Chapter 15 The Classical and Medieval West Greek Roman Middle Ages
Greek Evolution of Sculptural Styles Kouros Early Archaic Late Archaic Classical The evolution of Greek sculpture begins with the Archaic period, progressing to the Classical and Hellenistic periods. Though each of these have early, middle and late sub periods, the most important aspects of each period is that the Archaic is more rigid in stance due to equal weight on both feet. The anatomy is abstracted or simplified and there is no emotion apparent, the eyes generally stare forward.
During the Classical period, there is an increased interest in accurate human anatomy, the pose becomes more natural and relaxed as the weight is shifted from one leg to the other, in a and there is a sense of idealism, figures of this period are of their ideal physical types. Emotion is also restrained in the classical style. Many of the marble sculptures we see today are colorless but when they were created many were painted in bright colors. The clarity and restraint of Classical sculpture gave way to writhing movement, facial expression and strained muscles expressing emotion and anguish. Kore, Archaic (530 BCE) Late Classical Hellenistic Winged Victory
During the Hellenistic period, anatomy continues to be well observed and there is an increased interest in movement or action of the figures. In addition, there is less idealism and more stress on expression of emotions. The images of Prometheus and Laocoon, for example, are both expressive of pain and anxious tension. Laocoon was a Trojan priest who warned against bringing the wooden horse into Troy. Laocoon is shown in hierarchic proportion to his sons. Also, the figure of an old woman, at right, would not have been expressed during the Classical period, for she lacks all idealism. Prometheus Laocoon Old Market Woman
Architectural Orders Developed by the Greeks Doric - came first, simple, geometric and sturdy. Ionic - taller, more dynamic and feminine in nature. Corinthian - complex and organic. The orders are Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, all have the same basic structure of a base, shaft, and capital with fluted or smooth columns.
Doric Columns In the masculine Doric order, there is no base, the shaft is fluted with concave grooves, and the cushion-like capital supports the entablature, which has a repeating pattern of vertical cuts and a metope (square-like relief).
Ionic Columns In the feminine Ionic order, the base provides a transition for the taller, more slender vertical column, the capital has scroll-like volutes, and there is often a frieze that has a pattern of continuous relief sculpture rather than metopes and triglyphs.
Corinthian order Corinthian columns are similar to the Ionic but are larger and more elaborate with an acanthus leaf motif for its capital.
The Roman Empire The Pantheon was the first temple to combine concrete construction with the decorative use of Greek classical orders. The building is an immense cylinder topped with a dome. The structure is 142 feet high and 140 feet across, making an almost hemispherical interior. There is a 29 foot wide oculus (eye) at the top, allowing ventilation and light to enter. A dome of this size would not have been possible without the Roman invention of concrete.
Interior views of the Pantheon The cross-section shows how the walls of the dome became thinner as they reached the oculus, preventing collapse from the weight. The invention of coffers (recessed blocks) also achieved this aim. Seven niches surrounding the base of the dome originally held statues of their gods. The Pantheon is now a Christian church called Santa Maria della Rotonda. The pagan statues were removed and replaced with Christian saints, and the half-dome above the altar is covered with Christian crosses.
Roman Sculpture Though most Roman sculptures strove for complete realism, images of gods and goddesses were often idealized. Also, they made great efforts to preserve the legacy of the Ancient Greeks by creating perfect copies of many of their broken sculptures. The Discus Thrower is an example of Greek Classical idealism, which the Romans preserved. Nereid Riding a Sea Serpent Neptune God of the Seas Discus Thrower
For the most part, you can trust Roman sculpture to be a faithful likeness of the person portrayed. This is especially true of bust-portraits of Rome's prominent citizens and politicians. Any Roman citizen who could afford it, might have their likeness carved in marble and multiple carvings were created of all of the Roman Emperors. The Romans greatest achievements were civil engineering, town planning, and architecture creating religious structures of impressive beauty having a major influence on Western architecture. Flavin Woman Roman Couple Emperor Hadrian 1 st century CE
Emperor Constantine The colossal portrait of Constantine shows the emperor's commanding presence. The head alone is 8 feet tall, and only fragments of other portions of his body remain, the whole body, seated on a throne, was once over 30 feet tall, partly constructed of brick and wood. His reign was towards the end of the Empire as Rome was decreasing its hold on its colonies and was subject to continual invasions. He was the first Roman Emperor to accept Christianity even establishing Christian churches outside of the capital of Rome. When he moved the capital to Byzantium, he called the new city "Constantinople". This split the power of the empire in two hastening the end of the empire. The western portion of Rome and its surroundings was repeatedly sacked by Germanic tribes. The eastern portion of Constantinople maintained its power and began the new age of Christianity, beginning with a period known as "Byzantine".
Early Christian and Byzantine Art The fall of the Roman Empire brought in the age of a new power, that of the Christian Church. Since the Christians had completely different concerns than the Roman republic, their art took on an entirely different direction. It became much less focused on realism and more concerned with symbolic representations of Christian concepts. All art served the role of church decoration. This helped to set an atmosphere of devotion while illustrating Christian stories to a largely illiterate public. The first period of Medieval art is called the Byzantine, after the original name of Constantinople: Byzantium.
Byzantium Mosaics The primary medium of Byzantine art was their use of glass mosaics. The Romans had used tiny stones to create mosaics, but the Byzantine artists used small pieces of colored glass, set into the mortar of the church walls at different angles to catch the light. The style is highly decorative, symbolic, and flattened representations of Christian saints. The gold backgrounds are intended to give an heavenly atmosphere, and figures often have halos to represent their divine status. Occasionally, the Holy Roman Emperor or Empress are depicted, to show the unification of the church and state. Here, the Empress Theodora (top) holds a goblet, representing the blood of Christ. Hagia Eirene Church in Istanbul, Turkey, an example of Byzantium Architecture.
Iconic Images The Byzantine reliance on images of Jesus and the saints opposes the second Commandment which states, "Thou shalt not make graven images to worship", but the Church counsel decreed that since Christ had been alive, it was necessary to represent him in the flesh. Images of Christ on the cross began in the 6th century. In addition to mosaics, the medieval artists developed a new medium of painting with egg tempera on a wood support. Art intended to hang within the church were of a fairly large scale and smaller versions were later created for personal devotion. The stylization is similar to those found in the mosaics: flattened and symbolic representations of Jesus, Mary, and saints with halos and a gold background to symbolize their heavenly status. The image of Christ on the cross evolved from images with his eyes open representing his victory over death to those with his eyes closed. Later representations show his body slumped in death as the focus shifts to empathy with Christ's suffering.
Images of Mary enthroned as the heavenly mother of Christ was another popular icon. She is always the center of the composition and hierarchic scale also makes sure that she is the focus of attention. The gold background reinforces her divine status, as do the surrounding angels. There are strong similarities between these two images, given the conventions that dictated her representation, but if you look carefully, you will note that Giotto begins to define Mary in more three-dimensional terms. We will see this tendency develop further as we move into the Renaissance period. Cimabue, Madonna Enthroned 1285 Giotto di Bondone, Madonna Enthroned 1310
The "Animal Style" The animal style is the artwork created by Eurasian nomadic peoples of ancient and medieval Europe. They derive from the Germanic and Nordic countries which were barbaric tribes until missionaries Christianized them during the Middle Ages. Since they had always been nomadic people, their art was focused on things that they could carry which were generally functional objects such as decorative swords, horse-trappings, ship prows, etc. In general, their styles were based on animal imagery, combined with an intricate interlacing of geometric lines. Purse cover, before 655, found in England, book pg 257
Illuminated Manuscripts - An Illuminated Manuscript was a hand-lettered religious book produced by monks representing Christianity. This style was integrated into their Christian images, such as the Celtic Cross from Ireland and illuminated pages from the Book of Kells, below right. Close inspection reveals delicate interlacing lines and in the case of the illuminated manuscript, human faces embedded in the design.
Evolution of Architectural Styles The first Christian Churches generally followed the central plan in the eastern part of the world influenced by Roman temples such as the Pantheon and the basilica plan in the west, a longitudinal plan with a transept separating the altar from the nave. Throughout western Europe, the basilica style eventually came to represent the image of the cross. Central Plan Basilica (Cross) Plan
High Medieval Period The "High Medieval Period" is first characterized by the Romanesque and then the Gothic styles of architecture. For many centuries, the Middle Ages suffered from a lack of technical knowledge which the Romans had previously achieved. The essential ingredient of creating the bonding agent in concrete had been forgotten and churches were being built with wood roofs which were continually burning down. During a period of expanding interest in religious pilgrimages, churches needed to be built which could contain growing numbers of worshippers. Architects rediscovered Roman vaulting utilizing mortar to hold the stones in place, though concrete was not re-invented until the 19th century. The vaulted arch allowed for a wider nave and sound construction. The walls were massive stone blocks and the roof utilized the Roman semicircular arch. Despite its lofty height, its massive structure makes it appear as though it is "hugging the earth" especially when viewed from the exterior. The Romanesque style had a symmetrical design with a single tower and was not as highly decorative as the later, Gothic style. Romanesque Style St. Sernin is an example of Romanesque architecture.
Gothic Chartres Cathedral is an example of gothic architecture in France. During this period, architects make the greatest technical advances of Medieval times. By devising a pointed arch, they are able to make walls which are taller and thinner, creating the tallest buildings up to that time and not superseded until this century. The design opens up, allowing for larger windows letting in more light, which they now decorate with colored glass. In addition, they have devised a system for propping up the buildings with an exterior support called "flying buttresses". When one of the towers at Chartres Cathedral burnt down, it was replaced with the later Gothic style.
The gothic period marks the highest point of Medieval art. Their huge churches are their greatest masterworks, the crowning achievements of the Middle Ages. As the gothic period progressed, the buildings continued to reach higher and the decoration became progressively elaborate.. The church below is an extreme example of High Gothic architecture. Notice the elaborate sculptures that fill every surface.
Architectural Sculpture Throughout the Middle Ages, most sculpture is attached to the walls of the church. The cathedral was a "sermon in stone" which could be "read" by an illiterate population. Before a worshipper has even entered the church, he would find images of saints and sinners, of angelic beings and the punishment of the damned. All stood as a reminder of the importance of holding one's thoughts to God. During the Romanesque period, there is a great similarity between images from illuminated manuscripts and those depicted in their sculpture. Romanesque design tends to be very flat, shallow reliefs of biblical stories and figures.
Gothic sculpture, on the other hand, tends to be much more three dimensional and the figures start to come to life. The full-volumed bodies carved on the Chartres Cathedral, for instance, look as if they may walk off of the building. In addition, the features are much more naturalistic: more human and individualized. This trend will influence the beginnings of Renaissance sculpture as well as painting.