Bust of Charioteer from Delphi 5th c.b.C.
Made of casting stone with an antique, ivory-colored finish.
Approx. 140mm (14cm) x 60mm (6cm) x 60mm (6cm)
The charioteer was erected at Delphi to commemorate a victory in a chariot race, probably in 474 B.C., though not to celebrate the charioteer, as we might suppose, but the owner of the chariot and team of four. The charioteer was discovered buried in a trench together with bits and pieces of a chariot, reigns, four horses and a groom, indicating that originally the charioteer was part of a much larger bronze sculpture.
The driver's chiton (long dress) is a remarkable achievement in itself with its irregularly but naturalistically distributed folds. Its hemline, a series of arches, creates an optical effect which emphasizes the depth of the folds, while appearing to be a straight line. It would take much space to describe the other devices applied to produce a truly live figure. Although he is impassive and somewhat stiff, this is partly because his role requires it and also because of the transitional style, which also contributes to the symmetrical stiffness relieved only by the slight right turn of the head.
Though it may now be considered a trifle, the veins on the charioteer's feet were particularly admired in ancient times, a fact which shows that, oddly enough, striking realism seems to have been a main criterion in assessing a work in antiquity. In modern eyes, independently from such trivial displays, the anonymous creator of the charioteer is very highly regarded.