10 Most Famous Ancient Greek Sculptors and their Accomplishments
The world of ancient Greek art was enriched by skilled sculptors whose works still captivate us today. In the article below, World History Edu explores some of the most renowned sculptors from that era, such as Phidias, Praxiteles, and Myron, and their remarkable contributions to the legacy of Greek sculpture.
Phidias was one of the greatest sculptors of ancient Greece. He is known for his colossal statues, including the Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Statue of Athena Parthenos in Athens.
Phidias was an ancient Greek sculptor and architect who lived during the 5th century BC. He is widely regarded as one of the most important sculptors of classical antiquity. This is because he developed a mastery in many materials, including chryselephantine, marble, gold, bronze, stone, and silver. He even made works using wood.
He was born in Athens and is best known for his work on the sculptures of the Parthenon, the iconic temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, located on the Acropolis of Athens. The statue of Athena that he sculpted measured at whopping 40 feet in height.
Phidias was also responsible for creating the colossal Statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
His works were celebrated for their grandeur, realism, and attention to detail, and his contributions had a profound influence on subsequent generations of artists.
According to ancient Greek biographer and author Plutarch, Phidias was charged with a number of improprieties and handed a prison sentence. The Greek sculptor is believed to have passed away in prison.
Praxiteles was celebrated for his mastery of marble sculpture and his ability to convey human emotions and sensuality. His works include the Aphrodite of Knidos, and Hermes and the Infant Dionysus. The latter work, which was made from Parian marble, shows the Greek god Hermes carrying an infant Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and religious ecstasy.
As for the Aphrodite of Knidos statue, it is said that the statue was renowned because it was the first time a life-sized female figure was portrayed without clothes.
A 4th-century BC sculptor, Praxiteles produced elegant and graceful sculptures, with a focus on depicting human beauty and emotion using materials like bronze and stone. His style and artistic approach had a significant impact on the development of Greek sculpture. Although the original Greek sculpture does not survive to this day, we are fortunate to have many Roman marble copies of the masterpiece.
According to ancient accounts, Praxiteles was born to renowned sculptor Cephisodotus the Elder.
It is also generally held that Praxiteles who developed the statue type the Resting Satyr. Those statues show a youthful satyr in a relaxed posture often resting his right elbow on a tree trunk. Today, there are more than 100 examples of the Resting Satyr housed in the Capitoline Museums in Rome, Italy.
Myron was truly a great sculptor known for his realistic and dynamic sculptures, particularly in bronze. His most famous work is the Discobolus (Discus Thrower), depicting an athlete (youthful male) in mid-throw.
The Discobolus is considered one of the most famous and influential works of ancient Greek art. The figure is caught in a dynamic and athletic pose, with his body twisted and muscles tensed as he prepares to hurl the discus. Myron masterfully captured the human anatomy in motion, creating a sense of energy and vitality in the statue.
The Discobolus exemplifies the principles of idealized beauty and balance that were highly valued in ancient Greek art. The athlete’s body is perfectly proportioned and harmoniously balanced, reflecting the pursuit of physical perfection and the celebration of the human form.
Furthermore, there are some scholars of ancient Greece that associate The Artemision Bronze with Myron. Discovered in the late 1920s, the 2-meter bronze statue is said to depict either Zeus or Poseidon.
Though none of Myron’s original works survive, his influence on Greek art and sculpture was substantial, and his innovative approach to capturing movement and anatomy left a lasting impact on subsequent generations of artists.
Read More: Medusa and Poseidon in Greek mythology
Venerated in similar vein as Praxiteles, ancient Greek sculptor Lysippus of Sicyon was known for his innovations in portraying realistic human anatomy and movement.
His style marked a shift towards more naturalistic and dynamic representations of the human form. He was particularly famous for his statues of athletes and warriors, as well as his portrait sculptures of prominent individuals.
Lysippus was the official sculptor of Alexander the Great. He created numerous portraits of Alexander, as well as the Apoxyomenos (Scraper) and the Weary Herakles.
Though many of his original works have been lost, Lysippus’ artistic influence was substantial, and his techniques and approach to sculpture greatly impacted the development of later Hellenistic and Roman art.
Polyclitus was known for his sculptures of athletes and his adherence to the canon of proportions, which aimed for idealized and balanced representations of the human body. His most famous work is the Doryphoros, which was believed to have been made in bronze.
Also known as the Spear Bearer, the Doryphoros depicts a young male athlete holding a spear in his left hand and standing in a contrapposto pose, with the weight of his body shifted onto his right leg. This pose creates a naturalistic and lifelike stance that was characteristic of Greek art during this period. The statue’s proportions and attention to detail reflect Polyclitus’s mastery of sculpting the human form and his adherence to the principles of ideal beauty and symmetry.
He lived during the 5th and 4th centuries BC and was highly regarded for his development of the “canon,” a set of rules and proportions (contained in the lost treatise “Canon of Polykleitos”) that aimed to create idealized and harmonious representations of the human body.
He was also praised for his ivory and gold statue of the Greek goddess Hera which was placed in a temple at Argos.
Roman authors like Pliny the Elder (c. 23 – 79 AD) and Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC) made mention of Polyclitus and his works. Basing his work on Greek philosopher Xenocrates, Pliny described Polyclitus as up there with Phidias and Myron.
Unfortunately, none of Polykleitos’s original works survive, but his influence on Greek sculpture was significant, and his ideas were widely studied and followed by later artists. There are, however, a number of surviving Roman copies of Polykleitos’s sculptures, especially the Doryphoros. Some copies of the Doryphoros were also made during the Renaissance era. These copies have allowed art historians and enthusiasts to study and appreciate Polyclitus’s artistic genius and the artistic ideals of ancient Greek sculpture.
This 4th-century BC Greek sculptor and architect was best known for his emotionally expressive and dynamic style, which differed from the more idealized and serene sculptures of the High Classical period.
Scopas worked on various architectural projects and sculptural decorations for temples and buildings throughout Greece. Some of his notable works appeared at the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and sculptures for the Temple of Athena Alea at Tegea.
Another famous work by Scopas was the Meleager of Skopas, a lost bronze sculpture of the Greek hero Meleager. It’s believed that the statue captured the hero’s bravery and prowess during the mythical boar hunt.
Unfortunately, most of his original works are lost, but his artistic legacy had a significant influence on later Hellenistic and Roman art. The existence of his works is known through historical references and descriptions by ancient writers.
Famous for his bronze statue of Pericles, the prominent Athenian statesman and general, Kresilas was a true master sculptor. Like the many of the figures on this list, he was known for his skill in creating realistic and naturalistic sculptures.
The bust of Pericles (with the Corinthian helmet) that we have today is based on Roman copies of a bronze statue that was originally created by the ancient Greek sculptor Kresilas. The original bronze statue, unfortunately, no longer exists, but Roman artists made copies of it in marble, which have survived to this day. These Roman copies allow us to catch a glimpse of the original work of Kresilas and his artistic portrayal of the prominent Athenian statesman and general, Pericles.
Unfortunately, no works attributed to Kresilas have survived to the present day, but he was highly regarded in his time for his artistic talent and ability to capture the likeness and character of his subjects in his sculptures.
Euphranor – Renowned for his idealized and balanced representations of athletes and warriors
Euphranor was born in the 4th century BC in the city of Corinth. He etched his name into the annals of history for producing works that were praised for their artistic beauty and proportion. He was considered a pioneer in the development of idealized representations of the human form in ancient Greek art.
One of his most famous works was a bronze statue of the god Apollo. According to Pliny, Euphranor made works of Greek goddess Artemis.
However, none of his works have survived to the present day, and what is known about him comes from historical accounts and writings of other ancient authors.
Recognized for his innovative approach to bronze sculpture, Timotheus comes in at number 5 on our list famous ancient Greek sculptors. He lived during the 4th century BC and was praised for his bronze works of athletes, warriors and mythical figures. One of such sculptures was Leda and the Swan. The work depicts Greek mythical character Spartan queen Leda protecting a swan from an eagle.
According to ancient accounts, he was highly skilled in capturing movement and athleticism, making his work have naturalistic and dynamic feel. Unfortunately, none of his sculptures have survived to the present day.
Did you know…?
Pliny the Elder (c. 23 – 79 AD) and Pausanias (c. 110 – 180 AD) are two important ancient authors whose works provide valuable information about Greek and Roman artists as well as their masterpieces. Thus their writings offer valuable insights into the artistic achievements of the ancient world.
Pliny the Elder, a first-century Roman author and naturalist, wrote a comprehensive encyclopedic work called “Natural History,” which covers a wide range of topics, including art and artists. In his writings, he mentions numerous sculptors, painters, and other artisans, providing details about their works and achievements.
Pausanias, a Greek traveler and geographer from the second century AD, is famous for his work “Description of Greece,” in which he provides a detailed account of various cities and regions of Greece, including their historical and artistic aspects. He extensively described the temples, statues, and artworks he encountered during his travels, making him a valuable source for understanding ancient Greek art.