Phidias: The greatest Greek sculptor10-06-2013 18:15Ancient writers regarded the Athenian artist Phidias as the greatest sculptor of Greece. Phidias was born in 490 B.C. in Athens, son of Charmides, probably rich enough to let him to pursue his art. His genius encompassed not only sculpture but also painting, engraving, and metalworking.
One of his early works was a 9 meters high bronze statue of the armored Athena Promachos, which stood among the outdoor statues on the Athenian Acropolis, in Propylea. The gleam from the point of the goddess’ upright spear was said to be visible to ships as far as 15 miles away.
In about 448 B.C. Pericles the leading Athenian politician of the fifth century B.C. initiated an ambitious building project on the Acropolis to commemorate the end of the Persian Wars. Phidias was chosen as the artistic director of the project and to design most of the sculptural ornamentation for the Parthenon. We do not know if Phidias sculptured any of the superb friezes of the Temple of Parthenon but he did sculpt one central work, the statue of the goddess Athena that stood inside the Parthenon. The colossal statue of Athena Parthenos, (the virgin one) was about 12 meters high, made of gold and ivory portrayed the goddess as a warrior deity in the full panoply of battle.
The Parthenon statue was completed by about 438 B.C. but soon Pheidias had to pay for his success, as criminal charges were brought against him by politicians hoping to discredit his friend Perikles. He was accused of having stolen some of the gold entrusted to him for the statue’s construction. This charge was disproved when the gold plates were taken off the statue and weighed.
Soon after the statue of Athena Parthenos was put in place, Pheidias left Athens. Around this time he won the prestigious commission to sculpt a second giant gold and ivory statue, his masterpiece. This was a colossal seated statue of the god Zeus at Olympia considered one of the seven wonders of the world for its size and solemn majesty.
The works of Phidias and sculptors inspired the so-called early or Free Neoclassicism of Hellenistic period between 200 B.C. and 125 B.C. The golden ratio in mathematics is represented by the Greek letter φ (phi), in honor of Phidias who applied it for performing harmonic proportions in the sculptures of the Parthenon.
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