The Art of the Sculptural
Richter notes in his book, The
Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks, that Polycleitus' new canon
of proportions saved the naturalization trend, and goes on to write that
it served as the root of Greek idealism. "From the belief in proportion,
and from the observation of many athletes rather than just one individual
model, grew the so-called idealism of Classical sculpture." Idealism
in the mental and philosophical sense is deeply rooted in the Greek mind,
with the expectation that the Greek sculptor would emulate
this in his art. "Mens sana in corpore sano." These words express
the Athenian aim for balance in intellectual and physical discipline,
(translated: "a sound mind in a sound body"). The importance
of Polycleitus' proportions can thus be seen, for his idea was that the
"natural" and equally ideal beauty of the human form could be captured
in the art of sculpture. Just as the Greeks' ideal government was sought
through Athenian (of the city of Athens) democracy, the ideal human
form was sought through the art of sculpture. The essence of sculpture is
its ability to capture a representation of some form; rare were the sculptors
who could create apparently ideal forms of the human body. The
few sculptors who did succeed were heavily emulated and studied.
Polycleitus’ new “canon of proportions” exemplifies this; the Doryphoros,
based upon these ideal proportions, was copied vigorously and rigorously.
Greek sculpture is most often created within specific accepted proportions
and upon specific themes or models. The
Greek sculptor’s adherence to guidelines was probably the result of Egyptian
influence; Irwin Panofsky, a 20th-century art historian,
quantified the strict proportions of Egyptian wall painting and sculpture.
Panofsky devised a “grid” that illuminated the proportions he discovered.
Under the residual influence of the land of the Pharaohs, Greek
sculptors engineered ways of attempting to duplicate sculpture. Once
the proportions and relationships of the ideal form were understood, a sculptor
drew a grid or a number of points upon the front and back surfaces of a
block of marble, and commenced in carving out a pre-calculated amount of
stone. After the essential proportions were carved, the form was
rounded out, the details added by the sculptor.
This practice became increasingly complex (involving the "point" system)
as the ideal form evolved throughout the Classical and Hellenistic
periods, which involved forms of greater diversity.