The Joy of Museums

Exploring Museums, Art & Historic Sites

Boy with Thorn

The Capitoline Spinario-Musei Capitolini

Boy with Thorn

The “Boy with Thorn” is a Greco-Roman Hellenistic bronze sculpture of a naked boy sitting on a rock pulling a thorn from the bottom of his foot. The boy has been identified as a young shepherd, and 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 of this motif in bronze and marble. In this sculpture, the head, body and rocky seat were cast together as one piece.

0150 Statue des Dornausziehers Altes Museum anagoria

Marble Roman Copy from 150 AD at the Altes Museum 

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

Taking into account the Hellenistic marble variants that have been discovered, such as the “Thorn-Puller” at the British Museum, none of which match the qualities of the bronze, recent scholarship has credited this statue 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

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Other Ancient Greek masterpieces featured in “Joy of Museums” include:

Boy with Thorn

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

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

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Photo Credit:1) By Yair Haklai (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Anagoria (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 3) By Alexandre Perez Vigo (“Boy with Thorn” or “Spinario” (British Museum)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons