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Egypt and Syria

Inadequate though it is, our information on early Hellenistic sculptors from the Aegean area is incomparably greater than that concerning their counterparts from further East. Pliny overlooks this area entirely, so that e.g. T 139 omits the Tyche of Antioch and N.H. 34.42 and 73 ignore Bryaxis' great cult statues for Antioch and Alexandria; he names no sculptors from these cities. Worse, the comprehensive catalogue of artists published in "Prosopographia Ptolemaica 6", Studia Hellenistica 17 (1968): nos. 17060-17126 contains numerous painters and gem-cutters, but only a handful of sculptors, all nonentities except for Bryaxis and Avianius Evander (T 168-70), neither apparently native Alexandrians. As for Syria, a handful of names are extant, mostly belonging to the Menodotos-Charmolas family from Tyre, active in the second and first centuries, and probably producers of the pseudo-archaic Piombino Apollo for the Roman art market: Louvre inv. 61; Dow 1941, with T 106; Stewart 1990, fig. 857. Yet nothing else of theirs survives, leaving just a lonely Bryaxis to bestride the two kingdoms in the early third century.

Bryaxis (II)


Bryaxis (II)

As noted in the commentary to T 107-08, this Bryaxis is almost certainly to be distinguished from the man who worked on the Mausoleum ca. 360.

His authorship of the Apollo at Daphni, made between 300 and 281 is only mentioned by the Byzantine chronicler Kedrenos (Compendium Historiarium 306B ed. Paris); for a detailed description, however, one must turn to two other late writers, mourning its destruction by fire in A.D. 362:

“Did the fire begin at the top, and spread to the rest — his head, his face, his phiale, his kithara, his foot-length tunic? Citizens, I direct my soul to the form of the god, and my mind sets his likeness before my eyes, his face so gentle, his stone neck so soft, his girdle across his chest that holds his tunic in place, so that some of it is drawn taut, other parts allowed to billow out. Did not the whole composition soothe the spirit to rest? For he seemed like one singing a melody, and one could hear him strumming, so they say, at noon-tide. Ah, blessed ears that did so! For his song was in praise of our country. And I see him as if pouring a libation from his golden bowl . . . and as the fire spreads it destroys first the Apollo, almost touching as he does the roof, then the other statues, the Muses fair, the portraits of the Founders, the sparkling stones, the graceful columns.

Libanios 60.8-12 (selections)

“The image of Apollo was constructed as follows: the body was made of wood of the vine, and fitted together with such astonishing skill as to seem like a single, indivisible piece; it was draped in a golden tunic that allowed the nude and ungilded parts of the body to shine forth with inexpressible beauty. It stood with a kithara in one hand, in the attitude of one leading the Muses. Its hair and crown of laurel, intertwined, were of gold and shone with a grace that flashed like lightning into one's eyes. Two enormous aquamarine (hyakinthos) stones filled the cavities of its eyes, alluding to Hyakinthos, the boy of Amyklai; and the beauty and size of these stones completed the statue's prodigious embellishment.

Philostorgios, Historia Ecclesiastica p. 87, 19-88, 9 ed. Bidez
To this Ammianus 22.73.1 adds that the image was the size of the Zeus at Olympia. For a coin-picture see Stewart 1990, fig. 629, and for other possible replicas, Linfert 1983, though the colossal marble in Rome claimed by Herrmann 1973 as a replica has now been shown by M. Fuchs 1982 to belong to a first-century Muses group in mixed classical and Pergamene style, from Pompey's theater-complex. To link Bryaxis' Seleukos (N.H. 34.73), the "Founder" of T 147, and the Herculaneum bust (Naples, Museo Nazionale 5590; Stewart 1990, fig. 630) is perhaps equally unwarranted, for Lysippos and one Aristodemos both made portraits of him too (IG 14.206; N.H. 34.86), but no less tempting for all that.

As for the Sarapis, Bryaxis' authorship was noted by a respected first- century historian from Tarsos, Athenodoros (FGH 746 F 3):

“Athenodoros son of Sandon . . . says that Sesostris the Egyptian king, having conquered most of the nations of Greece, brought back with him to Egypt a number of skilled craftsmen. He ordered that a lavish statue of his own ancestor, Osiris, should be made, and the artist Bryaxis did so — not the Athenian, but another of the same name — using a mixture of variegated materials in its construction. He had filings of gold, silver, bronze, iron, lead, and even tin; and not a single Egyptian stone was lacking, including sapphire, hematite, emerald, and topaz also. He ground them all up, mixed them together, and colored them dark blue, so that the statue is almost black, and mingling this with the pigment left over from the funeral rites of Osiris and Apis, he made Sarapis; the god's very name implies this connexion with the funeral rites, and construction from material for burial, since Osirapis is a compound from Osiris and Apis.

Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus 4.43
This problematic account has been perceptively analyzed by Hornbostel 1973, 36-58. He remarks that since the name Bryaxis is rare and the sculptor was not ranked among the great masters, the attribution is unlikely to be fabricated, for in such cases antiquity invariably selected a virtuoso like Pheidias or Praxiteles (q.v.). Yet the ascription to Sesostris (Dyn. XII: 1971-1840 B.C.), invented by a tradition-hungry priesthood, either entailed postulating an earlier namesake for the sculptor (cf. T 149) or quietly consigning him to oblivion (as, e.g. Plutarch, Moralia 361-2; Tacitus, Histories 4.83-4). Thus the sculptor must either be the 'Athenian' Bryaxis after all, presumably the artist of T 107-08, or his son or grandson. Hornbostel opts for the former, updating the Sarapis and overlooking the chronology of the Apollo (for Seleukos, the "founder" of T 147, acquired Syria only in 301, and founded Antioch shortly after). Consequently, I prefer to ascribe the statue to a second Bryaxis, following e.g. Bieber 1961b, 83-84.

As for the description of Bryaxis' method, this clearly conflates the chryselephantine technique with the finishing touches of color. Other sources (e.g. Rufinus, Hist. Eccl. 11.23) speak of a wooden core, and the use of gold and precious stones parallels T 148. For the numerous replicas see Hornbostel 1973, 59-102; cf. Stewart 1990, figs. 632-34: statuette of the Sarapis (Museo Ostiense 1125), head of the Sarapis (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum GR 15.1850); others give him the Zeus from Otricoli on general stylistic grounds.

Select bibliography: see Bryaxis I, with: Egger 1889 (Apollo); Bieber 1961b, 83-84; Coarelli 1971-72: 99-106 (Pasiphae); Fraser 1972, 246-59 (Sarapis); Herrmann 1973 (Apollo); Hornbostel 1973 (Sarapis); M. Fuchs 1982 (Apollo); Linfert 1983 (Apollo); Smith 1989, 23, 65-66 (Seleukos, Sarapis).

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