The History of Classical
in the 6th century BCE, one hundred and fifty years before Classical Greek
sculpture was developed, sculptors had almost perfected the rendering of
the male nude in white marble. However, this perfection was largely
superficial; the figures were no more than the sum of their parts, accurately
sculpted, and accurately put together. As the sculptures began to
look more like real men, artists began to notice that the advantages of
the kouri, products of the rigid Archaic period, had now become disadvantages:
the pose, representing neither action nor stillness, made the figure look awkward,
and the calculated symmetry made it seem unnatural. When the vase painters and bronze casters
began their studies of the human body in motion, the marble sculptors could
only follow with studies of their own. The Greeks studied the movement of the body, how
weight is carried, and how a shift in stance could affect the placement of
limbs, torso, and head. After 480 BCE, the first marble sculpture displaying
the qualities of ‘contrapposto,’ or weight shift,
appeared in the Kritios Boy. However, whatever technical advancements made by Kritios Boy
were put aside when the Persians invaded Greece in 480-479 BCE.
Greek Culture: Theatre
and its Effects on Sculpture:
time period after the Persian invasion of the Greek homeland and the subsequent
repulsion of the invaders produced a brief flowering of arts and philosophical
growth. The Greek thinkers were most concerned with issues of ethics
and of emotions (ethos and pathos), and many studied the 'science' behind
body language in order to discover more about man's inner thoughts.
This study of body language led to a number of theatrical works, mostly
tragedies, which tended to focus on the grandiose expressions of emotions
through actors, while the plot line would revolve around various tales of 'hubris',
a fatal flaw in characters, and the lives of the gods. The
profound effects on the audiences was exactly what Greek sculptors were
striving towards, and they took the study of the human body to great lengths,
eventually creating pieces that not only emulated the human form on the
outside, but ones that also mirrored the inner self.
of Greek art was meant to thank the gods for good fortune, and to hopefully
gain favor in their eyes for good times to come. Therefore, many Greek temples were
specially formatted to hold a cult statue. For example, the Erechthieon,
located in the Acropolis, was built to commemorate both Athena
and Poseidon by placing shrines around the areas where Poseidon was said to have thrust
his triton into the ground, from which a spring was created, and the olive tree
that Athena planted when she finally won Athens from Poseidon.
However, Greek gods were mainly reflections
of Greek life itself, mainly because of the degree to which the secular rule had
mixed with the religious beliefs. Therefore, Greek sculpture tended
to humanize myths, depicting a more man-like god, or a god-like man. Many sculptors
created works that could be taken as a representation of a myth, or as a
symbol of man's purpose in life, since myths were used to emphasize a
more cohesive culture and shared heritage, and focused on man's placement in the universe.
statues were originally created to revere a particular god or goddess; most
were of superhuman size and clothed in grandiose garments that have deteriorated
over time. Eventually, as the Greek temple began to incorporate elaborate
carvings into its structure, sculptors were also called upon to create
large reliefs on the pediments, the triangular space between the columns
and the roof. These reliefs often depicted ceremonies to honor the
gods. Because religion was so important during the beginning of the
Classical period, gods were portrayed in a standard form, and the study
of naturalism to show individuality was put to rest for a short while.
As time passed by, philosophers began to theorize
that the myths were mostly fiction, and the gods became more of a superstition
than an actual religion. Sculptors were no longer restricted to the
rendering of gods and goddesses, and more and more often, were called
upon to create large tomb statues to represent the ancestors of a family.
These tomb statues would show the ancestor in a relaxed pose, often dining
in their own home. Successful athletes and thankful families would also
have statues of themselves placed in a temple to pay tribute to a god.
During this time period, sculptors would only use enough detail to
differentiate between the physique of a boxer and a runner, but the portrayal of
individual faces was yet to be developed.
Finally, in the 5th century BC, portraiture
became the trend. Statesmen and generals would have their faces carved
on what is called a bust, and sculptors could now create statues that could be
recognized as individuals, rather than a standard face. For the next
three centuries, sculptors were trained to map a face in complete detail. It is this
perfectionism that attracted Roman interest, and when the Greeks fell to
the Romans, Roman sculpture became a continuation of Greek sculpture.