1. Praxiteles (Active 370–330 BCE)
When you picture ancient Greek sculpture, you’re probably imagining a lifelike figure carved from marble. You can thank Praxiteles of Athens for that. During the 4th century BCE, he perfected the naturalistic style we associate with classical statuary by introducing a studied casualness and sensuousness to the stiff, formal style practiced by the earlier artists of Attic Greece artists. Only one surviving work is believed to be attributable to him—a marble known as Hermes Carrying the Infant Dionysus, though historians have debated that it’s actually a copy made by another Greek sculptor. Even as a replica, though, it would predate other copies of Praxiteles’s work, which were created centuries later by Roman artists. The Romans greatly admired Praxiteles, a sentiment captured in the writings of Pliny the Elder. Pliny’s account of Praxiteles is, in fact, one of the primary sources for our understanding of the artists, including the fact that he created the first full-length sculpture of a female nude in history, a subject that would remain a mainstay fro painters and sculptors alike.