Documentary Sources in Visual Arts
in Visual Arts
Anonymous, the "Critian Boy" (c. 480 b.c.e.)—The "Critian Boy" is a kouros that was dedicated on the Acropolis of Athens just before the Persian invasion of 480 b.c.e. It was damaged in the sack of Athens and buried after the Athenians recovered their city. The facial expression is sober but the "archaic smile" has disappeared, and the style of the "Critian Boy" dates it to the beginning of the early classical period. It gets its name from the resemblance of its head to the statue group of the "Tyrannicides" sculpted by Critias and Nesiotes in the decade after the Persian sack.
Anonymous, the "Zeus" from Artemisium (c. 470 b.c.e.)—This bronze statue, now in the National Museum of Greece in Athens, was found in the waters off Cape Artemisium, the northern tip of the island of Euboea. It shows Zeus striding forward like the "Tyrannicides" and hurling a thunderbolt. The thunderbolt is lost, and thus it is a matter of debate whether the statue portrays Zeus or Poseidon hurling his trident, but on the whole it seems more likely that it is Zeus. It is a rare survivor of a bronze statue from the early classical period. The sculptor is unknown, but one suggestion is that it was Ageladas, the teacher of the sculptor Myron.
The Ara Pacis of Augustus in Rome (9 b.c.e.)—The Ara Pacis ("Altar of Peace") is a modest altar similar in size to the "Altar of the Twelve Gods" in the marketplace of Athens. It was reconstructed on the banks of the Tiber shortly before the outbreak of World War II. Its sculpture speaks the language of Augustan propaganda; one famous relief shows "Mother Earth" with the blessings that peace brings: children brought up without fear, flocks and herds that multiply, and bountiful crops from the fields.
Critias and Nesiotes, The Tyrannicides (c. 475 b.c.e.)—In 514 b.c.e., Aristogeiton and Harmodius assassinated Hipparchus, the brother of the tyrant of Athens, Hippias, and though Hippias himself was not driven out until four years later, thanks to the intervention of Sparta, the Athenians preferred to remember Harmodius and Aristogeiton as the heroes who delivered them from tyranny. To commemorate their deed, a statue group by the sculptor Antenor was erected in the Athenian marketplace shortly after Hippias was expelled, but the Persians took it as booty when they captured Athens, and the Athenians commissioned a replacement by Critias and Nesiotes. A good Roman copy was found in the villa of the emperor Hadrian at Tivoli outside Rome. The statue group, which shows the two men striding forward to attack Hipparchus, is a good example of early classical sculpture, comparable to the Zeus hurling a thunderbolt found off Cape Artemisium.
Lysippus, Apoxyomenos (c. 325 b.c.e.)—The Apoxyomenos or "Athlete Scraping Himself," marked a break with the sculptural tradition of Polyclitus of Argos. The Apoxyomenos is a three-dimensional figure with no clearly defined front or back. It looks forward to the art of the Hellenistic Age.
Myron, The Discus-Thrower (c. 455 b.c.e.)—Several Roman copies of Discus-Thrower by Myron survive, the best of which is in the Terme Museum in Rome. It shows an athlete in the act of hurling a discus, his head and body turned in a twisted, yet harmonious pose. The original statue was in bronze.
Phidias, The Athena Parthenos statue for the Parthenon (c. 440 b.c.e.)—Phidias was the most prominent Athenian artist in the mid-fifth century b.c.e. and his two most famous works in the ancient world were his cult-statues for the temple of Athena Parthenos in Athens and the temple of Zeus at Olympia. He was in charge of making the sculptures for the Parthenon, but how many of the surviving sculptures were carved by him is a matter of debate.
Polyclitus, Doryphoros (c. 440 b.c.e.)—Polyclitus' bronze Doryphoros, or "Youth Bearing a Spear," exemplifies the proportions of the male nude which he set forth in his Canon. A good Roman copy was found in the palaestra (gymnasium) at Pompeii, where it was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 c.e. The Doryphoros is a broad-shouldered youth who rests his weight on his right leg while his left is placed sideways and drawn back. The veins and muscles of his chest, abdomen, and biceps are all portrayed accurately.
Praxiteles, Hermes with the Infant Dionysus (c. 350 b.c.e.)—Praxiteles' Hermes was found at Olympia, in the Temple of Hera, where the Greek traveler Pausanias reported that he saw it in the second century c.e. Thus this statue is almost certainly an original by Praxiteles. Praxiteles was also famous for his nude Aphrodite of Cnidus, the first female nude which inspired many more, including the famous Venus di Milo.