Rosso antico torso of a centaur

Period: Imperial

Date: 1st –2nd century A.D.

Culture: Roman

Medium: Marble, Rosso antico

Dimensions: H. 17 1/2 in. (44.4 cm)

Classification: Stone Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1909

Accession Number: 09.221.6


During the Classical period, centaurs—mythical creatures, half horse and half man—represented to the Greeks the wild, uncivilized aspect of man, but by the second century B.C., they were far tamer and appeared in bucolic parklike settings together with Eros, god of love, and the entourage of Dionysos. This powerful torso carved in rosso antico comes from a statue of a young centaur. It was attached to the body of a horse, which must have been carved in a different colored marble. The original Hellenistic statue was probably bronze and one of a pair of centaurs, one old and one young, which were meant to be viewed together. A baby Eros straddled the back of each, inciting the young male and restraining the old one, in a poignant evocation of sexual decline. A number of Roman copies survive; the most celebrated pair, carved in black marble, were found in 1736 at Hadrian's Villa near Rome, and they are now among the most famous ancient works in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.