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6 Ancient Greek Sculptors

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Copy of Praxiteles' Aphrodite of Knidos.

Copy of Praxiteles' Aphrodite of Knidos.

Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

These six sculptors (Myron, Phidias, Polyclitus, Praxiteles, Scopas, and Lysippus) are among the most famous artists in Ancient Greece. Most of their work has been lost except as it survives in Roman and later copies.

Art during the Archaic Period was stylized, but became more realistic during the Classical Period. Late Classical Period sculpture was made to be viewed from all sides. Its artists helped move Greek art from Classic Idealism to Hellenistic Realism.

Myron of Eleutherae:

5th C. - Early Classical Period

An older contemporary of Phidias and Polyclitus, and, like them, also a pupil of Ageladas, Myron worked chiefly in bronze. Myron is known for his Discobolus (discus-thrower) which had careful proportion and rhythm. His sculpture of a bronze heifer was supposedly so lifelike it could be mistaken for a real cow. Myron can be approximately dated to the Olympiads of the victors whose statues he crafted (Lycinus - 448, Timanthes - 456, and Ladas - probably 476). Source: Six Greek Sculptors, by Ernest A. Gardner. 1909.

Phidias of Athens:

c. 493-430 B.C. - High Classical Period

Son of Charmides. Phidias (Pheidias) was known for his nearly 40 foot tall statue of Athena ("chryselephantine" -- plates of ivory upon a core of wood or stone for the flesh; solid gold drapery and ornaments) in the Parthenon and his Zeus (ivory and gold) at Olympia. Pheidias was accused of trying to embezzle gold, but proved his innocence. He was charged with impiety, however, and sent to prison where, according to Plutarch, he died.

"Pheidias" The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature.

Recommendations:

From Jared Epstein of the University of Oregon:
  • N. Himmelmann's "Planung und Verdingung der Parthenonskupturen"
  • Ridgway's Fifth Century Styles in Greek Sculpture
  • Boardman, John, Greek Sculpture: The Classical Period. Thames and Husdson: New York, 1996.
  • Harrison, Evelyn B., "Pheidias," Yale Classical Studies v.30 ed by Olga Palagia and
  • J.J. Pollitt, CUP: Cambridge, 1996.
  • Mattusch, Carol C., Classical Bronzes. Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1996.
  • Pollitt, J.J., Art and Experience in Classical Greece. CUP: Cambridge, 1999.
  • Spivey, Nigel, Understanding Greek Sculpture. Thames and Husdson: New York, 1996

Polyclitus of Argos:

5th C. B.C. - High Classical Period

Polyclitus (Polycleitus) created a chryselephantine statue of Hera, for the temple of the goddess at Argos. All his other sculptures were in bronze. Polyclitus is known for his Doryphorus statue (Spear-bearer), which illustrated his book named canon (kanon), a theoretical work on ideal mathematical proportions for human body parts and on the balance between tension and movement, known as symmetria.

Praxiteles of Athens:

c. 400-330 B.C. - Late Classical Period

Praxiteles was the son of the sculptor Cephisodotus the Elder. He sculpted a great variety of men and gods, male and female. Praxiteles primarily used marble, but he also used bronze. Two examples of Praxiteles' work are Aphrodite of Knidos (Cnidos) and Hermes with the Infant Dionysus. Younger contemporary of Scopas.

Scopas of Paros:

4th C. B.C. - Late Classical Period

Scopas was an architect of the Temple of Athena Alea at Tegea, which used all 3 of the orders (Doric and Corinthian, on the outside and Ionic inside, according to Gardner), in Arcadia. Later Scopas made sculptures for it, which are described by Pausanias. Scopas worked on the bas-reliefs that decorated the frieze of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in Caria. Scopas may have made one of the sculptured columns on the temple of Artemis at Ephesus after its fire in 356. Scopas made a sculpture of a maenad in a Bacchic frenzy of which a copy survives.

Lysippus of Sicyon:

4th C. B.C. - Late Classical Period

A metalworker, Lysippus taught himself sculpture by studying nature and Polyclitus' canon. Lysippus' work is characterized by lifelike naturalism and slender proportions. It has been described as impressionistic. Lysippus was the official sculptor to Alexander the Great. It is said about Lysippus that "while others had made men as they were, he had made them as they appeared to the eye." [p.213 Gardner.] Lysippus is thought not to have had formal artistic training, but was a prolific sculptor creating sculptures from table top size to colossus.

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