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The Doryphoros and Augustus of Prima Porta

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The Doryphoros and Augustus of Prima Porta are wonderful pieces of sculpture (both originally casted in bronze, reproduced by carving in marble) from their respective cultures, Greek and Roman that are very similar in form and focus on an idealized, youthful form. Both pieces of are primarily supposed to be viewed from the front also. They do however; have their differences - one of the main points being that Augustus of Prima Porta was very clearly derived from the Doryphoros.

The Doryphoros also known as Spear Bearer was made circa 450-440 BC by the immensely talented sculptor, Polykleitos. The Doryphoros is a highlight of High Classical period of Greek sculpture. This particular piece is also referred to as “canon” by Polykleitos due it’s ideal proportions. It captures the Greek’s quest for harmony and proportions and speaks to the Greeks’ philosopher, Protagoras idea of “man is the measure of all things” (In other words, that the man is perfect - not necessarily an individual).

The Spear Bearer features a young Greek athlete is an approximation of perfection when it comes to proportion. It successfully removes flaws from the human form. It features contrapposto stance that is natural and has evolved since the days of the Kritios Boy sculpture (480 BCE).

While Polykleitos focused on perfecting proportions of the human form, Caesar Augustus had other aspirations in mind when it came to Augustus of Prima Porta that was produced in 20 BC. The Augustus of Prima Porta represents the optima representation of an emperor. While the form is very similar to the Doryphoros, especially with contrapposto stance that is emulated from the Greek sculpture - the Augustus of Prima Porta focuses on the achievement of Caesar Augustus as an emperor, orator, and a descendant of the gods. It is possible that Augustus seen the idealized proportions of Polykleitos’s work and used it as a good foundation for his statues.

While both sculptures are heroic sizes, are both barefooted, and have youthful facial appearances, one of the main differences is that the Doryphoros is nude while the Augustus of Prima Porta is dressed in full Roman early imperialist finery. The Doryphoros appears to be nude which was aligned with greek culture but also really allows you to see the masterful proportions at work. Whereas the Augustus of Prima Porta’s clothing tells a story of the emperor,

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