College Basketballer Poses to Lend an Ancient Roman Statue an Arm

College Basketballer Poses to Lend an Ancient Roman Statue an Arm
Wyatt Walker, a college basketball player for North Carolina State University, modeling for the Bacchus Conservation Project (all images courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Art)

Normally, it would be a bit flirty to tell a college athlete that he has the body of a Greek god. But conservators at the North Carolina Museum of Art were utterly chaste in their proposition to Wyatt Walker of the North Carolina State University basketball team, when they asked the six-foot-nine forward to act as a model for a 3D reconstruction of a piece of statuary. And technically he has the body of a Roman god — the museum’s second-century sculpture of Bacchus, to be exact.

Walker is participating in the museum’s ongoing Bacchus Conservation Project, which is currently working to amend the statue’s headless state and missing right arm. Working from an 1837 drawing of the completed statue, Walker posed for the 3D scan holding a bunch of grapes aloft in his right arm.

A 1957 image of the assembled statue, and an 1837 drawing that depicts the full work, upon which curators are basing the reconstruction of the right arm.

“It was a privilege to be chosen to help with this project,” Walker said in a statement. “I was honored to be able to offer my arm for 3D scanning to help them complete their work.” The basketballer’s larger-than-life physique made him an ideal candidate for the proportions of the statue.

The Bacchus Conservation Project for the North Carolina Museum of Art

The introduction of a modern element to “Statue of Bacchus” is actually par for the course — in the 1960s, it was discovered that the statue was already a patchwork, combining a 2nd-century Roman torso, a head from a different ancient statue, and limbs, hair locks, berries, and leaves that were put together in the late 16th or early 17th century. A dedicated conservation effort began in 2013, following a complete de-restoration that dismantled the statue for study in the 1980s. The work remains on display at NCMA, and visitors are exhorted to “visit often to see Bacchus transform before your eyes!”

Segments that were combined to create the “Statue of Bacchus,” including a 2nd Century torso

There is probably some meta-commentary here, about how our societal worship of athletes has made them into demigods of a sort, thereby modernizing the ancient fetishization of flesh-made-marble. Either way, Walker has to feel good knowing that his right arm meets the highest of aesthetic standards.

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