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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
 

F. B. Tarbell, A History of Ancient Greek Art

The Great Age of Greek Sculpture. First Period 450-400 B. C.

Polyclitus

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Turning now from Athens to Argos, which, though politically weak, was artistically the rival of Athens in importance, we find Polyclitus the dominant master there, as Phidias was in the other city. Polyclitus survived Phidias and may have been the younger of the two. The only certain thing is that he was in the plenitude of his powers as late as 420, for his gold and ivory statue of Hera was made for a temple built to replace an earlier temple destroyed by fire in 423. His principal material was bronze. As regards subjects, his great specialty was the representation of youthful athletes. His reputation in his own day and afterwards was of the highest; there were those who ranked him above Phidias. Thus Xenophon represents[1] an Athenian as assigning to Polyclitus a preeminence in sculpture like that of Homer in epic poetry and that of Sophocles in tragedy; and Strabo[2] pronounced his gold and ivory statues in the Temple of Hera near Argos the finest in artistic merit among all such works, though inferior to those of Phidias in size and costliness. But probably the more usual verdict was that reported by Quintilian,[3] which, applauding as unrivaled his rendering of the human form, found his divinities lacking in majesty.

[1] Memorabilia I., 4, 3 (written about 390 B. C).

[2] VIII., page 372 (written about 18 A. D.).

[3] De Institutione Oratoria XII, 10, 7 (written about 90 A. D.).


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