Spinario

Arte romana

First century BC

Marble, 92 x 50cm

Inv. 4167

The Galleria Estense, Modena

This famous Spinario, representing a young boy sitting on a rock intent on pulling a thorn out of his foot, is a creation of the late Hellenistic period when such bucolic themes were particularly revered. 

The subject’s popularity is confirmed by the innumerable reproductions made during the Roman era. The Estense sculpture stands out for its quality and size, being bigger than the seven other complete extant versions. Keeping with the eclectic taste of the Caesarean and early Augustan eras and like the famed bronze kept at the Capitoline Museums, the Estense Spinario has an archaic-style head juxtaposed with a highly naturalistic body,. In a recent study the work has been traced back to the workshop of famous Greek sculptor Prasiteles, active during the Caesarean era and thought to be the creator of the Esquiline Venus (Parisi Presicce, 2005).

The Spinario comes fromthe collection of Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, who recorded as coming from an imperial palace on the Palatine Hill in 1566. After the Cardinal’s death, it featured in Duke Alfonso II’s inventories and in the late sixteenth century, documentary evidence attests that the Duke Cesare d’Este commissioned Ferrarese sculptor Francesco Casella carry out restoration work on it.