The “Spencer-Churchill” Etruscan Bronze Spearman
Italic · Etruscan, late 6th century B.C.
H: 10.80 cm (H: 4.25 in)
This statuette is one of the finest examples of ancient Etruscan sculpture on a small scale. Although the naked youth is represented without the cuirass and helmet, the attitude of his arms suggests that he carried a spear rather than athletic tools. His right arm bent at the elbow is raised, the pierced fist is in the position for holding a separately made spear, while the left extended hand grasps a shield (now missing). The figure is striding with the left leg advanced. The composition is also close to the youthful figure of Herakles, popular among the Etruscan statuettes of the Late Archaic period; however, no attribute is presented in the piece to suggest the representation of the hero.
The youth’s lively face has a prominent chin, straight nose, and smiling lips. The impression of life is augmented by large, wide-opened round eyes outlined by the arched long brows. The tightly curled hair indicated by rows of punched circles leaves the ears open. The latter is rather large but has a perfect shape and almost decorative, scroll-like design. The nude body is modeled with good knowledge of the male anatomy, especially well-observed are the abdominal muscles. The clavicle bones and his knees with the patellae and the toes are rendered similarly with special attention to detail. The muscles of the back, buttocks, and thighs are represented as groups that form precise and powerful shapes, which make all views of the figure impressive.
This type of statuette was influenced by contemporaneous Greek representations of the young male figure, kouros. The present composition is fascinating from the point of view of how the Etruscan sculptor controls the balance of the masses. Although he is still bound to the canonical kouros’ stance with two feet firmly attached to the ground, the torso is leaning forward following the longer leg, thus giving the impression that the figure is moving.
This young spearman, which is solid cast, could have been attached to a large vessel, candelabra, or utensil stand; or, most probably, the statuette was commissioned and brought to a temple as a dedication to an important deity.
Excellent condition; complete with no restoration or repair; spear and shield are missing; minor scratches and chips on the surface.
Art market, prior to 1925;
Ex- Mr. Charles Seltman collection, acquired prior to 1925;
Ex- Spencer Churchill (1876 -1964) collection, acquired November 1925;
Ex- Christie’s London, 21 June 1965, lot 459;
Ex- American private collection.
CRYSTAL 7, 2017, no. 4
Christie’s London, 21 June 1965, lot 459;
TEFAF, New York, 2017
DE PUMA R. D., Etruscan Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New Haven, London, 2013, pp.71-71 nos. 4.30b, 4.31a, b; p. 82 no. 4.52a.
HAYNES S., Etruscan Bronzes, London, New York, 1985, pp. 257-258, 276, 281, nos. 34-35, 83, 97.
HUS A., Les bronzes étrusques, Bruxelles, 1975, pp. 78-81.