♦ Meeting the Youth ♦
In 2007, during my first visit to Sicily, I was fortunate enough to be on a small group tour that included seeing so many of the superb artistic and archeological treasures of Sicily.
One of these treasures was on the little island of Mozia off the western coast of Marsala. In a rather unremarkable local museum, there I laid eyes on the Youth of Mozia for the first time… And I was literally spellbound and speechless (something that doesn’t happen often to me!)…
The sheer magnificence of the Youth immediately evoked reverence and awe. So accessible you could almost reach out and touch him, the youth was unbelievably stunning from every angle. I was reluctant to leave his presence as I “knew” that I may never set eyes on his exquisite countenance again…
And so, time passed…and then, incredibly, in 2013 the Getty Museum in Malibu, California, was hosting an exhibit entitled “Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome”. One of the highlighted works was none other than THE statue of the Youth of Mozia, now also called the Charioteer of Mozia. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to pass up another encounter with the Youth. And so it was and so, as it had been, the captivating youth was prominently featured for all to admire.
Grateful to see him twice, I knew that the odds of another encounter were less than slim but fate was kind last fall. When plans to return to Sicily materialized, revisiting my gorgeous Youth of Mozia was very high on the list of priorities. Would he be traveling or on loan? Would he have been moved to a larger venue? As it turned out, he was not traveling or on loan or in another museum…he was home…
♦ Youth Lost and Found ♦
The western coast of Sicily was home to Greek colonies from as early as the late 8th century B.C. However, between the skirmishes and conflicts among ambitious and covetous ruling families and city-states, Mozia (ancient Motya), like many other settlements fell victim to war, revenge, and looting.
It is believed that this exquisite Greek sculpture dates from approximately the 5th century B.C., although many questions remain. Various sources cite various origins – was he made in nearby Selinunte? Was he commissioned by a local Phoenician or Greek? Was he damaged accidentally or intentionally during the siege and looting of Selinunte by the Carthaginians and/or by later reprisals from Siracusa? Who buried and saved the youth?
It wasn’t until 1979, here on the tiny island of Mozia that the Youth of Mozia was discovered. And even that was an “accident”! During excavations, under a mound of dirt and rubble, which may have been part of a barricade built to fend off invading rivals, a worker happened to “pick on the statue’s knee”! The worker on night watch didn’t leave the site until the precious relic, wrapped in blankets and a mattress, could be safely transported by tractor to the nearby Whitaker Museum warehouse.
That the statue has even survived, although there is damage, is miraculous! In 1988 he made his debut in Venice at an exhibit about the Phoenicians. Today, he is elegantly displayed and stands, albeit without feet, in all of his splendor here at the modest G. Whitaker Museum.
♦ The Triumphant and Mysterious Youth ♦
“Widely considered the finest surviving example of early Greek sculpture in the round, the so-called Mozia Charioteer … demonstrates the virtuosity and creativity attained in the arts of Sicily during the 5th century B.C.” (Description, Getty Museum)
Larger than life, standing almost 6 feet tall without his feet, his sheer grace and poise demonstrate remarkable technical skill. Even with missing limbs and feet and a compromised profile (and the fact that his head was reattached), he is indeed extraordinary.
“He wears a long chithon (Greek tunic), with ample folds girdled high on the chest with a broad horizontal sash with two holes where the ornament was attached.” (Description, G. Whitaker Museum)
His victorious pose where one hand rests on a hip and the way his tunic clings and delineates the contours of his magnificent (dare I say, breathtaking!) physique is pure perfection.
Also visible are pierced holes around the ears where it is believed that a head covering would have been attached. Surely, he must have commanded a prominent and prestigious setting.
His mystique and story endure and the Youth of Mozia remains triumphant…Even without the benefit of feet or arms, the youth appears ready to step down from his heroic pose and favor us with his perfection…