a Greek artist, whose native place is not stated; but, from the fact of his beginning his career in Gaul, Thiersch conjectures that he may have been a native of Massilia.
He flourished in the reign of Nero, and was distinguished alike for the two immense colossi which he erected, and for the beauty with which lie executed delicate works in silver-chasing.
He made for the Arverni, in Gaul, a colossus of Mercury, which surpassed all similar works in magnitude, and which cost forty millions of sesterces (335,000l.,
according to the most probable reading, HS. CCCC), and which occupied the artist ten years in its construction. While engaged on this great work, he also employed himself in silver-chasing, and copied the engraving on two cups by Calamis with such skill that the difference of the workmanship could scarcely be detected (ut vix ulla differentia esset artis
He was supplied with the originals by Dubius Avitus, the governor of the province, who had obtained them from his uncle Cassius Silanus, to whom they had been presented by his pupil Germanicus.
After the proof of his skill in the statue of Mercury, Zenodorus was invited to Rome by Nero to make the colossal statue of that emperor, which he set up in front of the golden house, and which was afterwards dedicated afresh by Vespasian as a statue of the Sun.
It was 110 feet in height. Pliny tells us that he saw the work in the artist's studio, and was astonished at the striking likeness exhibited, not only in the clay model, but even in the earlier stage, the framework or skeleton of little sticks, which formed the groundwork of the whole work. (Mirabamur in officina non modo ex argilla similitudinem insignem, verum et ex parvis admodum surculis, quod primum operis instaurati fuit.
) But this extraordinary work betrayed a great defect in the technical knowledge of the artists of that age, namely that the refinements in the art of casting bronze, which gave such exquisite beauty and even varied power of expression to statues made of the Delian or Aeginetan or Corinthian mixtures, had been forgotten. Pliny's words are : -- Ea statua indicavit interisse fundendi aeris scientiam, cum et Nero largiri aurum argentumque paratus esset, et Zenodorus scientia fingendi caclandique nulli veterum postponeretur.
His meaning cannot be that the art of casting bronze,
in the most literal sense, had perished, for the statue was cast in bronze, and besides, many works in bronze are mentioned, and some still exist, of a period subsequent to this, in which the mere casting is faultless. 1
Neither, as Pliny expressly says, was the defect in the form of the model or in the ornamental chasing of the surface, for ia these arts (fingendi caelandique
) Zenodorus was inferior to none of the ancients. Nor was it in any want of suitable materials, for " Nero was prepared to lavish gold and silver," if they were required to make the proper compound. (We have here, no doubt, an allusion to the fable respecting the composition of the aes Corinthiacum
by the mixture of copper or bronze with the precious metals.)
It can hardly be supposed even that the numerical proportions of the ancient mixtures were forgotten.
There remains, we think, no doubt that the knowledge. which Pliny states to have been lost, was that of the more refined processes of the art, such as the proper temperature, and those other conditions which no mere rules can preserve.
This view is confirmed, as Thiersch has shown, by the statements of Pliny respecting the processes adopted by the statuaries of his time. We may also refer the reader to Thiersch for an account of the subsequent history of the colossus of Nero. (Plin. Nat. 34.7. s. 18
; Thiersch, Epochen,
pp. 307-313 ; Müller, Archäol, d. Kunst,
In the MSS. of Pliny we have the confusion, which is so frequently made, between the names Zenodorus
and Zenodotus ;
but there is no doubt that the former is the true reading.