Praxiteles, a Greek sculptor, flourished about the middle of the 4th century B. C. He ranks at the head of the later Attic school, but nothing is known of his personal history, except that he was a resident of Athens. He was unsurpassed in the exhibition of the softer beauties of the human form. In the Cnidian Venus, his most celebrated work, of Parian marble, the position of the left hand was the same as in the Venus de' Medici; the right hand held some drapery which fell over a vase beside the statue, and was intended to indicate that she had just left the bath. Pliny recounts that Praxiteles made two statues of Venus, the one draped, the other naked, and that he thought them of equal value, and offered them for the same price; that the people of Cos bought the draped one, the people of Cnidus the other; and that this latter totally eclipsed the fame of the draped statue. It was afterward taken to Constantinople, where it perished by fire in the reign of Justinian. Praxiteles also made two marble statues of Eros. It is said that in his fondness for Phryne, the courtesan, the artist had promised to give her whichever of his works she chose, but would not tell her which- of them he thought the best.
To discover this she sent a slave to tell him that a fire had broken out in his house, and that his works would perish, whereupon he cried out that all his toil was lost if the fire had touched his satyr or his Eros. Phryne chose the Eros, and dedicated it at Thespise. The satyr is said to have stood in the street of the tripods at Athens, and it is supposed that several existing marble statues, which represent a satyr leaning against the trunk of a tree, are copies of it. His works in marble are thought to have been covered with a thin encaustic varnish of flesh color.