Dictionary of Art and Artists



History of

Architecture and Sculpture

















Geometric and Orientalizing Style
Doric Temples
Ionic Temples




Of the artistic enterprises sponsored by Alexander the Great, such as the numerous portraits of the great conqueror by Lysippus, no direct evidence survives. In fact, we know very little of the development of Greek sculpture as a whole during the first hundred years of the Hellenistic era. Even after that, we have few fixed points of reference. Only a small fraction of the large number of works at our disposal can be securely identified as to date and place of origin. Moreover, Greek sculpture was now being produced throughout such a vast territory that the interplay of local and international currents must have formed a complex pattern, of which we can trace only some isolated strands.

Hellenistic sculpture nevertheless possesses a markedly different character from that of the Classical era. It has a more pronounced realism and expressiveness, as well as a greater variety of drapery and pose, which is often marked by extreme torsion. This willingness to experiment should be seen as a valid, even necessary, attempt to extend the subject matter and dynamic range of Greek art in accordance with a new temperament and outlook.


The more human conception that characterizes the age is represented by the bronze groups dedicated by Attalus I of Pergamum (a city in northwestern Asia Minor) between about
240 and 200 B.C. to celebrate his victories over the Celts, who kept raiding the Greek states until Attalus forced them to settle down. The bronze statues commemorating the Celts' defeat were reproduced in marble for the Romans, who may have had a special interest in them because of their own troubles with Celtic tribes in northwestern Europe. A number of these copies have survived, including the famous Dying Trumpeter (fig. 211), which presumably replicates a statue by Epigonos of Pergamum mentioned in Pliny.

The sculptor must have known the Celts well, for the ethnic type is carefully rendered in the facial structure and in the bristly shock of hair. The torque around the neck is another characteristically Celtic feature. Otherwise, he shares the heroic nudity of Greek warriors, such as those on the Aegina pediments (see fig. 163). If his agony seems infinitely more realistic in comparison, it still has considerable dignity and pathos. Clearly, the Celts were not considered unworthy foes. "They knew how to die, barbarians though they were," is the idea conveyed by the statue. Yet we also sense something else, an animal quality that had never before been part of Greek images of men. Death, as we witness it here, is a very concrete physical process. No longer able to move his legs, the Trumpeter puts all his waning strength into his arms, as if to prevent some tremendous invisible weight from crushing him against the ground.

211. EPIGONOS OF PERGAMUM (?) Dying Trumpeter. Roman copy after a bronze original of ń. 230-220 B.C.
Marble, lifesize. Museo Capitolino, Rome


In different ways, Praxiteles, Skopas, and Lysippos had already taken bold steps in redefining the nature of Greek statuary. Their distinctive styles continued to influence sculptors throughout the Hellenistic period. The undressing of Aphrodite, for example, became the norm, but Hellenistic sculptors went beyond Praxiteles and openly explored the eroticism of the nude female form.

The famous Venus de Milo is a larger-than-life-size marble statue of Aphrodite found on Melos together with its inscribed base (now lost) signed by the sculptor, Alexandros of Antioch-on-the-Meander. In this statue, the goddess of love is more modestly draped than the Aphrodite of Knidos but more overtly sexual. Her left hand (separately preserved) holds the apple Paris awarded her when he judged her as the most beautiful goddess of all. Her right hand may have lightly grasped the edge of her drapery near the left hip in a halfhearted attempt to keep it from slipping farther down her body.

The sculptor intentionally designed the work to tease the spectator. By so doing he imbued his partially draped Aphrodite with a sexuality that is not present in Praxiteles' entirely nude image of the goddess.

Alexandros of Antioch-on-the-Meander, Aphrodite (Venus de Milo),
from Melos, Greece, c. 150-125 BCE. Louvre, Paris



The Aphrodite of Knidos was directly quoted in an even more playful and irreverent statue of the goddess found on Delos. Here, Aphrodite resists the lecherous advances of the semihuman, semigoat Pan, the Greek god of the woods. She defends herself with one of her sandals, while her loyal son Eros flies in to grab one of Pan's horns in an attempt to protect his mother from an unspeakable fate.

One may wonder about the taste of Dionysios of Berytos (Beirut), who paid to have this statue erected in a businessmen's clubhouse— especially since both Aphrodite and Eros are portrayed as almost laughing—but such groups were commonplace in Hellenistic times. The combination of eroticism and parody of earlier Greek masterpieces was apparently irresistible. These Hellenistic groups are a far cry from the solemn depictions of the deities of Mount Olympus produced during Classical times.

Also different from earlier periods is the way Eros was represented. In the Hellenistic age he was shown as the pudgy infant Cupid as portrayed in innumerable later artworks, whereas in earlier Greek art he was depicted as an adolescent. In the history of art, babies are all too frequently rendered as miniature adults — often with adult personalities to match their mature bodies. Hellenistic sculptors knew how to reproduce the soft forms of infants and how to portray the spirit of young children in memorable statues.


Aphrodite, Eros and Pan, from Delos, Greece, c. 100 BCE. National Archaeological Museum, Athens.


A similar exploration of uncontrolled bodily responses may be seen in the Barberim Faun (fig. 212), which is probably a very fine Hellenistic original of the late third century B.C., albeit heavily restored by Bernini. A drunken satyr is sprawled on a rock, asleep in the heavy-breathing, unquiet manner of the inebriated. He is obviously dreaming, and the convulsive gesture of the right arm and the troubled expression of the face betray the passionate, disturbing nature of his dream. Here again we witness a partial uncoupling of body and mind, no less persuasive than in the Dying Trumpeter.

212. Barberim Faun. Greek original (?) of c. 220 B.C. Marble, over-lifesize.
Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich


213. The west front of the Great Pergamum Altar (restored). Pergamonmuseum. Staatliche Museen, Berlin

214. Plan of the Great Pergamum Altar (after J. Schrammen)

Great Pergamum Altar. Pergamonmuseum. Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Some two decades later, we find a second sculptural style flourishing at Pergamum. About 180 B.C., Eumenes II, the son and successor of Attalus I, had a mighty altar erected on a hill above the city to commemorate the victory of Rome and her allies over Antiochus the Great of Syria that gave him much of the Seleucid empire eight years earlier. A large part of the sculptural decoration has been recovered by excavation, and the entire west front of the altar, with its monumental flight of stairs leading to the entrance, has been reconstructed in Berlin (fig. 213). It is an impressive structure indeed. The altar proper occupies the center of a rectangular court surrounded by an Ionic colonnade, which rises on a tall base about 100 feet square (fig. 214).

Map of Pergamon Acropolis (1882), from Die Ergebnisse
der Ausgrabung zu Pergamon 1880-1881,
University of Heidelberg.

Altar structures of such great size seem to have been an Ionian tradition since Archaic times, but the Pergamum Altar is the most elaborate of all, as well as the only one of which considerable portions have survived. Its boldest feature is the great frieze covering the base,
400 feet long and over 7 feet tall. The huge figures, cut to such a depth that they seem almost detached from the background, have the scale and weight of pedimental statues, but freed from the confining triangular frame and transported to a friezea unique compound of two separate traditions that represents a thundering climax in the development of Greek architectural sculpture (fig. 215).

215. Athena and Alcyoneus, from the east side of the Great Frieze of the Altar of Zeus at Pergamum.
. 180 B.C. Marble, height 7'6" (2.3 m). Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen, Berlin


The carving of the frieze, though not very subtle in detail, has tremendous dramatic force. The heavy, muscular bodies rush at each other, and the high relief creates strong accents of light and dark, while the beating wings and windblown garments are almost overwhelming in their dynamism. A writhing movement pervades the entire design, down to the last lock of hair, linking the victors and the vanquished in a single continuous rhythm. This sense of unity disciplines the physical and emotional violence of the struggle and keeps itbut just barelyfrom exploding its architectural frame. Indeed, the action spills out onto the stairs, where several figures are locked in mortal combat.

The subject, the battle of the gods and giants, is a traditional one for Ionic friezes. (We saw it before on the Siphnian Treasury, fig. 161) At Pergamum, however, it has a novel significance. It promotes Pergamum as a new Athensthe patron goddess of both cities was Athena, who figures prominently in the great frieze. Moreover, it almost surely incorporates a sophisticated cosmological program whose meaning, however, remains under dispute. Finally, the victory of the gods is meant to symbolize Eumenes' own victories. Such a translation of history into mythology had been an established device in Greek art for a long time. But to place Eumenes in analogy with the gods themselves implies an exaltation of the ruler that is Oriental rather than Greek in origin. After the time of Mausolus, who may have been the first to introduce it on Greek soil, the idea of divine kingship had been adopted by Alexander the Great and the lesser sovereigns who divided his realm, including the rulers of Pergamum.

Hecate fights against Klytios (left); Artemis against Otos (right)

Rhea/Cybele riding on a lion, Andrasteia (?)

Left to right: Nereus, Doris, a giant, Oceanus

The three Moirae club Agrios and Thoas to death

King Teuthras finds Auge stranded on the shore, panel 10

Telephus receives weapons from Auge, panels 16 and 17

The Argives welcome Telephos, panels 36 and 38

Telephos threatens to kill Orestes, panel 42.


Equally dramatic in its impact is another great victory monument of the early second century B.C., the Nike of Samothrace (fig.
216), which perhaps commemorates the naval victory in 190 B.C. over Antiochus the Great by Eudamos of Rhodes. The style is Rhodian, and the statue may well have been carved by the island's leading sculptor, Pythokritos. The goddess has just descended to the prow of a ship.

216. PYTHOKRITOS OF RHODES (?). Nike of Samothrace. ń 200-190 B.C. Marble, height 8' (2.4 m).
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Her great wings spread wide, she is still partly airborne by the powerful head wind against which she advances. The invisible force of onrushing air here becomes a tangible reality. It not only balances the forward movement of the figure but also shapes every fold of the wonderfully animated drapery. As a result, there is an active relationship
indeed, an interdependencebetween the statue and the space that envelops it, such as we have never seen before. By comparison, all earlier examples of active drapery seem inert. This is true even of the three goddesses from the Parthenon, whose wet drapery responds not to the atmosphere around it but to an inner impulse independent of all motion. Nor shall we see its like again for a long time to come. The Nike of Samothrace deserves all of her fame as the greatest masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture.



Until the Nike was discovered over 100 years ago, the most admired work of Hellenistic statuary had been a group showing the death of Laocoon and his two sons (fig. 217). It was found in Rome in 1506 and made a tremendous impression on Michelangelo and many others. The history of its fame is like that of the Apollo Belvedere. The two were treated as complementary, the Apollo exemplifying harmonious beauty, the Laocoon sublime tragedy. (Laocoon was the priest punished by the gods for telling the Trojans not to admit the Greeks' wooden horse into the city, but his warning went unheeded, which led to their defeat.) Today we tend to find the pathos of the group somewhat calculated and rhetorical, and its meticulous surface finish strikes us as a display of virtuoso technique.

217. The Laocoon Group.
(present state, former restorations removed).
century B.C.. Marble, height 7
1 (2.1 m).
Vatican Museums, Rome

In style, including the relief like spread of the three figures, it clearly descends from the Pergamum frieze, although its dynamism has become rather self-conscious. It was long accepted as a Greek original and identified with a group by Agesander, Athenodorus, and Polydorus of Rhodes that the Roman writer Pliny mentions in the palace of the emperor Titus; they, we now know, were skilled copyists active just before or after the birth of Christ. The subject must have held a special meaning for the Romans. Laocoon's fate forewarned Aeneas of the fall of Troy, prompting him to flee in time. Since Aeneas was believed to have come to Italy and to have been the ancestor of Romulus and Remus, the death of Laocoon could be viewed as the first link in a chain of events that ultimately led to the founding of Rome.


Individual likenesses were inconceivable in Classical art, which sought a timeless ideal. Portraiture first arose as an important branch of Greek sculpture only in the mid-fourth century and continued to flourish in Hellenistic times. Its achievements, however, are known to us only indirectly, for the most part through Roman copies. One of the few originals is the extraordinarily vivid bronze head from Delos, a work of the early first century B.C. (fig.
218). It was not made as a bust but rather, in accordance with Greek custom, as part of a full-length statue. The identity of the sitter is unknown, but whoever he was, we get an intensely private view of him that captures the personality of the Hellenistic world.

The distant stare of the "Mausolus" (fig.
205) has been replaced by a troubled look. The fluid modeling of the somewhat flabby features, the uncertain, plaintive mouth, the unhappy eyes under furrowed brows reveal an individual beset by doubts and anxieties, an extremely human, unheroic personality. There are echoes of noble pathos in these features, but it is a pathos translated into psychological terms of unparalleled immediacy. People of such inner turmoil had certainly existed earlier in the Greek world, just as they do today. Yet it is significant that their complex character could be conveyed in art only when Greek independence was about to come to an end, culturally as well as politically.

218. Portrait Head, from Delos.
. 80 B.C. Bronze, height 12
3/4" (32 cm).
National Archaeological Museum, Athens




Before we leave Hellenistic sculpture, we must cast at least a passing glance at another aspect of it, represented by the enchanting bronze statuette of a veiled dancer (fig.
219). She introduces us to the wide variety of small-scale works produced for private ownership, which comprise a special category unto themselves. They are often called Tanagra figures, after the site where many have been found. Such pieces were collected in much the same way as painted vases had been in earlier times. Like vase paintings, they show a range of subject matter far broader than that of monumental sculpture. Besides the familiar mythological themes, we encounter a wealth of everyday subjects: beggars, street entertainers, peasants, young ladies of fashion.

The grotesque, the humorous, the picturesque
qualities that rarely enter into Greek monumental artplay a conspicuous role here. Most of these figurines are routine decorative pieces mass-produced in clay or bronze. But at their best, as in our example, they have an imaginative freedom rarely matched on a larger scale. The bold spiral twist of the veiled dancer, reinforced by the diagonal folds of the drapery, creates a multiplicity of interesting views that practically forces the beholder to turn the statuette in his hands. No less extraordinary is the rich interplay of concave and convex forms, the intriguing contrast between the compact silhouette of the figure and the mobility of the body within.


219. (right) Veiled Dancer, ń 200 B.C.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York. Bequest of Walter Ń Baker,


We can get some idea of what Greek wall painting looked like from Roman copies and imitations, although their relation is extremely problematic. According to the Roman writer Pliny, Philoxenus of Eretria at the end of the fourth century painted the victory of Alexander the Great over Darius at Issus. The same subjector, at any rate, another battle of Alexander's war against the Persiansis shown in an exceptionally large and technically accomplished floor mosaic from a Pompeian house of about 100 B.C. Figure 220 illustrates the center and right half, with Darius and the fleeing Persians, and the badly damaged left-hand portion, with the figure of Alexander. While there is no special reason to link this mosaic with Pliny's account (several others are recorded), we can hardly doubt that it is a copyand an astonishingly proficient oneof a Hellenistic painting from the late fourth century B.C. The crowding, the air of frantic excitement, the powerfully modeled and foreshortened forms, the precise cast shadows make even the great frieze of Pergamum seem restrained in comparison. The scene is far more complicated and dramatic than any other work of Greek art from the period. And for the first time it shows something that actually happened, without the symbolic overtones of Herakles Strangling the Nemean Lion or the Lapith and Centaur (figs. 146 and 147). In character and even in appearance, it is close to Roman reliefs commemorating specific historic events (see figs. 275-77).

220. The Battle of lssus or Battle of Alexander and the Persians.
Mosaic copy from Pompeii. 100 B.C., of a Hellenistic painting.
8'11" x 16'9 1/2" (2.7 x 5.1 m). Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples


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