Bust of a Gladiator
German or French
20th century, Polychrome marble, scagliola, metal
The man depicted, wearing armour and a helmet, has a frown on his face and looks to his left. In addition to polychrome scagliola, a technique which simulates various stones, a light bronze alloy was used for the helmet and armour. His features, including the lines of his eyes, mouth, and moustache, are very realistic and are modelled with care in false porphyry, whose colour alludes to a dark-skinned soldier or gladiator. In a room dedicated to the opposite of the avant-garde, to an Art Deco and figurative 20th century in line with the history and tastes of Ricci as a collector-publisher, visitors are seduced by this polychromed bust made of a combination of materials. It differs from the other sculptures around it differ in terms of the time they were made, around the late 19th century, but it resonates nonetheless with the chryselephantine works by Chiparus, which are also composite in their use of materials. In the case of this bust, however – of uncertain origin, perhaps German or Italian, but in any case, of Nordic inspiration – this combination of materials speaks to new ideas about sculpture and sculptural technique that were making their way through Europe in years that showed a strong tendency towards individualism.