, depicting in particular middle-class subjects...

     is based on the sculpture's pose.
  • It was known, although not in the French national collection, when Ménageot
    François-Guillaume Ménageot
    François-Guillaume Ménageot was a French painter of religious and French historical scenes. A pupil of François Boucher , he went on to win the Grand Prix de Rome and become a director of the French Academy in Rome, an academician and a member of the Institute.-Life:He was born in London, the son...

     included it in the background of his The Death of Leonardo da Vinci in the arms of Francis I (1781); indeed, he probably saw it at the Villa Borghese
    Villa Borghese
    Villa Borghese may refer to:*The Villa Borghese Pinciana , the villa built by the architect Flaminio Ponzio , developing sketches by Scipione Borghese, who used it as a villa suburbana, a party villa, at the edge of Rome, and to house his art collection.**The Galleria...

     during his stay at the French Academy in Rome
    French Academy in Rome
    The French Academy in Rome is an Academy located in the Villa Medici, within the Villa Borghese, on the Pincio in Rome, Italy.-History:...

     from 1769 to 1774. However, it was an anachronism in such a setting since Leonardo died in 1519, about ninety years before the statue was discovered.
  • The stance and attitude of the warriors in Sydney Parkinson
    Sydney Parkinson
    Sydney Parkinson was a Scottish Quaker, botanical illustrator and natural history artist.Parkinson was employed by Joseph Banks to travel with him on James Cook's first voyage to the Pacific in 1768. Parkinson made nearly a thousand drawings of plants and animals collected by Banks and Daniel...

    's Two of the Natives of New Holland, Advancing to Combat
    Two of the Natives of New Holland, Advancing to Combat
    Two of the Natives of New Holland, Advancing to Combat is a drawing by Sydney Parkinson, drawn in 1770 and published posthumously in 1773. It is the earliest known portrayal of an Australian Aborigine by a European, and a typical example of a painting in the noble savage ideal, showing proud...

    , a typical painting in the noble savage
    Noble savage
    The term noble savage , expresses the concept an idealized indigene, outsider , and refers to the literary stock character of the same...

    ideal, is said to have been based upon the Borghese Gladiator.
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