Ancient Greek: Πραξιτέλης, English IPAEng|prækˈsɪtɨliːz) of Athens, the son of Cephisodotus the Elder, was the most renowned of the Attic sculptorsof the 4th century BC. He was the first to sculpt the nudefemale form in a life-size statue. While no indubitably attributable sculpture by Praxiteles is extant, numerous copies of his works have survived; contemporary authors, including Pliny the Elder, wrote of his oeuvres; and coins engraved with silhouettes of his various famous statuary types from the period still exist.
A supposed relationship between Praxiteles and his beautiful model, the Thespian
courtesan Phryne, has inspired speculation and interpretation in works of art ranging from painting(Gérôme) to comic opera(Saint-Saëns) to shadow puppetry (Donnay).
Some writers have maintained that there were two sculptors of the name Praxiteles. One was a contemporary of
Pheidias, and the other his more celebrated grandson. Though the repetition of the same name in every other generation is common in Greece, there is no certain evidence for either position.
Accurate dates for Praxiteles are elusive, although he likely was no longer working in the time of
Alexander the Great, as evidenced by the lack of any data showing that Alexander employed Praxiteles, as he likely would have done. Pliny's date, 364 BC, is probably that of one of his most noted works.
The subjects chosen by Praxiteles were either human beings or the less elderly and dignified
deitiessuch as Apollo, Hermesand Aphroditerather than Zeus, Poseidonor Athena.
Praxiteles and his school worked almost entirely in
marble. At the time the marblequarries of Paroswere at their best; nor could any marble be finer for the purposes of the sculptor than that of which the Praxiteles' Hermes is made. Some of the statues of Praxiteles were coloured by the painter Nicias, and in the opinion of the sculptor they gained greatly by this treatment.
Hermes and the infant Dionysus
In 1911 the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" noted that "Our knowledge of Praxiteles has received a great addition, and has been placed on a satisfactory basis, by the discovery at Olympia in 1877 of his statue of "Hermes with the Infant Dionysus", a statue which has become famous throughout the world." ["But the figure of the Hermes, full and solid without being fleshy, at once strong and active, is a masterpiece, and the play of surface is astonishing. In the head we have a remarkably rounded and intelligent shape, and the face expresses the perfection of health and enjoyment. This statue must for the future be our best evidence for the style of Praxiteles. It altogether confirms and interprets the statements as to Praxiteles made by Pliny and other ancient critics." "Encyclopaedia Britannica", 1911.] Later opinions have varied, reaching a low with the sculptor
Aristide Maillol, who railed, "It's kitsch, it's frightful, it's sculpted in soap from Marseille". ["C'est pompier, c'est affreux, c'est sculpté du savon de Marseille". J. Cladel," Maillol. Sa vie, son œuvre, ses idées", Paris, 1937, pp.98.] In 1948 Carl Blümel published it in a monograph as "The Hermes of "a" Praxiteles", [Blümel, "Der Hermes eine Praxiteles" (Baden-Baden) 1948.] reversing his earlier (1927) opinion that it was a Roman copy, finding it not fourth century either but referring it instead to a Hellenisticsculptor, a younger Praxiteles of Pergamon. [On the basis of the inscription "Pergamon" VIII, 1, 137. First suggestion by C. H. Morgan, "The Drapery of the Hermes of Praxiteles", "Archaiologike Ephemeris" (1937), pp.61-68. Rhys Carpenter dismissed this Praxiteles as a phantom, "Two postscripts to the Hermes controversy", "American Journal of Archaeology" (Jan. 1954), vol.58, no.1, pp.4-6.]
The sculpture was located where Pausanias had seen it in the late second century CE. [Pausanias, "Description of Greece" 5.17.3 refers to the stone sculpture as "techne" of Praxiteles]
Hermesis represented in the act of carrying the child Dionysusto the nymphswho were charged with his rearing. The uplifted right arm is missing, but the possibility that the god holds out to the child a bunch of grapes to excite his desire would reduce the subject to a genre figure, C. Waldstein noted in 1882, remarking that Hermes looks past the child, "the clearest and most manifest outward sign of inward dreaming." [C. Waldstein, "Hermes with the Infant Dionysos. Bronze Statuette in the Louvre." "The Journal of Hellenic Studies" 3 (1882), (pp. 107-110) p 108.] The statue is today exhibited at the Olympia Archaeological Museum.
Opposing arguments have been made that the statue is a copy by a Roman copyist. [The career of the Olympia "Hermes" reputation was summed up by R. E. Wycherley, "Pausanias and Praxiteles" "Hesperia Supplements" 20 (Studies in Athenian Architecture, Sculpture and Topography. Presented to Homer A. Thompson, 1982), pp. 182-191. Wycherley's advice was to trust to the judgment of Pausanias in this matter.] Since the Romans adopted much of Greek culture and art this is a possibility. Mary Wallace suggested a second-century date and a Pergamene origin on the basis of the sandal type. ["Sutor supra Crepidam" "A.J.A" 44 (1940) pp 366-67.] Other assertions have been attempted by scholars to prove the origins of the statue on the basis of the unfinished back, the appearance of the drapery, and the technique used with the drilling of the hair; however scholars cannot conclusively use any of these arguments to their advantage because exceptions exist in both Roman and Greek sculpture.
As with the 'Hermes and Dionysus', gracefulness in repose, and an indefinable charm are also the attributes of works in museums which appear to be copies of statues by Praxiteles. Perhaps the most notable of these are the "Apollo Sauroktonos", or the lizard-slayer, a youth leaning against a tree and idly striking with an arrow at a lizard (
LouvreMuseum), and the " Aphrodite of Cnidus" at the Vatican Museums, which is a copy of the statue made by Praxiteles for the people of Cnidus, and by them valued so highly that they refused to sell it to King Nicomedes, who was willing in return to discharge the whole debt of the city, which, says Pliny, was enormous.
On June 22, 2004, the
Cleveland Museum of Art(CMA), announced the acquisition of an ancient bronze sculpture of "Apollo Sauroktonos", believed to be the only near-complete original work by Praxiteles. The dating and attribution of the sculpture will continue to be studied, the museum noted. This piece was to be included in the 2007 Praxiteles exhibition organized by the LouvreMuseum in Paris, but pressure from Greece, which disputes the work's provenance and legal ownership, caused the French to exclude it from the show.
Lycian Apollo, another Apollo-type reclining on a tree, is usually attributed to Praxiteles. It shows the god resting on a support (a tree trunk or tripod), his right arm touching the top of his head, and his hair fixed in braids on the top of a head in a haircut typical of childhood. It is called Lycian not after Lyciaitself, but after its identification with a lost work described by Lucian["Anacharsis" (7).] as being on show in the "Lykeion", one of the gymnasia of Athens.
Satyrof the Capitol at Romehas commonly been regarded as a copy of one of the Satyrs of Praxiteles; but we cannot identify it in the list of his works. Moreover, the style is hard and poor; a far superior replica exists in a torso in the Louvre. The attitude and character of the work are certainly of Praxitelean school.
Leto, Apollo and Artemis
Mantineiain Arcadiahave brought to light the base of a group of Leto, Apolloand Artemisby Praxiteles. This base was doubtless not the work of the great sculptor himself, but of one of his assistants. Nevertheless it is pleasing and historically valuable. Pausanias (viii. 9, I) thus describes the base, "on the base which supports the statues there are sculptured the Musesand Marsyasplaying the flutes ("auloi")." Three slabs which have survived represent Apollo; Marsyas; a slave, and six of the Muses, the slab which held the other three having disappeared.
The Leconfield head
The "Leconfield Head" (a head of the
Aphrodite of Cnidustype, included in the 2007 exhibition at the Louvre) [ [http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/CGPrograms/Cast/ASP/Cast.asp?CastNo=C178.html Illustration of a cast] .] in the Red Room, Petworth House, West Sussex, UK, was claimed by Adolf Furtwängler[Furtwängler, "Meisterwerken der Griechischen Plastik", 1893.] to be an actual work of Praxiteles, based on its style and its intrinsic quality. The Leconfield Head, the keystone of the Greek antiquities at Petworth [Margaret Wyndham, "Catalogue of the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities in the possession of Lord Leconfield" (London:Medici Society) 1916.] was probably bought from Gavin Hamilton in Rome in 1755.
The Aberdeen Head
The "Aberdeen Head", whether of
Hermesor of a youthful Heracles) in the British Museum, is linked to Praxiteles by its striking resemblance to the "Hermes of Olympia".
Aphrodite of Cnidus
Aphrodite of Cniduswas Praxiteles's most famous statue. It was the first time that a full-scale female figure was portrayed nude. Its renown was such, that it was immortalised in a lyric epigram:
"Paris did see me naked,"
Adonis, and Anchises,"except I knew all three of them."Where did the sculptor see me?"
Artemis of Antikyra
According to Pausanias there was a statue of Artemis made by Praxiteles in her temple in
Anticyraof Phokis. [Rizzo G.-E., Prassitele (Milan – Rome 1932), p. 13. Lacroix L., Les reproductions de statues sur les monnaies grecques (Liége 1949), pp. 309-310; Corso A., Prassitele. Fonti Εpigrafiche e letterarie. Vita et opere,vol. 1 (Roma 1988), pp. 182-184. Rolley C., La Sculpture Grecque 2, La période classique (Paris 1999), p. 244.] The appearance of the statue, which represented the goddess with a torch and an arch in her hands and a dog at her feet, is known from a 2nd century BC bronze coin of the city. [Sideris Α., “Antikyra: An ancient Phokian City”, "Emvolimo" 43-44 (Sping - Summer 2001) pp. 123-4 (in Greek).]
Vitruvius(vii, praef. 13) lists Praxiteles as an artist on the Mausoleum of Maussollosand Strabo(xiv, 23, 51) attributes to him the whole sculpted decoration of the Temple of Artemisat Ephesus. These mentions are widely considered as dubious [B.S. Ridgway, "op. cit.", p.265; Pasquier and Martinez, "op. cit.", p.20 and pp.83-84.] .
Besides these works, associated with Praxiteles by reference to notices in ancient writers, there are numerous copies of the Roman age, statues of Hermes, of Dionysus, of Aphrodite of Satyrs and Nymphs and the like, in which a varied expression of Praxitelean style may be discerned.
Five points of composition may be mentioned, which appear to be in origin Praxitelean, however these points cannot prove to be conclusive.
#a very flexible line divides the figures if drawn down the midst from top to bottom; they all tend to be lounging
#they are adapted to front and back view rather than to be seen from one side or the other
#trees, drapery, and the like are used for supports to the marble figures, and are included in the design instead of being extraneous to it
#the faces are presented in three-quarter view.
#the statue was found on the same site on which Pausanias described it.
Aphrodite of Cnidus
* Aileen Ajootian, "Praxiteles", "Personal Styles in Greek Sculpture" (ed. Olga Palagia and J. J. Pollitt), Cambridge University Press, 1998 (1st publication 1996) (ISBN 0-521-65738-5), pp.91–129.
* Antonio Corso, "Prassitele, Fonti Epigrafiche e Lettarie, Vita e Opere", three vol., De Lucca, Rome, 1988 and 1991.
* Marion Muller-Dufeu, "La Sculpture grecque. Sources littéraires et épigraphiques", éditions de l'École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, coll. « Beaux-Arts histoire », Paris, 2002 (ISBN 2-84056-087-9), p. 481-521 (new edition of Overbeck's "Antiquen Schiftquellen", 1868).
* Alain Pasquier and Jean-Luc Martinez, "Praxitèle", catalogue of the exhibition at the Louvre Museum, March, 23-June, 18 2007, Louvre editions & Somogy, Paris, 2007 (ISBN 978-2-35031-111-1).
* Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, "Fourth-Century Styles in Greek Sculpture", University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, (ISBN 0-299-15470-X), 1997, pp.258–267.
* Claude Rolley, "La Sculpture grecque II : la période classique", Picard, coll. « Manuels d'art et d'archéologie antiques », 1999 (ISBN 2-7084-0506-3), pp.242–267.
* Andrew Stewart, "Greek Sculpture: An Exploration", Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1990 (ISBN 0-300-04072-5) pp.277–281.
* [http://www.sikyon.com/Olympia/Art/olymp_eg09.html Archaeological Museum Olympia: The Hermes of Praxiteles]
* [http://www.clevelandart.org/exhibcef/apollo/html/ CMA Collections: Apollo Sauroktonos by Praxiteles]
* [http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Article/766761 about Apollo Sauroktonos statues in marble and bronze]
* [http://www.losttrails.com/pages/Hproject/Olympia/Olympia14-00.html small head of Aphrodite] - Olympia - believed to be an original work by Praxiteles
* [http://mini-site.louvre.fr/praxitele/html/1.5_en.html 2007 "Praxitèle": 2007 exhibition] at the
Musée du LouvreExhibition catalogue by Alain Pasquier and Jean-Luc Martinez.
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