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date: 01 February 2023



  • Karim Arafat


  • Greek Material Culture

Painter, son, and pupil of Aglaophon, of Thasos. Pliny (1) dates him before 420 bce, calling him also a sculptor. He may also be dated by his friendship with Cimon, for whom he painted in the Stoa Poecile (depicting Cimon's sister Elpinice as Laodice), refusing a fee. This or his Anakeion painting gained him Athenian citizenship. He painted the ‘Iliu persis’ and ‘Nekyia’ in the Cnidian Lesche (club-house for the citizens of Cnidus) at Delphi probably between 458 and 447, and probably the Theseum (Athens) soon after 475. The ‘Rape of the Leukippides’ (see dioscuri; leucippus(1)) in the Anakeion, ‘Odysseus having slain the suitors’ in Plataea, ‘Achilles in Scyros’ and ‘Nausicaa’ (both later in the Pinacothece) are undated.

Pausanias (3)'s description of the Cnidian Lesche (10. 25–31) reveals Polygnotus' innovative variable groundline and distribution of figures, reflected in such contemporary vases as the Niobid Painter krater. He was praised by Aristotle and Lucian for livelier and more expressive faces than before. Pliny credits him with originating transparent drapery, and representing open mouths. Many of the elements of his art had appeared sporadically before, but he combined them to represent men of high moral purpose (ethos) and ‘better than ourselves’, often either taking a decision or in the reaction after the event. For Theophrastus and others he was a primitive (he did not use shading), but still the first great painter. See painting, greek.


  • R. Kebric, The Paintings in the Knidian Lesche at Delphi (1983).
  • M. Stansbury-O'Donnell, American Journal of Archaeology 1989, 203–215.
  • M. Stansbury-O'Donnell, American Journal of Archaeology 1990, 213–235.