Polykleitos ( ancient Greek Πολύκλειτος Polykleitos " Much of the Famous "; * to 480 BC in Argos or Sicyon; † towards the end of the 5th century BC) was one of the most important Greek sculptors of ancient Greece. His main creative period covers the years from about 460 BC to 420 BC, in which he created numerous bronze statues that were praised for centuries after his death. From his work, not originals are preserved only in Olympia two bases polykletischer statues were found, without that you can say, Polyklet myself have applied to these bases hand. He wrote a theoretical work, in the later literary canon called, in which he described the ideal proportions of the human body. Already the ancient world saw in the he created a statue of a spear carrier, the Doryphoros, the practical implementation of its theoretical claims and transferred the name of his writing on the statue as the embodiment of the canon.


The origin of Polykleitos is controversial. While Plato calls him in his dialogue Protagoras a Argives, he originated, according to Pliny from Sicyon. In Argos, he went to the famous sculptor Hageladas into teaching. Also for his continued work at Argos seems to have been bound, he to have self-obsessed Argive civil rights. His sons, but also more of his students are mentioned in written sources " Argives ". Whether in all these cases was always meant the origin is uncertain.

His sons were peers of Paralos and Xanthippos, the Sons of Pericles, his acme, the pinnacle of his creative power, can be dated by Pliny in the 90th Olympiad, that is around the year 420 BC. Around this time, he created the gold and ivory statue of the Hera in the Heraion of Argos, which had to be BC built after a fire in 423 from scratch. Therefore Polykleitos 's been a somewhat younger contemporary of Phidias and have been born around 480 BC. Since the written tradition by the Hera of Argos knows no other works, he will have died by the end of the 5th century BC.

He left a number of pupils, which included his sons. Alone Pliny lists the following: Argios, Asopodoros, Alexios, Aristides, Phrynon, Dinon, Athendoros, Demeas and calls further Daidalos, Naukydes, Colotes and Patroclus. Other names can be found in Pausanias. The relation of these descendants to Polykleitos is not known with certainty. The younger handed down under the name of sculptor Polykleitos are assign his grandchildren more. The work itself is not of his sons to take hold, even if they had taken their father's trade, according to Plato.

Literary Tradition

The literary tradition to Polyklet already set a few decades after his death a. In Plato at about 388/87 BC entstandenem dialogue Protagoras are Polykleitos and his art as something concrete and learnable to spend money for their doctrine is reasonable, compared with the teaching of the Sophists. Even Xenophon reaches into his memorabilia, memories of Socrates, by way of example on Polykleitos and restores its work to the work of the gods against. "Effect" is also for Aristotle occasion, to provide the name of Polykleitos, which he cites as an example of accidental causes: Polyklet will pick up as the cause of a statue, a context, the Seneca, making note of two statues of Polykleitos again. In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle Polyklet finally gives the example of philosophical wisdom in the field of "practical skills ".

With the onset of Roman art scholarship from the late Republic, the name of Polykleitos as the representative of the era 's biggest art creation appears more and more frequently, such as when Auctor ad Herennium, often in Cicero. Increasingly Polyklet is cited with others as a role model or as evidence of the decline of art in their own time. His works are listed in art historical breaks in geographical works and travelogues. As witty and erudite set piece connoisseurship of Polycleitos work in Martial's epigrams and Juvenal's satires is used several times, finally AD is drawn the former ideal itself into Comic- Satiric from the 2nd century, as when Lucian the Cynics Proteus with Polykleitos Doryphoros compares or the artist on the philistines, the working people with his hands, reduced.

Multiple mentions Galen Polykleitos, in particular its theoretical work. The time interval, however, becomes clear when he writes: " Somewhere a still image of Polykleitos is praised, that bears the name " canon " ... ". And entirely anecdotal Polyklet is shown in Aelianus, the Polykleitos had to make two statues: one to the delight of the crowd, the other according to the laws of art. With that he grabbed each change request, which was offered to him, on and changed the statue accordingly, at this he drew from his pure skill and knowledge. When he presented two statues of the mass, which designed according to the wishes of the mass was ridiculed, but the other commended what he called the crowd that they mocked, they had made themselves, but others that they would praise, have he made ​​.

In Byzantine times the knowledge of Polykleitos was then badly obscured and John Tzetzes he was a sculptor and painter, under whose numerous works two would stand out, of which one, the one as a " canon" of painting, the other as the " canon" of sculpture denote.


The artistic work of Polykleitos can start by developing quite impressive in the ancient written tradition. Certainly with the sculptor of the 5th century BC, thus can connect the Herabildnis in the Heraion of Argos, the Doryphorus a Diadumenos, a Apoxiomen, a naked, striding with whole sole, two dice -playing boys - called Astragalizonten - a Hermes, " in Lysimachia was formerly " a Hercules, a commander who takes up arms, and the statue of a Artemon Periphoretes. In addition, he created as part of the famous artist competition an Amazon for Ephesus.

Moreover, Pausanias mentions a number of statues of Olympic victors, which he calls works of Polykleitos, is to attain without certainty what actually thereof from the hand of the great Polykleitos, which come from the hands of his descendants. Sure to be connected to Polykleitos is the unsigned statue base of Kyniskos from Mantinea in Olympia, which identifies Pausanias as a work of Polykleitos and their letters can form BC close to a formation 460. The statue was made ​​of bronze and had to close after its intake tracks, already the separate position of stance and swing leg, which is characteristic of works of Polykleitos. The statue base is the only original testimony Polycleitos art creation. Coin images of Hera of Argos, which partly, partly reflect only the head of the entire seat frame, do not allow any further conclusions on his work.

Polykleitos was ore caster and created mainly bronze statues, all of which are lost. In rich of monuments of Roman marble copies after Greek models but six statue types could be identified more or less certain to be connected with the work of Polykleitos: the Doryphoros, the Diadumenos a " Diskophoros ", the Hermes, the Hercules and the Amazon. Only six works, but given the fact that the production of a single life-size bronze in the 5th century BC laid claim more than two years, so there are testimonies of no small part Polycleitos art creation before. It outweigh the male characters, which is consistent with the written tradition. And apart from Hera, Hermes and Heracles was his theme of man, so he is already the ἀνδριαντοποιός, the human figures, was the ancient world, while Phidias, Praxiteles and Scopas as ἀγαλματοποιός, Götterbildner, were considered.

Polykleitos statue types to represent the human figure in classical contrapposto border or standing. Well-known statues of Polykleitos, based on the design principle of counterpoint Posts are about the Diadumenos and Heracles, probably also the Hermes, while the Diskophoros of Polykleitos the fulfilled motif of classical counterpoint posts that by pulling in the ponderation body composition distinction between stand- and free leg, lacks.

The design not only have male characters, but it occurs also pronounced in an antique Amazon type. Pliny tells of a competition of the most famous sculptors classical times, have participated in the except Polyklet still Phidias, Kresilas and Phradmon. Polyklet to have emerged in this competition with its statue of the Amazon as the winner. Among the surviving types of the wounded Amazon, which go back to the competition, the Amazons of type Sosikles, Mattei and Sciarra is probably assign the Amazone type Sciarra the Polykleitos.

Polykleitos wrote a theoretical canon of scripture called, in which he described the ideal proportions of the human body, but also from the Practical Workshop. He is thus the oldest known art theorist. The writing is known only through references and a few brief quotations by authors mainly Roman times.

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

Discovery history

Principles and characteristics of Polycleitos style were already recognized in ancient times and written down. Pliny handed - and probably bases this on the judgment of Xenocrates of Athens, a sculptor of the 3rd century BC, and the author of several writings on art, toreutic and painting - Polykleitos statues stood " on a When " ( uno crure insistere ), were stout proportions ( quadrata ). They went - as Varro says - "all refer to a single model " back ( paene ad unum exemplum ). This information in combination with the motivic information on the work of Polykleitos already did Johann Joachim Winckelmann the Diadumenos in ancient monuments inventory identify, although he offers are initially based on the grave altar of Tiberius Octavius ​​Diadumenus, the one, the Taenia Umbindenden shows in allusion to his name. As Polykleitan statue he thinks he can recognize the now classified as transformation " Anadumenos Farnese ".

Three times the Diadumenos of Polykleitos is mentioned in ancient literature, two of them. Combined with the Doryphoros In rank he was not after this, even its value is communicated: 100 astronomical talents. Numerous Roman copies of Diadumenos are obtained so that a general idea is to open up from the original. Three of these copies were together with copies of Doryphoros found. But it took one hundred years, until after the identification of the Diadumenos by Winckelmann the Doryphoros was also detected. Karl Friedrichs published 1862/63 for the first time the assignment of a long-known statue type to the Doryphoros of Polykleitos. Thus the spell was broken and Adolf Furtwängler arranged in his masterpieces of Greek sculpture many other statues and head types the work of Polykleitos and his school. Although many were also sorted out again, but for example, the Identifzierungen of Hermes and Heracles have stock. The increasingly differentiated picture of the style development of classical art in the 5th century BC finally allowed into the 1920s, the assignment of another statue type of the work of Polykleitos: the Diskophoros, where you may nudus talo the incessens, the one with all " sole proceeds " of Pliny can recognize.

Is controversial to this day the assignment of Polycleitos Amazon. Furtwängler recognized in the Amazone type Sciarra the work of Polykleitos, but showed Botho Graef the close relationship in hair formation of the Amazon of Sosikles to hair designs on Polykleitos. This assessment sat down, driven by ever new arguments, from the second quarter of the 20th century increasingly. Weighty reasons brought in recent decades, however, again the type Sciarra in the focus of considerations.

The canon

A written essay called canon of Polykleitos is mentioned only in Galen in the 2nd century AD. Older references can be found, however, in the 3rd century BC in Philo of Byzantium and in Plutarch around 100 AD The work of Polykleitos probably follows the statement of Plutarch, in each work, the Beautiful fully end in " that many dimensions in the proper ratio to come by a certain Symmetry and harmony. "

The Canon of Polykleitos thus contained general statements about the production process of his practice and the theoretical foundations, but in his specially dedicated to the artistic problems games he commented on issues of Symmetry and its calculation bases. As a guide the sculptor it was in the tradition of archaic " workshop books," as the work of an artistic individual was the canon but something new and led by Polykleitos the first time an art theorist in the circle of prose writing intellectual philosophers, sophists and physicians -in. With his canon but Polykleitos wrote a work which became even centuries later cited by philosophers and physicians, they wanted to support the generality of their own statements.

In attempting to reconstruct the work of Polykleitos statuary tradition to methodological problems arising from the information at Galen, from the material tradition position that knows only Roman and each other always slightly different copies, and from the definition of the measurement and reference points. Finally, the related system of units of Polykleitos is initially unknown.

As a unit the pheidonische measurement system is assumed with a foot length of 32 2/3 inches for the work of Polykleitos because of his background and his time position. As a statuesque implement the canon it is generally ahead of the Doryphoros, who in his Neapolitan version had a ponderierte height of 98 fingers, a unponderierte height of 100 fingers and in the area of ​​maximum Ponderationsgefälles a height of 96 fingers. The resulting different proportions were applied crosswise to the statue. In tangible figures by the recognized even without surveying chiastic structure of the Doryphoros. First approaches, such as Polykleitos the process of design, are emerging. More detailed knowledge of the written and statuary work called canon could so far not be exploited.