The Motya Charioteer

Explanations to date concerning this marvellous figure are inadequate.
What precisely is it? Where did it come from? And what date is it?

The Motya Charioteer stood for six weeks until the middle of September in the large gallery housing the Parthenon pediments and frieze in the British Museum. It was worth making a special effort to see it more than once as it is among few great works – it is reproduced as standard in most of the better literature of classicism – of ancient art to visit London in recent times. Certainly nothing else in the Cultural Olympiad – so lavishly praised by those who organised it and their dutiful footsoldiers – could touch it for sculptural virtuosity and immediate aesthetic impact. The time required to take in this figure properly far exceeded the twenty minutes needed to dawdle through Damien Hirst’s retrospective at Tate Modern – that institution’s imaginative and unexpected contribution to the art events stapled to the Olympics’ coattails. Additionally the Motya Charioteer was given free of charge.

This was no off-the-shelf piece like so many antique sculptures in link so many museums. On the contrary, it looked to be the work of an important artist, whose name we ought to know, and even may know, but which we will never now discover. The material is pale yellow limestone whose origin is described vaguely as “Greek or Turkish” – modern analysis can surely be more specific than this.

It was unearthed in 1979 on the tiny island of Motya off the western coast of Sicily close to Marsala where it is