A mortally wounded gladiator, facing death with grace and dignity, is contemplating the laurel crown he was awarded for his courage. This was Pierre Juliens second admission piece for the Acadmie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture and a crucial work for him.
Juliens nude gladiator demonstrates his complete mastery of anatomy, and also drapery at the rear of the statue. But it was the sculptors personal contribution which imbues the work with its sensitivity: the elegant proportions, unctuous modelling and delicate execution (the finesse of the hands, laurel leaves and strands of hair), the marbles perfect finish and the rendering of textures (the polish of the shield and sword suggest their metallic brilliance).
Julien was exalting the heroism of a man overcoming his pain and stoically dying in silence. The balanced composition, dignified pose, discreet chest wound and restrained expression are formal echoes of this heroic serenity.