Ivan Poddubny

Although the sculpture features the powerfully-built athlete Ivan Poddubny, it looks rather elegant. The figure’s fluid forms produce an impression that the athlete is playfully showing off his strong, circus wrestler’s muscles. The light effects of the gilded surface are similar to reflections of circus spotlights on the wrestler’s greased body, reinforcing the festive feel of the image. The crossed hands and legs, whose lineaments form a fanciful monogram, are ostentatiously relaxed. The spiral-like rhythms of the internal axes of the contrapposto are so gentle and unobtrusive that they not so much invigorate the image as lend to it an air of elegant carelessness. The cylindrical plinth evokes the theme of rotation (the round arena of a circus). The elements characterizing the personality and the historical period – Poddubny’s wrestling singlet, shaved head, foppish curled moustache – are crafted delicately but quite accurately, which seems to be sufficient for identification of the image. Depicted in the prime of his life, the legendary athlete who brought glory to his homeland is represented as both a historical person and a generic emblematic figure belonging to the new generation of sportsmen that emerged early in the last century.


Brief annotations to the image

PODDUBNY, IVAN MAXIMOVICH (1871-1949) was a Russian professional wrestler, athlete, Honoured Actor of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Honoured  Master of Sports. He was called Ivan of Iron (Ivan Zhelezny) and “Winner of the Winners”. A one-time stevedore in a port, in 1897 he started to perform in circus as a weight-lifter and wrestler. He toured internationally. Although he sometimes was defeated in individual matches, throughout the forty years of his career he never once lost a tournament. In 1903, at a Greco-Roman wrestling tournament in Paris, he had his measurements taken: height 185 centimetres, weight 114 kilogrammes, biceps 46 centimetres, chest circumference (expiration) 134 centimetres, hip 70 centimetres, neck 50 centimetres. He left the arena in 1941, at the age of 70.