Phidias (or Pheidias; in
ancient Greek, Polytonic|Φειδίας; c. 480 BCndash c. 430 BC), son of Charmides [Not the Charmideswho participated in the tyranny at Athens.] was an ancient Greek sculptor, painter and architect, commonly regarded as one of the greatest of all Classical sculptors. [http://www.bartleby.com/65/ph/Phidias.html] Although no original works in existence can be confidently attributed to him with certainty, numerous Roman copies in varying degrees of supposed fidelity are known to exist.
Phidias designed the statues of the
goddess Athenaon the Athenian Acropolis (Athena Parthenos inside the Parthenonand the Athena Promachos) and the colossal seated Statue of Zeus at Olympiain the 5th century BC. The Athenian works were apparently commissioned by Periclesin 447 BC. Pericles used the money from the maritime League of Delosto pay Phidias for his work.
Phidias was born an Athenian at around the year 480
BC. His father was named Charmides.
There are varying accounts of his training.
Hegias of Athens, Ageladasof Argos, and the Thasian painter Polygnotus, have all been regarded as his teachers. In favour of Ageladas it may be said that the influence of the many Dorian schools is certainly to be traced in some of his work. He studied at Hageladas school in Argos.
Of his life we know little apart from his works. His first commission was a group of national heroes with Miltiades as a central figure. The famous statesman Pericles also ordered several sculptures for Athens from him.
Phidias and Pericles
In his "Life of Pericles", Plutarch gives an account of the vast artistic activity which went on at Athens while the statesman
Pericleswas in power. Pericles used the money collected by the Delian leagueof Greek states that had been gathered for defence against Persiainstead on decorating his own city; Athens. Luckily for the Greeks, after the reign of EmperorXerxes, Persia made no deliberate attempt against Greece.
"In all these works," says Plutarch, "Phidias was the adviser and overseer of Pericles." Phidias introduced his own portrait and that of Pericles on the shield of his
Athena Parthenosstatue. And it was through Phidias that the political enemies of Pericles struck at him. It thus abundantly appears that Phidias was closely connected with Pericles, and a dominant spirit in the Athenian art of the period. But it is not easy to go beyond this general assertion into details.
There are two divergent accounts of his death. According to
Plutarch, he was made an object of attack by the political enemies of Pericles, and died in prison at Athens, but according to Philochorus, as quoted by a scholiaston Aristophanes, he fled to Elis, where he made the great statue of Zeusfor the Eleans, but was afterwards put to death by them. For several reasons the first of these tales is preferable: it would not have been possible for him to have died in prison immediately after the creation of the Athena Parthenos on the Acropolis, as he made the Zeus of Olympia after his involvement with the Parthenon.
It is important to observe that in resting the fame of Phidias upon the sculptures of the Parthenon we proceed with little evidence. In the
Hippias Major, Platoascribes them to him, though he is said to seldom, if ever, have executed works in marble.Fact|date=January 2008 In antiquity he was celebrated for his statues in bronze, and his chryselephantineworks (statues made of gold and ivory). Plutarch tells us that he superintended the great works of Pericles on the Acropolis, but this phrase is vague; inscriptions prove that the marble blocks intended for the pedimental statues of the Parthenon were not brought to Athens until 434 BC, which was probably after the death of Phidias. And there is a marked contrast in style between these statues and the certain works of Phidias. It is therefore probable that most if not all of the sculptural decoration of the Parthenonwas the work of pupils of Phidias, such as Alcamenesand Agoracritus, rather than his own.
The earliest of the great works of Phidias were dedications in memory of Marathon, from the spoils of the victory. At
Delphihe erected a great group in bronze including the figures of Apolloand Athena, several Attic heroes, and Miltiadesthe general. On the acropolis of Athens he set up a colossal bronze statue of Athena, the Athena Promachos, which was visible far out at sea. At Pellenein Achaea, and at Plataeahe made two other statues of Athena, as well as a statue of Aphroditein ivory and gold for the people of Elis.
Zeus at Olympia and the Athena Parthenos
Among the ancient Greeks themselves two works of Phidias far outshone all others, and were the basis of his fame; the colossal chryselephantine figures in gold and ivory of Zeus at Olympia and of
Athena Parthenosat Athens, both of which belong to about the middle of the 5th century BC. Of the Zeus we have unfortunately lost all trace save small copies on coins of Elis, which give us but a general notion of the pose, and the character of the head. The god was seated on a throne, every part of which was used as a ground for sculptural decoration. His body was of ivory, his robe of gold. His head was of somewhat archaic type: the Otricoli maskwhich used to be regarded as a copy of the head of the Olympian statue is certainly more than a century later in style. Of the Athena Parthenos two small copies in marble have been found at Athens which have no excellence of workmanship, but have a certain evidential value as to the treatment of their original.
Our actual knowledge of the works of Phidias is very small. There are many stately figures in the Roman and other museums which clearly belong to the same school as the Parthenos; but they are copies of the Roman age, and not to be trusted in point of style.
Adolf Furtwanglerproposed to find in a statue of which the head is at Bologna, and the body at Dresden, a copy of the Lemnian Athenaof Phidias; but his arguments ("Masterpieces", at the beginning) are anything but conclusive. Much more satisfactory as evidence are some 5th century torsos of Athena found at Athens. The very fine torso of Athena in the École des Beaux-Artsat Paris, which has unfortunately lost its head, may perhaps best serve to help our imagination in reconstructing the original statue.
Ancient critics take a very high view of the merits of Phidias. What they especially praise is the
ethosor permanent moral level of his works as compared with those of the later "pathetic" school. Demetriuscalls his statues sublime, and at the same time precise. That he rode on the crest of a splendid wave of art is not to be questioned: but it is to be regretted that we have no morsel of work extant for which we can definitely hold him responsible except for one.
In 1958 archaeologists found the workshop at Olympia where Phidias assembled the gold and ivory Zeus. There were still some shards of ivory at the site, moulds and other casting equipment, and the base of a black glaze drinking cup [ [http://www.lgpn.ox.ac.uk/image_archive/vases/v5.html Image of the cup] ] engraved "I belong to Phidias." [ [http://www.enotes.com/oxford-art-encyclopedia/phidias Phidias: The Oxford Art Dictionary] ]
golden ratiohas been represented by the Greek letter ( phi), after Phidias, who is said to have employed it. The golden ratio is an irrational numberclose to 1.6181, which when studied has special mathematical properties. The golden spiral is also said to hold certain aesthetic values, which is perhaps why Phidias used it.
poet Patrick Kavanaghused the name of Phidias in his poem"Plough horses" [ [http://www.augustinians.ie/galway/newsletter/2003/MSG-27-07-03.htm Plough Horses] ] .
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