Who's Who Ancient Greece: The Arts
Praxitelis (4th century BC)
Sculpture & Archetecture
Of the seventy statues estimated to have been created by this outstanding sculptor, many of them dedicated to Aphrodhiti (Aphrodite), it is the famous Hermes with the infant Dhionysos (in Olymbia), the bronze statue of a youth found in the sea near Marathonas, and the engraved plaques of the statues of the Apollonian Triad, that have been identified conclusively as his work.
He lived in Athens, possibly born there as well, son of the sculptor Kifisodhotos, and himself fathered two boys who also became sculptors. His art peaked around 340 BC, possibly during the same period that he met the courtesan Phryni, who became both his lover and model, possibly the model for his many statues of Aphrodhiti. He also travelled to Asia Minor during this time.
Though best known for his marble sculptures, Praxitelis also worked equally well in bronze, learning the techniques for both materials from his father.
Other works that are obvious copies, though attributed to him, besides the three mentioned above, have been guesses based on his characteristic techniques. Most of his statues were of gods, including the group of statues of Apollo, Artemis and Leto in Mantinea in the Peloponnese, Apollo and Artemis, the Aphrodite of Knidhos in Asia Minor, Apollo Savroktonos (Lizard-Killer), the Resting Satyr, the Eros in Thespies, and Phryni.
Praxitelis' work took him to many cities in Greece and Asia Minor, and thus his art became well known and admired to the point of adoration; writers compared him with Phidias and Polyklitos, the great sculptors of the previous century.
His work was known for its virtuosity and for his depiction of human beauty, especially female, as evidenced in his many statues of Aphroditi, goddess of beauty. It was a youthful and innocent beauty that he potrayed; he preferred individual figures to large compositions with many figures, and he introduced the depiction of gods with slighter bodies, and he was the first to show Aphroditi fully nude.
Eros and the Satyrs are shown in his work as handsome, dreamy youths. Exceptional in his work are the facial expressions of his figures, which are characterized by sweetness, serenity and tenderness. The stance of the bodies is also more relaxed that the older athletic ideal, more simple and natural. Praxitelis had a huge influence on the sculptors who followed him.