With his large marble statue of the ancient Greek warrior Philopoemen (Musée du Louvre, Paris), David sought to portray “the struggle between physical nature and moral being.” He celebrates the warrior’s courageous return to battle while facing great physical pain. In these small-scale works, Philopoemen is shown pulling a javelin from his thigh before rejoining the fight.

The preliminary terracotta model, with its dramatic upward sweep, captures the force of Philopoemen’s action, as well as his moral valor. The finished composition, illustrated here by a bronze reduction, tempers that heroism by giving greater prominence to Philopoemen’s pain. The latter decision, combined with the realism of the warrior’s body, made this a challenging sculpture for nineteenth-century viewers.

  • brown terracotta sculpture of strong standing man wearing helmet and holding a cloak over his arm

    Model for the Philopoemen, 1837
    31 x 10.5 x 10.3 cm 
    Inscribed in ink on base, à Victor Pavie
    Collection Roberta J. M. Olson and Alexander B. V. Johnson

    Cat. 12

  • polished bronze sculpture of bearded standing man in Roman helmet, holding dagger

    Philopoemen, 1837
    34.9 x 13.3 x 16.5 cm
    Foundry mark, Thiébaut Frères
    Collection Dr. and Mrs. Michael Schlossberg

    Cat. 39

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