The Greatest Greek Artists of the Ancient World
My book draft contains large passages on the statuary of Constantinople. As I scribbled them up I realised that few – unless they specialise in ancient Greek art – know any of the names of the great sculptors and artists. At best, they have heard a few famous names such as the Aphrodite of Cnidus or the Apollo Belvedere, perhaps Lysippus’ name has even crossed their lips at a prestigious museum, but few can recite these artistic titans in the same way as the canon of western painters. This is a shame and I hope the below provides an introduction to those who want to delve deeper. Aetion – C4th BC
A painter (and expert in colour) whose depiction of the wedding of Alexander the Great and Roxane is described by Lucian in his Eetion. The painting is said to have excited so much admiration at the Olympic games that Proxenidas gave the artist his daughter in marriage. Ageladas – C6th BC Sculptor from Argos and the teacher of Myron, Phidias and Polyclitus. He produced a number of statues of victors at Olympia. His most famous work was the bronze of a striding Zeus at Ithome, commissioned by the Messenians settled at Naupactus, and a striding puerile Zeus for Aegeum.
Agoracritus – C5th BC
A sculptor born on Paros and a pupil of Phidias. He is remembered for his colossal female (the head of which is at the British Museum). Pausanias noted that the statue was a loser in a competition for an Aphrodite, and that it was then bought by the people of Rhamnus who named it Nemesis. Other works include a colossal Mother of the Gods for the Metroon at Athens.
Antenor – C6th BC An Athenian sculptor, he made a famous group of Harmodius and Aristogiton (who killed Hipparchus, the younger son of the tyrant Pisistratus) which was taken by the Persians from the Acropolis in 480 and restored to Athens in the fourth century to stand in the market place. Two bases signed by him have been found on the Acropolis. Apelles – C4th BC A painter from Colophon, he became court painter to Alexander the Great and made portraits of his court. His most famous works were of Aphrodite rising from the sea (exhibited in Cos), Alexander portrayed as Zeus (with thunderbolt) in Ephesus, a picture of Calumny (with attendant creatures), Sacrifice, and a self-portrait. Apollodorus – C5th BC An Athenian painter known as Skiagraphos (“the shader”) from his apparent invention of shading and colour gradation, Pliny the Elder claimed he “opened the door of painting through which Zeuxis entered.” Contemporaries, however, remembered him as a madman who was such a perfectionist that he tended to smash his statues at their completion.
Aristides – C4th BC A painter from Thebes whose works could fetch as much as a hundred talents, he was a pupil of Euxinidas and teacher of Euphranor. Said to be the first to truly capture the soul, affections and emotions, his most famous work was a baby creeping to its dying mother’s breast. Athenodorus – late C5th BC A sculptor who made the statues of Zeus and Apollo that were dedicated by the Spartans at Delphi as thanks for their naval victory at Aegospotami, 405. Bryaxis – d. 312 BC A sculptor and a member of the Scopas school who adorned the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. There is a signed base of an equestrian statue by him at Athens.
Calamis – early C5th BC A sculptor from Boeotia, he made particularly fine statues of horses. Pausianias records his masterpieces as being a Zeus Ammon made for Pindar, a Hermes for Tanagra, and Apollo the Protector (from Evil) that stood in the Ceramicus at Athens. Pliny the Elder reported a colossal bronze Apollo of his that adorned Apollonia on the Black Sea. Lucian admired a Sosandra, which was probably the model for countless Roman statues of Aspasia. Callimachus – late C5th BC
A sculptor who is said to have invented the Corinthian capital, Pausanias reported that Callimachus made a golden lampstand for the Erechtheion on the Acropolis and a seated statue of Hera for Plataea. Pliny the Elder thought his work was ruined by an excess of detail. Cephisodotus – C4th BC The name of both the father and son of the sculptor Praxiteles who were also sculptors. The elder executed statues for the city of Megalopolis, while the younger made sculptures of Lycurgus (one of which was placed in the Theatre of Dionysus), the Entwining (an erotic group) at Pergamon, and Leto which was later placed on the Palatine at Rome.
Chares – C3rd BC A Rhodian sculptor from Lindos and a pupil of Lysippus. His principal work was the vast (32-metre high) bronze statue of Helios known as the Colossus of Rhodes, which was set up on a hill overlooking the city as a thanks offering in 304 for the deliverance of Rhodes from siege by Demetrius the Besieger. The statue, which was paid for by the sale of siege equipment, collapsed in an earthquake roughly eighty years after its erection.
Cresilas – mid-C5th BC A Cretan sculptor from Cydonia who moved to Athens and carved marble statues of Pericles (copies survive in the British Msueum). A copy of his Wounded Amazon (for which he won a prize at Ephesus) is in the Vatican.
Critius – C5th BC An Athenian sculptor, he worked with Nesiotes. Together they made a pair of bronzes of Harmodius and Aristogiton for the Acropolis to replace the pair made by Antenor which had been stolen by the Persians. A marble copy of the group is now in the Naples Museum. On the strength of the style of this group other statues have been attributed to him, including the Kouros, known as the “Critius Boy.”
Euphranor – mid C4th
A sculptor from the Isthmus of Corinth who worked at Athens. His work has not survived except for a headless figure of Apollo Patroos from the Athenian agora. His painting included a scene of the battle of Mantinea (364), Theseus with Democracy and Demos, and the Twelve Gods. These were all painted for the Stoa of Zeus in the agora.
Glycon – unknown An Athenian who made the Farnese Heracles in Naples which was discovered in the Baths of Caracalla, Rome. Hagesander – C1st BC – AD C1st A sculptor from Rhodes who was one of a group responsible for the carving of the Laocoon group in the Vatican museum. Other statuary groups by these sculptors were found at Sperlonga on the western coast of Italy and depict the adventures of Odysseus.
Leochares – C4th BC An Athenian sculptor mentioned as a young man in a letter of Plato. His energetic style contrasted with his contemporaries Praxiteles, Scopas and Lysippus. His surviving works include small bronze copies of his Zeus the Thunderer and sculptures on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus that showed a frieze of Amazons fighting (now in British Museum). He also worked with Lysippus on a group showing Alexander the Great rescued from a lion by Craterus. Also attributed to him are a Macedonian group from the Philippeum at Olympia constructed in gold and ivory, including both Philip II and Alexander, which was dedicated after the battle of Chaeronea; a statue of Isocrates; a statues of Alexander of the Acropolis; a marble Ganymede in the Vatican; the Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican; and the Demeter of Cnidos. Lysippus – c. 390 – 310 A sculptor from Sicyon and the brother of Lysistratus. He specialised in bronze portraits and developed a style that made bodies longer and heads smaller than usual. He made the famous Apoxyomenos (a youth scraping oil off his body) appear to rock back and forth with an arm outstretched into the viewer’s space (there’s a copy of it in the Vatican). The Farnese Heracles and the Seated Heracles are also attributed to him. Micon – C5th BC An Athenian painter and sculptor who (c. 470) decorated the temple of Theseus with a painting of Theseus and Minos, and the Painted Portico (Stoa Poikile) in the Agora with a Battle of the Amazons and the Battle of Marathon. In some of his work he collaborated with Polygnotus. He also painted a scene of the Argonauts, the daughters of Pelias, and Butes in the temple of the Dioscuri, and made a sculpture of Callias at Olympia to celebrate his victory there in 472.
Paeonius – C5th BC A Thracian sculptor, his only known work, which dates from c. 420 is a marble statue of a flying Nike supported on a high triangular base found at Olympia to the east of the temple of Zeus. The inscription on the base states it was commissioned by the Messenians of Naupactus. The statue commemorated the defeat of the Spartans at Sphacteria in 425. Pamphilus – C4th BC A painter from Amphipolis who was taught by Eupompus of Sicyon, he was in turn the teacher of Apelles, Pausias and Melanthius. One of his paintings, The Descendants of Heracles, is referred to by Aristophanes in Wealth. Parrhasius – late C5th BC A painter and writer on painting from Ephesus, the son and pupil of Evenor, and contemporary of his rival Zeuxis. According to Pliny the Elder he worked most of his life in Athens where he was considered arrogant for donning purple. Among his famous paintings (all lost) were a portrait of Theseus (said for its richness to be “fed on roses”) which later had pride of place on the Capitol at Rome; the People of Athens; a Healing of Telephus; Philoctetes; and The Madness of Odysseus. His drawings were still copied in Pliny’s day.
Pausias – C4th BC A painter from Sicyon who was the first master of the encaustic technique. The son and pupil of Bryes, he also become a pupil of Pamphilus. He painted Methe (Drunkenness) with her face visible through a glass in the Tholos at Epidaurus. He also painted an ox viewed from the front being sacrificed. He was a pioneer in still-life painting. Pheidias – 490-425 BC An Athenian sculptor, perhaps the most famous sculptor of antiquity, he was the pupil of Hegias and Ageladas. Early in his career c. 456 he created a huge bronze of Athena Promachos which stood in the open on the Acropolis; a bronze group at Delphi commemorating the battle of Marathon (the Riace bronzes may have belonged to the same group); and the Lemnian Athena, which a Roman copy is thought to represent. He was best known in antiquity for his two ivory and gold statues of Athena in the Parthenon and Zeus at Olympia. The former was begun in 447 and installed in the naos in 438. It was 12m high and in her right hand held a figure of Victory, in her left a spear and shield on which was carved the battle of the Amazons (outside) and the Titanomachy (inside). Her sandals were decorated with Lapiths and Centaurs. The base was carved with a relief of the birth of Pandora. Her aegis showed a Gorgon’s face and her helmet was adorned with a sphinx and two carvings of Pegasus. The seated statue of Zeus, which was even larger than Athena, held a Victory in his right hand, a sceptre in his left. His throne was decorated with Graces, Hours, Victories and other figures including the children of Niobe. The base showed the birth of Aphrodite and on screens between the legs were scenes from mythology by Panaenus. The artist also took part in a competition at Ephesus where his submission was a statue of an Amazon. Philoxenus – late C4th BC A painter from Eretria, he painted a scene of Alexander the Great confronting Darius III in battle. It was commissioned by Cassander and probably the original of the famous mosaic of the scene, once at Pompeii but now in the Naples Museum.
Phyromachus – c. 200 BC An Athenian sculptor and painter who was among those who introduced Pergamene baroque. Pliny the Elder reports that he contributed to scenes of the Pergamene battles with the Galatians. Polyclitus – c.480-410 BC A sculptor from Argos and a pupil of Ageladas, he made a renowned gold and ivory statue of Hera for the Heraeum at Argos. His most famous work was a spear-bearer (Doryphorus), which has many copies. He also made a Diadumenos (Victor binding on a headband), a Discus-Thrower and an Amazon. The Westmascott Boy may be a copy of his bronze of the boxer Cyniscus at Olympia. Polygnotos – C5th BC
A painter from Thasos who settled in Athos and was befriended by Cimon. With Micon he painted scenes from the Trojan War on panels in the Painted Portico and refused a fee for his work. He also painted the Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus in the temple of Dioscuri, and helped in the decoration of the temple of Theseus. At Delphi he painted the Sack of Troy and decorated the the clubhouse of the Cnidians with Odysseus in the Underworld. His paintings of Odysseus Slaying the Suitors, Achilles on Scyros and Nausicaa were in the art gallery of Athens. His works – which are all lost – were described by Aristotle, Theophrastus and Pausianus. Pliny the Elder attributed to him the first representation of transparent drapery, while Lucian admired his lively facial expressions.
Praxiteles – C4th BC The son of sculptor Cephisodotus, in a long career he produced roughly eighty statues with young gods being his speciality. No works survive. His most famous was the Aphrodite of Cnidus which we know from copies. His model was Phryne, who also modelled for Apelles. Other works known from copies include Apollo killing a lizard, Eros of Thespiae, Eros of Parium, Satyrs, Aphrodite of Arles and Apollo Lynceus. His style was very influential (his form for the female nude remains authoritative today) and was often imitated by Alexandrian artists. Protogenes – late C4th A painter and writer on art from Caunus in Caria who worked mostly on Rhodes. Apelles thought his work lacked grace, though masterpieces include Ialysus (founder of Rhodes) and a resting satyr. He also painted contemporaries such as Aristotle’s mother and Antigonus I. Silanion – c.370-320 BC An Athenian sculptor whose bronzes include an Achilles, a Theseus and a Dying Jocasta. His portrait of Plato is known from a copy, while a bronze head of a boxer found at Olympia has been identified as his Satyrus (twice victor in 332 and 328). He also sculpted Sappho and wrote a lost treatise on proportion.
Tauriscus – C1st BC A sculptor from Tralles, he made some Hermerotes (combinations of Eros and Hermes) which C. Asinius Pollo acquired. He also made – in collaboration with his brother Apollonius – a marble group at Rhodes of the Theban heroes Zethus Amphion and Dirce with the bull. This group was copied in the Farnese group found in the Baths of Caracalla, Rome. Timanthes – late C5th BC A painter from Cythnus who worked in Sicyon. He was best known for a painting of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, showing the grief of bystanders and the figure of Agamemnon with his head covered in his cloak. Zeuxis – C5th BC A painter from Heraclea (S. Italy) who moved to Athens c. 430. He painted Alcmena for Acragas and decorated the palace of Archealus, king of Macedonia. Quintilian said that he discovered how to add highlights to the technique of shading. His Bunch of Grapes is said to have been so life-like that it deceived birds. Lucian praised his painting of Centaurs. Pliny the Elder noted that he “entered the door which Apollodrous opened and stole his art.”