This is the best sculpture presently on Earth - Hermes & Dionysus. It is said to be (possibly) a Roman copy after the original by Praxeteles.
It is most certainly NOT a copy.
It is too well made and too well integrated. I have seen excellent pictures of this particular work which leave no doubt in my mind as to it's being an original. To make a copy this good requires a master craftsman of greater ability then the original creator. Generally, this never happens because master artisans of that caliber don't make copies except in their formative years. They are too busy doing their own stuff.
The reason I put it at the top of the heap is that it has "relaxed perfect balance" and the figures are idealizations of natural body forms. This is the type of sculpture you would expect to see in a civilization which is at its zenith just as a "glob of formless mud" is characteristic of a civilization at or approaching its nadir (who might that be?).
Here is another great sculpture.It is called the Laocoon. I do not know who made it and I believe no one else does either. When I first saw a picture of this piece I thought "Michelangelo must have seen this" ... and he did. In fact it was dug up in Rome during his lifetime and he was greatly impressed by it.
I guess so.
His subsequent work is an attempt to "live up to" the measure of this statuary. Look at his early output ... it has that characteristic balance and naturalness idealized. That's what he came to on his own. Then he sees this and thinks "Hey, this dynamic stuff really rocks! I wanna do that too." So he abandons the Pieta style (his best work) and begins to produce anachronistic Baroque "Junk" when he's supposed to be producing Praxetelean balance.
Note: I mean junk relative to the Hermes ... it certainly isn't pure junk or I wouldn't put it on this page as second best on Earth. I place it ahead of the Pieta because Michelangelo did as much.Michelangelo was supposed to be our Praxeteles.
Note the right forearm of the center figure. When uncovered that arm was missing and because it was nearly intact they decided to "finish" it as they expected it would have looked. They put a forearm on it at an upward angle (just a few degrees off vertical). And it was a respectable replacement. Unfortunately, as Michelangelo's civilization was at its zenith (or thereabouts) they gave it an upward thrust denoting the basic philosophical underpinnings of such a civilization. But the Laocoon was made in a badly decaying culture ... a dying culture and therefore the real arm (which was later found) has the downward tac.
Note also that the figure has lost its balance and natural body. The body is now a caricature of the human form rather than an idealization. It writhes in agony and is about to be defeated (in this case ... eaten) despite his obvious muscle power.
By the way, that's what bodybuilders are ... caricatures of the human form ... striving to look like Michelangelo's copies of an original from a decaying civilization. Hence, Leonardo (who never abandoned balance) derided Michelangelo's figures as looking "...like a bag of nuts", i.e. too much muscle definition. The idealization of the human form is achieved in some athletes such as gymnasts.
To my mind ...
This is the greatest extant painting presently on Earth (others have chosen it as well). It portrays the perfect balance of which I write. Of all the pictures of artworks I have seen ... this is the one I keep coming bact to as a base upon which all else must rest. It is not technically the best nor is the composition the best ... but philosophically it is best. And that, readers, is what the whole shebang of art is all about.
Observe in the detail that the face has no malice whatever and no fear of living or dying ... he's just going about his business ... a very direct look ... maybe a little tired (i.e. stoned ;o). "Hey, it's just a few nails, a spot of blood, a little pain ... eh ... no problema. Guess I'll get to work now. Gotta punch in ... lots to do on Monday."
The subject doesn't matter here (I chose this work as best when I was an absolute atheist)... it's the portrayal of
as in "Panama Red" ;o)