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Croatian Apoxyomenos

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Origin and Discovery Site

The Croatian Apoxyomenos is an ancient Greek bronze statue from the 2nd or 1st century BC, discovered underwater in 1996 near Vele Orjule, a small islet southeast of Lošinj, Croatia. It depicts an athlete, Apoxyomenos (‘the Scraper’), who is cleaning himself with a strigil, a small curved instrument used to scrape off sweat and dust.

 

 

The statue was discovered by Belgian tourist René Wouters during a diving excursion. He reported the find to the Croatian Ministry of Culture in 1998. The statue was raised from the sea by a team from the Ministry of Culture on 27 April 1999.

Description

Description

The Croatian Apoxyomenos stands 1.92 meters tall and is mounted on a 10-centimeter-high original bronze base decorated with alternating square and swastika motifs. This base design repeats three times on the sides and four times on the front, while the back remains undecorated. Art historians Nenad Cambi and Vincenzo Saladino date the statue to the 2nd or 1st century BC and attribute it to a highly skilled but unknown artist.

 

The statue is notable for its unique pose, which differs from other Apoxyomenos statues, such as the Vatican Apoxyomenos by Lysippos, where the hands are at hip level. This suggests a possible variation in the artistic canon of the time. The Croatian Apoxyomenos is the most complete and best-preserved among the eight known versions of this statue type.

 

During restoration, marine organisms attached to the statue were removed using only mechanical precision tools, without any chemical agents. Cracks and breaks were repaired, and a supportive internal structure was created to stabilize the statue.

 

Radiocarbon dating of organic material found inside the statue, such as wood shards, twigs, and seeds, suggests that the statue fell into the sea between 20 BC and 110 AD. Extensive surveys around the discovery site uncovered fragments of the bronze base, a lead anchor bar, and amphora remains, but no evidence of a shipwreck. Researchers believe the statue was thrown overboard during a storm.

 

Exhibitions and Awards

After restoration, the statue was first exhibited in 2006 at the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb. It was later displayed in Florence and eventually returned to Zagreb. In 2007, it was awarded the Europa Nostra, the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage.

 

Apoxyomenos Museum

The statue has been housed in the Apoxyomenos Museum in Mali Lošinj since 30 April 2016. The museum was constructed at a cost of approximately €2.6 million.

 

Artistic Interpretations

Art historian Antun Karaman attributed the statue to the Greek classical period due to its distinctive bronze glow. Croatian archaeologist Nenad Cambi believes the statue represents a wrestler rather than a generic athlete, based on the depiction of its musculature. Cambi also argues that the statue should be called “the Strigil Cleaner” instead of Apoxyomenos (‘the Scraper’), as it shows the figure cleaning the instrument itself.

 

Right-handed or Left-handed Debate

An interesting debate among archaeologists is whether the model for the statue was left-handed or right-handed. Italian Education Minister Giuseppe Fioroni speculated that the model was left-handed because the left shoulder muscles are more developed.

 

Speculations about the Statue’s Transport

The statue might have been in transit to a major city in the northern Adriatic, such as Aquileia, Trieste, Ravenna, Pula, or Poreč, when it was lost. By the early 2nd century AD, it was already considered antique.

 

Bronze Replicas

A bronze replica of this quality would currently be feasible only with significant time and financial investment. If interested, please contact us for more details on what can be achieved at present.

 

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