Flourished Circa 465-430 b.c.e .
Cult Statues. Pheidias was an Athenian sculptor most renowned for his colossal cult statues of Athena Parthenos (447-438) and Zeus at Olympia (circa 430). He became a close friend of Pericles and was in charge of the entire building program of the Acropolis from the early 440s. Other works included the statue of Athena Promakhos (The Champion) on the Acropolis (circa 465-456) and the Lemnian Athena, named after those who dedicated it. He also produced statues of Athenian tribal heroes set up at Delphi, funded by the spoils of Marathon, and some have claimed that the Riace Bronzes are two survivals of this monument.
Scandal. Ancient descriptions enable scholars to identify the general appearances of the Athena Parthenos and Zeus at Olympia which are confirmed in various smaller copies. Both statues were of ivory and gold over a wooden core, embellished in jewels, enamel and paint with various images and narratives attached to their apparel. Pericles’ enemies charged Pheidias with impiously depicting himself and Pericles on the shield and with embezzlement of the statue’s materials. According to one account, he died of poison in Athens, but it is more likely he made his way to Elea, through flight or exile, about 438 and produced the Zeus at Olympia. Here his workshop has been excavated (dated to the 430s), resulting in the discovery of a cup bearing his name. Pheidias’ earlier troubles caught up with him, and several sources say he was put to death after completing the Zeus, possibly by his Athenian enemies or as a result of another charge of embezzlement brought by the Eleans. Nevertheless, for many in antiquity, Pheidias was the greatest of all sculptors, able to endow his works with a majesty and grandeur worthy of their divine and heroic subjects.
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).