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The Belvedere Torso  

The Belvedere Torso

Cat. 1192

This celebrated marble torso, a fragment of a statue found in Rome at the end of the 15th century, came into the Vatican collections between 1530 and 1536. It has always been the piece of ancient sculpture most admired by artists right down to the present day. The identity of the figure has been the subject of various interpretations through the centuries. The most favoured hypothesis presently identifies it as the Greek hero Ajax, son of Telamon, in the act of contemplating his suicide. The story is told how, during the Trojan Wars, Ajax is enraged when Achilles' armour is awarded to Odysseus and not himself, and kills himself. The iconography has been reconstructed thanks to various figurative signs: the head was leaning sadly towards the right hand which was gripping the sword with which the hero would take his own life. The sculpture dates from the 1st century B.C. and is signed by the Athenian sculptor Apollonios, an artist of the neo-Attic school, who was most probably inspired by a bronze from the first half of the 2nd century B.C.