The Joy of Museums

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Boy with Thorn

The Capitoline Spinario-Musei Capitolini

The “Boy with Thorn” is a Greco-Roman Hellenistic bronze sculpture of a naked boy sitting on a rock pulling a thorn from the sole of his foot.

The boy is identified with a young shepherd, his head, body and rocky seat were cast together as one piece. This motif of the extraction of a thorn from the foot was invented in the Hellenistic period and originates from the interest in observing everyday life actions and representing real life situations.  Many copies have been made in bronze and marble.

0150 Statue des Dornausziehers Altes Museum anagoria

Roman Copy from 150 AD, Altes Museum 

The statue had also been given the title “The faithful boy”  based on an ancient anecdote invented to give this masterpiece a more heroic story: the faithful messenger shepherd boy, first delivered his message to the Roman Senate and only after his duty he then stopping to remove a painful thorn from his foot. The Roman Senate commemorated the event by commissioning the bronze statue.

Taking into account Hellenistic marble variants that have been discovered, such as the “Thorn-Puller” at the British Museum, none of which have the archaizing qualities of the bronze, recent scholarship has tended to credit this as a Roman bronze of the third century CE, with a head adapted from an archaic prototype.

"Boy with Thorn" or "Spinario" (British Museum)

“Thorn-Puller” – a Roman copy from the 1st century CE – British Museum


Essential Facts:

  • Title:                    Boy with Thorn
  • Date:                   3rd century BCE
  • Material:             Bronze
  • Museums:           Capitoline Museums


“Man is not the lord of beings. Man is the shepherd of Being.” Martin Heidegger



Photo Credit:1) By Yair Haklai (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Anagoria (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 3) By Alexandre Perez Vigo (“Boy with Thorn” or “Spinario” (British Museum)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons