How Art Works: Week 6 Classicism Case Studies: Greek and Roman Canons


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  • Polykleitos, Doryphoros (Spear Bearer), 450-440 BCE.
    Established a canon, or accepted criterion, of consummate male beauty achieved with a system of mathematical proportions.
    " does not consist in the elements but in the symmetry of the parts, the proportion of one finger to another, of all the fingers to the hand, of the hand to the forearm, of the forearm to the upper arm, of all the parts to all others as it is written in the canon of Polykleitos.“ Galen (2AD)

    • Obsession with balance and harmony is expressed by each weight-bearing limb being placed in diagonal opposition to a relaxed one.
    • This underscores the principle of contrapposto:
    o Disposition of body parts to show movement; one part turned in opposition to the other; weight shift; one side tense and the other relaxed.
    • The right side of the body has the solidity of an Ionic column, bringing stability to the energetic expression of the left.
    • Doryphorus displays the transformation of body position which precedes movement, and it marks the point where the evolution of depicting motion in sculpture originates.
    • He is a warrior and originally carried a spear in his left hand.
    • In ancient Greece, battle was the supreme test of masculinity, yet he is not dressed in armour, for the naked body was a symbol for military might.
    • His muscular, heavy body displays an internal firmness.
  • Myron, Diskobolos (Discus Thrower), Roman copy after the original bronze of c. 450 BCE.
    • A new peak in the development of gesture and movement.
    • Its intense, yet credible, motion is expressed in static terms.
    • Movement is the physical expression of action, and should be vivid and immediate, but not so fleeting that it defies rational analysis.
    • Patterns isolated within continual movement convey the whole nature of transition.
    • This brings rhythmos, or rational order to motion.
    • Myron achieves this through the composition of the Diskobolus.
    • The limbs balance one another in a complex pattern of forms, with bisecting curves creating the feeling of a taut bow ready to explode.
    • The pose suggests a winding and unwinding tension of the body emphasizing the probable trajectory of the discus.
    • With the Diskobolus we see the physical expression of mutability, and a new significance attached to human action.

  • • Throughout the fifth century BCE, sculptors carefully maintained the equilibrium between simplicity and ornament that is fundamental to Greek Classical art.
    • Standards established by Pheidias and Polykeitos in the mid-fifth century BCE for the ideal proportions and idealized forms had generally been accepted by the next generation of artists
    • Fourth-century BCE artists, however, challenged and modified those standards.
    o Developed a new canon of proportions for male figures
     8 or more “heads” tall rather than the 6 1/2- or 7-head height of earlier works.
    o The calm, noble detachment characteristic of earlier figures gave way to more sensitively rendered images of men and women
    o Expressions of wistful introspection, dreaminess, or even fleeting anxiety.
  • • Kore (korai, pl.)
    • More varied than the kouros
    • Always clothed, poses different problem: how to relate body and drapery
    • More likely to reflect changing habits and or local differences of dress
    o Peplos: a draped rectangle of cloth, usually wool, folded over at the top, pinned at the shoulders, and belted to give a bloused effect
    o Chiton: like the peplos, but fuller; relatively lightweight rectangle of cloth pinned along the shoulders
    o Himation: cloak, draped diagonally and fastend on one shoulder; worn over chiton
    • Erect, immobile, vertical pose
  • • Three Goddesses from east pediment of the Parthenon, 438-432 BCE
    o Ease of movement
    o No violence or pathos
    o No specific action of any kind, only a deep felt poetry of being
    o Soft fullness, enveloped in thin drapery
    o “wet-drapery”
    o “slip-strap”
    o body both lusciously revealed and tantalizing veiled by clinging folds
  •  Vertical fall of drapery on engaged leg resembles fluting of a column shaft: provides sense of stability
     Bent leg gives an impression of relaxed grace and effortless support
  • Nike/ use of drapery to define anatomy and movement of the figure
  • appearance of the female nude

    she alludes to modesty in her pose

    increased focus on the individual
  • Our word “architecture” comes from the Greek architecton, which means “master carpenter.”
    Early Greek architecture therefore employed wood, not stone.
    These early structures, as well as those of mud-brick, have not survived.
    By the 6th Century BCE, stone replaced wood in the construction of important temples.

    Temple type
    • Post and lintel construction
    • Based on three orders which dictate a basic plan
    o Doric, Ionic and Corinthian (a variant of the Ionic order)

    • Built by the Greeks after the Persians sacked Athens in 480 BCE and destroyed the existing temple and its sculpture.
    • Dedicated to the virgin goddess Athena, the patron deity in whose honor Athens was named
    • Made of gleaming white marble
  • How Art Works: Week 6 Classicism Case Studies: Greek and Roman Canons

    1. 1. How Art Works: Week 6 Classicism Case Studies: Greek and Roman Canons
    2. 2. Greek Classicism Greek Civilization “Man is the measure of all things.” Artists studied human beings intensely, then distilled their newfound knowledge to capture in their art works the essence of humanity
    3. 3. Greek Classicism Greek Art Greek artists of the fifth and fourth centuries BCE established a benchmark for art against which succeeding generations of artists and patrons in the Western world have since measured quality.
    4. 4. Beauty
    5. 5. The Classical Period in Greek Art The Greeks would establish an ideal of beauty that has endured in the Western world to this day
    6. 6. The Golden Ratio Doryphoros of Polykleitos c. 450-440 BCE Alexandros of Antioch Venus de Milo C 130 and 100 BCE Leonardo da Vinci Vitruvian Man c. 1490
    7. 7. Humanism Apollo Belvedere In embrace of humanism, the Greeks even imagined that their gods looked like perfect human beings
    8. 8. Rationalism Canon of proportions in sculpture
    9. 9. Idealism Maxims carved on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi: • “Man is the measure of all things.” Seek an ideal based on the human form. • “Know thyself.” Seek the inner significance of forms • “Nothing in excess.” Reproduce only essential forms.
    10. 10. Greek Classical Sculpture Kouros: (male) youth
    11. 11. " does not consist in the elements but in the symmetry of the parts, the proportion of one finger to another, of all the fingers to the hand, of the hand to the forearm, of the forearm to the upper arm, of all the parts to all others as it is written in the canon of Polykleitos.“ Galen (2AD) Doryphoros (Spear Bearer) or Canon. Roman copy after an original by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos from c. 450-440 B.C.E.
    12. 12. Classical figure in motion Myron, Diskobolos (Discus Thrower) Zeus c. 460 BCE
    13. 13. Late Classical male sculpture Praxiteles’ Hermes and the Infant Dionysus Lysippos’ Apoxyomenos (The Scraper)
    14. 14. Greek Female Statue Types Berlin Kore 570-560 BCE Peplos Kore c. 530 BCE Kore, from Chios c. 520 BCE
    15. 15. Sitting and reclining poses Three Goddesses from east pediment of the Parthenon 438-432 BCE
    16. 16. Standing figures Pheidias’ Athena in cella of Parthenon Marshalls and Young Women from the frieze of Parthenon
    17. 17. Caryatid from the Porch of the Maidens Nike Adjusting Her Sandal c. 427-424 BCE
    18. 18. Earliest depictions of fully nude women in major works of art • Appearance of the female nude • She alludes to modesty in her pose • Increased focus on the individual Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Knidos c. 350 BCE
    19. 19. GREEK ARCHITECTURE Doric Temple Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens 448-432 BCE The word “architecture” comes from the Greek architecton, which means “master carpenter.”
    20. 20. GREEK ARCHITECTURE Ionic Temple Temple of Athena Nike, Acropolis, Athens c. 427-424 BCE
    21. 21. Roman Classicism Temple of Athena Nike Classical Greek Temple of Portunus Rome, Italy - ca. 75 BCE
    22. 22. Polykleitos, Doryphoros, High Classical Greek Augustus Primaporta, Pax Romana (Roman)
    23. 23. Roman portraiture Verism Head of a Roman Patrician (Head of an Old Roman) c. 75-50 BCE This style is verism, a documentary realism (superrealistic)
    24. 24. Roman portraiture Idealism Augustus of Primaporta Early 1st century CE (perhaps a copy of a bronze statue of c. 20 BCE) Heroic, idealized body which is derived from the Doryphoros of Polykleitos Doryphoros of Polykleitos c. 450-440 BCE