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Doryphoros (Canon)Artist / Origin: After Polykleitos of Argos (Greek, ca. 480/475–415 BCE)Region: EuropeDate: 450–440 BCEPeriod: 500 BCE – 1 CEMaterial: BronzeMedium: SculptureDimensions: H: approx. 84 in. (213 cm.)Location: Munich Museum, Munich, GermanyCredit: Courtesy of the Munich Museum


Created by understand sculptor Polykleitos of Argos (ca. 480/475–415 BCE), the Doryphoros, or Spear-Bearer, has lengthy been pertained to as an exemplum of male beauty as conceived of by the ancient Greeks.

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Polykleitos smust capture the ideal proportions of the huguy number in his statues and emerged a set of aesthetic values governing these proportions that was recognized as the Canon or “Rule.” In formulating this “Rule,” Polykleitos created a system based on a simple mathematical formula in which the humale body was separated into measured parts that all pertained to one an additional.

Though we carry out not recognize the exact details of Polykleitos’s formula, the finish outcome, as manifested in the Doryphoros, was the perfect expression of what the Greeks called symmetria. In art of the High Classical period (ca. 450–400 BCE), symmetria, or symmeattempt, not only encompassed a feeling of propercent and also balance, but was likewise an exercise in contrasts. The body of the Doryphoros, for example, stands in what is termed contrapposto, meaning that his weight rests on his ideal leg, releasing his left to bfinish. In the procedure, the best hip shifts up and also the left down; the left shoulder raises and the appropriate drops. His body is carried into a state of equilibrium via this counterbalancing act.

Although the Doryphoros represents a warrior poised for battle, he does not don a suit of armor or any other protective equipment. In fact, were it not for the actual spear that that statue initially held, it would have actually been hard to determine him as such. A hallmark of classical Greek sculpture, male nudity or nakedness was construed as a marker of human being that separated the Greeks from their “barbarian” neighbors.

Many type of of the the majority of influential Greeks of this period, including artists, writers, thinkers, and also politicians, were obsessed via the concept that one should strive for perfection while recognizing that such perfection was unattainable. The challenge of the Doryphoros is devoid of individual features, which suggests that he is supposed to represent an idealized variation of the everyman, the perfect Greek male citizen (woguys were not citizens). Yet, his body—proportional, well balanced, naked, strong, and exuding confidence—is one that the viewer could aspire to achieve, but never could.


“The Greeks didn’t have a word for idealization. That’s not to say that Greek artists didn’t think fairly hard before they sculpted a kouros or attracted a naked man on a pot. I’d say that basically the typical picture in the sixth-, fifth-, fourth-century art represents what they pertained to as the greatest widespread element of humanity. And this highest common element was landed on by the idea of framework, of order, which supplies mathematics and geometry, at least in sculpture it does, but is not restricted to that, in order to develop right proparts, what each individual sculptor thought was ideal proparts. And then overlaying that mathematical geometric framework, that grid, with convincing simulacra for muscles and bones and flesh and also so on and so forth.

Proportion manifests itself ideal at the exceptionally start of the intensive Greek engagement via the body in the eighth century. But the sculptor that really set it on a continual footing, really took it to the following level, was Polykleitos of Argos. Polykleitos, we are told, produced in his Canon, which was more than likely the same through the Doryphoros, a occupational of sculpture which other artists complied with like a law, as a nommos, the Greeks would say. And there we are told quite unequivocally that he connected eincredibly component to eextremely various other part and also to the whole and also used a mathematical formula in order to execute so. What that formula was is a matter of conjecture. But, it’s beyond doubt that he did use a mathematical formula and used it rigorously to the whole huguy body, also down to the fingernails and also toenails. That we recognize as a truth. Classical times never consequently forgot what he had actually done. They tried to transcfinish it and also his proportional system was adapted, adopted, adjusted, readjusted, criticized and also so forth. But right approximately the finish of the Romale Empire, we still discover Polykleitan-style torsos and Polykleitan-style proportions. And then through the Roman copies we find them aacquire in the art of the West from the Renaissance onwards, obviously not the same, however as it were, his shadow is very lengthy and it still persists ’til now.”


Bonfante, Larissa. “Nudity as Costume in Classical Art.” American Journal of Archaeology 93.4 (October 1989): 543–570.

Foxhall, Lin, and John Salmon, eds. Thinking Men: Masculinity and also Its Self-Representation in the Classical Tradition. London; New York: Routledge, 1998.

Moon, Warren G. Polykleitos, The Doryphoros, and Tradition. Madison: College of Wisconsin Press, 1995.

Stewart, Anattracted. Art, Desire, and the Body in Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

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Stewart, Andrew. Classical Greece and the Birth of Western Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.