Statue of an Old Fisherman

The Minnesota Chapter

he statue, standing at 160.5 cm in height, comes from the Pamphilj excavations at Anzio during the eighteenth century. The statue was long preserved at Villa Doria Pamphili where it was restored by Alessandro Algardi. In 1773, Prince Doria gifted the statue to Pope Clement XIV. 

The elderly figure stands slightly curved forward and is dressed in a single cloth (subligaculum) girded at the waist and knotted under the navel. The right arm is positioned at the side of the torso and extends in front of the body, perhaps leaning against a stick that has since disappeared from the sculpture. The left arm is stretched along the side of the body holding a small basket of fish.

Before Winckelmann’s analysis of the sculpture, the nude statue of the elder, covered only by a cloth around the hips, had been interpreted as a portrait of the philosopher Seneca during his act of suicide. Winckelmann disagreed with this interpretation and he assessed the figure in its nakedness as a servant, possibly a representation for the Comedia. The correct identification of the subject as an elderly fisherman finally came when archeologist Ennio Quirino Visconti observed that the basket in his left hand contained fish.

This kind of iconography is called “Vatican-Louvre,” a style of sculpture which derives from principal examples of Ancient replicas and is steeped in the life-like appearance of the figure, as was characteristic of the middle Hellenistic Age. It can be traced back to an Alexandrian original – perhaps in bronze – from the middle of the third century B.C. This statue, derived from this model, is an excellent quality replica dating back to 130-140 A.D.