Private Dealer (Munich, Germany)
Atlantis Antiquities, Ltd. (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1990.
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Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 104, Archaic and Classical Greece
Grave Stele of Pollis
Megara, Greece (Place Created)
about 480 B.C.
153 × 45.1 × 15.9 cm (60 1/4 × 17 3/4 × 6 1/4 in.)
The muscular warrior carved in low relief on this stele (gravestone) wears only a crested helmet and carries a shield, sword, and spear. He appears to be advancing into battle with his shield raised and his spear ready. The strap that suspended the sword hanging at his side was originally added in paint, as were other details of the decoration. The figure is identified in the Greek inscription written above him as Pollis: ΛΕΓΟ ΠΟΛΛΙΣ ΑΣΟΠΙΧΟ ΦΙΛΟΣ Η[Υ]ΙΟΣ: Ο ΚΑΚΟΣ ΕΟΝ ΑΠΕΘΝΑΣΚΟΝ ΗΥΠΟ ΣΤ[Ι]ΚΤΑΙΣΙΝ ΕΓΟΝΕ (“I, Pollis, dear son of Asopichos, speak: Not being a coward, I, for my part, perished at the hands of the tattooers.”). The tattooed enemy referred to in the epitaph were the Thracians, a tribe from the north that fought on the side of the Persian invaders in the war of 480–479 B.C. Although the Greeks were victorious, Pollis lost his life. The form of the Greek letters seen here was distinctive to Megara, a city located between Athens and Corinth.
In form, the stele retains the tall narrow shape popular in the Archaic period, yet its decoration looks forward to the early Classical period. Sculptors of the period from about 480-450 B.C. displayed a new interest in the representation of space, movement, and human anatomy. Shown mostly in profile view with accurate musculature and a foreshortened shield, the figure of Pollis conveys a sense of three-dimensionality. This effect is all the more remarkable, give the stele’s very shallow carving.
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Corcella, Aldo. 1995. "Pollis and the Tattooers." Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 109: 47-8.
Schaefer, Thomas. "Gepickt und Versteckt. Zur Bedeutung und Funktion aufgerauhter Oberflaechen in der spaetarchaischen und fruehklassischen Plastik," Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts 111 (1996), pp. 25-74, p. 51, fig. 14.
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Spivey, Nigel and Squire, Michael. Panorama of the Classical World (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2004), p. 203, fig. 324.
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Spivey, Nigel. Greek Sculpture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 122-23, 126, fig. 5.1.
Onians, John. European Art: A Neuroarthistory (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), pp. 81, fig. 50, ill.