The Doryphoros


The Doryphoros in its original state was a bronze sculpture produced by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos around 440 BC. The sculpture shown in the adjoining photograph is a Roman copy from the 2nd century AD and is located in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy. 


The word doryphoros means ‘spear bearer’ as the sculpture was originally represented holding a spear. The original sculpture does not survive as Romans generally melted down bronze sculptures to produce weaponry. The copy of the Doryphoros on display in Naples was found in the ruins at Herculaneum along with a bronze head. However, it was not until 1863 that these were identified as representing Polykleitos’ Doryphoros. The sculptures we see today connected to Polykleitos are all copies of his work. Other copies of the Doryphoros can be seen in Minneapolis, Paris, Rome and Florence. The Doryphoros is one of the most important sculptures in the development of free-standing sculpture in history. Polykleitos developed the ‘chiasmos stance’ where the figure breaks the constraints of the archaic Kouros and appears to be weight bearing and between movements. This stance was later developed into such works as Michelangelo’s David. The Doryphoros should be gracing the top of any art lovers bucket list, whether in Naples or beyond.

Did you know?:

Another substantial part of Polykleitos’ work that does not survive is his treaties. Polykleitos had written a treaties which included problems faced by artists and even possible solutions to such problems. This treaties also included a mathematical system which when applied to the proportions of the body would generate the ideal figure. Polykleitos produced the Doryphoros as a physically embodiment of this system of proportioning. Polykleitos’ treaties, along with his original sculptures do not survive, leaving only bronze fragments, literary sources and sculptural copies preserving his work.

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