Test Announcement 123


Greek Hellenistic Sculpture

The Hellenistic period (323 BCE-31 BCE) was one of the most fertile in Greek history. Its canonical dates stretch from the death of Alexander the Great, under whose influence Greek culture and civilization spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia, to the decisive Battle of Actium.

The nearly two centuries that comprise this remarkable era were distinguished by new patterns of migration and settlement, as native Greeks relocated to the Empire's new strongholds in Alexandria and Antioch (Egypt and Syria). These population shifts catalyzed a fusion of foreign artistic representations and techniques with indigenous traditions and practices both in Greece and abroad. It is for that reason that Hellenistic influences and vestiges of Greek culture could be found as far to the east as northern ancient India (Afganistan and northern India today).

During the Hellenistic period, artists explored human emotions and states of consciousness, with works ranging from the starkly realistic to the grandly theatrical. Large dedications, often sponsored by individuals or kings, reflect these new trends, as do masterpieces such as as the Lykosoura monument, the Great Altar at Pergamon, the Lesser Attalid Dedication, and the Nike of Samothrace; all of which are remarkable for their expressiveness and enduring fame.

Gaul or Giant

150 BCE
From the Lesser Attalid Dedication, Athens
ca. 340 BCE
Plaster cast from a Roman copy of the original Greek marble, in Venice, Italy
29 x 19 x 8 1/2 inches (73.7 x 48.3 x 21.6 cm)
Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004


Fairfield University's plaster cast of the Gaul or Giant from the Lesser Attalid Dedication is traditionally dated to 150 BCE, however, an earlier date of ca. 200 BCE has also been proposed. This sculptural group was installed along the south wall of the Acropolis as a commission by Attalos, the ruler of Pergamon. Known as the Lesser Attalid Dedication, each sculpture in the group commemorates a great Greek victory both mythological and historical. Figures represent the war of the Giants, the battle against the Amazons, the deed of the Athenians at Marathon, and the defeat of the Gauls in Mysia.

The style of the Lesser Attalid Dedication perpetuates the style of the larger Attalid figures from the Great Altar at Pergamon. Each of the figures in the Dedication is approximately two-thirds life-sized, emphasizing his or her ultimate defeat. Fairfield's cast of a Gaul or giant is even smaller, standing only 2'6" tall. Twelve different sculptures of Gauls have been attributed to the Lesser Attalid Dedication; thus, if there were equal numbers of Giants, Persians and Amazons, as art historians suggests there were, the Lesser Attalid Dedication may have well contained more than 50 sculptures.


Damophon (Greek, active early 2nd C. BCE)
Artemis, called the "Gabii Diana"

Lykosoura Drapery
early 2nd C. BCE
From the Colossal Cult Statue Group at Lykosoura
Plaster cast from original marble in the National Archaeological Museum (No. 1737), Athens
50 x 20 3/8 x 12 5/8 inches (127 x 51.8 x 32.1cm)
Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004


This cast of a section of drapery is part of an original sculpture called the Colossal Cult Statue Group by Damophon at Lykosoura. In its original form, the sculpture included the two goddesses Despoina and Demeter who sat on a throne flanked by Anytos and Artemis. Behind them was a large altar that had two triton statues as legs. The section shown here is the drapery that would have decorated the altar where animal sacrifices were made to honor Despoina, the patron deity of the local people of Lykosoura. Originally this sculpture was located in the middle of the Temple of Despoina.

The sculpture, created in the 2nd century BCE during the Hellenistic period of Greece, depicts the myth of Despoina and Demeter. The sculptor Damophon was renowned for creating sculptures associated with cult and myth. This kind of representation can be seen in the drapery cast in the collection at Fairfield University. Visual references are made to characters involved in the myth of Despoina and Demeter, such as Poseidon and Zeus. They are represented with eagles and tritons which would have been easily recognized by the people of that time period.


The Winged Victory of Samothrace

ca. 190 BCE
Plaster cast from original marble in the Louvre, Paris
91 x 50 x 20 inches (231.1 x 127 x 50.8 cm)
Lent by Yale University (L1996.2)


The statue depicts Nike, the personification of victory, who is often acknowledged as patron of athletics in addition to her influence in battle. The statue most likely commemorates a naval battle between Rhodes and Antiochus III in the 2nd century BCE. Nike was the sister to Zelos (Rivalry), Kratos (Strength), and Bia (Force). However, it is because of her participation in the Olympian gods' battle against the giants that she gained merit amongst the Greeks who worshiped her as the goddess of victory.

Hellenistic sculpture often exuded a realism that had evolved out of the Classical period in Greece, but the sculptural style of the Nike of Samothrace reflects a unique Rhodian interpretation. The prevalent style in Rhodes exaggerated characteristics in the carving to emphasize the delicate translucent nature of the drapery and the active stance of the figure.

The Nike of Samothrace is over life-size, with exquisite drapery lightly clasping the female figure as she takes one step forward in the wind or she can be imagined as alighting onto the prow of a ship. When she was discovered, her head and arms were already missing, leaving us with multiple possibilities for the original position of the arms and head. Her prominent location within the renowned Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace, an island in the northern Aegean Sea, ensured that all visitors saw her. While an exact date for the sculpture has yet to be determined, the naval victory would date the statue to the early 2nd century, whereas the style and drapery treatment suggest an earlier date.The Nike of Samothrace is a remarkable example ofa carved marble sculpture seemingly in continual movement.


Hanging Marsyas

ca. 200-150 BCE
Plaster cast from Roman marble copy of Greek
original in Berlin
36 1/2 x 16 x 12 inches (92.7 x 40.6 x 30.5 cm)
Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1991.25a)


Scythian Knife-grinder

ca. 200-150 BCE
Plaster cast from Roman marble copy of Greek
original in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
44 x 20 1/2 x 47 inches (111.8 x 52.1 x119.4 cm)
Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1991.25b)


The scene depicted in what has become known as the Hanging Marsyas group is the climax of a story which had roots in Greek myth and art at least as early as the fifth century BCE. The satyr Marsyas was so delighted with the sounds of Athena playing the flutes that he defied her warning to leave them undisturbed after she discarded them since they had distorted their features when she played them. Retrieving the pipes, Marsyas taught himself to play and, intoxicated by the wonderful sounds, he foolishly challenged Apollo to a musical contest which, predictably, the god won. Apollo then decreed that Marsyas be flayed alive as punishment for defying the gods; the Hanging Marsyas group depicts the last moments before that awful punishment is to be carried out.

art_hellenistic237A sculptor in Pergamon, working around the end of the third century, portrays the penultimate scene of the drama: Marsyas bound and helpless as the torturer's knife is readied for its gory task. His back pressed against a tree, Marsyas hangs ‌by his bound wrists which are pulled over his head and tied to a branch. With his arms pulling upwards on his torso, the rib cage is expanded and the skin is pulled taut over his ribs and musculature. The Scythian crouches below, sharpening a large, curved blade on a whetstone; his blunt fingers carry out their practiced motion automatically, unattended by his gaze which is lifted toward the stretched vulnerability of his victim. As reconstructed from fragmentary evidence, Apollo would have sat nearby, serenely observing the Scythian's grim preparations.

The deeply plastic modeling of the Scythian's features is underscored by an unrelenting realism in depicting the heavy coarseness of his thickened body, receding forehead, and tufts of facial hair. This "baroque" expression of brute force is channeled through the knife-grinder's stare towards the frame of the satyr. The very fact that he is bound emphasizes his impending fate. The satyr is a creature of dance, of unrestrained movement; to be strung immobile must have been a terrible cruelty in itself. The combination of these characteristics of realism, pathos, dramatic tension, and classicism is consistent with known trends in Pergamene sculpture during the first half of the 2nd century BCE.

Dale Skaggs


Metrodoros the Philosopher

3rd C. BCE
Plaster cast from the Parian marble Roman Hadrianic copy found in Athens, based on Hellenistic original National Archaeological Museum (no. 368), Athens
22 x 16 x 11 inches (55.9 x 40.6 x 27.9 cm)
Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1991.26)


Mattei Ceres (Demeter)

3rd C. BCE
Plaster cast from original marble in the Vatican Galleria dei Candelabri, Rome
43 1/2 x 14 x 10 inches (110.5 x 35.6 x 26.7 cm)
Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1991.23)


Head of Selene

ca. 180 BCE
From the the Great Altar at Pergamon
Plaster cast from original marble in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin
27 x 30 x 14 inches (68.6 x 76.2 x 35.6 cm)
Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1991.24)


Torso and Horse of Selene

ca. 180 BCE
ca. 180 BCE
From the the Great Altar at Pergamon
Plaster cast from original marble in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin
47 x 42 x 19 inches (119.4 x 106.7 x 48.3 cm)
Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004




Fairfield's cast of Selene is in two parts: the bust (Fairfield no. 24) belongs to the 1991 long-term renewable loan to Fairfield by the Metropolitan Museum of Art; whereas Selene's torso and the horse on which she is mounted (Fairfield no. 5) were gifted to Fairfield by the museum in 2004.

Selene is the personification of the moon. Traditionally, she was worshipped at the full and new moons. Her parents were the Titans Hyperion and Theia; her brother (or father, depending upon the source) was the sun god Helios; her sister was Eos, the goddess of dawn; her husband was Zeus.

The original relief of Selene is located in the center of the South frieze of the Great Altar. This portion of the frieze depicts the gods of day and night, and the Giants' attempts to disrupt the "harmony of time." The figures of Eos and Selene flank Helios, who stands triumphant in his chariot. Selene, whose dress slips off her left shoulder, rides side-saddle on her horse. Her back is to the viewer, but her face is in profile, as she turns to look at a victorious Helios, her left shoulder reflects the light of the sun. Fairfield's cast is a full replica of the surviving relief. As with the original in Berlin, the top of Selene's head, front of her face, and arms are missing; only the torso and rear of the horse survive.

Great Altar at Pergamon


The Great Altar at Pergamon is considered to be the "most renowned of all Hellenistic sculptural monuments." The altar was probably begun in 180 BCE, after Eumenes II of Pergamon's victories over Pontos and Bithynia and the founding of the Nikephoria festival, a celebration in honor of "the bringer of victory," or Athena, the patron deity of both Pergamon and Athens. The frieze depicts the Gigantomachy, a battle in which the Olympian gods defeated the Giants, a race of warriors born of Ge (Earth) and Ouranos (Sky).



1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, Connecticut 06824
(203) 254-4000