Doidalsas or Daedalus

1. Introduction-attribution of works

Doidalsas or Doidalses was a sculptor from Bithynia who worked around the mid-3rd century BC and possibly created the cult statue of Zeus Stratios in Nikomedeia of Bithynia. His only certain work is a statue of Bathing Aphrodite, which made him famous. It is believed that he was a member of the school of Lyssipus and the official sculptor of the court of the king of Bithynia Nicomedes I (279-255 BC).

His existence is however seriously questioned by modern research. “Doidalsas” or “Doidalses” was apparently a Bithynian name.1 Pliny the Elder2 mentions a statue of Bathing Aphrodite in the Octavian Portico in Rome, work of an artist whose name could have been “Doidalsas”, although the reading of Pliny’s text in this point is problematic.3 It has also been suggested that one should read as “Doidalsas” the name “Daedalus”, given by Byzantine sources4 to the sculptor who created for the king of Bithynia Nicomedes I a bronze statue of Zeus Stratios under the occasion of the establishment of the cult of the god in the newly-founded city of Nicomedeia around 264 BC.

2. Statue of Zeus Stratios

This sculpture is not preserved today and its statue type has not yet been safely identified. Its general lines are, however, recognized on coins of Bithynia from the time of Prousias I (228-285 BC)5 until the time of Nicomedes III (189-94 BC), as well as on a marble statuette from Kameiros of Rhodes.6 The god is portrayed standing, wearing an himation and holding a sceptre, whereas his right hand is stretched and holds a wreath of olive leaves.

3. The statue of Bathing Aphrodite

On the contrary, the statue of Bathing Aphrodite of Doidalsas is recognized in the type of the nude “crouching Aphrodite”, which was very popular in Roman times and survives in many Roman copies and variations. The marble statue of the goddess Pliny saw in Rome, is believed to have been a copy of the original bronze statue of the mid-3rd century BC, which Nicomedes I ordered from Doidalsas, because he could not acquire Aphrodite of Knidos, which he wanted very much.7

Nevertheless, this is not a cult statue but an important votive sculpture. It is believed that this statue was still standing in Nicomedeia during the Late Imperial period, when it appears on coins. However, the connection of the statue with the king of Bithynia Nicomedes I and its dating to the mid-3rd century BC (264-247 BC) have been questioned. The statue type of “crouching Aphrodite” is reported in almost 15 marble copies and variations, in many more bronze and clay statuettes, as well as on Roman coins of Bithynia, Paphlagonia and Pontus. Amongst them the headless marble torso from Vienne of France at the Louvre, the head of Aphrodite from Cumae in Italy in the Glyptothek of Munich, as well as the marble statue from the Villa Hadriana in the Museo Nazionale Romano. The goddess is portrayed sometimes by herself and sometimes in a complex with Eros, in a position which would allow the goddess to pour water on her back during her bath.

4. Evaluation

This is one of the most impressive statues of nude Aphrodite in Hellenistic times, which repeats the theme of bathing Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles. However, the particularly soft and sensual rendering of the flesh and generally the earthly character of the figure by Doidalsas serves a womanly ideal much different than the one of Praxiteles and his age. It has rightly been paralleled with works of the European baroque and especially with the nude female figures of Rubens. This ideal is given with a great realism, which is only to be found again in works of the First School of Pergamon, relative in time and space, whereas the torsion and and three-dimensional effect of the figure as well as the naturalistic rendering of the abdominal area owe much to the tradition of Lyssipus.

1. Strabo 12.4.2.

2. Pliny, HN 36.35.

3. Only one manuscript, the code of Bamberg, gives the name “Daedalsas” and many editors of Pliny’s text doubt whether the name of a sculptor can indeed be identified in the text. Andre, J. - Bloch, R. - Rouveret, A., Pline l’Ancien. Histoire Naturelle, Livre XXXVI (Paris 1981), p. 162, n. 4.

4. Eustathios, Σχόλια στο Διονύσιο Περιηγητή, p. 793 ; Αρρ., FGrHist 3, 594, F 41 ; Overbeck, J., Die antiken Schriftquellen zur Geschichte der bildenden Künste bei den Griechen (Leipzig 1868), no. 2045.

5. Catalogue of Greek coins in the British Museum, “Pontus”, tab. 37-39; Newell, E.T., Royal Greek Portrait Coins (New York 1937), p. 37, tab. 3, fig. 1.

6. Laurenzi, L., “La personalità di Doidalses di Bitinia”, ASAtene 8-9 (1946-1948), p. 169, fig. 2.

7. Pliny, HN 36.21.