Greek Sculpture A chronology of style and change in Ancient Greeksculpture through the Archaic Age, Classical Period, and Hellenistic Period
Sculpture Throughout the Ages: Introduction Archaic Classical Hellenistic If there’s one key to identifying the style, beliefs, and philosophy of each period, it’s sculpture. Sculpture provides a window into Ancient Greek life, and sums up the overall tone of its history.
The Archaic Age (850 – 480 BCE) The Archaic Age brought the first emergence of Greek artistic identity. However, their earliest style was more of a combination of Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures.~Egyptian~> ~~~~~~~~Greek~~~~~~~~ <~~~~~Mesopotamian~~~~~~However, unlike Egyptian sculpture, Greek sculpture was free standing, while Egyptiansculpture was supported by a stone background. Greek eyes featured a direct stare, whileEgyptian eyes had a faraway glaze. Still, as one can see, they had very similar characteristics,one of which being their shared stance: one foot in front of the other and very four sided.
Influence of Egyptian Ideas As Greece emerged from the Dark Ages, trade flourished with various cultures around the Mediterranean, particularly the Egyptians. As a result much of Greek sculpture is influenced by Egyptian style and themes. The Sphinx to the left is just one example of a theme in Egyptian mythology transferred into Greece. The Mycenaean culture also had a large impact on Archaic sculpture which results in a eastern, more oriental style.
The Kouros and the KoreTwo main subjects were sculpted in the Archaic age: the Kouros (male, meaningyouth) and the Koure (female, meaning maiden). Both were very rigid, and featuredwig-like hair in a stylized pattern. Also, both were massive, measuring from 3-4m tall.They were almost always painted, adding an element of realism to the sculptures.Statues of the Archaic age were made of bronze or sandstone. Kouros Kore The Kouros stood The Kore was always always nude, some clothed. Women were times shown with more realistically a beard to signify depicted, as seen by maturity. It the folds and creases featured well- in the dress. They had defined muscles, a solid form and wore depicting the a skirt, with only their Greek focus on toes showing through perfect ion and the at the bottom. ideal body
Characteristics The Kouros and Kore featured an emphasis on decorative architectural sculpture. They were mainly found in temples, found on pediments and facades, but were also used to mark tombs. In temples, they started out being carved deeply into stone walls to make them stand out from the background.
Changes in Form – The Age of Transition As the Archaic Age progressed, slight changes developed in sculpture. The most noticeable change was the emergence of the Archaic Smile, best seen in he Rampin Head. Also, towards the end of the period the Kouros was depicted wearing a cloak, allowing the body to be seen yet straying away from a nude form. Even further into the period, statues became Greek bodies with Kouros shoulders, arms and legs. As time progressed, and sculpture started to feature different poses, statue themes developed into Gods and Mortals in Battle. The Rampin Head, featuring the Archaic Smile
The Classical Period (480 – 323 BCE) In the Classical Period, new subjects were used for sculpture. Young athletes and nude females took the place of the Archaic Kouros and Kore. They were sculpted for gifts to the Gods, and for celebrations of Greek success. Classical sculpture was more realistic, featuring detailed muscles, and a new form of sculpting: modeling. Action was introduced into sculpture, creating a shift in weight and balance. As the Classical Period progressed, a transition from using bronze to marble was made.
Development of Classical Pathos A major characteristic of the Classical Period was the development of a quality of “Pathos”, meaning suffering. This pathos is best seen in the “Dying Niobid” from myth. The story goes that Niobid bragged about her seven sons and seven daughters, insulting Apollo’s and Artemis’ mother. The gods punished Niobid by killing all of her children. The statue shows one of her daughters kneeling to the ground after being shot in the back by an arrow. The pathos is best seen in her facial expression and her posture. This statue is also particularly interesting, as it is one of the earliest examples of a large sculpture in which a woman is nude..
Myron’s “Disk Thrower” One of the best and most detailed examples of Classical sculpture is in Myron’s “Discobolos” (Disk Thrower). The sculpture features a young athlete frozen in time, twisting in a balanced movement. Its realism of anatomy and thrust of weight in a split second reflects the epitome of Classical art.
Pheidias Another great sculptor of the Classical Period was Pheidias. In the Classical Period, famous sculptors were made celebrities, and Pheidias was the greatest of them all. He was made chief architect by Pericles, who rebuilt Athens in its Golden Age. He was the architect, sculptor, painter, and designer of new buildings atop Athens’ acropolis. Pheidias’ best claims to fame are a colossal statue of Athena located inside the Parthenon and a 523ft long frieze behind the Parthenons columns. The purpose of the frieze is unknown. Some think it was a religious procession honoring Athena, while others think it may be depicting a Mycenean king of Athens sacrificing his daughters for the city. Nonetheless, the frieze still stands as one of the greatest, due to its rhythmic movements and absence of repeated stiff forms, so commonly seen throughout history.A modern recreation based on ancientaccounts. This statue is in the “Parthanonoverlooking Nashville, Tenn.
Pheidias Another attempt torecreate the statue of Athena, originally located inside Parthenon It originally stood 12mtall and was made out of ivory and gold.
Pheidias ContinuedAn artist’s rendition of what it was like while Pheidias created the 523ft long, 4ft tall frieze.
Lysippus Another famoussculptor of the ClassicalPeriod was Lysippus. Hechanged the syle ofsculpture by making newbody proportions.His statueswere slender and lithe, withsmaller heads andexpressive postures. His most famoussculpture, “The Scraper”features a young athletescrapping olive oil from hisarm after bathing in it, keyingus in to what Greek life waslike.
The Hellinsitic Age (323 – 44 BCE) As Alexander the Great spread Greek culture eastward, it was also highly influenced by local culture. However, sculpture was an exception. Greek sculpture continued to be Greek and influenced other cultures.A Mural depicting Alexander the Great’s confrontation with the Persian King Darius at Issus
Pride Vs. Pathos Throughout the Hellenistic Age, a different character of sculpturedeveloped. It had a more victorious feel, reflecting Greek pride at the time.However, it still had an emphasis on pathos and a variety of poses. Thiscontradiction can be seen in this sculpture of a Greek boxer. He has anaura of pride in his pose, yet his face reveals an inner pathos.P PA RT VS IH DO ES
A Sense of Victory Throughout the Hellenistic Age, agreater sense of victory and detail developed.Sculpture became more beautifully created,with a more realistic and victorious tone. Thissense of victory spawned from the Greek’spride in the accomplishments of Alexander theGreat in his quest to conquer the Persians andbeyond. This feeling is best represented in onethe Hellenistic Age’s most well known pieces,“The Dying Trumpeter”. The sculpture depicts a dying Celtictrumpeter, after his defeat by Alexander. Greatdetail and expression are found in facialcharacteristics as well as his body’s pose. Thenewfound sense of detail is best shown in therope found around his neck, a Celtic symbol.This sculpture also provides another exampleof the contrast between the pride of theGreek’s victories and the pathos of thesculptures.
Change in Subject One of the most noticeablechanges in the Hellenistic Agecomes with the change in subject.No longer were sculptures madeof beautiful athletes, or Gods.Now, they were made of avariety of people, fromsovereigns to market loungers.The point of the sculptures wasnot to be beautiful, but realisticand dynamic. This sculpture of an oldwoman is obviously not the mostbeautiful, but it is realistic. Itonce again shows great detail,found in the face and pose.
A Change in Structure Another change insculpture that can be found inthe Hellenistic age is itsstructure. Sculpture acquired aheavier quality, requiring moreweight and balance. A primeexample of this is found in thePergamum Altar. The Altar features anintertwining of dramatic,muscular bodies with extremeposes and swirling garments. Itis the epitome of dynamicmovement.
A HellenisticMasterpeice One of the greatestmasterpiece of theHellenistic Age is “TheVictory of Samothrace”.The displays a dynamicfeeling of movement. Thewind whips around itswings, ruffling its feathersand sweeping through hergarments. The sculpture istruly renowned for itsforceful animated actionand advancement.
The Laocoon Group This sculpture is known for its outstanding technical skills as well as “artistic bravado”. It ultimately captures raw emotion; a characteristic of the era. Although this marble sculpture is believed to be a cast of a bronze original, it maintains its dramatical aspects. The Laocoon has three main figures, this bearded man in the center, and his two sons, connected by a snake. Supposedly, the myth of Laocoon is about a Trojan Priest who alarmed the people of Troy to not accept the wooden horse outside their gates. He gave a speech and at its conclusion, threw his spear into the horse. But, he was punished afterwards and this sculpture captures his pain and agony during his punishment.
Aphrodite of Melos 150 BCMusee du Louvre, Paris This sculpture is also referred to as “Venus de Milo” and depicts the goddess of love and beauty. The form of this sculpture has characteristics of Classical sculpture, although it was made in the Hellenistic Period. But, there are details that purely resemble this era. One is the drapery around Aphrodites hips and legs. This cloth has carefully carved folds to resemble the “swirling” garments worn by another famous Hellenistic statue Nike of Samothrace.