Red-figure krater by the Niobid Painter, c. 460 BCE.
Hellenistic painting, known through ancient descriptions and Roman copies, shows advances in expression and
illusionism. The Battle of Issus, which shows Alexander the Great defeating the Persian king Darius, is a Roman
mosaic copy of one of the Hellenistic period’s most famous paintings. It shows foreshortening (especially in the
horse shown from the rear in the middle of the scene) and recession, with figures becoming smaller as they go back
in space. The crowd of soldiers is set on a ground plane at about eye level so that many of the figures overlap. The
painting also shows skillful modeling from light to dark on the figures, shadows on the ground, and even reflections
on the shield of the fallen soldier in the foreground. The soldiers’ expressions are strong and varied, ranging from
Alexander’s fierce determination to Darius’ desperation.