Apoxyomenos Stands in a New Museum in Mali Losinj

Apoxyomenos is the star of a new museum in Mali Losinj, Croatia.
Apoxyomenos is the star of a new museum in Mali Losinj, Croatia.

Apoxyomenos is waiting for you at the top of a new four-story museum in Mali Losinj Croatia.  The former Kvarner Palace, once home to one of the town’s rich sea captains, is now a beautiful new museum showcasing one of the greatest treasures ever recovered from the sea.

The town is abuzz about this new museum in Mali Losinj that opened in May 2016. The opening was an exciting moment for all of the town’s 8000 residents and included the president of Croatia Kolina Grabar Kitarović speaking about the significance for future tourism and for the collective pride of the locals.

Donning Booties

You have to put on white fabric booties to enter the museum.  It is a series of rooms one on top of the other and each visit is a journey up the stairs and back in time. The setting, a former mansion, harkens back to the glory days in the early 1800s when captains sailed the world and made this one of the richest parts of Croatia.

Today the museum has been artfully and creatively turned into a home for the big man. Who is he?

He was an athlete and the sculpture depicts his sturdy and muscular frame standing, cleaning himself with a tool known as a strigil. In ancient times people believed that the oil, sweat and sand from perspiring athletes could provide them with good luck and other benefits so it was carefully preserved in jars—gross, huh?

The bronze statue was carved in the  second century BC.  Apoxyomenos was being transported on a small ship and during a storm it fell overboard to be lost in the deep Croatian seas.

In 1999, it was discovered by a Belgian tourist with nefarious intentions, crusted with barnacles and in terrible shape in seven pieces on the seabed. A long labor of intense restoration, first creating an internal metal frame and today, all but the eyes and one of the left fingers remains beautifully intact with the vigorousness and detail that is striking more than 2000 years later.

But we don’t get to see the sculpture right away…oh no, there’s a build up and the build up explains the restoration, his world tour, and some samples of the flood of worldwide press Apoxyomenos received over the past few years.  There is a video, and a place to glimpse the sculpture in holes cut in the stairwells. The waiting makes it all the more tempting!

How Apoxyomenos was restored how it was re-created and how the barnacles and sea life were removed down to the millimeter is explained in detail. This beautiful sculpture has seen the world. It’s been exhibited at the Getty Museum, in London, and other world capitals. But now it’s home in Mali Losinj. It was quite generous to lend him out to those far flung museums, but he’s here now and not leaving!

You climb up the stairs and there’s a hole and in the hole just part of his body is revealed. It’s a tease because when you get there you’re not allowed to take pictures.

What a clever and fantastic move. It makes getting up there, past the video room with looping footage of the X-rays, transport and preservation techniques even more of a thrill.

Interactive computer models show the various ways Apoxyomenos was fixed and preserved and about the Greek athletic culture that fostered this rippling muscles and body.

And then it’s time for the final unveiling– after all he’s still regally nude like all Greek athletes used to be.

Steps wind up a circular stairway to a small room with pillowy white fabric on all sides. There is nothing to distract from the statue. Here, on his on his plinth, decorated with Greek script he stands, hands in front of genitalia but missing his strigil but nothing else.

It’s certainly worth a trip to Mali Losinj where there are already so many other compelling reasons to visit. The museum admission price is 75 kuna which is about $10. You can also see Aproxyomenos for free on Tuesdays between 10 AM and 1 PM.