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Historic Images of the Greek Bronze Age: The Reproductions of E. Gilliéron and Son


Marble stele (grave marker) of a youth and a little girl

ca. 530 B.C.
Greek, Attic
total H. 166 11/16 in. (423.4cm)
Stone Sculpture
Credit Line:
Frederick C. Hewitt Fund, 1911; Rogers Fund, 1921; and Anonymous Gift, 1951
Accession Number:
11.185a–c, f, g
  • Description

    Inscribed on the base: to dear Me[gakles], on his death, his father with his dear mother set [me] up as a monument

    This is the most complete grave monument of its type to have survived from the Archaic period. Fragments were acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1911, 1921, 1936, 1938, and 1951. The fragment with the girl's head, here in a plaster copy, was acquired in 1903 by the Berlin Museum; the fragment with the youth's right forearm, also a plaster cast here, is in the National Museum in Athens. The capital and crowning sphinx are casts of the originals, displayed in a case nearby.

    The youth on the shaft is shown as an athlete, with an aryballos (oil flask) suspended from his wrist. Athletics were an important part of every boy's education, and oil was used as a cleanser after exercise. He holds a pomegranate—a fruit associated with both fecundity and death in Greek myths—perhaps indicating that he had reached puberty before his death. The little girl, presumably a younger sister, holds a flower.

    This exceptionally lavish monument, which stands over thirteen feet high, must have been erected by one of the wealthiest aristocratic families. Some scholars have restored the name of the youth in the inscription as Megakles, a name associated with the powerful clan of the Alkmeonidai, who opposed the tyrant Peisistratos during most of the second half of the sixth century B.C. The tombs of aristocratic families were sometimes desecrated and destroyed as a result of that conflict, and this stele may well have been among them.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed on the base: "To dear Me[gakles], on his death, his father with his dear mother set (me) up as a monument."

  • Provenance

    Said to be from Attica

    Fragments acquired in 1911 (shaft, base, akroterion) and 1921 (part of youth's shoulder and arm), purchased from M.L. Kambanis, Greece; 1936 and 1938, additional fragments (sphinx) purchased; 1951, fragment of the inscription acquired, gift of W.C. Baker; fragment of inscription purchased by Baker from T. Zoumboulakis, Greece.

  • References

    Richter, Gisela M. A. 1950. The Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks, 3rd edn. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 132, 158, 491, 502, figs. 423, 458.

    Dohrn, Tobias. 1957. Attische Plastik vom Tode des Phidias bis zum Wirken der grossen Meister des iv. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. Krefeld: Scherpe, no. 46 , pp. 94, 234.

    Cole, Nancy. 1968. Greek Athletic Games. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 17.

    Thimme, Jürgen. 1976. Kunst und Kultur der Kykladeninseln im 3. Jahrtausend v. Chr.: Ausstellung unter d. Patronat des International Council of Museums ICOM im Karlsruher Schloss vom 25. Juni-10. Oktober 1976. Karlsruhe: Müller, no. 16, pp. 30-31 .

    Reuterswärd, Patrik. 1980. Studien zur Polychromie der Plastik. Stockholm: Bokförlaget Svenska, p. 78.

    Martelli, Marina Cristofani. 1983. "Il 'Marte' di Ravenna." Xenia Antiqua, 6: p. 10, fig. 15.

    Picón, Carlos A. 2007. Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greece, Cyprus, Etruria, Rome New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 71, pp. 74-75, 420.

    Schwarzmaier, Agnes. 2012. Die Antikensammlung: Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Pergamonmuseum Darmstadt: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, no. 23, pp. 59-60, fig. 15.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History