Charles Ede, Ltd. (London, England), sold to Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, 1991.
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Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 216, Roman Treasury
Statuette of a Boxer
5.4 cm (2 1/8 in.)
Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman
A short-legged, muscular man strides forward with fists up, ready to fight. Portrayed with a receding hairline, a broad face, and a short, trimmed beard, the boxer is nude, except for his caesti or boxing gloves. Romans were intrigued by people with achondroplasia, a medical condition in which the ends of the long bones fail to grow, resulting in short stature with disproportionately short limbs.
Rich Romans might keep such a person, historically referred to as a dwarf, in their households for entertainment. Ancient writers also noted the belief that dwarves, and especially those with hunched backs, had the power to ward off evil. Greek authors, such as Aristotle, had earlier noted that the most distinctive features of dwarves were short, bowed legs and large genitals. The statuette depicts those features, but does not otherwise caricature the man. This realistic but not sensationalistic rendering suggests a date in the first or second centuries A.D.
True, Marion, and Kenneth Hamma, eds. A Passion For Antiquities. Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, exh. cat. (Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1994), p. 294, cat. no. 152.
"Museum Acquisitions Between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 1998." The Report of the J. Paul Getty Trust (1997-98), p. 66.