Art Timeline  
  1 c. 15000 - 5000 BC Prehistoric Art
  2 5000 BC - 5ОО BC The Art of the Ancient Kingdoms of Egypt - Aegean Art
  3-4 5ОО вс - 12th century The Art of the Greeks
  5-6 5ОО вс - 12th century Italic Art
  7-8-9 12th century (1100-1199) The Early Christians  Art - Byzantine Art
  10-11 13th century (1200-1299) Gothic Art
  12 14th century (1300-1399) Gothic Art - International Style
  13 15th century (1400-1499) The Early Renaissance
  14 16th century (1500-1599) The High Renaissance
  15-16 16th century (1500-1599) Mannerism
  17-18-19-20 17th century (1600-1699) Baroque
  21-22 18th century (1700-1799) Rococo
  23-24-25-26-27-28-29 19th century(18001899) Neoclassical - Romanticism
    19th century (1863-1899) Impressionism Timeline
    19th century (1860-1899) Simbolism
    20th century(1900-1999) ART OF THE 20TH CENTURY
5ОО вс - 12th century
see also:
Ancient Greek Sculpture

Archaic Vase Painting
  Art in Pompeii & Herculaneum
Archaic Vase Painting
Ancient Greek Sculpture
Lysippos - Praxiteles
The Art of the Greeks

Herakles Fighting,
from the Esquiline
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome

From 364 to 361bc, Praxiteles was commissioned to decorate the pediments on the Temple of Herakles at Thebes with a scene depicting his 12 labours. The sculptures were soon removed to Rome, however, where they adorned the imperial residences on the Esquiline hill. It was there that the figure of Herakles fighting the mythical queen Hippolyta was unearthed. She was on horseback, but was grabbed by her hair by Herakles' left hand, while his right brandished a bronze club. Herakles' stance is similar to that of a warrior armed with a sword shown attacking an Amazon in a relief on the Temple of Apollo at Bassae (c.400bc). The tree-trunk and plinth of the Herakles, now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome, is modem, but incorporates the ancient outlines beneath each of the feet, which were crossed by bronze clamps. This System was also used by Skopas to attach his figures to the pediments of the temple at Tegea.
The distorted quality of the bust and face reflects the fact that they were originally intended to be viewed from below. The torso, as it is now, is excessively broad and the two halves of the face are unequal, but both features were originally compensated for by foreshortening when the group occupied the pediment of the temple. The sculpture was carved out of a single block of marble from Mount Pentelikon, the material favoured by Athenian artists. The dynamics of the modelling follow the unbroken tension of the limbs and, as usual. Praxiteles has given a sense of immediacy to the actions of the figure. The raw aggression ol Herakles was tempered by later sculptors such as Antisthenes who representd him as meditative and melancholic.

Bust of Hermes,
copy after Praxiteles
Royal Academy of Arts Online Catalogue, London


The sculptor Praxiteles was the greatest Athenian exponent of the "beautiful" style (C.395-326BC); his sculptures are characterized by soft, full contours and deep-set eyes. His father was Kephisodotos, also a sculptor. His statues of Eros (Centocelle version). Phryne and Aphrodite (c.370bc), the Twelve Gods (copy in relief, Ostia); and the group of Latona, Apollo, and Artemis (Dresden version) were carried out for the city of Megara. He acknowledged Dionysos in his Pouring Satyr (366-365BC), and his Draped Aphrodite was found on the island of Kos. The Knidian Aphrodite (364-361bc) was followed by Aphrodite with a Necklace, Resting Satyr (360-350.bc), and Apollo Killing a Lizard(c.350bc). Eros Being Crowned (Chigi-Dresden version. c.343bc) is among the last of his many known works.

Attributed to Praxiteles
Hermes with the Infant Dionysos at Olympia
after marble or bronze original
Royal Academy of Arts Online Catalogue, London

Venus de Clerq
after Praxiteles
Roman, Rome, A.D. 175 - 200
Marble with polychromy

The Aphrodite of Cnidus (Knidos)
by Praxiteles
c.350 BC
The first monumental female nude in classical sculpture

Apollo Sauroctonios (The Lizard-killer) Roman copy after 4th century Greek original
Rome, Vatican Museums

Crouching Aphrodite or so-called "Venus of Doidalsas"
mid 3rd century BC
Louvre, Paris

Medici Aphrodite,
copy after Aphrodite of Knidos marble
Florence, Uffizi

Adaptation of Cridian Aphrodite
350- 340bc
Roman copy, marble
Munich, Glyptothek


Apollodoros was called a "painter of shadows" (skiagraphos) in accordance with a concept that had evolved in the Geometric period. In time, it became clear how apt the term was, for the artist "was the first to discover shading and the thickening of shadows" (Plutarch), This technical skill gave rise to the comment that he was a "painter of appearances". His contemporary Democritos said that it is not the object that strikes the organs of sense - and is thus able to be represented - but an insubstantial image emanating from the atoms of which matter is composed. According to Pliny, Apollodoros was a painter of "illusory appearances". The importance of Apollodoros was fully recognized in the ancient world, and this concept of illusionistic painting was referred to by Plato in opposition to his notion of universal forms. This idea of imitating appearances signalled the birth of painting with a full array of perspective, chromatic, and luministic devices. Centuries later, it was taken up by the Impressionists ("...it is not the object that must be portrayed but the semblance of the object," Eugene Delacroix).


Lysippos was aware of the "antithetical" System that embodied the Pythagorean theory of contrasts: right and left. rest and movement, straight and curved. light and shade. This can be seen in the ascending spiral of the figure of a runner crowning himself with the Olympic olive branch, which is typical of the rotating movements often portrayed in Lysippos' statues. On the surface of the original, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu. there is an excellent interplay between light and shade. Wax imprints on the inside of the statue reveal that the figure's youthful proportions were altered during its making to convey a sense of courage: the neck was lengthened and the right arm forced aloft. There is a feeling of tautness on the right side of the body, with the right leg bearing the weight, in contrast with the relaxed left side. its leg free and arm resting on a palm frond (now lost). Lysippos' ability to express social and political problems through striking sculptural statements in a way that language was unable to do meant that he was soon working for the dynastic propaganda machine of the Macedonians, producing his Alexander with a Lance. His plinth depicting the stories of Polydamas was intended to support a seated figure, such as the bronze Boxer, now in Rome's national museum. The statue was thought to possess curative powers, and its foot was worn away by the constant touching of devotees. Lysippos' talent and meticulous technique are evident in the fingers that appear to be sheathed in skin so thin that the joints show through. in the fingertips with chiselled nails. On the wrist-bands, the dense series of dots is reminiscent of stitching. Visual immediacy is conveyed by the patches of red bronze damascening on the leg and the right arm drops of blood that have fallen from the boxer's face as he turns his head and the loss of the top teeth has deformed his lip. His breath emerges beneath a splayed moustache, and there is a bruise under his eye. created with a separately applied lump of dark alloy. Lysippos was famous for his references to deafness; damage to the ear and poor hearing is implicit in this work, along with a feeling of tiredness, suggested by the abrupt turn of the boxer's head. Centuries later, Goya, himself deaf, recreated the movement of the Boxer in his terrifying image The Giant.

Bronze, from the Baths of Constantne, Rome
Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome


Apoxyomenos (Scraper),
c. 330 B.C. (Roman copy).

Young man by Lysippos

copy from Lysippos

Farnese Herkales
4th C B.C.
marble, Roman copy (1st C B.C.)
Naples, Museo Nazionale

Burned marble copy of the bronze Herakles
(another copy known as the Herakles Farnese is in Naples)
(courtyard of the National Museum, Athens)


Detail from sarcophagus showing the Labours of Herakles
Palazzo Corsini, Rome

The sense of movement in Lysippos' final works was revived by Michelangelo. whose debt to the Greek sculptor has only recently been recognized. Since the divinities of polytheism have been repeatedly used in Christian imagery. it is hard to identify the original models used by Michelangelo, especially as his desire for originality was matched by a need to conceal his original inspiration because of the risk of censorship. The figure of John the Baptist from his Last Judgement, in the Sistine Chapel, is clearly derived from the Herakles al Rest now in the Pitti Palace, Florence, which bears the inscription "Work of Lysippos". Michelangelo had ambitions to create a monument akin to the huge Zeus of Lysippos described by Pliny. To those who asked whose fbllower lie was. he would reply that his "master" had been the Belvedere Torso (Pio-Clementino collection), although it is unlikely he realized that this torso reproduced a Hellenistic bronze inspired by Lysippos' Meditating Hercules. His reply suggests that he knew of Lysippos' response to the same question, as reported by Cicero, that his "master" was the Doryphoros, another sculptural masterpiece that lay at the root of the "Manneristic" style that preceded the Hellenistic "Baroque" style. Decorations on a sarcophagus showing the Labours of Herakles are similar to a cycle created by Lysippos in bronze at Alizia in 314bc and then taken to Rome; the same likeness of Herakles is constantly repeated in the Last Judgment by Michelangelo. The figure of St Peter repeats the three-dimensionalism of Herakles wrestling with the Cretan bull. which in mm reflects the Apoxyomenos. Most remarkable among the resurrected figures taken up to heaven is the one whose bent knee, twisted torso, and raised arm echo Herakles kneeling over the Arcadian Stag. The ascending nude, hands clasped behind his back and head turned in the opposite direction, combines two other images of Herakles: the hero slaying the Stymphalian Birds, and walking away after the cleaning of the Augean Stables. There are also references to Herakles in the blessed figure raising up two devotees who are clutching a rosary (similar to Herakles bending over the body of Hippolyta). and the mystical crown, which evokes the girdle seized from the Amazon.

Detil from sarcophagus showing the Labours of Herakles
Boboli Gardens, Florence


Following Alexander's death, Lysippos sided with the Greek cities striving for independence. His statue of Chilon at Olympia was a homage to the Achaean League (a confederation of Greek and Achaean cities), and the athlete who tell beneath the walls of Lamia (322bc). At Sikyon, his statue of Praxillas commemorated a literary and musical figure at a time when local glories were celebrated following liberation from Macedonian rule. The twisting of the flautist's body matches that of the Apoxyomenos, in which the projected right arm accentuates the feeling of movement. Following the fall of Sikyon to Kassander, Lysippos returned to the Macedonian fold (317-314bc). His Silenus with the Infant Dionysos matches the Herakles at Rest, while the pose of Hermes, loosening his sandal as Zeus summons him, reappeared in Caravaggio's portrayal of St Matthew turning at the sound of the angel's message. Until the Byzantine Middle Ages, the colossal Herakles at Rest taken from Tarentum to Rome and Constantinople was attributed to Lysippos, the last artist of the classical tradition. In the Satyricon, Petronius quipped that Lysippos starved himself to death while working on the statue.

Hermes Loosening His Sandal (detail), Rome
Ny Carisberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen


The Archaeological Museum in Taranto (Tarentum in Hellenistic times), Italy, houses a fascinating collection of ancient Greek jewels, both from excavations in Taranto itself and from other sites in the region. Crowns, rings, earrings, and necklaces, worked with extreme delicacy into roses, palmettes, plant volutes, and animal forms, show us how men and women from the fifth to the second century bc adorned themselves.

Pendant earring from Taranto,
fourth century bc
National Archaeological Museum,
Taranto, Itali

The Arrival of Hellenism

In about 324bc, a furious debate on the destiny of art broke out at the Babylonian court of Alexander the Great, which had attracted every sort of artist and craftsman. When the most highly regarded exponents of the Athenian and Sicyonion schools attempted to capture the royal likeness, Stasicrates, a native of Bithynia, described their efforts as "wretched and dishonourable". He declared that man was now capable of putting his own imprint on nature, a reference to a plan to carve the features of Zeus onto Mount Athos, a project that was never carried out. In Macedonia. Alexander's eastern expeditions had expanded the palette of artists, introducing long-lasting and vibrant natural colours: black and ochre, shades of glowing yellow, green from malachite, and bright red from the precious mineral cinnabar. In the decoration of a tomb from Aineia, a fresco inside one stone chest shows the women's quarters of a house. Falling shadow gives a feeling of solidity to the far wall, an illusory boundary for objects hanging or resting on the cornice. In both influence and technique the role of the artist was clearly changing. The three centuries between the death of Alcxander the Great in 323bc and the Battle of Actium (31bc), when Octavian defeated Egypt. home to the last monarchy of Macedonian origin, saw the rise of Hellenistic culture. This term is used equally to refer to artistic developments and political events; its roots lie in the ancient Greek verb hellenizo, which refers to the ability of that culture to impose itself on others. During the complex Hellenistic period, which had several different phases, Greek language and custom were dominant. Up until the battle of Ipsus (323-301bc). the diadochi (direct heirs of Alexander), ensured the survival of the classical tradition. Lysippos, the only one of the great contemporary sculptors to survive at Macedon, was especially important. He created some 1,500 bronzes throughout a huge area, from the Peloponnese to Macedonia, Athens to Acarnania, and as far afield as Magna Graecia; no artist of the time has been recorded as travelling further. His sons and pupils - who helped perpetuate his work - and the pupils of other great masters were the last survivors of a bygone era. Kephisodotos and Timarchos, sons of Praxiteles, worked on the sarcophagus of Abdalonymos, the King of Sidon, a portrait of the dramatist Menander, and a group of the first Epicureans. The sculptor Silanion trained Zeuxiades, who created a likeness of the Athenian statesman Hypericdes. Euphranor's spirit lived on in the painting and bronze sculpture of Sostratos. These tenacious survivors promoted the classical ideal in funerarv stelae, or tablets, the production of which was halted by Demetrios Phalereos, governor of Athens from 317bc to 307bc. Vergina was the site of one of the greatest monuments created by Alexander's successors - the tomb of his son Alexander IV, who reigned until 310bc, when lie and his mother Roxana were killed by Kassander (King of Macedonia, 301-297bc). Inside the tomb, the painted frieze of a chariot race shows a strong Attic influence. The race unfolds on uneven ground against a blue sky; both chariots are fore-shortened in different ways as they overtake each other. A skilful use of shadow increases the sense of depth and long brown brushstrokes on the charioteers' robes give a sense of chiaroscuro.

Altar of Zeus, Pergamum
Staatiche Museen, Berlin

Chariot race,
detail of freze from the tomb of Alexander IV,
Vergina, Greece

fresco, copy after Apelles.
House of the Vettii, Pompeii


King of Macedonia before he was twenty years of age, Alexander the Great (356-323bc) spread Greek culture far beyond its geographical boundaries. Taught by Aristotle, he was a great scholar and helped promote knowledge and learning. Any attempt to glean the true appearance and character of Alexander from contemporary paintings and sculptures is problematic. Busts of the king give a vague impression of his features, but they differ from written reports that are considered to be reliable: these give fuller details about Alexander's facial features.
Lysippos played a decisive role in transforming the Macedonian leader's image from sullen adolescent to sublime hero. His practice of imbuing the composition of his features with a powerful sense of harmony was continued by a number of sculptors wishing to elevate the emperor to superhuman status, including Euphranor, Leochares, and their successors at the Hellenistic courts. It was generally the romantic image of Alexander as explorer of the unknown and exceptional leader and statesman that led to depictions of him as godlike and superhuman.
Painting was the one medium in which this practice gave way to a realistic style. Apelles, for example, was happy to bestow the throne and thunderbolts of Zeus on Alexander, yet did not allow himself to be overly influenced by mythical context in his search for individual truth. In Works discovered at Pompeii. Alexander is depicted as short in stature and with irregular features. Such images were often copied from originals by masters living close to the city. Other portrayals of Alexander that suggest a less than godlike appearance include a fresco based on Action's Wedding of Alexander and Roxana, the mosaic of the Battle of Issus attributed to Philoxenus, and the Marriage of Alexander and Statira as Ares and Aphrodite. In the last, the wife is taller than her husband, who possesses a head with rather heavy features. The full beard, erroneously added in many other depictions of Alexander (such as the Darius Painter vases found in Apulia. southern Italy), is missing here. Such evidence suggests that a documentary realism was of more importance to many artists than the more symbolic. traditional portrayal of nobility.

Marriage of Alexander and Statira as Ares and Aphrodite,
fresco, copy after Aetion.
Antiquarium, Pompeii

Battle of Issus Between Alexander and Darius III,
detail from Apulian vase by the Darius Painter, Ruvo di Puglia
National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Hellenistic Baroque

Independence, as advocated by Lysippos, encouraged every artist to plough his own furrow, to change canons and conventions and to establish a new, relative truth. The real creativity of Hellenistic art lies in representing the world according to the transient effect of the particular moment. Awareness of the distance and difference from the classical period ushered in a time of radical artistic experimentation that ended with the Battle of Pydna ( 300-168bc). In some senses, the Hellenistic "Baroque" era is similar to that of late 20th-centuiy Western societies; both saw a transition from totality to plurality, from coherence to variety. In the late 20th century, sovereign states existed. but shared a style of civilization, just as the inhabitants of the Hellenistic kingdoms followed the collective Greek culture. Aristotle sensed that realism and possibility, the authentic and the fictitious, could ail exist simultaneously. In both Greek and modem cultures, art responded to a vast and sophisticated public, and had to address a variety of events and ideas that went beyond the realms of traditional style. Painting no longer entailed "applying the appropriate colour to each part", as Plato had stated. Shape now emerged from the outlines created by a juxtaposition of minute brushstrokes of different, unmixed colours. Svnthesis occurred in the eye of the beholder - later mirrored in the divisionist technique practised by 20th-century Neo-Impressionists.
The most striking features of the Silenos painted on a tomb from Potidae in Macedonia (c.300bc) are the dishevelled beard that frames the subtly malicious expression of the man's face and the red leather boots.
The lines have a thin, sketchy quality, while the shadow in the pink cloth around his hips is created by means of thicker brushstrokes in the same colour.
The complexity of Asiatic painting is further revealed in the Tomb of the Judgment, which dates from the reign of Demetrios Poliorcetes (294-288bc). It is the work of Theon of Samos, from the eastern Aegean, who was commissioned by the son of Antigonos I. In another tomb. that of Lison and Kallikles (brothers killed during the battle of Kynoscephalae in 197bc), their weapons adorn the lunettes (semi-circular openings to admit light) of the chamber, enhancing the illusionistic layout. The painter has used impasto and shading, paying close attention to plastic effects, colour contrasts, and the brilliant light, to progress from the stark outline of the metal artifacts to the soft quality of the plumes on the gilded helmet. The kingdoms established in Egypt and Anatolia by the first generation of epigoni, who succeeded the diadochi, competed to outdo each other's monumental projects. Immediately after Lysippos died. his followers moved to Rhodes, taking with them the skills they had developed at Tarentum. Chares of Lindos doubled the height of his master's Zeus with his 32-metre (150-foot) Colossus (304-293bc). This bronze effigy accentuated the movement of the subject in every direction, marking the birth of an art open to the world. a visual translation of an infinite vastness. At the sanctuary of the sun god. there was a sculpture of a worshipper by Boithos in a pose often adopted in the presence of the gods.

Tomb of Lison and Kallikles,
lunette painted with weapons,
Lefkadia, Greece

Epigonos, Ludovisi Gaul,
Roman copy.
Capitoline Museum, Rome

Horseman, bronze, Cape Artemision



One striking aspect of Hellenistlc art was that of deep introspection. Once under the control of monarchie states, individuals were forced to live in an environment that offered fewer guarantees of democratie idependence. The people's need to defend themselves and give meaning to their existence led on the one hand to philosophical attempts at clarifying the distinction between the private and public personas of individuals, and on the other to a theatrical ambiguity between existence and appearance. Menander's comedies were a source of inspiration for Kalates' small paintings, known from numerous replicas. One of two mosaics at Pompeii signed by Dioscorides of Samos is taken from Kalates' Women at Dinner, a popular subject in Italy; a similar scene occurred m Cistellaria, by the Roman playwright Plautus. In the mosaic. beams of light enter a dining room from the left the old procuress and her prostitute daughter sit next to the young woman who has invited them, with a maid at the side. Chiaroscuro provides a contrast between figures and background, a deceptive suggestion of shadows. and the "shot" effect of the silk in the clothing and cushions.

Mosaic signed by Dioscorides of Samos,
copy after Kalates, Villa di Cicero, Pompeii.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Similar to this was Euboulides' ecstatic figure of the Mulier Admirans. Euboulides' signature is scratched on the base of a beaker discovered in the founding pits at the foot of the Acropolis at Rhodes. These pits, with thin brick cladding and efficient drainage channels for the wax, were used to create works up to three metres (nine feet) tall. The statue of Tyche, Good Fortune, by Lysippos" son Eutychides (c.300bc). was commissioned by Seleucus I to symbolize Antioch and was even more complicated than the Meditating Herakles, another colossus from Tarentum.

A local style asserted itself in Pergamum after 282bc. when its ruler Philetaerus, achieved political independence. This was characterized by eccentric shapes. irregular gestures, and figures that had no central anchorage and seemed to embrace the void. Space became a challenge, an opportunity to capture the onlooker. Work produced during the evolutionary period. which elsewhere preceded the liberation of sculpture from the earlier "Mannerist" school, was concentrated at the court of Eumenes I (263-241bc) by exponents of the two main schools of the classical era - the Athenian and the Sikyonian.

The sculptors Phyromachos, Niceratos, and Xenocrates were responsible for the rapid maturity of Pergamene sculpture and for creating the "Baroque" style destined to achieve universal and lasting success. Advances in knowledge of anatomy were demonstrated in the powerful modelling of musculature and bones, exemplified by the Artemision Horse, the Artetnision Jockey, and the Fighting Man of Delos. The sculptor Epigonos gave new prominence to the peripheral in his series of statues known as the Dying Gauls (c.235bc), whose figures seem to challenge the boundary between art and life by invading the space occupied by the onlooker. Signatures found on the base of statues in Rhodes distinguish the designers of the base from the modellers, revealing a specialization which encouraged mass production. Barter was replaced by credit and a banking System, which increased the flow of goods, now represented by numerical amounts that everyone understood. Cities were now being planned on a grand scale, and sculptors favoured a style in which figures were set against a deep background, with perspective used to portray distant objects. For the artists of Rhodes, space was inseparable from distance. The background was no longer the city, such as Pergamum, with its porticoed squares, but rocks, caves, water, greenery, and sky. In the Stoic philosophy, morality was the "fruit of a garden" and nymphaeums (grottos, temples, or sanctuaries) became filled with images conducive to meditation, involving punishments meted out by the gods to re-establish the divine equilibrium and symbolic representations of human courage. In Epigonos' disturbingly powerful Torment of Dirce, the subject lies with her head turned away, gazing into the terrifying eye of the bull rearing over her. Sculptural groups became increasingly complicated and less and less linked to everyday life, almost as though they were governed by the most primitive laws of mankind. To understand them, the viewer must recapture the primeval fascination that the artist drew on in order to endow each of his creations with their own strength and impact. The dense fog that Menander tried to pierce with his gaze, the darkness that concealed the flight of Ulysses and Diomedes, the spring welling up at the feet of Dirce, and the ancestral cavern of the Cyclops ail create different excitements and fears in the viewer as he or she contemplates the work. Similarly, the Palladium torn from its shrine, the thyrsus (staff) of Dirce, the hapless bacchant abandoned on the rock; the banquet cup bloodied by the Cyclops and thrown on the ground - each image evokes previously buried emotions and sensations. The marble statue of the Victory in Samothrace and the Altar of Zeus (189-182bc) erected in Pergamum commemorate the victories at Rhodes, Pergamum, and of their Roman allies over Antiochus III of Syria. The giants writhe alongside the steps of the altar in a magnificent frieze depicting a battle between gods and giants.

Epygonos, Dying Gaul,
Roman copy.
Capitoline Museum, Rome

The Victtory of Samothrace.
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Drunkenness of Polyphemus,
fragmentary Roman sculptors Agesander, Athenodoros, and Polidoro
from the Grotto of tiberius at Sperlonga, first century bc.
National Archaeological Museum, Sperlonga, Italy

Torment of Dirce,
fragmentary Roman copy of Rhodian original,
from the Baths of Caracalla, Rome.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples



Although this marble statue was once attributed to Myron, by Pliny, it has since become clear that this attribution arose from a confusion over the name of the subject, Maronis. The original definition was: "Maronis, an old Jewish woman, at Smyrna. one of the most famous works". It was made famous in about 250bc by Leonidas of Tarentum, the first man to write of this indulgent personification of an old woman's drunkenness: ''the lover of wine. the wringer of jars, lies here, an old woman. An Attic cup rests on her tomb.
And she moans underground. not for her children, not for her husband whom she left in penury, not for any of this, but because her cup is empty." A century later, Antipater of Sidon returned to the subject: "This is the tomb of the white-haired Maronis, a lover of undiluted wine and always talkative." Her age, her love of drink suggested by the prominence of her throat, her garrulousness expressed by her open mouth, and the jug of undiluted wine are ail recurring features of Roman copies of the Maronis sculpture. The mystical interpretation is that she has forgotten her earthly family in order to embrace god in the guise of wine: the flagon is crowned with ivy, like the infant Dionysos. The wav her head is thrown back gives her the appearance of a maenad (a female member of the orgiastic cult of Dionysos), while her skeletal body reveals how close she is to death. Her ecstatic smile reflects the transcendental jov, the link between physical decay and the flowering of the spirit, and thus death with rebirth: her tomb will be hallowed by the cup of the gods. In the 17th century, the Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini worked on the restoration of a statue of a sleeping satyr known as the Barberini Faun, dating from the second century bc. He went on to recreate the drunken pose of the satyr in his sculpture Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, in Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome.

Barberini Faun,
Roman copy of an original from Pergamum,
Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome.
Glyptothek, Munich

Roman copy of an Asiatic original,
Via Nomentana, Rome.
Capitoline Museum, Rome

Old Fisherman,
Roman copy of an Alexandrian original,
the Esquiline, Rome.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome


The Farnese Tazza is one of the largest known pieces of sardonyx. Since ancient times, it has passed from court to court, through the castles of Federico, the treasury of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the Farnese collection, and, finally, to the Naples Museum, where it resides today. The tazza (shallow cup) was created for the offerings of Nile water made every year by the Ptolemies at the start of the floods. The brown and white veins of the crystal were incorporated in a fascinating engraving of nature, history, and myth. The cup seems to embody Egypt herself, the unformed crystal mass symbolizing the stability and security of the country. The king is represented as the Pharaohs once were - as a sphinx with a lion's body and a human head adorned with the royal regalia - and the stoutness of Ptolemy VIII ( 1451 16bc) is in keeping with the majesty of the gods. Lying on the sphinx is the figure of the queen, Cleopatra III. whose diadem crowning her curly hair is typical of Demeter, Greek goddess of fertility. The old seated man, his arm resting on a sycamore trunk, represents the Nile. and two young girls on the opposite side are allegories for the main seasons of agricultural Egypt. At the side flies Wind, while, above, the airy curve of the robe worn by Sky matches the roundness of the sphinx and crowns the microcosm contained within the tazza. At the centre, a young man grips the yoke of a plough: a sack of seed hangs from his arm and his hand grasps a sickle, a compendium of the farming cycle, from ploughing to sowing to harvesting. In Greek mythology, he is Triptolemus (patron of agriculture) but could equally represent the Horus (falcon-god) of Egyptian tradition. Clear symbolism links the ears of wheat of the woman. the cornucopia of the old man. and the plough of the youth. Ail are aligned with each other, indicating that the fortunes of the country depend on the fertility of the Nile and on the work of man. The farmer is the incarnation of the Egyptian people, those rural workers who were favoured by Ptolemy VIII over the citizens of Alexandria.

Allegory of Egypt,
base of the sardonyx cup known as the Farnese Tazza.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples


The stoa (covered walkway) at the Acropolis. given by Attalus II of Pergamum in c.145bc, celebrates the mythical and historical victories of order over chaos. The passage of time is depicted in the victims' agony -for example, a horse collapsed under a falling Amazon, a child stroking its still warm mother -marking the relentless approach of the death that will destroy the aggressors. The sense of disquiet conveyed by these fragments springs from the contrasting values of form and composition that each figure preserves from the overall design, like snatches of an epic poem. The isolated copies now on pedestals in museums have lost their original coherence, for it was the serial nature of the scenes of slaughter, the disjointed bodies that looked as if they had been violently pushed in a frantic scuffle, that endowed the works with a feeling of metaphysical truth. The result was to present the vanquished in a primitive, idealized light, which gave the drama a sense of totality that had been lost when the classical ideal was abandoned. The clearly defined figures of giants, Amazons. Persians, and Gauls stand out against the dazzling background. with no evidence of physical authenticity. Each episode is a pretext for the reinvention of the battle, in which the character of the combatants is filtered through an imaginary veil that binds them ail together in a spell, freezes them in static poses, astonished by their wounds, and rendered motionless by death.

Fallen Giant,
Baths of Alexander Severus, Rome.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Hippolyta Dying with the Young Theseos,
drawing made before the restoration
of a group statue in the
National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Kupferstichkabinett, Basel, Switzerland



By marrying his half-sister Arsinoe in 278bc, Ptolemy II established the Egyptian cult of rulers known as Theoi Adelphoi. It was their love for each other that inspired the name Philadelphia, given to the colony founded in the Fayum oasis as part of a far-reaching agrarian policy under the supervision of Zeno of Kaunos. The papyri in Zeno's archive detail the care taken by the Alexandrine Greeks to create an environment in keeping with their civic aspirations. In 256bc, Zeno commissioned Theodorus, an Alexandrine painter, to decorate the houses according to strict specifications. The following year, Theodorus tackled the house of Diothimus. the "vice-administrator" of Philadelphia. The decoration consisted of large areas of different colour with a broader central band, the same format that appears in some Alexandrine tombs, with the master undertaking to decorate the ceiling of the main room in accordance with the agreed model. The papyri also reveal that the artist made panel paintings: mention is made of "strong" sinope red, suitable for use on wood, as well as wax and glue from Busiris (an ancient city of Lower Egypt), technical elements that were later used in funerary portraits from the same Fayum region. For his encaustic paintings (using paint mixed with soft wax) Theodorus used a heated metal spatula. His last letter to Zeno reveals a yearning for his Alexandrine workshop: "Since the commission from you is finished and there is no more work, I have no money. If you still have some paintings that need to be done, please be so kind as to give me the job so that I may have enough to live on. If you cannot offer me any work, please send me money for travelling expenses so that I can return to my brothers in the city."

Giris Playing Knucklebones,
painting on marble signed by the Athenian Alexander,
copy after Zeuxis,
National Archaeological Museum, Naples


Roman Restoration

copy by a Neo-Attic artist a
fter Polycleitos, Delos.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples

The arrival of the Romans in in Greece in 167bc signalled a nostalgic reversion by Greek artists to forms of the past. They looked back to the distant days of classical form and more recent Hellenistic works for inspiration. In 166bc. a free port was opened by the Athenians at Delos, an event that led to the economic decline of Rhodes and a crisis for its school of bronze-workers, whose final works included the mournful groups of Scylla and Laocoon. Thanks to commissions from the Roman ruling class, work produced by families of traditional Athenian sculptors was revived. Likenesses of Italic merchants at Delos were placed on statues carved in the old aristocratie style. A small painting on marble from the city of Herculaneum, Girls Playing Knucklebones (derived from a work by Zeuxis and signed by Alexander as copyist) was delicately coloured according to classical rules. At Pergamum, Rhodes, and Antioch, the importance of the space around a sculpture diminished, in deference to the Athenian style, while a Neo-Egyptian style appeared at the court of the Ptolemies, giving visual form to the religious reconciliation foisted on Egypt by their Macedonian invaders. The realistic style used to raise social awareness by earlier generations was exaggerated in the realism of Alexandrine artists. The result verged on the romantic, but was a reminder of and a comment on social injustices. It marked the slide from Utopian ideals to disenchantment, and the beginnings of civilization on a mass scale.

Laocoon and His Two Sons
Hagesandrus, Polydorus, and Athenodorus
Ist century BC
Vatican Museums, Rome


Venus de Milo

The Venus de Milo is an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous pieces of ancient Greek sculpture. It is believed to depict Aphrodite (called Venus by the Romans), the Greek goddess of love and beauty . It is a marble sculpture, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm (80 inches) high, but without its arms and its original plinth. From an inscription on its now-lost plinth, it is thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch; it was earlier mistakenly attributed to the master sculptor Praxiteles. The statue dates to about 130 BC. Despite this relatively late date, its composition is a mixture of earlier styles from the Classical period of Greek sculpture. It is not known exactly what aspect of Venus the statue originally depicted. It is generally thought to have been a representation of Venus Victrix holding the golden apple presented to her by Paris of Troy (see also the Judgement of Paris). This would also have served as a pun on the name of the island Melos, which means "apple" in the Greek language. A fragment of a forearm and hand with an apple were found near the statue and are thought to be remnants of its arms. After the statue was found, numerous attempts were made to reconstruct its pose, though it was never restored.

Venus de Milo
Parian marble,
150-120 bc.
Musee du Louvre, Paris



The best way to appreciate fully the many different variations in Greek painting style is to compare portraits of the same person executed at different times. An original effigy of Antisthenes. the philosopher and founder of the Cynic sect, was moulded in Athens shortly after his death (366nc). However, he can also be seen in more recent copies by Phyromachus (c.290-245bc), another Athenian who worked at the court at Pergamum. Phyromachus' dynamic contrasts and chiaroscuro unshackle the figure's polemical spirit his very name indicated an attitude of obstinate opposition. A sullen old man, according to Lucian. the Greek rhetorician and satirist, "with his unkempt beard and furrowed eyebrows, his Titan's glare and ruffled hair at the front". Of Diogenes, the most famous Cynic philosopher, there are replicas both of the portrait dedicated in Athens during his life (he died in about 325bc) and of a statuette conceived in Alexandria as an ornament for the Library (120-100bc). The more ancient busts of these thinkers reveal an affinity with portraits of Socrates.

statuett from Rome.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


bronze attributed to Silanion
Provincial Museum, Brindisi, Italy
Roman copy of the bust by Phyromachos.
Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican City
Roman copy.
Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome