1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Scopas

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SCOPAS, probably of Parian origin, the son of Aristander, a great Greek sculptor of the 4th century B.C. Although classed as an Athenian, and similar in tendency to Praxiteles, he was really a cosmopolitan artist, working largely in Asia and Peloponnesus. The extant works with which he is associated are the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, and the temple of Athena Alea at Tegea. In the case of the Mausoleum, though no doubt the sculpture generally belongs to his school, we are unable to single out any special part of it as his own. But we have good reason to think that the pedimental ngures from Tegea, some of which are at Athens, while some are kept in the local museum, are Scopas' own work. The subjects of the pedimental compositions were the hunting of the Calydonian boar and the battle between Achilles and Telephus. Four heads remain, that of Hercules, that of Atalanta and two of warriors: also part of the body of Atalanta and the head of the boar. Unfortunately all these are in very poor preservation; but it is allowed that they are our best evidence for the style of Scopas. The head of a helmeted warrior (see Greek Art, Plate III. fig. 63) is especially valuable to us. It is very powerful, with massive bony framework; the forehead is projecting, the eyes deep-set and heavily shaded, the mouth slightly open and full of passion. It shows us that while in general style Scopas approached Praxiteles, he differed from him in preferring strong expression and vigorous action to repose and sentiment. The temple at Tegea was erected after 395 B.C.; and the advanced character of the sculpture seems to indicate a date at least twenty years later than this. Attempts have been made, through comparison of these heads, to assign to Scopas many sculptures now in museums, heads of Heracles, Hermes, Aphrodite, Meleager and others. It is, however, very risky thus to attribute works executed in Roman times, and often thoroughly eclectic in character. Ancient writers give us a good deal of information as to works of Scopas. He made for the people of Elis a bronze Aphrodite, riding on a goat (copied on the coins of Elis); a Maenad at Athens, running with head thrown back, and a torn kid in her hands was ascribed to him; of this Dr Treu has published a probable copy in the Albertinum at Dresden (Mélanges Perrot, p. 317). Another type of his was Apollo as leader of the Muses, singing to the lyre. The most elaborate of his works was a great group representing Achilles being conveyed over the sea to the island of Leuce by his mother Thetis, accompanied by Nereids riding on dolphins and sea-horses, Tritons and other beings of the sea, “ a group,” says Pliny (36. 25), “which would have been remarkable had it been the sole work of his life.” He made also an Aphrodite which rivalled the creation of Praxiteles, a group of winged love-gods whom he distinguished by naming them Love, Longing and Desire, and many other works.

Jointly with his contemporaries Praxiteles and Lysippus, Scopas may be considered as having completely changed the character of Greek sculpture. It was they who initiated the lines of development which culminated in the schools of Pergamum, Rhodes and other great cities of later Greece, In most of the modern museums of ancient art their influence may be seen in three-fourths of the works exhibited. At the Renaissance it was especially their influence which dominated Italian painting and through it modern art. (P. G.)