The Discobolus gets dressed up
Just as that wonderful symbol of Nazi power -- aka the Olympic flame -- arrives on these shore, the British Museum is announcing that it will be putting its "Discobolus" or "Discus Thrower" back on show (it's been travelling around foreign exhibitions for a few years).
This Discobolus is one of quite a few Roman copies of an original fifth-century bronze by Myron -- and it was part of the collection of Charles Townley, which went into the Museum in the early nineteenth century. He'd bought it in Rome, straight from being dug up at Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli (or so he was told).
The truth is that it is a bit of a patched up job. Even Townley was a bit worried about the head. He was assured that it had been found right next to the body -- but no discus thrower ever looked at their feet like that. The "Lancellotti Discobolus" (Hitler's favourite version.. just to continue the Nazi theme) is what you'd expect (left).
But the mis-restored head didn't hold Townley's Discobolus back, and he's become quite a symbol of Greek athletics and of the Olympics in particular. His most famous moment, I guess, was when he starred on the publicity posters for the 1948 London Olympics.
Anyway, as you might guess, the BM are putting him on show again for 2012. But they are giving him a Discobolus friend or two, in a little Discobolus exhibition.
The best friend will be a new "copy" made by the Chinese sculptor, Sui Jianguo -- who (to celebrate the Beijing 2008 Olympics) dressed him up in "classic" 20th century Mao suits. It's part of series he's done of great western masterpieces, all clad Chinese style.(There's also a MIchaelangelo "Slave", for example.)
Rather too predictably perhaps, he talks about all this in terms of Chinese/Western interaction and the transitions of modern China etc etc. But, all the same, it's going to be fun to see next to what we have come to think of as "the real thing" (in a way, of course, there is no such thing the "real thing" in this case).
I think they will be on view together in the Museum from the start of June