Innovations in Hellenistic sculpture

A number of new sculptural genres appeared in the Hellenistic period (3rd–1st centuries BC). These included relief series immortalising great poets and scholars. Eudoxos of Knidos, the famous astronomer (1), is represented with a long beard, wearing a mantle and holding a parchment scroll in his left hand – the usual attributes of intellectuals. The relief was found in Rome, together with two other pieces from the series. We do not know if they arrived there as war-booty, or were made by a Greek artist working in Rome.

Sculpture also became widespread in private spaces. The torso on display (2) probably adorned the house of a rich family. The female figure is clad in a long, thick dress (chiton) and a short, thin mantle (himation). Her hands are hidden under the mantle and her head is covered – these motifs signify the reserved elegance expected of upper-class women. The statue, which belongs to a common type, probably represented a young goddess.

The fragment that shows youths tending their horses, however, is a unique piece (3). The scene is perhaps related to a contest: it may have been the base of a statue representing the winner.

The red marble relief (4) served as the decorated panel of a table: its inscription suggests that it was given as a gift (doron). Examples of this rare type were found in distant parts of the Hellenised world: in Crete, Delos, and Pella.