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CHRYSELEPHANTI´NA sc. agalmata. This term, though resting on no better authority than that of the Scholiast on Aristophanes (Aristoph. Kn. 1169), is now customarily used to denote those gold and ivory statues which were the highest attainments of Greek plastic art.

The use of these costly materials seems to have been originally a development of the early art of wood-carving. The first artists who produced chryselephantine statues were pupils of Dipoenus and Scyllis, the Cretan “Daedalids.” Though we hear of no such works by these masters themselves, they used ivory in conjunction with ebony (Paus. 2.22, 5); by gilding the wood, a quite common proceeding, the transition would be made. The appropriateness of the two materials would then suggest the restriction of the ivory to nude parts, of gold to drapery, &c., a core of wood still underlying the whole. Such probably were the works of Doryclidas, Theokles, Dontas, and other artists of the earlier portion of the 6th century B.C. We do not hear of many chryselephantine works of importance during the late archaic or transitional period; but some of the “Xoana” mentioned by authors may belong to this class, the name being constantly applied even to later specimens. But the construction of colossal figures, such as the Olympian Zeus and Athene Parthenos of Phidias, or the Argive Hera of Polycletus, can have had little in common with mere wood-carving. For these, of course, a most elaborate internal framework was necessary; attempts have been made to restore by conjecture these figures and the processes by which they were constructed, as by M. Quatremére de Quincy in Le Jupiter Olympien. In the latter portion of the 5th century B.C. the pupils of Pheidias found many states able and willing to grant the enormous expenditure necessary for the erection of a chryselephantine colossal figure; but in later times opportunities for such enterprises could but rarely occur. Kings, however, came to arrogate to themselves a distinction formerly appropriated to the gods: thus the portrait-statues by Leochares in the Philippeum at Olympia were of gold and ivory. So late as the time of Herodes Atticus these materials seem to have been still in request for the most magnificent statues.


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