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Lysippus and Lysistratus

Lysippus and Lysistratus

Flourished Fourth Century b.c.e.



Brothers. Lysippus and Lysistratus were brothers from Sicyon, sculptors in bronze, and active circa 370-320 b.c.e. Lysistratus’ main claim to fame was his innovative use of plaster casts from actual subjects as a basis for his portrait-making. Among his works was a famous statue of Melanippe. He also took casts of other statues, possibly for further use in his own workshop or as a saleable, easily reproducable commodity. Lysippus was prodigious in his output and made substantial innovations to standards of sculpture set by Polyclitus, by making his figures slenderer, giving them smaller heads, and aiming for a more naturalistic effect in rendering of details such as hair. His portrait of Alexander the Great with upturned penetrating gaze and head directed slightly to the left under a mane of wavy hair was so admired by its subject that Lysippus alone was given commission to sculpt the king’s image.

Reproductions. Copies of bronze originals and detailed descriptions from ancient sources give an indication of his style. He sculpted many athletic and military figures which became dedications at Olympia and elsewhere; the Agias portrait, known to us today through a (possibly contemporary) copy, is a famous instance. Among his most well-known works was the Apoxuomenos (athlete scraping oil off himself), whose outstretched arms reaching out into the viewer’s space broke with Polyclitan “block” statuary, and later became an object of obsession for the Roman emperor, Tiberius. In addition to various gods such as Dionysus, he sculpted Heracles many times, including a colossal form at Tarentum, a miniature (the so-called Epitrapezios, one-foot high), and the famous Farnese Heracles where the great hero leans exhausted on his club after completing his labours. His statue of Kairos (Opportunity) seems to have been allegorical, and depicted a lean youth with long hair in front and bald at the back, holding a razor to indicate his own fleeting presence. Lysippus’ influence was particularly strong in the Hellenistic era (323-331 b.c.e.), and continued immediately in his school in the work of his sons and pupils, such as Euthycrates, Eutychides, Tisicrates, and Chares — the sculptor of the Colossus of Rhodes, another of the Seven Wonders of the World.


Franciscus Junius, The Literature of Classical Art, 2 volumes, edited and translated by Keith Aldrich, Philipp Fehl, and Raina Fehl (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

J. J. Pollitt, The Art of Ancient Greece: Sources and Documents (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

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