Dating to the late 4th century B.C.E., this finely modeled figure was originally part of a deep relief. A portion of the background may still be seen attached to the figure of the young man. Such funerary reliefs often included more than one figure in addition to that of the dead person; in this case, an older man, the youth's father, probably completes the group. That the young man was the dead person is indicated by his nude figure and military stance. He was shown in an idealized way as a hero, or one who had died bravely in battle. The rhythmic curves and contrappasto position are indicative of Late Classical Greek art, as is the air of timeless beauty and nobility.
Classical Greek sculpture celebrated the human body. In architectural sculptures such as the works ornamenting the Parthenon temple in Athens, or in single votive statues, the nude male figure achieved heroic beauty of form. In the later stages of classical Greek art, at the end of the 5th and during the 4th centuries B.C., the great families of Athens turned to a more private kind of art, the grave sculpture. These artistic memorials to the dead shared a general loosening of classic form and a more human, emotional approach to art. This figure of a young man comes from an elaborate grave memorial. Originally, the figure of the youth would have been framed by an architectural shrine that also included other figures, such as the boy’s aged father. A very similar composition appears on the Ilissos relief (now in the National Museum in Athens) featuring an old man (the father) mourning his son (a nude athlete figure, like ours, but with head intact).
Here the young man stands in a contrapposto position, turning on the axis of his body and looking out of the sculptural space at the viewer. His nude body has the radiant purity of an athlete in his prime, although implicit in the work is a sense of tragedy, as the young man has died in the flower of youth and beauty. A monument of the high sculptural quality and considerable size, this was likely carved by a recognized master of the 4th century B.C.E.
* Anne Bromberg, _Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works_, (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 101.
* Anne Bromberg, "Figure of a young man from a funerary relief," in _Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection_, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 27.
* DMA unpublished material, Museum of Europe Label text, August 1993.