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Lysippos (also Lisippus) was the greatest of the Greek sculptors of the Classical Age in Greece—370-323 B.C. He was the “incredibly productive director of the bronze foundry at Sikyon…was the most celebrated of all ancient makers of hollow-cast bronzes.”
During the Classical Age, Hanfmann writes that artists became concerned with the rendering of powerful individuality in their figures. Thus, statues of Alexander the Great, for example, must contain and then exude the personality and power of the man. Lysippos’ reputation lies in several remaining copies of his huge body of work and references to him through contemporary writers. Carpenter calls Lysippos’ Apoxyomenos his masterpiece. The marble copy of it stands in the Vatican Museum today. Lysippos influence was great in his lifetime. Many later sculptors and their words were described in Lyppian terms.
Lysippos’ sculptures emerged from the late classical period in which “sculptors concern themselves with casual, relaxed play, with passion and defiance, with carefully specified states of body and mind.” Carpenter calls this Age “a galaxy of famous masters, a golden age of individual geniuses of unsurpassed accomplishment.” The Attic style of about 600 B.C., which preceded Lysippos and which he rejected in his sculpture, is characterized by four principal planes which converge sharply and flatly; a strong sense of three-dimensionality; and decisive contours which the contain the volume of the body. Preceding Lysippos in influence was Praxiteles who Lawrence credits with bringing to a culmination “all the effort expended in past generations towards more naturalistic representation.” While Praxiteles was an influence on Lysippos who continued to perfect naturalism, he also developed a distinctive style that is recognizable twenty centuries later.
Lysippos’ Art and Statues
The details of the career of Lysippos are not fully known. No originals of his work remain. His work is known primarily through just copies of the Greek art statues Apoxyomenos in the Vatican Museum and the Agias in Delphi. These statues are believed to be from the period between 339-334 B.C. Other copies of his work include Eros stringing his bow, Herakles Farnese, Herakles Epitrapezios and Kairos. Lawrence writes that an anecdote by one of Lysippos’ contemporaries or a later figure linked him with a foundation piece in 316 B.C.; this stands as the last fixed date in his career.
As for the body of his work, some put the number at 1500 pieces and Lawrence speculated that he may have turned out thirty statues a year—with the help of his students. His recorded sculptures were mainly of men and male athletes or male deities. His notion of an ideal figure was that it be well poised, admirably modeled, physically strong, and the face was mentally undistinguished.
Lysippos was clearly interested in the physical properties of his figures and not necessarily their mental capacities. An observer is so taken with the physicality of Apoxyomenos, for example, that the youth’s mental abilities are inconsequential for the appreciation of the artistic expression.