BMCR 1998.12.06

Fourth-Century Styles in Greek Sculpture


This handsome volume fills the chronological gap between Ridgway’s Fifth Century Styles in Greek Sculpture (Princeton 1981) and her Hellenistic Sculpture I: The Styles of ca 331-200 B.C. (Madison 1990). Unlike the latter, it does not open with a detailed preface outlining its aims, nor, like the 1993 revision of her Archaic Styles in Greek Sculpture (Chicago) does it begin with instructions “How to read this book.” Still, readers of the author’s previous works will find themselves on familiar ground here, flipping constantly from text to notes to illustrations as Ridgway makes her way through well- and lesser-known monuments providing detailed descriptions and analyses of style, technique, and context, cogent summaries of other scholars’ theories, often yet to be published, and, of course, her own often iconoclastic comments.

Ridgway’s goals here, as elsewhere, are not just to present an unwieldy mass of difficult material, but more importantly to separate factual evidence from speculation, “to alert against excessive attributions and uncritical use of … evidence, even if this approach makes [her] a minimalist” (xvii). And, as in her recent treatment of the oeuvre of Polykleitos, a minimalist she turns out to be, constantly challenging dogmas of attribution and chronology.

From the outset it must be acknowledged that despite the very rich trove of information culled from other sources and insightful new observations of her own, Ridgway has written a difficult and, at times, frustrating book. This is so not because her writing is unclear or her arguments unnecessarily complex (neither is the case), but rather because this volume is so sparsely illustrated, and, in many cases, the images that have been provided are not the ones that best serve the reader. The objects depicted are sometimes only briefly mentioned in the notes, while others, discussed at great length in the body of the volume, are nowhere to be seen. The limited number of images (approximately half as many as in each of her three previous volumes mentioned above) has doubtless kept down this book’s cost, which I applaud, but given the absence of photographs of many significant pieces, are, for example, five views of the bronze boxer from Olympia (Athens NM 6439) really necessary? As in her other books, Ridgway relies heavily upon other convenient sources for further illustrations, but even with these to hand — and this book should not be undertaken without them — just to see much of the material Ridgway treats, the reader must constantly also seek out specialist publications to be found only in the best-stocked research libraries, and even then the number of publications that must be pulled off the shelves in order to follow her text can only be consulted conveniently in a seminar room arrangement, such as that at Bryn Mawr, rather than in the stacks prevalent elsewhere.

So much for complaints. Ridgway here, as elsewhere, provides a concise yet detailed, up-to-date, factual and interpretative overview of numerous important monuments and issues, frequently with implications beyond the chronological limits of her title. The book opens with a survey of “Greek Sculpture in the Fourth Century,” in which the author argues not only for a shift of emphasis from the Greek mainland, especially Athens, to the non-Greek world of Asia Minor, thus demonstrating that Greek cultural infiltration, assumed to have accompanied the conquests of Alexander the Great, was already in force by the turn of the century, but also that “stylistic trends ebbed and flowed” throughout the century. Although change can be discerned, lingering styles, the uneven expansion of Athenian Classicism, and new contexts for sculpture greatly complicate the picture. Moreover, as she emphasized in Hellenistic I, Ridgway here continues to maintain that the personalities of the great masters, around whom so much of the sculpture of the fourth century has been grouped, remain nebulous: the need for a skeptical approach to the evidence is a leitmotif of this volume.

Because architectural sculpture of the Greek mainland “is represented by undoubted Greek originals, without the intermediary of the Roman copyists, and with its narrative content may serve to highlight beliefs and contacts from site to site” (25), it is addressed first, in Ch. 2. The Peloponnesos, largely dormant in the late 5th century (with the exception of Bassai, which Ridgway discusses in Ch. 1 along with the Apollonion at Eretria), became active in the early 4th with building at the Argive Heraion, Mazi, Epidauros, Tegea, and Nemea, as well as at Delphi just across the Gulf of Corinth. Ridgway closely examines both style and technique of the surviving sculptures, along with the relations of the mythological themes represented to local needs: there is more than style alone in this book. Attic fashions were accepted in Peloponnesos as workmen and, it seems, entire workshops went from commission to commission serving the demand for skilled carvers. As the century progressed, innovations were made such as more richly decorated interiors, elaborately carved ceiling coffers, and the juxtaposition and superimposition of architectural orders, all trends that had their roots in the previous century. Stylistically and technically, sculptors appear to have carved more hastily and to have cut fewer folds in drapery, but to have exploited further the play of light and shadow. These, however, are generalizations, and Ridgway is ever aware that there is rarely logical development from one trend to another, and that many diverse currents coexisted.

Although no sculpture has been recovered at Nemea, she accepts the presence there of the Tegea workshop based on generalities of building plans and such details of architectural sculpture as the carved sima and other moldings. Indeed, it is interesting to note that while Ridgway is ever reluctant to accept attributions of surviving works (or, more often, copies) to named masters, she more than once in this book concurs with ascriptions of diverse monuments to particular teams of workers (a moderation somewhat of Rhys Carpenter’s vision of Greek sculpture “as an anonymous product of an impersonal craft” ). This is of considerable interest methodologically and requires, perhaps, further attention. How we study Greek sculpture must necessarily differ radically depending whether we attempt to elucidate surviving material (of whatever quality) or seek to identify works and artistic personalities known only from literary sources and/or later representations. Throughout this book Ridgway does the first masterfully, but expresses serious doubts as to the feasibility of the second.

Although she denies attempting to be comprehensive, Ridgway is loathe to leave anything out, and Ch. 2 thus ends with “Additional Architectural Sculpture,” odds and ends organized by type (akroteria, pediments, metopes, and friezes). This does not make for terribly coherent reading, but, as always, Ridgway’s synopses of scholarship and detailed bibliographies make this assemblage, too, a valuable contribution and convenient reference point for future research into the individual pieces treated.

Ch. 3 addresses architectural sculpture in the non-Greek east, for such monuments document the expansion of Greek forms before Alexander and fill the apparent gap in east Greece in the first half of the century. Ridgway rightly emphasizes, however, that despite their superficial Greekness, the Nereid Monument at Xanthos and heroa at Trysa and Limyra combine Greek and non-Greek themes and stylistic forms in keeping with local traditions. Elements in these monuments, such as the monumental doorway of the first, may recall elements of fifth-century Athenian monuments, and the linearity of some of the reliefs may be the result of copying from pattern books (88), but stylistic details, such as “railroad tracks” and “Lykian wavelets,” are often unparalleled elsewhere. Greek, and particularly Attic forms, were nonetheless borrowed, but their meanings could be quite different in new contexts where they served to glorify local dynasts whose biographies seem to merge with those of epic heroes and mythological figures.

East Greek architectural sculpture is the subject of Ch. 4, which focuses on another monument erected for a non-Greek dynast, the Maussolleion at Halikarnassos, although works at Priene, Ephesos, and elsewhere are also considered. Ridgway opens by drawing effective analogies between the ancient World Wonder and the tomb of Mao Zedong in Beijing. Both exert considerable influence on urban planning, project imperialistic allusions, and combine different architectural prototypes, but are nonetheless grounded in local, and therefore locally meaningful, traditions (111). Ridgway recounts the relevant history of the Hekatomnid dynasty and the site, ultimately following A.A. Donohue in rejecting Pliny’s chronology of the monument as being based on “the traditional Roman concept of the noble wife committed to extraordinary acts of mourning in memory of her deceased spouse” (113). She then rehearses theories regarding the building’s plan and the arrangement of its sculptural decoration, relying, for the most part, on the often contradictory reconstructions of Kristian Jeppeson and Geoffery Waywell, highlighting the building’s similarities to Anatolian and Near Eastern prototypes, especially the Nereid Monument, but also noting workshop links to nearby Priene and Labraunda.

She tackles the Maussolleion’s surviving friezes one by one, rejecting previous attempts to recognize the hands of the great sculptors reported to have worked on the building as based on faulty methodologies (121-4). She concludes, rightly in my view, that the “spectacular impression the finished monument made on the ancient viewers was undoubtedly responsible, post factum, for the fame that accrued to the four sculptors’ names most identifiable by the Roman sources” and that “no initial selection on the grounds of established reputation and artistry was involved.” She adds “nor was there a matter of allotment per sides,” for although different hands can be discerned, the “conception appears unified and coherent” (123). Ridgway rather suggests that the availability of trained manpower and established workshops was the primary reason behind the granting of the commissions. She examines the monument’s free-standing statues, whose themes of hunt, sacrifice, and battle once again recall Lykian precedents, such as the Nereid Monument, while echoing Assyrian and Persian motifs, but she also notes the pertinence of processional scenes at Athens, particularly on the Parthenon.

While concerned predominantly with form, Ridgway does not avoid issues of meaning, exploring how the building’s configuration and content might speak to local needs (i.e., the ever-popular Amazonomachy being appropriate here not as an example of Greek victory over eastern barbarians, as in fifth-century Athens, but rather as a possible link to nearby Labraunda, where Hippolyta’s axe was preserved). Finally, she devotes considerable attention to the technique, iconography, and style of the statuary, both free-standing and relief, again suggesting the use of standard outlines or patterns in the carving of the latter (130), and offering detailed analyses of the well-known “Maussollos” and “Artemisia.”

After the Maussolleion, Ridgway considers the Temple of Athena at Priene, whose architect, Pytheos, according to Vitruvius, worked at Halikarnassos. General similarities between these buildings supports the ancient writer, as do specific forms, such as the elaborately carved ceiling coffers, some of which appear to have been made by the same workmen in the same material, Prokonnesian marble. Before moving on to other architectural sculpture in the east, Ridgway also treats some free-standing works from the sanctuary at Priene, deviating from the subject of this chapter, which concludes with analyses of monuments at Ephesos, Samothrace, Messa, Kastabos, and Knidos, some of which are notable for their architectural form or coloristic devices (often linked to Athens), despite the absence of sculpture.

Sticking to originals, Ridgway treats reliefs, which constitute the largest category of surviving material, in Chs. 5 (funerary) and 6 (votive, mythological, and documentary). Most of this material comes from Athens (over 2000 examples, not all of which are considered here), and she once again considers much more than style: symbolism, heroization, iconography, composition, workshop production vs. individual commissions, identification of the dead, and depictions of age. Here too she succinctly summarizes various views before offering her own sensible remarks. The late fifth-century stele of Hegeso in Athens is then compared to that of Mnesarte in Munich to highlight stylistic changes, and other fourth-century reliefs are adduced to make further points. Thereafter Boiotian, Thessalian, Lakonian, Tarentine, and East Greek funerary sculpture are each treated in a paragraph or two, with scant illustration, and finally the Mourning Women Sarcophagus is evaluated (other Sidonian sarcophagi are examined in Hellenistic I). These monuments are all seen to depend on the Attic series, and although different styles coexist, Ridgway traces a gradual change “from transparent drapery and calligraphic mannerisms to more realistic, opaque and chairoscural texturing of garments” (176).

Votive, mythological, and document reliefs are considered in Ch. 6 in similar terms to those mentioned above. Landscape and architectural elements receive further attention and can often be linked to specific needs of cult (e.g., a tetrastylon for Herakles, cave for Pan and the Nymphs). Some reliefs, such as the Totenmahl series, defy precise definition, carrying both funerary and votive connotations. Her group of “mythological” reliefs, in contrast, appears to me to be a somewhat arbitrary modern category, being votives with narrative content, apart from those scenes that once decorated statue bases. Here Ridgway enters into a lengthy excursus on the well-known base from Mantinea, which she sensibly divorces from the oeuvre of Praxiteles. The Epidauros altar, of which no illustrations are provided, is discussed in some detail, demonstrating, once again, that different styles can exist in the same monument. And in document reliefs, which Ridgway surprisingly presumes to have been carved by those who cut their inscriptions (215), she posits the influence of minor arts, more than of famous statues, considering so-called Skopasian pathos and Praxitelean S-curves and sfumato to be traits of mid-century styles, rather than of individual artistic genius.

In Ch. 7 Ridgway attacks “The Issue of the Great Masters” head on, examining the evidence for the oeuvres of Naukydes, Timotheos, Leochares, Bryaxis, Skopas, Kephisodotos, Praxiteles, and others. (Lysippos, who like some of the above was also treated in Hellenistic I, is here reserved for Ch. 8.) Ridgway emphasizes that no unequivocal originals by any of these masters survive. She considers the famous Hermes and infant Dionysos at Olympia to be a Hellenistic version, comparable in form and technique to a little known first-century BC marble in Elis and takes a position of “healthy skepticism” regarding the use of ancient copies to identify lost works, recognizing that “Roman patronage and taste may have encouraged not only considerable changes in the copying of a specific prototype but also variations and new compositions in retrospective styles” (237). She briefly evaluates the reliability of Roman authors for the appearance and attribution of Greek originals (and notes the non-artistic context in which such remarks often appear. Many “relevant” remarks made by Lucian, for example. are from his Philopseudes, a work about a congenital liar). More reliable are signed statue bases, but in the case of “big names” even this “concrete” evidence is not as dependable as it might seem, for the same name was often borne by more than one sculptor, often of vastly divergent dates. There is, in fact, evidence for at least two sculptors named Alkamenes, Bryaxis, Kanachos, Kephisodotos, Pheidias, Praxiteles, Polykleitos, and Skopas, to mention just a few. On the other hand, many sculptors whose names are preserved on bases are mentioned scarcely, if at all in the literary sources, leading Ridgway to consider, once again, questions of workshop practice, just how far sculptors may have traveled, and what exactly constitutes a “school,” “workshop,” or “family.”

The bulk of the chapter, however, is given over to evaluating the evidence for the oeuvres of the “masters” themselves, and here Ridgway separates one statue type after another from the names with which they have often been associated, beginning with the Diskobolos linked to Naukydes, which she nonetheless accepts as a 4th-c. type, moving through various statues ascribed to Timotheos, Leochares, Bryaxis, Skopas, in each case leaving us with an empty bag. Kephisodotos and his son (or son-in-law?) Praxiteles each manage to keep one statue (the group of Eirene and Ploutos and the Knidian Aphrodite, respectively) but they lose their wealth, being disassociated from homonymous Athenians recorded to have paid heavy liturgies. If this all seems to be depressingly minimalist, it is a methodologically valuable antidote to the over-optimistic attributions found in generations of handbooks. Ridgway does not merely dismiss past associations, but rather works through them, scrutinizing the nature of the evidence and layers of assumptions that brought them into being, convincingly demonstrating that the weight of these attributions cannot be sustained. This chapter, if no other, should be read by anyone interested in how scholars have come to reconstruct the oeuvres of past masters.

Ch. 8, entitled “Lysippos: A Case Study,” serves as a coda to Ch. 7. Here Ridgway responds to recent, optimistic reconstructions of the Sikyonian master’s career, first providing a general assessment of the evidence of signed bases and the locales where the sculptor is alleged to have worked, then a detailed examination of the Herakles Epitrapezios. By this point, her conclusions come as no surprise: ancient literary constructs stand behind much of the artist’s oeuvre, and the Herakles itself, said to have been owned by Alexander, Hannibal, and Sulla before coming into the possession of the learned Roman collector Novius Vindex, is yet another false attribution. Here Ridgway explores such fascinating issues as signatures on copies, ancient forgeries, and collecting, as well as the styles, contaminations, and contexts of relevant surviving monuments. Other types attributed to Lysippos are also briefly assessed, and Ridgway divides these into three groups: those that are 1) acceptably by the master (Kairos, Eros, and Alexander — the last quite vague); 2) “plausible, even provable, as fourth-century works, but not necessarily as Lysippan” (Agias, Silenos with infant Dionysos, Weary Herakles, and Apoxyomenos); and 3) implausible because probably later than the fourth century (everything else). In the end, she finds Lysippos “as shadowy as Skopas,” noting that among the works that might well be his “there are no common stylistic denominators… from which to derive a general impression of the master’s manner” (308).

Ch. 9, “Random Harvest,” is just that, resembling the clean-up sections at the end of Chs. 2-4. Here Ridgway treats a miscellany of gods, personifications, athletes, portraits, and funerary statues, ending with the Derveni krater which she sees as a mixture of many influences in shape and decoration, style and color, drapery and landscape, idealism and emotion representative of the fourth century.

Finally, a conclusion summarizes the book’s major themes, though Ridgway is aware of the risk of appearing to create thereby her own, new dogmas. In her ultimate assessment of the material in this information-packed volume, Ridgway admits that the sculpture of the fourth century “remains only imperfectly known” (266) and reminds us of how different our picture would be if we had original free-standing bronzes, chryselephantine statues, and Praxiteles’ Knidia rather than Roman copies or adaptations. She urges students to refine, modify, and rearrange the picture. And in this magisterial survey of what survives and critical evaluation of what scholars have done with it, she has provided us with the obvious starting point for any such future endeavor.

Paene ad exemplum : Polykleitos’ Other Works,” in W.G. Moon ed., Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and Tradition (Madison 1995) 177-99, see BMCR 96.10.13 and my own review in Art Bulletin 79 (1997) 148-56. Notably John Boardman’s Greek Sculpture: the Late Classical Period (London/New York 1995), Luigi Todisco’s exorbitantly priced Scultura greca del IV secolo (Milan 1993), and the densely illustrated volumes of the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae. Greek Sculpture (Chicago 1960) v. Cf. Carol L. Lawton, Attic Document Reliefs (Oxford 1995) 64, BMCR 96.9.25. Notably Paolo Moreno’s, see, most recently, Lysippo: L’arte e la fortuna (Monza 1995). Thebes Museum inv. 21393, to be published by Pierre Ducrey, should be added to the inscribed statue bases discussed by Ridgway.