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This artistic, whole-body sculpture depicts a Roman gladiator with an upraised arm. A sign is inscribed on the pedestal: Ave Caesar! Morituri, salutant [Long live Caesar! Those who are going to die greet you]. The gladiator is — judging by his props — most likely a retiarius [net-fighter]. He fought with a trident or harpoon made of tuna bones, a dagger, and a net that he threw at his opponent's head.
The Polish audience paid particular attention to the Slavic physiognomy of the warrior, seeing a hidden national message in the work of Welonski. Our national consciousness enabled us to see an allegory of the situation of Poles under partition in this classical, thoroughly academic, work. This allegory was found in the fate of a Roman gladiator, whose life depended on his owner.

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This artistic, whole-body sculpture depicts a Roman gladiator with an upraised arm. A sign is inscribed on the pedestal: Ave Caesar! Morituri, salutant [Long live Caesar! Those who are going to die greet you]. The gladiator is — judging by his props — most likely a retiarius [net-fighter]. He fought with a trident or harpoon made of tuna bones, a dagger, and a net that he threw at his opponent's head.
The Polish audience paid particular attention to the Slavic physiognomy of the warrior, seeing a hidden national message in the work of Welonski. Our national consciousness enabled us to see an allegory of the situation of Poles under partition in this classical, thoroughly academic, work. This allegory was found in the fate of a Roman gladiator, whose life depended on his owner.
What draws our attention is the 'very high artistic standard of the Gladiator. The artist — in presenting his academic mastery — demonstrates the ease with which he can construct a human figure, its movement, and muscle tension. The figure has perfect proportions, consistent with ancient patterns of sculpture. This was the first sculptural work of the Polish artist that had been highly-rated internationally. The popularity of the sculpture was determined by both the perfection of its craftsmanship and the theme referring to ancient Rome, whose history fascinated the public in the second half of the nineteenth century, as exemplified by, among others, the success of Henryk Siemiradzki's painting and Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel Quo vadis

Elaborated by Anna Budzałek (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Sculpture “Gladiator” by Pius Weloński

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