Sample Art Research Paper on Sculptural Tales

Sculptural Tales

Apxyomenos (The Scraper)

            This sculpture is a representation of an athlete or a wrestler as they would be expected to appear in ancient Roman times. The statue has contravened the conventions that were used by Roman sculptors during that period several ways. It was made taller with a smaller head that is only an eighth of the full height of the sculpture as opposed to a seventh of the height that was mainly used (Harris & Zucker, 2015). Lysippos, the original sculptor, also deviates from the common practice of putting emphasis on the torso of the sculpture. Instead, the right arm seems to be extended, and the left is extended under it; the athlete is seemingly scraping dirt and sweat from under the right arm with the left using a small curved instrument that was called strigil (Harris & Zucker, 2015).

The height of the sculpture is above that of the average human meaning that the sculpture was intended to tower above all the humans in whichever area it was placed. The chest is blocked by the extended arms, and this forces the observer to move around it and have a view at different perspectives (Harris & Zucker, 2015). Less emphasis is given to the torso, and the lean nature of the athlete is realistically proportionate. The athlete seems to have most of his weight on the left leg with the hips seemingly twisted as a result. This sculpture has a unique aspect to it in that it does not seem as if the intended subject had to pose for it to be conceived in the artist’s mind. It is as if the artist had taken the picture without the athlete’s knowledge while he was deeply absorbed in the activity of scraping oil from his body using a stigil.

This sculpture demonstrates the Roman culture of that period in two obvious ways. One of them is their approach to hygiene. The Romans were not known to use water for bathing. Rather, they used oil. This athlete, as it might be assumed, has come from practice and has his body covered in sweat and dust. He has applied oil all over his body, and he is now scraping it off. After total scraping off the oil, Romans would consider him as having taken a bath. Another aspect of the culture evident from the sculpture is their fascination with physical sports such as athletics and wrestling.


Woman of Willendorf vs. Apxyomenos (The Scraper)

The woman of Willendorf is a small sculpture – only 110mm in height (Cheng, 2006). It is approximated to have been made by nomadic tribes about 30,000 BC (Cheng, 2006). The figurine is made using oolitic limestone and covered with red ochre. The statue has an enlarged stomach and breasts, and this is assumed to have been an allusion to fertility and prosperity that the ancient tribes desired. The figurine has a faceless head that has seven rows of concentric braids (Cheng, 2006). This makes the figurine mysterious and anonymous. One of the similarities that this sculpture has with the Apoxyomenos is that they are both a representation of the human form. From just a glance, one can tell that they are imitations of the human body.

Woman of Willendorf and Apoxyomenos have more differences than similarities. The age and time of the creation of the two sculptures are different with the woman of Willendorf coming from a much older civilization. The woman of Willendorf reveals a culture that was rooted in mystique and was used as a lucky charm for the hunters. On the other hand, Apoxymenos was created for aesthetic purposes only. There is no spiritual attachment to Apoxymenos. Woman of Willendorf is a representation of what the ancient nomadic tribes considered a fertile woman while Apoxymenos is a representation of the perfect male athlete.

Coatlicue vs. Apoxymenos

            The Coatlicue is a sculpture of Aztec goddess that is 2.7 meters tall (Webley, 2011). This sculpture has angular features, a grotesque face, and a skirt made of snakes. This goddess was believed to be the one that gave birth to the moon and the stars. There are other accounts that state her as the creator and destroyer of all things. Her head is multifaceted with two fanged serpents for a face (Webley, 2011). There is no observable similarity between Coatlicue and Apoxymenos apart from the fact that each gives an insight regarding the cultures from which they are derived. There are many contrasts between these two sculptures. Coatlicue lacks a humanoid form even though it has limbs. Coatlicue has not been adequately dated while Apoxymenos has been well documented. Coatlicue has a religious background to it while Apoxymenos does not have a spiritual significance. In terms of culture, Coatlicue shows just how the Aztec understood fertility and accounted for the existence around them. It reveals that this civilization was matriarchal in nature as opposed to the Romans who were a patriarchal society.




Cheng, T. (2006). Obesity, Hippocrates and Venus of Willendorf. International Journal of Cardiology, 113(2), 257. doi:10.1016/j.ijcard.2005.08.068

Harris, B. & Zucker, S. (2015). Lysippos, Apoxyomenos (Scraper). Smarthistory. Retrieved from

Webley, K. (2011). Top 10 Earth goddesses. Time. Retrieved from,28804,2066721_2066724_2066713,00.html