Flourished 375-330 B.C.
Praxiteles, the son of an Athenian sculptor, was one of the greatest sculptors in the ancient world. His style greatly influenced the work of future generations of artists. Although Praxiteles worked in bronze, he preferred to work in marble. As was the style at the time, his marble statues were painted after they were sculpted. Praxiteles paid great attention to the finish on his works, preferring to employ the painter Nicias over other painters. Praxiteles specialized in religious statues, especially those that portrayed gods and goddesses, such as Apollo and Dionysus, at a younger age than was usual for other artists.
Among the features of his work that influenced later sculptors was Praxiteles’ use of the female nude. His ideal of the female body—wide hips, small breasts, oval face, and hair parted in the middle—characterized his masterpiece, the Aphrodite at Cnidus. While Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, had long been a popular subject for Greek sculptors, earlier statues showed her fully or partially clothed. Praxiteles was the first sculptor to show her completely nude.
Praxiteles was believed to have completed more than 75 sculptures during his career, although few, if any, of his original works still exist. The Aphrodite of Cnidus is known only from Roman copies. Many other statues that were once considered to be his originals have been shown to be copies as well. Although the famous statue of the god Hermes holding the infant Dionysus is considered by some experts to be the original work as described by the Greek writer Pausanias, others doubt its authenticity. (See also Art, Greek; Sculpture, Greek.)