Phidias or Pheidias [key], c.500–c.432 b.c., Greek sculptor, one of the greatest sculptors of ancient Greece. No original in existence can be attributed to him with certainty, although numerous Roman copies in varying degrees of supposed fidelity exist. However, the estimates of ancient writers, their descriptions of his statues, and his influence on all later sculpture have secured his fame. His greatest achievements were the Athena Parthenos at Athens and the Zeus in the temple of Olympia, both colossal figures of chryselephantine workmanship (draperies of beaten gold, flesh parts incrusted with ivory). The Athena (dedicated in the Parthenon c.447–439 b.c.) was the chief treasure of Athens. It was destroyed in antiquity, but several copies are preserved (National Mus. of Antiquities, Athens). It was also represented on coins and gems. The Zeus (c.435 b.c.), counted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was a majestic bearded figure seated upon a magnificently ornamented throne and wearing a mantle strewn with sculptured decorations. Terra-cotta molds, found in 1955–56 at Olympia on the site identified as Phidias' workshop, showed that the gold for the drapery had been hammered into the molds and then further decorated with glass inlays. Works of the master's younger years include a colossal bronze Athena (called the Promachos), the Athena Lemnia for the Acropolis, and a chryselephantine Athena for Pellene. Phidias has traditionally been credited with having been in charge of the Parthenon sculptures and other great works on the Acropolis, done for Pericles; but it is probable that they were made by pupils and assistants. Part of the frieze is now in the British Museum (see Elgin Marbles).
See study by C. Walston (1885, repr. 1971).
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