A Body in the Palm of Your Hand

"If you look up into his face, you'd be struck by the silver in his eyes."—Luke Syson, curator

Antico (Italian, ca. 1460–1528). Spinario (Boy Pulling a Thorn from His Foot), probably modeled by 1496, cast ca. 1501. Bronze, partially gilt (hair) and silvered (eyes). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 2012 (2012.157). Learn more about this object.

How does the sculpted body communicate? Hear from Met experts, leading authorities, and rising stars, each with a unique viewpoint on the language of gesture, facial expression, and pose.

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Luke Syson: The funny thing about this sculpture was that it was designed to be seen in two ways. It was made for somebody's private study, but also where they'd keep their most precious objects. And so sometimes it would be kept high up on a shelf, and sometimes it would be brought down to be examined by the collector and perhaps by a very special visitor. If it was up on a shelf, you'd look up into his face and you'd be struck by the silver in his eyes. But when you were handling it, he really fits in the hand in the most beautiful way. And when you're doing that, then you're doing something which invades his privacy a little. If you're doing that in company with somebody else, then you're kind of creating an intimacy around the object in a very surprising way.

This is immensely precious. The scale makes it so, and so does the way in which the hair has been gilded. Its previous owner used to call it "Goldilocks," and you can see why. It's a piece that really feels very special.

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