The Romans were nothing if not pragmatic. Wasting time reinventing the wheel was not for them and so when it came to sculpture they acknowledged the Greeks as masters of the art and let them get on with it. The bronzes that the Greeks produced were breathtakingly beautiful but sadly few survive. Bronze was expensive in the middle ages and many were melted down for cannons and other purposes.
Against all odds, one was discovered in 1885 during excavations on the Quirinal Hill and it now resides in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme where it is on display and is one of the great undiscovered treasures of the city. It is from the later Hellenistic period when artists were more concerned with portraying realism rather than idealism and this is nothing if not realistic. It is called the Boxer at Rest and shows a seated pugilist resting, perhaps immediately after a fight, with his hands still bound, with cuts to his face and a broken nose and cauliflower ear.
Contemplating this two-thousand-year-old work I cannot but recall Paul Simon’s lyrics:
In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains
Surely this most erudite of troubadours was inspired by this work but sadly I can find nothing to support my hypothesis.