Doryphoros by Polykleitos
The Doryphoros by Polykleitos is a stalwart symbol of humanist beauty; successfully encapsulating the movement of the human form in an eternally still image. The Doryphoros, or spear bearer, stands on everlasting watch preventing the return of archaic smiles and lifeless kouroi of the past. This statue’s organic beauty is present even at the most mathematical of levels as is the prime example of Polykleitos’ own cannon, displaying precise human proportions; Polykleitos uses minimal stone yet gets maximal beauty . Well-squared, lifelike hands maintain the same ratio to the forearm as the forearm does to the upper arm, making each limb the epitome of the human form (Tobin).
The statue is significant not only because of its proportions; Doryphoros was one of the most famous statues in the ancient world and many known Roman copies exist. The original was created in around 450 BC in bronze and was presumably even more tremendous than the known copies that have been unearthed. Doryphoros is also an early example of contrapposto position, a postion which Polykleitos constructed masterfully (Moon).
The symmetry of the body as it twists showcases Polykleitos’ skill at creating contrapposto. Additionally, it helps distinguish this naturalistic masterpiece from the statues of the archaic period, which show little motion besides a step forward onto the left foot. Even with the forward step, Archaic statues still fall short of truly capturing motion, as they lack any of the demonstrated weight transfer or free flowing cloth that makes Classical Greek sculpture so magnificent to behold. Doryphoros also has lifelike facial expression; something not seen in Archaic statue. Instead, Archaic statues stare blankly and grin, looking more like your half-baked hallmate than the grand, ideal humans or immortals they are meant to represent.
This statue radiates humanism in other ways too. Examine the detail of the muscles, for example, and witness their perfect construction. The abs are so pristine they are literally chiseled. Look next at the detail of the fingers, hair, and ribs and take in their astounding accuracy. Each of these elements alone is impressive, but when they come together to form the body as a whole they are truly beautiful to behold.
Moon, Warren G. “Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and Tradition.” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 5.2 (1998): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.
Tobin, Richard. “The Cannon of Polykleitos.” The American Journal of Archeology(1975): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.