In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Greek Sculpture

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Primary Sources and Commentaries
  • Handbooks
  • The Archaic Period
  • The Classical Period: 5th and 4th Centuries BCE
  • The Hellenistic Period
  • Archaizing and Classicizing Sculpture
  • Architectural Sculpture and Reliefs
  • Portraits
  • Individual Artists
  • Works in Bronze
  • Works in Marble and in Various Media
  • Small-Scale Reflections of Large-Scale Sculptures
  • Bronze Technology
  • Marble Sources and Technology
  • Roman Copies, Modern Adaptations
  • Ancient and Modern Collecting
  • Modern Restoration and Conservation of Greek Sculpture
  • Museum Catalogues
  • Catalogues of Sculptures from Excavations
  • Symposia and Conferences

Classics Greek Sculpture
Carol C. Mattusch
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 May 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0131


In his History of the Art of Antiquity (1764; Winckelmann 2006 in General Overviews), J. J. Winckelmann proposed a chronology of Greek art based upon style. Following his lead, scholars used ancient literary sources to assign extant freestanding sculptures to artists and to name specific works mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History (Book 34 on bronze and Book 36 on marble), and by other ancient authors. Pliny’s separation of artists working in bronze from those working in marble revealed that the Greeks preferred bronze for their public sculpture, whereas it now appears that the Romans more often used marble for sculptures in public and in their homes. Pliny’s division of media and his prejudice against the art of his own times led scholars to distinguish between Greek bronze originals, which rarely survive, and Roman marble copies, of which there are many survivors. Even though this notion is now understood to be overly simplified, textbooks covering classical sculpture still tend to privilege bronzes over marbles. At the same time, Roman marble versions of classical statue types continue to be used as substitutes for lost Greek statues. Recent scholarship takes into account ancient technology, taste, and ancient art markets (Ridgway 1984 in Roman Copies, Modern Adaptations; Mattusch 1996 in Archaizing and Classicizing Sculpture), and modern bias (Donohue 2005 in General Overviews), and, along with traditional stylistic studies, yields a more balanced understanding of freestanding Greek sculpture and a far more revealing picture of Roman sophistication in the production of sculptures in the classical style. Studies of the ancient marble trade may help to pin down some chronological questions that cannot be solved purely on the basis of style and the literary testimonia, and new analyses of such famous works as the Aphrodite of Melos (Hamiaux 1998 in Museum Catalogues) and the widely popular classicizing reliefs of dancing maenads (see Alice A. Donohue, “Ai Bakchai choreuousi: The Reliefs of the Dancing Bacchantes,” Hephaistos 16/17 [1998/1999]: 7–46) are leading to the revision of textbooks. Excellent photographs are a valuable tool for research in this field, and works that have them are so noted, even if the accompanying texts are less useful. Because many works address not just freestanding sculpture and relief but also architectural sculpture they are included here, even though the subject is better suited to consideration with the buildings which the sculptures adorned. General textbooks on Greek art are not part of this bibliography.

General Overviews

The modern study of Greek sculpture began with Winckelmann’s subjective descriptions of 1764 (Winckelmann 2006), some of them lengthy, of works that he did not illustrate. It is a valuable exercise in methodology to read some of his work: his stylistic chronology continues to influence the field. Donohue 1995 is an invaluable introduction to his work. Furtwängler 1964, like Winckelmann, was originally published in German, with a focus on sculpture, and adding discoveries that had been made in the 130-year interim between the two works. In a review of scholarship on individual works, Donohue 2005 illustrates the need for critical thinking and objective visual analysis. For analysis of ancient Greek terminology in the arts and for its use by modern scholars, see Pollitt 1974 and Donohue 1988.

  • Donohue, A. A. 1988. Xoana and the origins of Greek sculpture. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

    Exhaustive investigation of a term used by ancient authors to describe certain types of the earliest sculptural works in Greece. As these no longer exist, modern scholars have misunderstood the various ancient meanings of xoanon.

  • Donohue, A. A. 1995. Winckelmann’s history of art and Polyclitus. In Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and tradition. Edited by Warren G. Moon, 327–353. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

    An indispensable introduction to the nature of the early study of classical sculpture and to the German scholarly tradition.

  • Donohue, A. A. 2005. Greek sculpture and the problem of description. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Analysis of how subjective description and stylistic bias have affected the study of Greek sculpture from Winckelmann’s day through the 20th century.

  • Furtwängler, Adolph. 1964. Masterpieces of Greek sculpture. Chicago: Argonaut.

    Until very recently, all research on famous artists’ testimonia acknowledged Furtwängler’s attributions, first made in German in 1895. Includes chapters on Pheidias; Kresilas and Myron; Polykleitos; Skopas, Praxiteles, and Euphranor; the Venus de Milo; and the Belvedere Apollo. Important for an understanding of long-accepted attributions of Roman marble editions to famous lost Greek statues.

  • Pollitt, J. J. 1974. The ancient view of Greek art: Criticism, history, and terminology. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale Univ. Press.

    Discussion of ancient art criticism and of ancient art history, preceding a lengthy glossary of Greek and Latin terms that are used in ancient descriptions of art.

  • Winckelmann, J. J. 2006. History of the art of antiquity. Translated by Harry Francis Mallgrave. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute.

    This is where the study of ancient art began. Winckelmann traces Greek sculpture from a more ancient style to a high style and a beautiful style, then follows Pliny in saying that Greek art declined during the Hellenistic period and thereafter. Extensive citation of ancient authors. Part 1, chapter 4, sections 1–4. This edition replaces H. Lodge’s 19th-century translation of Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums (1764), titled History of Ancient Art.

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