Discus Thrower by the Classical sculptor Naukydes

Roman replica of a Greek statue of the late 5th century BC

Height 176.5 cm



This Frankfurt sculpture depicts a discus thrower at the peak of his physical exertion. Naukydes, a famous sculptor of the Greek classical period, chooses for his work the moment of greatest concentration and bodily alignment. Thus, the young man gathers his strength and directs his concentration toward the meticulously coordinated, exacting physical act now to be performed.

This figure is one of the few ancient sculptures already known to the early Renaissance. When the Spanish king wished to acquire the coveted statue, its owner at the time, a Roman citizen, had its head chopped off. Later, the head was replaced, and the missing right hand was added.

For centuries, this celebrated sculpture was thought to be a depiction of the beautiful but tragic figure of Hyakinthos. The young Hyakinthos is loved by Apollo. Together they are practicing throwing the discus, when the god of the West wind, Zephyros—beside himself with jealousy—deflects Apollo’s discus from its course. Hyakinthos is fatally wounded by the object; the blood that flows from his head waters the earth and causes the hyacinth to grow.

Twentieth-century archaeology, however, has sought to interpret the sculpture as a monument to an athlete. A victorious athlete had the right to erect a statue of himself at the site of the contest as well as in his native city. Numerous such monuments have been discovered in the temple of Zeus at Olympia.