The attitude, with the weight supported chiefly by the right leg and left arm, gives to the body a graceful curve which Praxiteles loved. It is the last stage in the long development of an easy standing pose. The head is of the round Attic form, contrasting with the squarer Peloponnesian type; the face a fine oval. The lower part of the forehead between the temples is prominent; the nose not quite straight, but slightly arched at the middle. The whole expression is one of indescribable refinement and radiance. The hair, short and curly, illustrates the possibilities of marble in the treatment of that feature; in place of the wiry appearance of hair in bronze we find here a slight roughness of surface, suggestive of the soft texture of actual hair. The drapery that falls over the tree-trunk is treated with a degree of elaboration and richness which does not occur in fifth century work; but beautiful as it is, it is kept subordinate and does not unduly attract our attention.
For us the Hermes stands alone and without a rival. The statue, however, did not in antiquity enjoy any extraordinary celebrity, and is in fact not even mentioned in extant literature except by Pausanias. The most famous work of Praxiteles was the Aphrodite of Cnidus in southwestern Asia Minor. This was a temple-statue; yet the sculptor, departing from the practice of earlier times, did not scruple to represent the goddess as nude. With the help of certain imperial coins of Cnidus this Aphrodite has been identified in a great number of copies. She is in the act of dropping her garment from her left hand in preparation for a bath; she supports herself chiefly by the right leg, and the body has a curve approaching that of the Hermes, though here no part of the weight is thrown upon the arm. The subject is treated with consummate delicacy, far removed from the sensuality too usual in a later age; and yet, when this embodiment of Aphrodite is compared with fifth century ideals, it must be recognized as illustrating a growing fondness on the part of sculptor and public for the representation of physical charm. Not being able to offer a satisfactory illustration of the whole statue, I have chosen for reproduction a copy of the head alone. It will help the reader to divine the simple loveliness of the original.
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