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I preface the entries for individual sculptors by three Roman "histories" of the art and one critical comment that place the literary evidence in its context and sometimes help to explain its shortcomings (T 1-4). In particular, the classicistic leanings of the Roman writers should be obvious, and account for the great imbalance in our evidence as a whole: scanty for the archaic period, voluminous and varied for the classical, and scanty again for the Hellenistic. In sum, our perspective upon the creators of what was arguably the world's most vital sculptural tradition is essentially a Roman one. This is regrettable, but not to be denied; epigraphical and other sources may amplify the picture somewhat, but cannot really correct its distortions.

The only comprehensive chronology to survive is Pliny's, which is restricted to bronze-workers:

“An almost innumerable multitude of artists achieved fame for smaller statues and images; but preeminent among them is Phidias the Athenian, celebrated for the Olympian Jupiter (in fact of ivory and gold, though he also made bronze statues). He flourished in the 83rd Olympiad, about the 300th year of our city [448-445] and at this same time his rivals were Alcamenes, Critias, Nesiotes, and Hegias; later, in the 87th Olympiad [432-429] were Hagelades, Callon, and the Spartan Gorgias; again, in the 90th [420-417] there were Polyclitus, Phradmon, Myron, Pythagoras, Scopas, and Perellus. Of these Polyclitus had as pupils Argius, Asopodorus, Alexis, Aristides, Phryno, [Dino], Athenodorus, and Demeas of Cleitor; and Myron had Lycius. In the 95th Olympiad [400-397] flourished Naucydes, Dinomenes, Canachus, and Patroclus; in the 102nd [372-369] Polycles, Cephisodotus, Leuchares, Hypatodorus; in the 104th [364-361] Praxiteles and Euphranor; in the 107th [352-349] Aetion and Therimachus. Lysippus was in the 113th, the time of Alexander the Great [328-325], and also his brother Lysistratus, Sthennis, Euphron, [Eucles], Sostratus, Ion, and Silanion — concerning him it is remarkable that he became famous without a teacher; he himself had Zeuxiades as pupil; — and in the 121st [296-293] Eutychides, Euthycrates, Laippus, Cephisodotus, Timarchus, and Pyromachus. Then the art ceased, but revived again in the 156th Olympiad [156-153] when there were the following, far inferior it is true to those listed above, but still artists of repute: Antaeus, Callistratus, Polycles of Athens, Callixenus, Pythocles, Pythias, and Timocles.

Pliny, N.H. 35.49-52
Besides its narrow chronological range, this list contains a number of "adjustments" and several egregious errors. Its original compiler was presumably an extreme neo-classicist at work soon after Ol. 156 (156-153), perhaps Apollodoros of Athens (ca. 180-110) whose Chronika, dedicated to Attalos II of Pergamon, ended in 144 B.C. He could either find no dates prior to 450 or, more likely, simply ignored them in order to justify the inaugurative role he gives to Pheidias. Furthermore, he also wrote off most of the Hellenistic period, and only grudgingly admitted the neo-classical sculptors of his own day into the "canon".

In fact, other sources show that Kritios, Nesiotes, and Hegias/Hegesias (Ol. 83 = 448-445) are placed a generation too late (cf. T 3, 34, etc.); Hageladas (cf. T 25), Kalon, and Gorgias flourished not ca. 430 but ca. 500; and Myron and Pythagoras (Ol. 90 = 420-417) actually belong around 470-440 and 480-450, respectively. By contrast, the classical and neo-classical sculptors, where identifiable, seem correctly placed but for Skopas (Ol. 90 = 420-417), who worked around 350, and Phyromachos (Ol. 121 = 296-293), who was active in the late third or early second centuries. Skopas (if not a homonymous ancestor of the late classical master) remains a puzzle, but Phyromachos' inclusion may have been prompted by his appearance in the Hellenistic lists of great masters (e.g. T 115); once again Pliny's source either knew nothing of his real date and very "baroque" style, or simply ignored them in order to save his preconceived scheme.

Aside from the central chapters of Natural History 34 and 36 (many extracts from which will appear below), the only other historically-organized accounts of the sculptors are by Cicero and Quintilian. Like Pliny, both apparently drew upon Hellenistic sources which saw the classic (as represented by the andrianta of Polykleitos and the agalmata of Pheidias) as the apex of Greek sculptural achievement. Both their accounts cover painting as well, and were included only as analogies to the development of oratory:

“For who among those who pay attention to the lesser arts is not aware that the statues of Canachus are too stiff to imitate natural truth? Those of Calamis are also hard, though more supple than Canachus'; even Myron's have not yet fully attained true naturalness, though at that stage one would not hesitate to call them beautiful; still more beautiful are those of Polyclitus, now in my view indeed quite perfect. A similar systematic development exists in painting ... and the same sort of thing happens in all the other arts ...

Cicero, Brutus 18.70

“The same differences [as in painting] exist among the sculptors. The statues of Callon and Hegesias are rather hard and closest to the Etruscans', but already Calamis is less stiff, and Myron made ones that are more supple still. In precision of detail and appropriateness Polyclitus surpassed all others, but although most critics hand him the victor's palm, to avoid making him faultless they hold that he lacks gravity. For while he gave the human body a form so appropriate that it surpassed reality, he is felt not to have done justice to the impressiveness of the gods. He is also said to have shunned subjects of maturer years, daring nothing beyond fresh-cheeked youths. But those qualities lacking in Polyclitus are attributed to Phidias and Alcamenes. Phidias is regarded as better at representing gods than men, and indeed in ivory he would have no peer even had he made nothing but his Minerva at Athens or Olympian Jupiter in Elis, whose beauty is said to have added something to the traditional religion, so much did the majesty of the work equal that of the god. Lysippus and Praxiteles are said to have best attained true naturalism. For Demetrius is blamed as too extreme in this respect, being more fond of likeness than beauty. Turning to the various oratorical styles...

Quintilian 12.7-9
Both authors supplement the abrupt opening of T 1 by a "hardness scale" proceeding from the "primitive" archaic style of ca. 500 to the classic of ca. 450. In contrast to Pliny's, the relative chronology seems quite sound: on Kanachos and Myron, see T 26-27, 43-45. Quintilian's further remarks on fourth-century sculptors and "naturalism" perhaps reflect an attempt to reconcile the pro-Pheidian view of sculptural development with that proposed by the early Hellenistic critic Xenokrates (T 40, 42, 43, 62, 124, 145-46), who saw his teacher Lysippos as the supreme master of the art. See the thorough commentary by R.G. Austin, Quintiliani Institutionis Oratoriae, Liber 12 (Oxford 1948): 135-152.

Taking T 1-3 together, then, it is clear that by the mid first century A.D., and probably much earlier, observers had divided Greek sculptural development into four periods: "primitive" (to ca. 450), "classic" (from ca. 450-300), "degenerate" (ca. 300-150), and "resurgent" or neo-classic (from ca. 150 on). This scheme is exactly congruent with that proposed in the later first century B.C. for Greek and Roman rhetoric by Cicero and Dionysios of Halikarnassos (in the prologue to On the Ancient Orators: cf. T 61), and so once again is probably derived, like so much ancient art criticism, from late Hellenistic and Roman republican classicistic rhetorical theory (see esp. Schweitzer 1932/1963, 144; Preisshofen 1978; Gabba 1982, 46). Its devastating effect upon our knowledge of the two periods thus proscribed hardly needs to be rehearsed afresh; less well appreciated, though, is that its baneful influence still persists today, for whereas archaic sculpture was admitted to the status of "art" a century ago, Hellenistic sculpture, despite valiant attempts at rehabilitation, is still generally underrated, even at times openly scorned, by historians still hobbled by the prejudices of the past.

Yet even where the sources are most informative, for the classic period, they by no means furnish a complete and reliable mercator-map of personalities and styles, and thus a rock-solid basis for attributions. The reasons for this lie partly in the diverse interests of writers and copyists, partly in the often-overlooked fact that even in antiquity, to distinguish the styles of even first-rank artists was recognized as extremely difficult:

“For not even sculptors and painters, unless they undertake an extended course in connoisseurship, scrutinizing the styles of the old masters at length — not even they can readily identify them and confidently say that this statue is by Polykleitos, this by Pheidias, this by Alkamenes, and that that painting is by Polygnotos, that by Timanthes, that by Parrhasios. So it is with literature ...

Dionysios of Halikarnassos, Demosthenes 50
Compare here Pliny, N.H. 36.27-8. Dionysios was not so trained yet in T 61 etc. is regularly to be found characterizing individual sculptors' styles to illustrate his investigations into rhetorical style. The fact that he was able to let slip such a confession should be borne in mind as one approaches these last few chapters. How far are we entitled either to treat the judgements of the Greeks and Romans as gospel, or indeed to assume that our eyes can be significantly more discriminating than theirs, particularly when we have enormously less evidence at hand with which to train them?


Select bibliography: Stuart-Jones 1895/1966, xxix-xxxviii; Jex-Blake 1896, xiii-c; Schweitzer 1932/1963, 141-58; Lawrence 1948; Jucker 1950, 126-40; Becatti 1951a, 22, 57, 103-5, 181-85; Pollitt 1974, 60-63, 73-84; Preisshofen 1978; Zanker 1978; Gabba 1982, 46; Alsop 1982, 200-202; Bruneau 1982; Gallet de Santerre 1983, 9-97, 196-214; Pollitt 1990, 1-9; Stewart 1990, 19-24.

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