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Phidias ( -480 - -430 )  Category ( Sculptors ) [suggest a correction]

Frieze of the ParthenonPhidias was an ancient Greek sculptor, painter, and architect who is regarded as one of the greatest and influential Classical sculptors. He designed the statues of the goddess Athena on the Acropolis and the colossal seated statue of Zeus at Olympia in the fifth century BCE. Athenian leader Pericles hired Phidias to design and create the statues during his building program for Athens.

It is not certain how or where Phidias received his artistic training. Hegias of Athens, Ageladas of Argos, and the Thasian painter Polygnotus are likely candidates. Not much is known about Phidias' life apart from his works. He was apparently close to two of his students, Agoracritus and Pantarkes. Contemporary Greek geographer Pausanias wrote that Pantarkes served as the model for the Olympian Zeus. Another tradition, reported by Clement of Alexandria, has Phidias carving "Kalos Pantarkes," or "Pantarkes is handsome," into the god's middle finger. What is known is that ancient critics were very impressed with Phidias' work. They especially praise the ethos, or permanent moral level, of his works as compared with those of later schools. His work has been called both sublime and at the same time precise. In 1958, archeologists discovered the workshop at Olympia where Phidias assembled the gold and ivory Zeus. There were still shards of ivory at the site, moulds and other casting equipment, and the base of a black glaze drinking cup engraved "I belong to Phidias." The golden ratio has been represented by the Greek leter phi, after Phidias, to whom the golden ratio is credited. The golden ratio is an irrational number close to 1.6181, which, when studied, has special mathematical properties.

Two conflicting accounts of Phidias' death are recorded, but only one is plausible. According to Plutarch, he was attacked by political enemies of Pericles (which were legion), and died in prison at Athens.

Image: "Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends," 1868, oil on canvas. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, England.

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