Though the names of well over a thousand Greek sculptors have survived, very few emerge as concrete personalities through either securely attributed works, or extended treatment in ancient texts, or (very occasionally) both. Here I select only the most prominent of them, offering an up-dated version of Part III of my Greek Sculpture: An Exploration (New Haven 1990). The rest remain mere shadows: for them, the reader is referred to the primary sources collected by Overbeck 1868/1959; Löwy 1885/1976; Marcadé 1953; Marcadé 1957; Hebert 1989; the selections from these translated into English by Pollitt 1990; and the thorough discussions by Lippold 1950 and the various contributors to Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopedie (1894-present; here abbreviated to RE)(Pauly-Wissowa 1920, Thieme-Becker's Kunstlerlexicon (1907-1950; here abbreviated to ThB)(Thieme & Becker 1929) and the Enciclopedia dell'Arte Antica (1958-1970; here abbreviated to EAA).

As in Greek Sculpture Part III, here I include only the "hard" evidence for the lives and works of the men I have selected: texts, inscriptions, extant works, and attributions. For fuller descriptions of their styles (where the evidence permits) and for critical assessments of their aims and achievements, the reader is referred to the scholarship collected in the bibliographies appended to each entry, and to the relevant pages of Parts I and II of Greek Sculpture.

Ancient writing about Greek sculpture was rich and extensive. The first attempt to gather all of it in one place, Franciscus Junius's De Pictura Veterum of 1637, included well over a thousand entries, and in 1868, Johannes Overbeck was able to increase this number to almost 2500; since then, the appearance of new texts (chiefly papyri) and further investigation of hitherto-overlooked ones have added quite a few more. Furthermore, archaeologists are continually unearthing new inscriptions either cut by or for sculptors (signatures) or mentioning them (dedications and decrees), quadrupling the number known to Emmanuel Löwy when he compiled his pioneering catalogue of them in 1885. Here, only the most important or revealing of these sources are translated. These testimonia are numbered sequentially, T 1-T 171. Names of people and places have not been standardized but simply transcribed from the original Greek and Latin. This both avoids the awkwardness of "Hellenizing" Latin versions of Greek names in the middle of a text by a Roman writer and does not gloss over the not infrequent cases where medieval scribes have garbled the name sufficiently to make the original Greek a matter of debate.

The Literary Sources

The first descriptions of works of art in Greek literature are as old as Homer, where costly and beautiful articles are all part of the glittering world of the heroes, "a wonder to see" (Hom. Il. 5.725, etc.). As befits his relentlessly objective, brightly illuminated portrait of a competitive society of conspicuous consumers, Homer places a high premium on beauty (equated with artistic realism) and skill his authority here will bias ancient attitudes on art to the end. Thereafter, authors of all periods commonly make reference to art works, sometimes merely for "local color", but often with some ulterior motive in mind.

J.J. Pollitt (Pollitt 1990) has conveniently separated these writers into four reasonably distinct groups: literary analogists, moral aestheticians, professional critics, and compilers of tradition. To take each in turn.

The use of the phenomenal world for literary analogy begins with Homer's similes; as an increasingly conspicuous part of his world, works of art were gradually likewise employed, though references to sculpture are rarer than to painting or decorative art. Examples are legion, but in each case, the work of art is but a tool, a springboard for a purely literary point. Thus around 485, Pindar may contrast his winged words of praise with a sculptor's offering, "doomed to linger only on the pedestal where it stands" (Pind. N. 5. l-3), while four centuries later the literary critic Dionysios of Halikarnassos can now compare a "classic" prose style "with the art of Polykleitos and Pheidias because of its august, dignified, and grand style" (T 61). Soon, the terminology of literary criticism was widely and often sensitively employed in this way, using lists of artists specially compiled by Alexandrian or Pergamene rhetoricians (e.g. T 115). Yet one must remember that such comparisons, while illuminating Greco-Roman perceptions of Greek sculpture, were often partially conditioned by prevailing neo-classical tastes, and that the analytical terminology of one discipline is seldom transferable to another without strain.

Ostensibly more independent are the literary descriptions of works of art; the genre ultimately derives from Homer's Shield of Achilles in Iliad 18. Yet even here rhetoric remains paramount: thus to Kallistratos, writing ca. A.D. 300, the iconography and style of Skopas's Maenad (Stewart 1990, fig. 547) matter little against such extravagances as these: "The statue of a Maenad, wrought from Parian marble, has been transformed into a real Maenad. For the stone, while retaining its own nature, yet seemed to depart from the law which governs stone; what one saw was really an image, but art carried imitation over into actual reality.... When we saw her face we stood speechless...." (T 114).

Finally, there is the humorist Lucian (ca. A.D. l20-180). Once a sculptor's apprentice, he tells how he switched to rhetoric because Education told him: "Even if you should become a Pheidias or a Polykleitos and should create many marvellous works, everyone will praise your skill for sure, but none of your admirers, if he had sense, would want to be like you; for whoever you might become, you would still be considered a laborer, a man who lives by his hands and has nothing but his hands" (The Dream 9). His remarks on sculpture (such as, for example, T 44 and T 91) are important; he also devotes a whole essay to selecting features from various female statues to form an ideal beauty, an eclecticism typical of his age (T 58; cf. Stewart 1990, figs. 314, 507):

“From the Knidia [the sculptor] takes only the head...allowing the hair, forehead, and that lovely brow-line to remain as Praxiteles made them; and the liquid yet clear and winsome gaze of the eyes shall stay as Praxiteles conceived it. But he will take the curve of the cheeks and the fore part of the face from Alkamenes' [Aphrodite] in the Gardens, plus her hands, graceful wrists and supple, tapering fingers. But the facial contour, its sides and shapely nose will be supplied by the Lemnian Athena by Pheidias, who will also furnish the meeting of the lips and the neck, taken from the Amazon. Sosandra and Kalamis shall adorn her with modesty, and with a faint, holy smile....

” Rhetorical criticism sometimes makes moral judgements, blaming as well as praising. This moral dimension of art first interested philosophers in the fifth century, when the Sophists began to discuss representation (mimesis) in the arts and to evaluate it as a skill or craft (techne). With unabashed relativism, the Sophist Gorgias hailed deception as the aim of all mimesis, so that while rhetoric entrances the ears, "the creation of statues and the working of images furnishes a divine sweetness to the eyes" (Helen 18), persuading by a sort of magical power. Philosophers who believed in universals responded quickly: conceding the power (and danger) of techne. Plato attacked it for its third-hand mimesis of "true" reality and absolute beauty. Painting, by now increasingly powerful and impressionistic, is particularly lambasted, but sculpture does not escape unscathed, as in his stinging indictment of "doctored" proportions in the Sophist (T 135). Such deception is morally damaging, and Plato (though no philistine) has to prefer Egyptian sculpture, timeless, unchanging, and ideal (Plat. Laws 656e). To Aristotle, however, techne not merely imitates but completes nature, since it uses natural materials to create objects unknown in nature. Mimesis thereby has its own purposes, laws, and "virtues" if pursued properly and in accordance with its true function; in particular, it should aim at the mean.

Such theorising had little practical effect on art itself. The notion that form may follow function indeed pervades Hellenistic art, but Aristotle's opinions hardly caused such a development, however well they may have appeared to justify it. The same goes for the last great aesthetic theory of antiquity, the so-called phantasia theory. Probably working from a definition of techne by the Stoic Chrysippos (ca. 280-207) as "a skill proceeding methodically by the aid of mental images (phantasiai)", (Long-Sedley no. 42A), its adherents held that the creative artist's intuition could penetrate as if by divine inspiration directly to the heart of his subject. It first appears in connection with the classical "Old Masters", particularly Pheidias (T 54), and Hellenistic-Roman neo-classical attitudes to art. Thus Cicero praises Pheidias's "perfection" then adds that "when he created his Zeus or Athena, he did not contemplate any persons from whom he drew a likeness, but rather a sort of extraordinary apparition of beauty resided in his mind, and, concentrating on it and intuiting its nature, he directed his art and his hand towards reproducing it" (Orator 2.9; cf. Stewart 1990, figs. 361, 372).

Finally, there are the early Christian fathers, whose attacks on idolatry regularly included descriptions or catalogues of such idols, of widely varying fidelity. Fairly typical of these, though more informative than most, is Clement of Alexandria's Exhortation to the Greeks or Protreptikos, published around A.D. 200, whose fourth chapter is entirely directed against image-worship of all kinds, from primitive xoana to Sarapis and the statues of the Emperors. He regularly cites his sources but in the heat of divinely-inspired invective tends to paraphrase them sloppily. Nevertheless, his witness is crucial for the history of such important cult-images as the Samian Hera and the Alexandrian Sarapis (T 14 and 149; Stewart 1990, figs. 14-15, 632-34).

Greek moral philosophy, then, gives us a series of individual intellectual perspectives on art. With the possible exceptions of Sophistic relativism, the phantasia-theory, and Christian iconoclasm it can seldom have influenced either artists themselves or their wider public, though both may at times have responded to other aspects of the intelligentsia's thinking, such as their ideas on the Gods. For example, both Pheidias and the materialistic philosopher Anaxagoras were friends of Perikles (T 47), though whether they all ever saw eye to eye is problematic.

The case of Polykleitos is different. The ambience which produced his Canon (T 62, 66-9), the mathematical treatise on ideal proportion that is the first known example of professional criticism in sculpture, was fiercely competitive: the nude male was the focus, achievement of absolute beauty the goal, recognition the prize, and a treatise a prime way to assert one's claims. The intellectual roots of his work are obscure, though in architecture a long line of such books had been inaugurated by the sculptor-architect Theodoros of Samos ca. 550. Two prime ingredients may have been a workshop tradition of handing down proportional schemes for (cf. T 21), perhaps verbally or in simple diagrammatic form, plus the number-theory of the influential philosopher Pythagoras (active around 500). With mathematics in its infancy and still closely tied to geometry, sculptors and philosophers could talk the same language.

Polykleitos's Canon, now lost but for two or three fragments, dominated its field for a century and more, though around 350 Euphranor and Silanion published "alternative" canons (T 117; Vitruvius 7 praef. l4), and finally in the early third century, the sculptor Xenokrates (T 145-6) wrote a treatise that attempted a historical perspective for the first time, enthroning "the new and hitherto untried canon" (T 124) of his own "master" Lysippos, as the culmination of the entire tradition. Symmetria (commensurability), rhythmos (composition), and akribeia (accuracy of detail) were Xenokrates' criteria, and his writings, now lost but probably the source for some remarks of Pliny's (T 40, T 43, T 62, T 124, T 145, T 146), were the first true art history of antiquity.

This retrospective atmosphere intensified during the Hellenistic period with the sense that Greece's period of true creativity was over. Scholars turned to classifying and recording, to writing handbooks on every subject imaginable, and it was inevitable that sculpture would soon be among them. Among these compilers of tradition, Douris of Samos (active ca. 280; cf. T 124) produced a set of anecdotal and highly-colored lives of major artists, and Antigonos of Karystos (active ca. 240: cf. T 78 and T 145) combined this biographical approach with the professional criticism of Xenokrates. In the second century, Polemon of Elis wrote a critique of Antigonos, while Heliodoros of Athens published a guidebook to the Akropolis and elsewhere (T 145). Finally, in the first century, the neoclassic sculptor Pasiteles wrote five volumes on the world's masterpieces of sculpture (T 145, T 163) and Strabo included many statues in his Geography (e.g. T 21, 49). Two Romans continued the practice: M. Terentius Varro (116-28) paraphrased these Hellenistic authors extensively in his works (T 145, cf. 62, 163), and C. Lucinius Mucianus (died before A.D. 77) wrote an account of Asian antiquities.

Strabo survives, but of the others only fragments remain, chiefly in Pliny's encyclopedia or Natural History, published in A.D. 77. Books 34 and 36 deal with bronzes and marbles respectively, and give us a cut-and-paste synopsis of Hellenistic and Roman connoisseurship. In book 34, brief histories of alloys, statue-types, patronage, and technique are followed by a chronological list (the only one extant) of bronze sculptors by Olympiads, beginning with Pheidias in Ol. 83 (448-445 BC) (T 1). Its accuracy, poor at the beginning, improves markedly for the fourth century, until with Lysippos' pupils in Ol. 121 (296-293 BC) "the art ceased". A classical revival by "inferiors, yet still men of repute" is put in Ol. 156 (156-153). Accounts of the major artists come next, enlivened by anecdotes from Douris and brief analytical passages from Xenokrates, then a catalogue of lesser masters and their works. Book 36 (marble sculpture) is straightforwardly chronological, from supposed beginnings under Dipoinos and Skyllis in Ol. 50 (580-577 BC) to Greco-Roman sculptors like the masters of the Laokoon and Pasiteles. Throughout, Pliny rarely offers extensive descriptions or praise other than for realism (e.g. T 124), which sits uneasily with his generally classical bias: Hellenistic sculpture is seldom mentioned and never dated. Some works were apparently selected specially to flatter the emperor Vespasian and his son, Titus (e.g. T 171).

Our only other extant account of Greek sculpture was also a late offspring of Hellenistic curiosity. The traveller Pausanias wrote his Description of Greece around A.D. 170, covering Greece as far north as Boeotia. A careful, pedestrian writer, he is interested not only in the grandiose or the exquisite but in unusual sights and obscure ritual. He is occasionally careless, or makes unwarranted inferences, and his guides or even his own notes sometimes mislead him; yet his honesty is unquestionable, and his value without par. He dutifully lists sculptures of all periods, but reserves detailed descriptions and real praise for Pheidias and his pupils (T 50, 77), and for their second-century imitator, Damophon of Messene (T 156; Stewart 1990, figs. 788-92). Yet his tastes were not wholly conformist: the Athena Lemnia, not the Parthenos, "is the best of all Pheidias's works to see" (1.28.2; compare Lucian, above; cf. Stewart 1990, figs. 313, 361), and, more surprisingly, he has a special affection for certain pre-Pheidian masters, particularly Pythagoras of Rhegion, "a good sculptor, if ever there was one" (T 41) and Onatas of Aegina, "second to none of the successors of Daidalos and the Attic school" (T 38). He even appreciates archaic statues, "somewhat uncouth to the eye, but with a touch of the divine in them nevertheless" (T 7).

Without Pliny and Pausanias our knowledge of Greek sculpture would be meager indeed. Yet with imagination one can flesh over the bare bones of now-vanished glories which they offer from another source, still virtually untapped: the entire span of Greek literature. Thus archaic poetry may tell us what delights the gods in their sanctuaries, and so help to unveil the meaning of kouroi and korai; classical prose writers may address the problem of the individual and polis, and so contribute to an understanding of contemporary portraiture; and a late fourth-century hymn may present an unusual picture of Dionysos and Apollo, and so lead to insights into syncretism in early Hellenistic art. The possibilities are great, the horizons as yet unmarked.

The Inscriptions

Inscriptions on stone are precious evidence for Greek sculpture of all periods. Unfortunately, comparatively few are exactly datable, through the inclusion of a magistrate's name or a reference to a known historical event. Personalities mentioned in the text can sometimes help towards an approximate dating, if their life-spans or family trees are otherwise attested. For the rest, however, the general content of the inscription and the stage of development of the script (an increasingly hazardous criterion after ca. 400) are our only guides. The form of the monument and the type of inscription can sometimes help, or at any rate give an initial or terminal date. Thus the use of columns as statue-bases stops at Athens ca. 460, and Attic decrees honoring public benefactors with portraits cannot be earlier than 394.

For our purposes, inscriptions fall into two classes: those engraved on the sculpture itself or its base, and those not.

Since most Greek sculpture was religious, most inscriptions on it are votive or funerary. Early votive dedications are often cut on the statue itself and are regularly in verse. Thus (Boston 03.997):

“Mantiklos dedicated me to the far-shooting Lord of the Silver Bow, a tithe
You, Phoibos, might give me some pleasing favor in return.
” Formulas vary, but the dedicant's patronymic, city, and profession, the occasion or purpose of the dedication, and the sculptor's signature can be added, especially later. Thus, ca. 300,

“Megakles son of Megakles of Rhamnous dedicated (this) to Themis; he was crowned by the demesmen for his fairness when Kallistrato was priestess, and he won victories as boys' and men's trainer, and when Pheidostrate was priestess of Nemesis, as chorus-master in the comedies. Chairestratos son of Chairedemos of Rhamnous made it.

IG, 22 no. 3109. Athens 231
Such texts are often critical for identifications: with her attributes missing, the Themis herself would otherwise be anonymous, and in the case of the Samian group by Geneleos (Stewart 1990, fig. 97), the seated figure (which looks male) is named Phileia.

In the archaic period, the statue itself sometimes speaks in the first person. Compare the following with Mantiklos' dedication: "I am Chares, son of Kleisias, ruler of Teichioussa. The agalma is Apollo's." (Boston 03.997; Stewart 1990, fig. 107.) This suggests a kind of animism that in fact harmonises closely not only with the feelings that led the Greeks to see a god in a river, or to animate mirror-supports as human figures and table legs as lions' paws, but also with their idea that a craftsman's work was divinely inspired, and so somehow numinous. In monumental sculpture, at least until the growth of classical rationalism, the temptation to make the statue's novel and arresting naturalism explicit in this way must have been almost overwhelming. Furthermore, as personal statements by the subject of the statue, such inscriptions help to individualize the work and so herald the emergence of portraiture. As for the word agalma, "delight", this becomes standard archaic usage for "votive", and eventually comes to describe statues of divinities and temple-sculpture in general.

From ca. 350, both official and private honorary dedications of portraits, a result of increasing individual self-assertion as the polis declines, become ever more popular. Thus: "Her mother Archippe, daughter of Kouphagoros of Aixione, dedicated Archippe, daughter of Kleogenes of Aixione. Praxiteles made it" (Marcadé 1957, 115).

Sculptors made dedications too. Though relatively rare, they persist throughout the period, and testify to the profits the trade could bring. The earliest sculptor's signature (ca. 630) is one such: "Euthykartides the Naxian dedicated me, having made [me]" (Stewart 1990, fig. 40).

Sepulchral inscriptions are almost as numerous and heterogeneous as votives. The simplest type includes only the deceased's name, but more grandiose monuments are more forthcoming, and again often speak in verse. Thus from early sixth century Boeotia: "Amphalkes erected this for Kitylos and Dermys." (Athens, NM 56; Stewart 1990, fig. 61). And from late sixth-century Attica:

“Stay and mourn at the tomb of dead Kroisos
Whom raging Ares destroyed one day, fighting in the foremost ranks.

“The tomb of Phrasikleia.
Maiden ("kore") I will always be called
Since instead of marriage this is what the gods have allotted me.
Aristion of Paros made it.

Classical gravestones sometimes include the names of other family members, and occasionally praise the deceased in somewhat stilted verse:

“Dexileos son of Lysanias of Thorikos
Born in the archonship of Teisandros [414/3]
Died in that of Euboulides [394/3]
Among the five riders at Corinth.

“She left a husband, brothers; for her mother, grief,
A child, and mighty virtue's ageless fame.
Mnesarete attained to every virtue's goal
Yet here Persephone's chamber holds her fast.

IG 22 no. 12151
Classical Athens also erected official carved war-memorials; Dexileos himself is mentioned on the one for 394.

Some of these inscriptions have included sculptor's signatures. These began around 630 (Euthykartides: Stewart 1990, fig. 40), fifty years before vase-painters' signatures but nearly a century after the first potters', and by ca. 500 were usually cut by professional masons, not the sculptors themselves. A personal act of self-assertion by artists, this move was virtually unprecedented: we have only a handful of Egyptian signatures, and none from elsewhere. Yet even in Greece, signatures are relatively infrequent (rather over a thousand survive), as in Renaissance Italy when Raphael signed only a few paintings and Michelangelo only his Pietà and that in a fit of pique. Yet this by no means diminishes the significance of the practice: what is astonishing is that artists signed at all.

The usual formulae are represented by the signatures of Chairestratos, Praxiteles and, Aristion, above, though occasionally "the work of..." is used instead (T 152). At home, most sculptors omitted the ethnic ("of Athens", etc.); architectural sculpture and gravestones were almost never signed. Several sculptors may collaborate on a group, like Polykleitos's followers at Delphi around 400 (each man taking two or three statues, cf. T 85), or Hagesandros, Athanodoros, and Polydoros of Rhodes at Sperlonga; dual signatures sometimes appear on one base (Kritios and Nesiotes, ca. 470). Here it is uncertain how the work was divided, though in Hellenistic Rhodes bronze portraits often bore the signatures of artist and caster. In Attica, even early signatures were cut on the base, not the statue itself; elsewhere, they gravitate there by ca. 500, though Hellenistic exporters sign on the supports of their statues, which then get a base on arrival. Whether their statues are copies or not, they sign with their own names, but Greek originals taken to Pergamon and Rome received new bases bearing their real authors' names, as on a recent find from Ostia (T 155).

Very occasionally, the sculptor ventures something more. In mid sixth-century Attica, the remarkably self-assertive Phaidimos ("brilliant") calls himself sophos, "clever", and describes a kore of his as "beautiful to behold" (Jeffery 1962, 137, 139 nos. 44, 48), while on a Boeotian stele of ca. 490 where one foot has been boldly foreshortened we read "Alxenor of Paros made me: just look!" (Stewart 1990, fig. 254). And ca. 420, Paionios proudly announces below his Nike at Olympia that "he also won the competition for making the akroteria for the temple [of Zeus]" (T 81; Stewart 1990, fig. 408-11).

Sometimes, to conclude, inscriptions were added to sculptures for clarification. The names of Dermys and Kitylos are inscribed beside them, a practice that recurs on the friezes of the Sikyonian and Siphnian treasuries at Delphi, ca. 570 and 530, and on later relief sculpture, both architectural and votive. At both Tegea and the Mausoleum, ca. 350, letters were cut into the backs of the figures to mark their positions in the ensemble.

Inscriptions dealing with but not directly appended to statues fall into two main classes: decrees and public accounts. The democracies, especially Athens, inscribed official resolutions to erect temples from ca. 450, and from the fourth century as the cities' dependence upon outside benefactors grew, so did the passing of honorary decrees. "So that all will know that the Athenian people remembers and thanks its helpers, and worthily honors their beneficence for all time, [BE IT RESOLVED] to set up a 3000-drachma bronze statue of Asklepiades in Byzantion, and to crown it with a 1000-drachma golden crown...." (IG 22 no. 555: ca. 305). Honors to sculptors, even, are occasionally found: a particularly full and revealing example is translated in T 137.

Public accounts are the reverse side of the coin. Those for Pheidias's Athena Promachos (ca. 450) and the Parthenon (447-432) are the earliest, but are too fragmentary to quote here. The Erechtheum inscriptions (409-406) are more complete, especially concerning the frieze (T 80; Stewart 1990, figs. 433-35). Here, both resident aliens (Mynnion and Soklos) and citizens (Phyromachos and Iasos) are hired on piece-work rates, and payments are carefully matched to the size of the job. Elsewhere, and at other times, we learn that conditions varied markedly. Thus at Epidauros ca. 380, T 88 tells us that the temple's architectural sculptures (Stewart 1990, figs. 455-65) were paid for in lump sums in advance.

Like the literary sources, the epigraphical evidence can be a goldmine if used imaginatively. Occasionally it allows us to correct the testimony of the literature and often supplements it, particularly in the Archaic and Hellenistic periods. Some inscriptions may furnish crucial information as to the wealth, status, and self-evaluation of sculptors; others can be used to gauge patrons' motives and to chart patterns of patronage; while still others such as epitaphs point to the way in which the sculpture itself should be "read." The art historian neglects them at his peril.

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Homer, Iliad, 5.725
    • Pindar, Nemean, 5
    • Plato, Laws, 656e
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