Roman copy of the original by Polykeitos.
High Classical period, lasting from about 450 to 430 BCE, was dominated
by a few prominent and renowned sculptors, most notably was Phidias, who supervised
the large group of sculptors and architects which built the Parthenon in Athens.
The sculptures on the pediments and other outside parts of the building
(a temple to the goddess Athena) deal extensively with figures of gods
and goddesses of the Greek Pantheon and with heroic and mythological stories. An important aspect of High
Classical sculpture demonstrated by sculptures of the gods is the fact
that the nature of the gods as personifications of concepts – war, love,
death, etc. – is recognized. Sculptors aimed to depict the concepts
represented by a deity as well as the personality itself. The sculpture
of the Parthenon, for example, being a temple of Athena, depicts the different
gods and goddesses in relation to her. In fact, the entire
pediment on the East end is a depiction of the goddess' birth;
with Athena located in the center, being flanked on each side by fellow gods who each react
differently to her birth.
Another important development in sculpture
was a reevaluation of the bodies of figures themselves. Whereas in
earlier sculpture the body had been the mere representation of an appearance,
as the depiction of human figures became truer to life, the goal of sculptors
became to capture the ideal human figure. (According to Greek philosopher
Plato, for all things, like the human body, there exists a perfect form
that embodies beauty and good; all existing human bodies are copies after
this 'perfect' Platonic body.) In response to this goal, an idealized canon
of proportions began to develop. The sculptor Polycleitus of Argos
devoted himself to the concept of symmetry that constituted his ideal model
of the human body. His most famous work, Doryphoros ('spear
bearer') illustrates this ideal; the figure is that of a soldier carrying
a heavy spear. The figure is physically stocky, with broad shoulders
and thickly muscled limbs, as befits either a warrior in the Spartan tradition
(the military state of Sparta was known for the extremely high quality
of its soldiers) or perhaps a well trained athlete.
The stance of the Doryphoros also
reflects the artist's conceived ideal of symmetry: one arm and one leg
of the body are tensed - the left leg supporting the weight of the soldier
and the right arm carrying the spear - with the other limbs hanging free.
The state of symmetry in the limbs contributes to an overall sense of balance
in the figure. Polycleitos meant his model to be a perfect mean between
tension and relaxation, between thinness and solidity. The canon
of proportions developed by Polycleitus (later to be altered at the hands
of later artists) represented the perception of the ideal of beauty.
This became the ideal emulated by many Greek sculptors of the High Classical
period, and thus human figures of this period tend to be more squat and