Torso of the «Diadumenus» type
Roman work of the Imperial period (first half of the second century CE?), after a bronze original by Polyclitus, c.440-430 BCE
The Classical period is marked by great artists known to us solely through Roman copies of their works. The Romans were great lovers of Greek art and made numerous reproductions of famous works, which they used to decorate their gardens, gymnasia and baths. These copies, mostly marbles after bronzes cast in the Christian era, enable us to trace the careers of some sculptors to a certain degree. Greek and Latin texts also offer valuable information, unfortunately without any illustrations. Hence we know that around 440-430 BC, in a work now lost, the sculptor Polyclitus of Argos was also preoccupied with the question of how to render an ideal of beauty. This he defined as the Canon – «rule» in Greek – a term we continue to use today in an expression signifying that beauty is the product of a subtle mathematical calculation! Polyclitus formulated a system of proportions – the height of the head being a seventh of that of the whole body – and of an opposition between the shoulders and the hips, creating the impression of a muscular body at rest. The dynamics of this image are constructed around a large X – the letter chi, from which the word «chiasma» was used to denote this artificially constructed pose, also known by the Italian term «contrapposto.» This torso of an athlete tying a victory band around his head illustrates this new manner of defining the body.