This sculpture represents the boxer Creugas of Durres and is made after Antonio Canova's sculptures of pugilists.
In the original duo the two pugilists, named Creugas of Durres and Damoxenos of Syracuse, who met during the Nemean Games. According to legend, the two were so evenly matched that the competition lasted for hours without a decision. When there was no foreseeable end, both men agreed to take a single, undefended blow from the other. Creugas delivered the first punch, striking Damoxenos on the head. Damoxenos, struck Creugas on the side and tore out his intestines. The Argives disqualified Damoxenos, for killing his opponent and Creugas was posthumously declared the winner.
In 1795, Canova began working on the preparatory drawings of these subjects for sculptures. A year later, in 1796, both models were ready. The following year, Canova began the marble statue of Creugas, which was completed in 1801. In 1802, the two statues, along with the Perseus, were purchased by Pope Pius VII. Three years later, Canova developed a second model for the Damoxenos.
The Pope purchased Canova’s statues in an effort to replenish the Vatican Museums that suffered heavy losses during the French occupation. Many of the masterpieces from the Vatican Collection had been taken to France in 1798. Pius VII’s act of purchasing these statues was very important at the time, because it proudly reaffirmed a policy of national prerogatives, despite the robbery of those treasures inextricably linked to Rome. These pieces are expected to be returned on display in the Octagonal Courtyard.