This sophisticated and masculine pair of 19th Century Italian patinated bronze Roman warriors are exemplary of exquisite metal sculpting. Each soldier stands proudly on a block of luxurious Sienna marble, a form of marble linked to ancient Rome, used mostly in architecture and artistic fields. The pale yellow and beige tones of the marble perfectly contrast the darkness of the patinated bronze.
Both soldiers are fighting almost entirely in the nude. This was known as heroic nudity and was a concept in classical studies to describe the unrealistic use of nudity in sculpture. Ancient Romans often used bodies that were young and athletic, while older bodies were rarely seen.
Each soldier has also been lightly decorated with distinct Roman military equipment, setting them apart as enemies, rather than comrades. One clear indicator of this is the emblems adorned on their shields. Each of the soldiers carries the classic “Argive” shield, which protected its owner in battle while also showing his allegiance to a leader or city-state. The purpose of the figures often engraved on the exterior was also meant to strike fear into the enemy. One of these Ancient Roman soldiers carries an Argive shield with the head of Medusa. According to the legend, Medusa possessed the deadly power to turn those who looked at her into stone. To successfully slay her, the ancient hero Perseus used the reflective surface of his shield, which was given to him by the goddess, Venus. However, even after death, Medusa’s head still retained its petrifying powers. Due to this, the severed head became both a protective talisman used on warriors’ shields as well as a symbolic way to enforce Venus’ power of victory.
While each soldier holds a shield, their choice of weaponry differs as well. The soldier with the Medusa shield holds a pilum, a heavy throwing spear that was used by only skilled Romans. It is poised in a striking position, while the opposing soldier’s gladius sword has been struck down in defeat. Even though the soldiers both carry gladius swords, the warrior with the pilum has his sword sheathed in his balteus, a type of baldric. The sculptor has used minute detailing and has created floral-like engravings to mimic the ornamental decoration that a Roman soldier would typically have on a balteus.
Atop both of their heads are open helmets, each with a plume sticking out of the top. The purpose of the plume was to make the soldiers look taller and more intimidating to their enemies. Oftentimes, the plumes were not symbolic of rank, allowing anonymity and uniformity among troops.
Even though these figurines are still, the lines, fine detail, and poses make them dynamic. It becomes a scene of perseverance, bravery, and even heroism. The straight lines of the bodies contrast beautifully with the soft curves of the capes and helmets. There is such detail in these castings, even the handle to the gladius has an embellished animal head casting. While small, these figurines have a large presence. They would be perfect as bookends, flanking a picture frame, or even decorative items in an office. Wherever they are placed though, they are bound to gain attention.
Overall approx dimensions for each: H= 7 in. W=5 in. D= 3 in. 3.5 lbs. ea. total weight= 7 lbs.
Marble base dimensions only: H= .75 in. W= 4.5 in. D= 2.375 in.