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Doryphoros of Polyklet; Roman copy, National Museum, Naples

Polyklet ( ancient Greek Πολύκλειτος Polýkleitos "the famous one"; * around 480 BC in Argos or Sikyon ; † towards the end of the 5th century BC) was one of the most important Greek sculptors of ancient Greece . His main creative period spans the years from around 460 BC. Until 420 BC In which he created numerous bronze statues that were celebrated centuries after his death. No originals of his work have survived , only two bases of polycletic statues were found in Olympia , without it being possible to say that Polycletus himself laid hands on these bases. He wrote a theoretical paper, called canon in later literature , in which he described the ideal proportions of the human body. Even ancient times saw the statue of a spear-bearer, Doryphorus , which he created , as the practical implementation of his theoretical demands and transferred the name of his writing to the statue as the embodiment of the canon.


The origin of Polyklets is controversial. While Plato calls him an argiver in his dialogue Protagoras , according to Pliny he came from Sicyon. In Argos he was apprenticed to the famous sculptor Hageladas . His further work also seems to have been linked to Argos, he himself had Argive citizenship. His sons, but also others of his students, are called "Argiver" in written sources. It is uncertain whether the origin was always meant in all of these cases.

His sons were contemporaries of Paralos and Xanthippos, the sons of Pericles , his Akme , the height of his creativity, will be attended by Pliny in the 90th Olympiad , around 420 BC. Dated. Around this time he created the gold ivory portrait of Hera in the Heraion of Argos , which after a fire in 423 BC. Had to be built from scratch. Therefore, Polyklet was a somewhat younger contemporary of Phidias and around 480 BC. Have been born in BC. Since the written tradition according to the Hera of Argos does not know of any other works, it is mentioned towards the end of the 5th century BC. To have died.

He left numerous students, including his sons. Pliny alone lists the following: Argios, Asopodoros, Alexios, Aristeides, Phrynon, Dinon, Athenodoros, Demeas and also names Daidalos, Naukydes, Kolotes and Patroclus. Further names can be found at Pausanias . The relation of the named descendants to Polyklet cannot be determined with certainty. The younger sculptors handed down under the name of Polyklet are more likely to be attributed to his grandchildren. The work of his sons themselves cannot be grasped, even if, according to Plato, they had taken up their father's trade.

Literary tradition

The literary tradition of Polyklet begins just a few decades after his death. In Plato's around 388/87 BC The dialogue Protagoras originated in BC , contrasted Polycletus and his art with the teaching of a sophist as something concrete and something that could be learned and for whose teaching it was sensible to spend money . In his memorabilia , the memories of Socrates , Xenophon also draws on Polyklet as an example and contrasts his work with the work of the gods. “Effect” is also the reason for Aristotle to cite the name Polyklets, which he cites as an example of accidental causes: Polyklet as the causer of a statue, a connection that Seneca will take up again by naming two statues Polyklets. Finally, in the Nicomachean Ethics , Aristotle mentions Polyklet as an example of philosophical wisdom in the area of ​​“practical ability”.

With the onset of Roman art scholarship from the late Republic onwards , the name Polyklets appears more and more frequently as a representative of the epoch of greatest artistic creation , for example with the Auctor ad Herennium , often with Cicero . Polyklet is increasingly cited alongside others as a model or as evidence of the decline of art in its own time. His works are listed in art-historical abstracts, in geographical works and in travelogues. The connoisseurship of the polycletic work in Martial's epigrams and Juvenal's satires is used as a witty-learned set piece , finally from the 2nd century AD the former ideal itself is drawn into the comic-satirical, for example when Lukian the cynic Proteus with Polyklets Doryphoros compares or reduces the artist to the commonplace , the people who work with his hands.

Multiple mentions Galen Polyklet, particularly its theoretical work. The time lag, however, becomes clear when he writes: "Somewhere a statue of Polyklets is praised that bears the name» Canon «...". And Polyklet is presented entirely anecdotally in Aelianus , who had Polyklet made two statues: one for the delight of the masses, the other according to the laws of art. In the case of the latter, he took up every change request that was proposed to him and changed the statue accordingly, in this case he drew purely on his skills and knowledge. When he presented both statues to the crowd, the one designed according to the wishes of the crowd was laughed at, but the other was praised, whereupon he called out to the crowd that those who mocked them had made them themselves, but the others who would praise them had made them he made. Aelian apparently follows a topos of artist anecdotes , which is also found in Lukian about the Zeus statue of Phidias .

In Byzantine times , knowledge about Polyklet was badly obscure and for Johannes Tzetzes he was a sculptor and painter, among whose numerous works two would stand out, one of which is called the "canon" of painting, the other as the "canon" of sculpture denote.


Amazone type Sciarra, Berlin, antique collection

The artistic work of Polyklets can initially be explored quite impressively in the ancient written tradition. Certainly with the sculptor of the 5th century BC. According to this, the down image in Heraion of Argos, Doryphoros, a Diadumenos , an Apoxyomenos , a naked man who strides with whole soles, two dice-playing boys - called astragalizonts -, a Hermes , "who used to be in Lysimacheia" can be connected a Heracles , a general who takes up arms, and the statue of Artemon Periphoretes. He also created an Amazon for Ephesus as part of the famous artist competition .

In addition, Pausanias mentions a whole series of statues of Olympic winners , which he calls the works of a Polyklet, without being certain which of these actually come from the hand of the great Polyklet, which from the hand of his descendants. The unsigned statue base of Kyniskos from Mantineia in Olympia , which Pausanias identifies as the work of Polyklet and whose letter form dates back to around 460 BC, can be safely connected to Polyklet . Can close. The statue was made of bronze and, according to the traces of its entrance, already showed the separate position of standing and free leg , which is characteristic of Polyklet's works. The statue base is the only original evidence of polycletic art. Coin images of Hera von Argos, some of which only show the head and some of the entire seat, do not allow any further conclusions to be drawn about his work.

Polyklet was an ore caster and mainly created bronze statues, all of which have been lost. In the rich inventory of Roman marble copies based on Greek models, however, six types of statues could be more or less reliably identified that are associated with the work of Polyklets: Doryphoros, Diadumenos, a "Diskophoros", Hermes, Heracles and the Amazon. Only six works, but given that the manufacture of a single life-size bronze took place in the 5th century BC. Chr. Took a good two years to complete, evidence of a not inconsiderable part of polycletic art is available. The male figures predominate, which corresponds to the written tradition. And apart from Hera, Hermes and Heracles, his subject was man, which is why he was already the ἀνδριαντοποιός , the builder of man, while Phidias , Praxiteles and Skopas were considered ἀγαλματοποιός , god builders .

Polyklet's statue types show the human figure in classical contrapost, walking or standing. Well-known statues of Polyklets, which are based on the design principle of contrapost, are, for example, the Diadumenos and Herakles, probably also Hermes, while the Diskophoros of Polyklet is the elaborate motif of the classical contrapost, the distinction between standing and standing in the ponderation of the body structure. and free leg, miss.

The motif not only shows male figures, but it also appears pronounced in an ancient Amazon type. Pliny reports on a competition between the most famous sculptors of the Classical period, in which, in addition to Polyklet, Phidias , Kresilas and Phradmon also took part. Polyklet is said to have emerged as the winner of this competition with his statue of the Amazon. Among the surviving types of wounded Amazon that go back to the competition, the Amazons of the Sosikles , Mattei and Sciarra types , the Amazon of the Sciarra type can probably be assigned to the Polyklet.

Polyklet wrote a theoretical book called canon , in which he described the ideal proportions of the human body, but also practical things from the craft business. He is thus the oldest known art theorist. The writing is only known through mentions and a few short quotations from authors, especially from the Roman period.

In addition to numerous copies and replicas of his works in original size or in the form of statuettes , there were also eclectic transformations in antiquity , mainly in the case of small bronzes, which lead to a change in meaning of the figures by adding or removing certain features.

Discovery story

The main features and characteristics of the polycletic style were recognized in antiquity and fixed in writing. Pliny handed down - and is probably based on the judgment of Xenocrates from Athens, a sculptor of the 3rd century BC. Chr. And author of several writings on art, toreutics and painting -, Polyklets statues would stand "on a leg " ( uno crure insistere ), would be of squat proportions ( quadrata ). As Varro says, they all went back to one single model ( paene ad unum exemplum ). This information in combination with the motivic information on the work of Polyklets already allowed Johann Joachim Winckelmann to identify the Diadumenos in the ancient monuments, although he initially relied on the grave altar of Tiberius Octavius ​​Diadumenus, which, alluding to his name, shows a person wrapping himself in the Taenia. As a polycletic statue, he believes he can recognize " Anadumenos Farnese ", who has meanwhile been classified as a transformation .

The Diadumenos of Polyklet is mentioned three times in ancient literature, twice of them in combination with Doryphorus. In terms of rank, it was not inferior to this, even its value is reported: astronomical 100 talents. Numerous Roman copies of the Diadumenus have been preserved, so that an approximate idea of ​​the original can be derived. Three of these copies were found together with copies of Doryphorus. But it took a hundred years until after Winckelmann had identified Diadumenus, Doryphorus was also recognized. Karl Friederichs published in 1862/63 for the first time the assignment of a long-known type of statue to the Doryphoros of Polyklet. This broke the spell and Adolf Furtwängler assigned many other types of statues and heads to the work of Polyklets and his school in his masterpieces of Greek sculpture . Many were sorted out again, but the identifications of Hermes and Heracles, for example, remain. The increasingly differentiated picture of the style development of classical art in the 5th century BC Finally, in the 1920s, BC allowed the assignment of a further type of statue to the work of Polyklets: the diskophoros, in which one can possibly recognize Pliny’s nudus talo incessens , who walks with “whole feet ”.

The assignment of the polycletic Amazon is still controversial today. Furtwängler recognized the work of Polyklets in the Amazone of the Sciarra type, but Botho Graef showed the close relationship in the hair formation of the Amazone des Sosikles to Polyklets hair designs. This assessment, supported by ever new arguments, increasingly gained acceptance from the second quarter of the 20th century. However, important reasons have brought the Sciarra type back into the focus of considerations in recent decades.

The canon

A written treatise by Polyklet called Canon is only mentioned by Galen in the 2nd century AD. Older references can be found as early as the 3rd century BC. With Philon of Byzantium and with Plutarch around 100 AD. Plutarch's statement probably also follows the work of Polyklets, that in every work the beautiful is completed by “that many dimensions come into the right proportion through a certain symmetry and harmony. "

The canon of Polyklet therefore contained general statements on the production process, its practice and the theoretical foundations, but in its parts specifically dedicated to artistic problems it expressed itself on questions of symmetria and its calculation bases. As the sculptor's manual, it was in the tradition of archaic “workshop books”, but as the work of an artist's individual, the canon was something new and, with Polyklet, introduced an art theorist into the circle of intellectual philosophers, sophists and doctors who wrote prose for the first time. With his canon, however, Polyklet wrote a work that was quoted centuries later by philosophers and doctors who wanted to underpin the general validity of their own statements.

When attempting to reconstruct the work from Polyklet's statuary tradition, methodological problems arise from the information given by Galen, from the material tradition, which only knows Roman copies that always differ slightly from one another, and from the definition of the measurement and reference points. After all, the system of measurement used by Polyklet is initially unknown.

The unit of measurement for the work Polyklets is assumed to be the pheidonic system of measurement with a foot length of 32 2/3 centimeters due to its origin and its time. As a statuary implementation of the canon , the Doryphoros is generally assumed, which in its Naples version had a pondered height of 98 fingers, an unpondered height of 100 fingers and in the area of ​​the maximum ponderation gradient a height of 96 fingers. The resulting different proportions were applied crosswise to the statue. The chiastic structure of Doryphorus, which was already recognized without measurement, becomes tangible in numbers . The first signs of how Polyklet worked on the design are emerging. More detailed knowledge for the written and statuary work called Canon has not yet been developed.


  1. ^ Plato, Protagoras 311 c.
  2. ^ A b c Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 55.
  3. ^ Plato, Protagoras 328.
  4. Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 49.
  5. a b See e.g. Pausanias 2:17 , 3–5; Strabon 8, 6, 10; Martial 10:89; Maximus of Tire . Dissertations 14, 6; Tertullian , de corona militis 7, 4.
  6. Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 50.
  7. Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 76.
  8. Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 80.
  9. ^ Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 87.
  10. Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 91.
  11. ^ Plato, Protagoras 328.
  12. ^ Plato, Protagoras 311.
  13. Xenophon, Memorabilia 1, 4, 2.
  14. Aristotle, Metaphysics 1013b.
  15. Seneca, ad Lucilium 65, 15.
  16. ^ Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 6, 1141 a.
  17. ^ Auctor ad Herennium 4, 9.
  18. Cicero, in Verrem 4, 3, 5; de oratore 3, 26; ad Brutum 70; Orator 5; Academica posteriora 146; Tusculanae disputationes 1, 4.
  19. ^ Columella , De re rustica 1, praefatio 31.
  20. For example in Dionysius of Halicarnassus , Deinarchus 7 and later in Dion Chrysostomos , Olympikos 82.
  21. For example in Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 50 and 34, 55.
  22. For example in Strabo 8, 6, 10.
  23. ^ About Pausanias 2:17 , 3–5; 3, 18, 7-8; 6, 2, 6–7 and more often in Book 6.
  24. Martial 8, 50 and 9, 59.
  25. Juvenal, Satiren 3, 215-220 and 8, 98-104.
  26. ^ Lukian, Peregrinos 9.
  27. Lukian, Somnium 8–9.
  28. ^ Galenos, de temperamentis 1, 9.
  29. ^ Lukian, pro imaginibus 14.
  30. Johannes Tzetzes, Chiliades 8, 319-324; but taking up the idea: Andreas Linfert: The school of Polyklet. In: Beck, Bol, Bückling (Ed.): Polyklet. The sculptor of the Greek classical period p. 241 with note 6.
  31. Cicero, Brutus 86, 296 and Orator 5; Quintilian , institutio oratoria 5, 12, 21; Galenos, de semine 2, 1 p. 606 K; Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 55.
  32. See for all Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 55–56.
  33. Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 53.
  34. Pausanias 6: 2, 6-7; 6, 4, 11; 6, 7, 10; 6, 9, 2, 6, 13, 6.
  35. ^ Wilhelm Dittenberger , Karl Purgold : Olympia: the results of the excavation organized by the German Empire. Volume 5: The inscriptions from Olympia. Berlin 1896, No. 149; see also Peter C. Bol in: Beck, Bol, Bückling (Ed.): Polyklet. The sculptor of the Greek classical period p. 17.
  36. Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli: Policleto. Sansoni, Florence 1938, figs. 68, 72, 73; Paolo Enrico Arias : Policleto. Milan 1964, plate 84; Cornelius Vermeule: Polykleitos. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1969, fig. 22.
  37. ^ Hermann Diels : Laterculi Alexandrini - from a papyrus of Ptolemaic times. Publishing house of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Berlin 1904, No. 7.
  38. Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 53.
  39. ^ Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 56.
  40. ^ Johann Joachim Winckelmann: History of the art of antiquity. Vol. 2. Dresden 1764, p. 335 note 2 ( digitized version ).
  41. Karl Friedrichs in: Archäologischer Anzeiger 1862, p. 311; the same: The Doryphoros of Polyklet . 23. Berlin Winckelmann Program, 1863.
  42. Adolf Furtwängler: Masterpieces of Greek sculpture. Art historical research. Giesecke & Devrient, Leipzig et al. 1893, pp. 413-509.
  43. Carlo anti : Monumenti policletei. In: Monumenti Antichi. Vol. 26, 1920, pp. 550-562.
  44. Peter C. Bol: Diskophoros. In: Beck, Bol, Bückling (Ed.): Polyklet. The Sculptor of Greek Classics pp. 111–112.
  45. Botho Graef in: Yearbook of the German Archaeological Institute. Vol. 12, 1897, p. 8.
  46. Renate Bol: The Amazon of Polyklet. In: Beck, Bol, Bückling (Ed.): Polyklet. The sculptor of the Greek classical period pp. 213–239.
  47. ^ Gallen, De Placitis Hippocratis et Platonis 5, 449.
  48. ^ Philon of Byzantium, Mechanike syntaxis 4, 1, 49.
  49. ^ Plutarch, Moralia 86 a and 636 c; for discussion see Hanna Philipp : On Polyklet's writing »Canon«. In: Beck, Bol, Bückling (Ed.): Polyklet. The sculptor of the Greek classical period. P. 143 f.
  50. ^ Plutarch, Moralia 45 c – d.
  51. ^ Ernst Berger , Brigitte Müller-Huber, Lukas Thommen : The artist's design. Sculpture canon in ancient and modern times. Antikenmuseum Basel and the Ludwig Collection, Basel 1992, pp. 14–24; Werner Fuchs , Josef Floren : The Greek sculpture I. The geometric and archaic sculpture. (= Handbuch der Archäologie 9. 6) Gabriel, Munich 1987, pp. 87-91; Eleanor Guralnik: The Proportions of Kouroi. In: American Journal of Archeology . Vol. 82, 1978, pp. 173-182; Eleanor Guralnik: The Proportions of Korai. In: American Journal of Archeology. Vol. 85, 1982, pp. 269-280.
  52. ^ Adolf Borbein: Polykleitos. In: Olga Palagia, Jerome Jordan Pollitt (eds.): Personal Styles in Greek Sculpture. Cambridge 1996, p. 85; Felix Preisshofen: On the formation of theories in building planning and building theory. In: Building planning and building theory of antiquity. Report on a colloquium in Berlin from 16. – 18. November 1983. Wasmuth, Berlin 1984 (discussions on ancient building research, 4), pp. 26–30.
  53. Ernst Berger: To the canon of Polyklet. In: Beck, Bol, Bückling (Ed.): Polyklet. The sculptor of the Greek classical period. P. 157 and 160 f.


  • Herbert Beck , Peter C. Bol , Maraike Bückling (eds.): Polyklet. The sculptor of the Greek classical period. Exhibition in the Liebieghaus-Museum Alter Plastik Frankfurt am Main . Zabern, Mainz 1990, ISBN 3-8053-1175-3 .
  • Detlev Kreikenbom : sculptures after Polyklet. Examinations critical of copies of the male statuary types based on polycletic models. "Diskophoros", Hermes, Doryphoros, Heracles, Diadumenos . Gebr. Mann, Berlin 1990
  • Herbert Beck, Peter C. Bol (ed.): Polykletforschungen . Writings of the Liebieghaus. Gebr. Mann, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-7861-1694-6 .
  • Ernst Berger : Polykleitos (I) . In: Rainer Vollkommer (Hrsg.): Künstlerlexikon der Antike . Volume 2: L-Z. Addendum A – K. Saur, Munich / Leipzig 2004, ISBN 3-598-11414-1 , pp. 276-287.
  • Constantinos Macris: Polyclète d'Argos (ou de Sicyone) . In: Richard Goulet (Ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques , Vol. 5, Part 2, CNRS Éditions, Paris 2012, ISBN 978-2-271-07399-0 , pp. 1240-1246 (on Polyklet as theoretician)

Web links

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