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A caestus is a battle glove that was the ancient world's equivalent of brass knuckles. Greek and Roman gladiators made these by wrapping leather around lead, metal studs, or even stones to add force to their punches. The matches became so bloody, however, that the caestus was banned in the first century AD. Charles Niehaus modeled this fighter while studying in Rome, where he learned to portray the human figure by copying ancient Italian sculptures and monuments. In this work, he rendered the fighter in great anatomical detail, emphasizing the clenched muscles in the combatant's face as he concentrates on creating his caestus.

Credit: Gift of Marie J. Niehaus

Modeled 1883
Bronze
88.8cm
1965.29
Image and text: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2024

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