Scopas is one of the most well known artists of ancient Greece. He lived in the 4th Century BC and was famous for the expressiveness of his artwork. Scopas was born around 400 BC in Paros, one of the Cyclades islands. He worked in Greece and even more in Asia Minor. Most of his works were in marble, and it is difficult to put them in chronological order. Many have been lost, and are familiar to us thanks to copies made in ancient times. Literary sources call Scopas a master of pathos, one of the first ancient sculptors to express passions and mankind’s most intense feelings. Many of his figures feature heavily sculpted faces, deep rings around their eyes and parted lips.
At the beginning of his career, Scopas worked as a sculptor and architect on the Temple of Athena Alea in Tegea, Arcadia. The temple’s two pediments are decorated with mythological themes. All that remains of these works are the heads of some warriors and a torso, just a few original fragments that document the sculptor’s distinctive, tension-charged style. Scopas was already famous when, sometime in the middle of the 4th Century BC, he was commissioned to decorate the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. There he collaborated with the most important artists of his time. Scopas created friezes for the mausoleum depicting combat between Greeks and Amazons. His artwork was energetic and powerfully dramatic. These features are also evident in his Dancing Maenad. The maenad, a follower of Dionysus, the god of wine, is portrayed dancing wildly. Her twisted body, flowing garments and ruffled hair convey a tumultuous sense of movement. Her upturned face expresses the ecstasy she experiences during Dionysian rites.
To make his works even more evocative, Scopas left the marble unpolished. Light and shadow interweave across the rough surfaces of his sculptures, adding to their overall effect. Scopas also produced three statues placed in the Temple of Aphrodite in Megara, figures that symbolize three different aspects of love. Of these, only a copy of Pothos, a delicately and sinuously sculpted boy, still survives today. We do not know when Scopas died, although it is believed his death took place some time after 330 BC. His expressive style was unique in his day, and paved the way for subsequent developments in Greek and Roman art.