The bronze statue of the praying boy has had a colourful past. The work was found in Rhodes when the city walls were being constructed and arrived in Venice in 1503 where it was received with great interest by the art world. The statue went on to become the highlight of various collections, belonging at one stage to Mario Bevilacqua in Verona, the Gonzagas in Mantua and even briefly to King Charles I of England. Foucquet, finance minister of Louis XIV, commissioned the missing arms to be replaced and put the statue on display at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. Other prominent owners include Prince Eugen and Wenzel of Liechtenstein who sold the statue to King Frederick II of Prussia. The praying boy was erected on the terrace of Schloss Sanssouci facing the library and near to the site that Frederick II had chosen for his grave. The statue soon became associated with this location over the following years. In 1806, the statue was seized by Napoleon during the war and was considered one of the most important works of the exhibition in the Musée Napoléon in Paris. This marks the end of its meandering through private collections. Back in Berlin, the statue was placed in the Altes Museum and has welcomed visitors coming from the rotunda in the centre of the building ever since. The constant movement of the artwork in modern times has taken its toll. Repairs and additions have taken place in every epoch, for example, the front part of the left foot was replaced and the second and third toes redone in brass. The rough cleaning of the surface has considerably altered its appearance and in the process, the fine patina was mechanically blasted off. Because of this, many small pores can now be seen that would not have been visible in antiquity. The interpretation as a boy praying is of course derived completely from the position of the arms, which are not original. At first, it was thought that the statue might represent the young god Apollo because of the soft lines of the body. The sense of eroticism has also been acknowledged leading to the hypothesis that the statue was of Ganymede whom Zeus abducted and brought to Olympia because of his beauty. None of these interpretations has been proven and all are unsatisfactory, even that of the praying boy which has survived the longest. It is quite likely that the figure was actually part of a larger group. Recent detailed analyses of the techniques used to manufacture the statue have revealed that the boy was cast in the early Hellenistic period in Rhodes. The search for the unknown artist may possibly end in the circles around the great master Lysippus. Close stylistic parallels with a bust in Naples suggest that the boy was made by a grandson and student of Lysippus, Teisikrates, around 300 BCE.


  • Title: The “praying boy”
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: -300
  • Location: Rhodes
  • Physical Dimensions: h128 cm
  • Type: Statue
  • Medium: (Tin) bronze
  • Inv.-No.: Sk 2
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-814319
  • External link: Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Verlag Philipp von Zabern / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Gerhard Zimmer Audio: © Tonwelt / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz || Photo: © b p k - || Photo Agency / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Johannes Laurentius
  • Collection: Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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