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Lysippus

(fl. c. 370—315 bc)


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Greek sculptor from Sicyon, near Corinth, active in the middle and later 4th century bc. He was one of the most famous of Greek sculptors, with a long and prolific career (he worked from perhaps as early as c.360 bc to as late as c.305 bc and Pliny said he made 1,500 works—all in bronze). Nothing is known to survive from his own hand, but some idea of his style can be gained from Roman copies of his work, the best and most reliable being the Apoxyomenos (a young athlete scraping himself with a strigil) in the Vatican Museums. The figure is tall and slender, bearing out the tradition current in antiquity that Lysippus introduced a new scheme of proportions for the human body to supersede that of Polyclitus, and the pose—with one arm outstretched—is novel. Lysippus was famous also for his portraits of Alexander the Great, who is said to have let no other sculptor portray him; several copies survive, including examples in the British Museum, London, and the Louvre, Paris. Among his other works was a colossal statue of Hercules at Sicyon, which was probably the original of the famous Farnese Hercules in the Archaeological Museum in Naples. It shows the realism that was said to be another hallmark of his work. Of the works associated with him on stylistic grounds, the best-known is a bronze statue of a victorious athlete found in the Adriatic Sea in 1964; this was bought by the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, in 1977 for $3,900,000, then the highest price ever paid for a piece of sculpture, and it is now sometimes known as ‘the Getty Victor’. Even from the second-hand evidence that survives, it is clear that Lysippus was an outstandingly original sculptor whose stylistic innovations, like those of his great contemporary Praxiteles, became common currency in the Greek world: J. J. Pollitt (Art in the Hellenistic Age, 1986) describes him as ‘probably the single most creative and influential artist of the entire Hellenistic period’.

Subjects: Art — Classical Studies.


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