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Polyclitus

Polyclitus (5th century bc), Greek sculptor, known for his statues of idealized male athletes. Two Roman copies of his works survive, the Doryphoros (spear-bearer) and the Diadumenos (youth fastening a band round his head).

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Polyclitus

Polyclitus: see Polykleitos.

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Polyclitus

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Polyclitus

Polyclitus

Flourished Fifth Century b.c.e.

Sculptor

Sources

Bronze Medium. Polyclitus the Argive sculptor worked almost exclusively in bronze. He made statues of victorious athletes in Panhellenic games; his colossal gold and ivory statue of Hera for her temple in Argos, though celebrated in antiquity, never attained the status of its Pheidian counterparts in terms of the admiration it inspired. Polyclitus’s reputation chiefly rests on his Doruphoros, or Spearbearer, usually dated circa 445-440. Lysippus was said to have commented, perhaps with some irony, that this statue was his teacher. Polyclitus also wrote a treatise called the Canon, probably in relation to the statue, which outlined a series of numerical proportions for the body. Only a couple of fragments remain of this work, and it has been suggested that Polyclitus may have been working with slight deviations from such numerical formulae to achieve his desired effects. It is also believed that Polyclitus may have been incorporating Pythagorean elements into his artworks, since speculative interest in the nature of numbers and in all phenomena as reducible to numerical concepts was current at this time in the writings of Pythagorean philosophers such as Philolaos. However, such connections, while interesting possibilities, remain conjectural. In any event, Polyclitus’s evidently meticulous conception of his work indicates strong idealising tendencies.

Sameness. Other famous works included the Diadoumenos (boy tying a fillet around his head) a Heracles, Hermes, and a prize-winning Amazon. His style remained influential well into the Roman period, and even though some complained of a certain sameness to his sculptures or considered his works lacking in Pheidian grandeur, he was greatly admired for the skill and beauty of his creations throughout antiquity.

Sources

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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