Croatian Apoxyomenos head

The head of the Croatian Apoxyomenos, note the red inlaid lips.

Imagine finding this 1.92m tall bronze statue! Well, that is exactly what the Belgian tourist Rene Wouten, an amateur diver, did in April 1996 while diving between the islands of Vele Orjule and Kosjak off the Croatian coastline. This stunningly beautiful statue, known as the Croatian Apoxyomenos, was just lying barely submerged on the sea floor, covered in sponges and other marine life. Courtesy of the Croatian Ministry of Culture, this exceptionally well preserved Apoxyomenos is in pride of place in the Mars Rotunda of the Louvre in Paris, one of many events in France over the next three months celebrating Croatian culture.

An apoxyomenos, literally translated as ‘scraper’, is the name given to an ancient Greek sculpture of an athlete depicted in the act of scraping sweat and dust from his body with a small curved instrument after exercising. There are eight known examples, including a bronze excavated in Ephesus (Turkey) and now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna), a marble in the Vatican museums (Rome) and a bronze head in the Kimball Art Musem in Forth Worth (USA). The Croatian example is not only the most complete one of its kind, many scholars agree it is by far the finest of all known examples.

It is generally thought that the Croatian statue is most likely a Hellenistic or Roman copy of an original that was probably made during the fourth century BC. The detail on the statue is exquisite, including red copper inlaid lips and nipples, and all the more amazing given that bronzes such as this are rare. Bronze statues like this did not survive antiquity as they were melted down to make dishes, weapons, tools and coins.

The Croatian Apoxyomenos

The upper body of the Croatian Apoxyomenos.

The Croatian Apoxyomenos

The complete Croatian Apoxyomenos.

Related Links of Interest:
The following links detail the complete story of the discovery, recovery and restoration of the Croatian Apoxyomenos, with photographs.

Where is the Croatian Apoxyomenos?

For 2014 the statue is on display in the Mimara Museum in Zagreb – the last stop on a tour of European museums before going on permanent display in a purpose built museum in the Croatian town of Mali Lošinj.

The Croatian Apoxyomenos was on display in the Louvre from 23 November 2012 until 25 February 2013. The Louvre has posted a wonderful set of photographs of the statue, where it was found, its arrival at the Louvre on the museum’s Facebook page.

For further information and the programme of the Croatian Festival in France, see the website.

The photographs used here are in the public domain, from Wikimedia Commons.