Praxiteles of Athens


Excavations at Mantineia in Arcadia have brought to light the basis of a group of Leto, Apollo and Artemis by Praxiteles. This basis was doubtless not the work of the great sculptor himself, but of one of his assistants. Nevertheless it is pleasing and historically valuable. Pausanias (viii. 9, I) thus describes the base, "on the base which supports the statues there are sculptured the Muses and Marsyas playing the flutes (auloi)." Three slabs which have survived represent Apollo; Marsyas; a slave, and six of the Muses, the slab which held the other three having disappeared.

A head of Aphrodite at Petworth in England, and a head of Hermes in the British Museum, have been claimed by authorities as actual works of Praxiteles. Both are charming works, but seem rather by the successors of Praxiteles than by himself.

Besides these works, connected with Praxiteles on definite evidence, there are in our museums works without number of the Roman age, statues of Hermes, of Dionysus, of Aphrodite of Satyrs and Nymphs and the like, in which a varied amount of Praxitelean style may be discerned. Four points of composition may be mentioned, which appear to be in origin Praxitelean a very flexible line divides the figures if drawn down the midst from top to bottom; they all tend to be lounging they are adapted to front and back view rather than to being seen from one side or the other trees, drapery and the like an used for supports to the marble figures, and included in the design, instead of being extraneous to it the faces are presented in three-quarter view.

The subjects chosen by Praxiteles were either human beings or the less elderly and dignified deities. It is Apollo, Hermes and Aphrodite who attract him rather than Zeus, Poseidon or Athena. And in his hands the deities sink to the human level, or, indeed, sometimes almost below it. They have grace and charm in a supreme degree, but the element of awe and reverence is wanting.

Praxiteles and his school worked almost entirely in marble. At the time the marble quarries of Paros were at their best; nor could any marble be finer for the purposes of the sculptor than that of which the Hermes is made. Some of the statues of Praxiteles were coloured by the painter Nicias, and in the opinion of the sculptor they gained greatly by this treatment.

Recently, in June 22, 2004, the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), announced the acquisition of an ancient bronze sculpture of Apollo Sauroktonos, believed to be the original work by Praxiteles. The dating and attribution of the sculpture will continue to be studied, the museum noted.

Satyr of Praxiteles Capitoline Museum Rome [Source]

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

CMA Collections: Apollo Sauroktonos by Praxiteles (

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