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Identification and Creation
Object Number
1977.216.1854
Title
Strigil (Scraper)
Classification
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
strigil
Date
6th-5th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Aegina
Period
Archaic period to Classical
Culture
Greek
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/286803
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Bronze
Technique
Hammered
Dimensions
32 x 2.8 x 6.5 cm (12 5/8 x 1 1/8 x 2 9/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, arsenic
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: Most of the metal surface is covered by a fine layer of green and gray corrosion products as well as tan and white burial accretions. There are also black copper-sulfide crystals that have developed as a result of post-excavation storage conditions. In a few areas, the matte corrosion crust has flaked off to reveal a very smooth metallic surface that has oxidized to a cupritic reddish brown. A stress crack has developed from the edge of the strigil; it runs through the strigil’s center to roughly three-quarters of the distance up the curved blade. The edges of this crack are mineralized.

The very even, thin walls of this strigil suggest that it was hammered out of a sheet of metal. The handle is hollow, and the sheet would have been shaped around a long cylindrical form. There is a slight crimp or bulge at the transition from the open area of the scraper to the closed handle, where two edges of the sheet have been brought together to form a smooth seam down the middle. The tip of the strigil is slightly flared.


Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Department of the Classics, Harvard University, Gift of Professor A. A. Howard
Accession Year
1977
Object Number
1977.216.1854
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The handle of this strigil is a cylinder that was formed from a sheet; the seam is visible on the side of the scoop. The sides of the scoop are more curved than on other examples. The cylindrical handle has a seam on one side that opens into a deep, elongated scoop section (with a maximum depth of 1.15 cm) and ends in a flared lip. Comparable examples may be found in the area of Corinth, where the earliest strigils also have hollow, tubular handles, like this example, perhaps for the insertion of a wooden handle (1).

A strigil, which consists of a curved scoop with a handle, was a tool used in the baths for cleaning an individual’s body. Oil would be applied to a person’s skin and then removed, along with dirt or sweat, using the curved scoop of a strigil (2). The Apoxyomenos statue type, known from ancient literature as well as several copies including two over-life-size bronze versions, depicts an athlete cleaning the scoop of a strigil after use (3).

NOTES:

1. See C. W. Blegen, H. Palmer, and R. S. Young, Corinth 13: The North Cemetery (Princeton, 1964) 91-95, 216, 222, and 236; nos. 262-4 (iron), 277-1 (iron), and 322-2 (copper alloy); pl. 81; and I. K. Raubitschek, Isthmia 7: The Metal Objects (1952-1989) (Princeton, 1998) 122 and 128-29, nos. 460-63, fig. 26, pl. 73.

2. For an overview of the use of strigils, see G. M. A. Richter, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Bronzes (New York, 1915) 293-94. For an overview of strigil types, see Blegen, Palmer, and Young 1964 (supra 1) 91-95, fig. 9.

3. Pliny, Natural History 34.65. For the statue type and copies, see J. M. Daehner and K. Lapatin, eds., Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World, exh. cat., Palazzo Strozzi, Florence; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (Los Angeles, 2015) 122-23 and 270-81, nos. 40-44. A red-figure plate at Harvard, 1960.351, also depicts an athlete holding a strigil.

Francesca G. Bewer and Lisa M. Anderson

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu