Art of the Ancient World, C. 5000 B.c.e.–400 C.E.

Ancient Greek Art

Who was Praxiteles? or “Where did Praxiteles see me naked?”

Praxiteles was a Greek sculptor who worked in Athens during the fourth century B.C.E. and is considered to be one of the most important artists of the Classical period, along with sculptors Skopas and Lysippos. He is particularly well known for the Aphrodite of Knidos, made for the Greek city of Knidos around 350 B.C.E. It is thought to be the first time an artist produced a monumental female sculpture fully nude (it was common to depict the male nude, but the female form was traditionally clothed). The Aphrodite of Knidos demands to be admired, and from multiple viewpoints. Her flesh is soft and supple and her body is delicately off balance in the contrapposto pose. With this work, Praxiteles set a new standard for depiction of the female nude. The work itself was so beautiful that the real goddess Aphrodite was said to have traveled to Knidos and upon seeing the statue exclaimed, “Where did Praxiteles see me naked?” (quoted in Stokstad 205). Praxiteles’ artistic style has been greatly admired, and greatly imitated, ever since.

The sculpture known as Kritios Boy (c. 470 B.C.E.) marks a major shift in ancient Greek art; the realism of the figure, and the use of contrapposto, breathe life into the statue.


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