TORSO OF NARCISSUS
Roman, 2nd century CE
Height: 12 inches (40.5 cm)
Provenance: Ex. Collection McAlpine England prior to 1986; Ariel Hermann collection New York, 1994; with Thomas-Howard Sneyd, 1994-2011
Exhibited: Antikenmuseum, Basel, July 31, 1986 – June 8, 1991
The story of Narcissus, the handsome youth who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water, has been told since the time of the Greeks. This beautiful marble torso evokes the name Narcissus in its beauty as both the depiction of the human figure and an incredible work of art. The body is muscular, but not exaggeratedly so, subtly marking the boundaries between pectoral and abdominal muscles, the stretch and pull of the trapezius as the figure raises his arms above his head. The artist who carved this torso was clearly skilled in his art. Male genitalia and the flatness of the chest show definitively that this figure is male without drawing attention away from the physical form of the youth.
Roots have made their mark across the torso, especially along the shoulders, right thigh, and the figure’s back, leaving dark lines that only serve to emphasize the figure’s age. Sadly, the entirety of this statuette has not survived the tests of time; the arms at the bicep, head, and legs at the thighs are not present, characteristic of many surviving Greek and Roman pieces. The remains of the figure’s flowing locks of hair can be seen falling in the hollow between the neck and shoulders, and sweeping the nape of the neck.