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Document Details :
Title: A Heavily Bearded Philosopher in Women's Underwear
Subtitle: Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Identity of the So-called Hippolytus Statue
Author(s): HANDL, András
Journal: Louvain Studies
Volume: 44 Issue: 4 Date: 2021
Strictly speaking, the so-called Hippolytus statue should not exist. This free-standing, full-size sculpture of a bearded philosopher, supplied with Christian inscriptions, is not only one of the very few of its kind, it was also created in a period when Christian authors such as Tertullian (ca. 200 CE) fulminated against statues. But the origins of the statue are not the only mysterious thing about it. Roughly 500 years after its discovery, scholars still dispute who the statue is meant to represent and in what context it was displayed. By offering a chronological review of scholarship, this essay sheds light on the various attempts to construct a suitable identity for the statue out of widely scattered evidence. The combination of two distinct but intertwined lines of research, namely, analysis of the statue on the one hand and discussions about the person and oeuvre of Hippolytus on the other, reveals how shifting interpretations of Hippolytus and his oeuvre have altered the identity of the figure depicted by this static object several times. And conversely, how the changing identity of the figure has challenged the discussions about person and oeuvre of Hippolytus. The present contribution concludes by pointing out several problems with past attempts and offering suggestions for avenues of future research.