Louvre Made Easy‎ > ‎

Milo of Croton


Milo was a Greek athlete, a wrestling champion of many competitions, six times Olympic gold medalist! When he got old, he decided to test if his strenght - see if he's still got it - by splitting a tree trunk. His hand got stuck and he was devoured by the wolves. This is the moment that Puget decided to depict. Except multiple wolves became a single lion. Milo should have went "127 hours" on his hand. What's the moral of the story? Beware of the vanity - Milo refused to admit his body has aged, wanting to prove he still had the strenght of his youth. Lying next to his feet is a cup wont at the Olympic games which, in this moment, is worth absolutely zero. You could say the artwork is a meditation of sorts on the human condition - the suffering, vanity and pride of it. Ancient Greeks usually made up remarkable death stories for remarkable people. 

Puget favored a frontal composition and his work emphasized the pain of the hero. When the sculpture was unveiled in the palace of Versailles, queen Maria Theresa exclaimed: "Poor man!". This shows how realistic and beautiful the sculpture is - it doesn't even look like it's made out of marble - the lions claw looks like it is piercing real flesh, not stone.

Milo of Croton (Croton is the name of the town he was from, which was famous for producing great athletes) - is wrestling was so good, he even echoes in the present with articles such as "How To Build Muscle: Strenght Lessons from Milo of Croton". (http://jamesclear.com/milo). Also, in the book "Gargantua and Pantagruel" Francois Rabelais compares Gargantua's strenght to that of Milo of Croton. Alexandre Dumas describes the strongest of the musketeers Porto as "Milo of Crotona". The athlete also led a successful military campaign, was a friend of Pythagoras - he is even rumored to either have saved his life or married his daughter. Although some argue that the name "Pythagoras" may have been mistaken with a trainer named "Pythagoras of Samos". Go figure. Pythagoras the philosopher did live in Croton for a long time though.

Famous Athletes in Ancient Greece achieved celebrity status and many fantastic tales of their strenght were being told - like, Milo carrying a bull and eating the whole thing in one day or bursting a a band just by inflating the veins of his temples. His daily intake was rumored to have been 20 pounds of meat, 20 pounds of bread and 18 pints of wine. The status of a Greek athlete in a greek society was almost semi-divine. They were set apart by their rigorous training schedules and abstinence from sex and many other things. Before the games, athletes were nude, bodies shimmering with oil - they must have been quite a spectacle! 

Pierre Puget was born in Marseille - a port city in Southern France. He went to Rome by foot to practice under Pietro de Cortona. He stayed there for 14 years and then returned to southern France. He went to Italy again and returned. He is famous in Marseille and there is a mountain named after him - Mont Puget.