Roman - Odysseus, about 25 BC


Odysseus, about 25 BC

Parian marble, 66.7 x 109.9 x 31.8 cm (26 1/4 x 43 1/4 x 12 1/2 in.)


Object details

Accession number



Discovered in September 1885 on the site of the ancient Gardens of Sallust, on the property of the Viscount Giuseppe Spithoever, Rome.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from Giuseppe Spithoever for 12,000 lire on 13 January 1898, through the art historian and archaeologist Richard Norton (1872-1918).


Rodolfo Lanciani. Notizie degli scavi di antichità (Rome, 1885), p. 341.
C.L. Visconti. Bullettino della Commissione archeologica comunale di Roma (Rome, 1887), p. 274.
Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 4. (as "Early Statue of a Warrior")
Rodolfo. Lanciani. Bulletino della Commissione Archeologica Comunale di Roma (Rome, 1906), p. 183.
Vagn Poulsen. "Odysseus in Boston." Acta archaeologica (Copenhagen, 1954), pp. 301-04, ill. 303. (Roman, after the late archaic period, possibly 19th century but likely early 1st century AD)
Mary B. Comstock et al. The Trojan War in Greek Art, A Picture Book. Exh. cat. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1963), no. 37. (Graeco-Roman, archaistic, perhaps about 50 BC in the style of 490 BC)
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 44 (28 Jun. 1964), p. 2. (Roman, 1st century, archaistic, after the late-archaic period)
Erich Lessing et al. The Voyages of Ulysses, A photographic interpretation of Homer's classic (Germany, 1965), p. 85, no. 23, ill. jacket cover. (Roman, archaizing, about 50 AD)
William Bedell Stanford et al. The Quest for Ulysses (London, 1974), pp. 158, 246, no. 128. (Roman, about 50 AD)
Cornelius C. Vermeule III et al. Sculpture in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1977), p. 12, no. 14. (Graeco-Roman, about 50 BC, in the style of 490 BC, late archaic/early classical)
Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway. The Archaic Style in Greek Sculpture. (Chicago, 1977), p. 456, no. 149. (Roman)
Cornelius C. Vermeule III. "Classical Art" in James Thomas Herbert Baily (ed.). The Connoisseur: An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors 128 "Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum" (London, 1978), p. 46, no. 3.
Cornelius C. Vermeule, III. “Perceptions of the Trojan Wars in the Fenway: the Creeping Odysseus.” Fenway Court (1984), pp. 28-31, no. 1. (Roman, probably about 25 BC or 125 AD, Augustan or Hadrianic)
Mark D. Fullerton. The Archaistic Style in Roman Statuary (1990), pp. 177, 182, 197, 203, no. 91. (Roman, Imperial, archaistic, in the style of archaic Greek painting)
Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae VI, 1 (Bern, Switzerland, 1992), p. 948, no. 14.
Hilliard Goldfarb. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: A Companion Guide and History (Boston, 1995), p. 45, ill. 47. (Graeco-Roman, about 50 BC)
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), p. 72. (Roman, about 25 BC or 125 AD, in Greek archaic style of 490 BC)
Kim J. Hartswick. The Gardens of Sallust: A Changing Landscape (Texas, 2013), n101.

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Odysseus creeping towards an unseen object or adversary has long been a magnificent mythological sight at Fenway Court. The crafty Greek hero assumed this unusual posture on several occasions during the ten-year siege of Troy. Near the end of the war, he crept into the city on a spying mission. Odysseus also entered the city with Diomedes to steal the sacred image of Athena, the Palladium. Some sources say the Odysseus did the stealing. Others say he became jealous of Diomedes’ success in this endeavor and crouched just outside the city to ambush his accomplice returning over the walls with the small icon. The glint of moonlight on Odysseus’ drawn sword is what saved Diomedes from death.

This Odysseus is a Roman pedimental figure, meant to be seen in the setting of a wide triangle on a small building such as a shrine in the Gardens of Sallust in Rome, where the statue was found in 1885. The complete composition might have shown the Palladium on an altar or pedestal in the center, with Diomedes creeping up from the other side. Or perhaps Athena herself stood in the middle of the pediment, as was often the case in Archaic Greek sculpture, helping the thieves to hasten Troy’s fall.

Source: Cornelius C. Vermeule (1984), "Odysseus," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 5.