After Skopas of Paros
(Greek, Attic, 4th century B.C.)
Torso from reduced copy of the so-called Pothos
original: second half of 4th century B.C.
copy: 1st or 2nd century A.D.
17 7/8 x 7 1/8 x 4 7/8 in. (45.3 x 18 x 12.3 cm)
(Height of original: about 180 cm)
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1941
This youthful male torso is one of several Roman copies and variants after a lost marble statue by Skopas of Paros. Graceful and sensual, the torso reveals the figure's function as the personification of erotic love, longing, and desire.
The original statue by Skopas can be reconstructed, although with considerable debate, on the combined evidence of later reflections. In 1900 Adolf Furtwängler identified the statuary type as Pothos (personification of longing) by Skopas.1 Of the several extant copies and variants in different media,2 the most complete are a glass gem in Berlin 3 and a marble statue in Rome.4 In these works, a small winged boy leans on what is most likely a torch. 5 His legs are crossed, with the right leg bearing the weight, and his arms extend across his body to his left. A goose is at his feet and a voluminous cloak, hanging from his left arm, serves as the actual support for the leaning, off-balance figure. The childlike anatomy and long hair suggest a prepubescent boy. The Oberlin torso conforms completely to the type.
The off-balance pose suggests that the statue was originally part of a group of figures. Ancient texts attribute to Skopas two marble groups that included Pothos: one with Aphrodite, in Samothrace;6 and a larger one with Eros and Himeros (personification of desire), in the temple of Aphrodite at Megara.7 Whereas the first group was probably associated with the mysteries of the Great Gods of Samothrace, the Megarian figures expressed the traditional iconography of love and marriage. There are no extant copies of either of these complete figural groups.
Scholars have tended to associate the so-called Pothos type--including the Oberlin torso--with the Samothracian group.8 However, the fact that the figure holds a torch, specifically an attribute of wedding ceremonies, points to a Megarian setting. If so, the prepubescent figure could equally well represent Pothos, Eros, or Himeros. All were represented in classical Greek art as winged infants; all were children of Aphrodite; and their attributes were all associated with courtships and weddings. The goose was the sacred bird of Aphrodite, while a torch held by a cupid was used to illuminate wedding processions. Pausanias pointed out that it was hard to tell Skopas's Pothos, Eros, and Himeros apart and that their functions, if not their names, were the same.9
Greek sculptor and architect of the fourth century B.C., Skopas was born on Paros, and is considered a member of the Attic School. He traveled widely in southern Greece and Caria in order to execute commissions. His temple of Athena Alea in Tegea, famous for its interior arrangement of Corinthian half-columns, is his only original work extant. The rest of his oeuvre is known from ancient descriptions.10
As a sculptor, Skopas collaborated with Timotheos, Bryaxis, and Leochares on the Mausoleum in Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. His statue of Pothos for the sanctuary of Aphrodite in Megara is perhaps his most famous sculpture and has been recognised in several marble copies. He was responsible for a number of cult statues in Greek temples, such as the Aphrodite Pandemos riding a goat in Elis, Askcepios and Hygiea in Gortys, Apollo Smintheus in the Troad, and Dionysius in Cnidus.
His style is related to that of his contemporary Praxiteles; they both produced modernized versions of the classical masterpieces of the fifth century B.C. Like Praxiteles, Skopas experimented with figures leaning out of balance and showed a predilection for the representation of women and children. Many of his statues were also accompanied by animals.
Skopas of Paros is not to be confused with his later namesake, Skopas the Younger, who was active in Rome in the second century B.C.11
Stewart, Andrew. Skopas of Paros. Park Ridge, N.J., 1977, pp. 107-10, 144-46.
With Brummer Gallery, New York, from whom purchased in 1941
Acquisitions from R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund. Oberlin, 1941, no. 2.
Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 1, no. 2 (1944), no. 6 (as "Greek, fourth century B.C.Male Torso, Praxitelian Type").
Hamilton, Chloe. "Catalogue of R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund Acquisitions." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 16, no. 2 (Winter 1959), cat. no. 199 (as "Roman Male Torso, Praxitelian type,possiblyafter the Apollo Sauroktonos").
Stechow, Wolfgang. Catalogue of European and American Paintings and Sculpture in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1967, p. 189, fig. 222.
Simon, Erika. "A New Statuette Replica of the Pothos of Skopas." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 37, no. 2 (1979-80), pp. 71-77.
Lattimore, Steven. "Skopas and the Pothos." American Journal of Archaeology 91 (1987), pp. 411 n. 4 and 415.
The statuette is missing its head and neck, left arm and hand, right forearm and hand, genitals, lower legs and feet. A section of the right chest has been reattached with plaster. Parts of the chest and buttocks have been flattened by abrasion. Micaceous streaks run vertically across the left flank and the rear of the right thigh.
The stump of a strut survives midway down the side of the left thigh. This was originally attached to an external support. The right forearm was carved separately and pinned onto a smooth join. Only the round dowel hole remains. A pair of round holes in the shoulders served for the attachment of wings, now lost. The size of these dowel holes suggests that the wings were marble. Whereas all the above holes are ancient, the two holes drilled in the stumps of the legs are modern and served for mounting the figure.
1. Adolf Furtwängler, Die antiken Gemmen, vol. 2 (Leipzig,1900), p. 208, pl. 43, no. 52.
2. Andrew Stewart catalogues extant full-sized copies, statuettes, variants, and replicas in other media (gems, fresco) in Skopas of Paros (Park Ridge,N.J., 1977), pp. 144-46. Erika Simon adds the Oberlin torso to this group in "A New Statuette Replica of the Pothos of Skopas," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 37, no. 2 (1979-80), pp. 71-77.
3. Berlin, Antikensammlung, inv. FG 8199.
4. Height, 180 cm, Rome, Conservatori Museum, inv. 2417.
5. It has also been interpreted as a staff, thyrsus, scepter, etc.
6. Pliny, Natural History, 36.25.
7. Pausanias, Description of Greece, I.43.6. This group was also accompanied by statues of Peitho (persuasion) and Paregoros (consolation) by Praxiteles.
8. Steven Lattimore summarizes past scholarship on the type in "Skopas and the Pothos," American Journal of Archaeology 91 (1987), pp. 411-20.
9. Pausanias, Description of Greece, I.43.6. For a discussion of the personification of Pothos and his companions Himeros and Eros, see H. A. Shapiro, Personifications in Greek Art, Zurich, 1993, pp. 110-24.
10. These are collected in J. Overbeck, Die antiken Schriftquellen (Leipzig, 1868), nos. 1150-89.
11. Pliny, Natural History 36.25-26.