copy of original by Myron.
date of the transition from the Archaic period of Greek art to the early
Classical period is generally placed around the year 480 BCE. With
the defeat of the Persian invasion at the battle of Marathon in 490, the
Athenians as well as other Greeks came into a new, widespread feeling
of exuberance, a notion that they could do anything. Provided this turning
point in consciousness, Greek society began a close examination and eventual
rejection of their Archaic conventions.
Representative sculpture in the Archaic
period had consisted mainly of the kouros and kore form.
Kouroi (plural of kouros) were freestanding rigid statues
of nude males, korai (plural of kore) being representations
of females. These statues typically stood rigid and straight-backed,
feet together, staring straight ahead with no expression on the face except
for a slight curving of the lips, which is now dubbed as the ‘archaic smile’.
The kouros and kore were technically accurate human figures,
but lacked believability due to their static, formulaic symmetry and the
apparent lack of life and character in the sculpted form, which was insufficient
for conveying action. As described by one scholar, “In extreme cases,
came to look like mannequins, kouroi like sleepwalkers, and action
figures like disconcertingly jerky puppets upon a stage.”
At the height of the Archaic period, sculptors
decided to reinvent conceptions of appearance. The first step taken
in this transition are seen in the so-called Kritios (Kritian) Boy,
the sculpture of a young boy, probably made around 480 BCE, attributed to the
sculptor Kritios, who also worked with another sculptor, Nesiotes, on the
a sculpted group depicting two men. The similarity between the works
prompted the attachment of Kritios’ name to the Kritios Boy.
The truly revolutionary change seen in
the Tyrannicides and Kritios Boy is the extended front leg
upon which the imaginary weight of the figure is shifted. This new
device, called a contrapposto stance, gives the sculpted figure a
definite presence; the weight shift gives the figure a sort of conveyed
gravity and enhances its realism. With weight shifted forward, the
concept of movement is implied, and as opposed to the rigid kouros, the
Boy is interacting with his environment, moving through it. The
expression on the faces of these new figures was not the archaic smile,
but a perhaps contemplative, moody expression of sobriety. This transitional
style of the Classical period was referred to as the ‘Severe Style.’
It is thought that the change in facial expression reflects the reevaluation
of human potential and self-knowledge by thinkers, poets and writers in
that century and the preceding one.
The Early Classical period saw the development
of this idea of self-knowledge in works such as the Omphalos Apollo,
given its name because of a navel stone or omphalos recovered near
its copy in Athens. This Apollo conveys the authority and confidence
of his rank as a deity. Reflecting emergent ideas of representation,
the personality and character of the figure are shown by its posture and
its actions. Such works as the Discobolos by Myron also represented