The charioteer of Delphi

The charioteer of Delphi

The Charioteer of Delphi, ex-voto of Polyzalos, tyrant of the Sicilian city Gela, counts among the masterpieces of plastic art of the early classical period. The bronze statue, part of a broader composition, was dedicated by Polyzalos who won the chariot race at the Pythian Games of 478 or 474 B.C. The fragments which have been found close to the statue indicate that the Charioteer steered a chariot drawn by four horses, whereas a stable boy closed the composition. It was erected near the temple of Apollo, where it remained until its destruction, most probably by the earthquake of 373 B.C.

​The Charioteer, of whom only the left hand is missing, wears a long chiton with rich and evenly spread out drapery, tied high, under the breast, with a cross back belt. In his right hand, apart from the bridles, still extant, he was also holding a whip, cylindrical in shape. His naked feet step firmly on the ground and are rendered in full detail, which brings to mind as possible artist the bronze sculptor Pythagoras from the city of Rhegion (who originated from Samos); Pliny wrote about him that he could render even the veins under the skin. The youthful face is marked by austere lines on the nose and the eyebrows. The fleshy lips, ajar, are covered by a leaf of reddish copper and at the back, in between them are vaguely discerned four silver teeth. His eyes are inlayed with white enamel for the bulb, brown and black stone for the iris and the pupil. The gaze is filled with moderate intensity, simplicity and victorious serenity. The hair is rendered with incisions rather than in relief and it is held by a broad ribbon with a meander made of pressed silver and copper. The Charioteer constitutes one of the masterpieces of Greek sculpture, with features which make it a deeply human and spiritual work, evoking a fascination touching upon the roots of the western civilization and the deepest parts of the human soul.

It is for this reason that the news for its discovery during the Great Excavation spread throughout the world, causing a thrill beyond the purely scholarly interest.

back

ALL COLLECTIONS

More exhibits in this collection:

ALL COLLECTIONS