These two famous statues, both of nude, male figures, both muscular and caught in mid-action, are similar also in that there are many versions (and parodies) throughout the world. They began life as bronze statues (Rodin’s by the lost wax process), but quickly found reproduction in other media. They both feature arm positions as an integral part both of their physical design and of their “meaning.”
Their differences, after this automatic comparison of similarities, are striking. The original bronze early statue (5th c. BCE), Greek in origin and much duplicated by the Romans, is lost to modernity. It depicts a very active figure, an athlete, in mid-act of throwing the discus, almost a still photograph of a rapid action. Its “moment” finds the essence of the complicated paradigm of competition, giving it a rich overtone of significance, as though the essential moment of every human activity was captured there—a distinctly Greek notion.
The figure is standing, his arm extended; he is captured in a “non-thinking,” instinctive moment, much rehearsed and practiced, but now automatic, not mental. By contrast, Rodin’s statue is seated, his head resting on his fist, his face in deep contemplation, his mind, not his body, being exercised, in contemplation (this statue is sometimes called “Philosophizing”). Texturally, Rodin uses a rough-hewn look, letting the sculpting process show, while Myron’s texture is smoother, like flesh, showing no “brushstrokes.”