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  • Greek Art. Sculpture


    Greek Art. Sculpt

    ancient Greek Sculpture


    The ancient Greek Sculpture like the rest of this art is characterized by its aesthetic idealism, the use of proportionality and balance of the elements and for their interest in the artistic works who reflect the lines of the human figure to perfection both in drawing and sculpture. Greeks raise the human body to be the basis of all beauty and peg. This trend is called anthropocentrism.


    Although Greek art relies on nature, manifests itself however depicting a sweetened version of this one; tending to the creation of an idealized world where simplicity, the rhythm, the proportion and clarity; as well as the conceptual unit of work dominate all its art forms.

    Athleticism was one of the main inspiration to the Greeks; was very cultivated by these and the artists gave their best work basic on those models. Fascinated by the sinuosity of the forms of the human body (which inherits from the Minoan culture); they are already reaching in the classical stage phenomenal mastery of techniques that allow them to express a great realism in the works of sculpture.


    Greek Sculpture


    Greek sculpture is not subject to rules or conventions. The sculptor has freedom to express their vision in the play; however, they search achieving representation of perfection in the human figure as mentioned above; exalting the physical strength and the perfection of the traits.

    Materials used:

    Initially in wood; then replaced by stone (marble mainly); is also widely used the bronze (lost wax); exceptionally crisoelefantinas (of ivory, gold and silver).

    The sculptures were generally polychrome, except for works made in bronze.

    Greek sculpture through 3 periods times or evolutionary phases, with specific characteristics in each of them.

     These are:


    Go from the 8th century to the 6th B.C.

    More specific; Archaic period go since the end of the so-called dark ages until the Persian wars 490-480 B.C.

    Is characterized as times where sculptors seek their own style and technique. We can find archaic sculptures prior to this period which are very simple. At first they performed Small votive offerings and xoanas (sculptures carved on the own trunk of the tree).

    Subsequently the first large format sculptures made in stone:

    – The kouroi or ephebes (singular kourós), figures of naked athletes.

    – The korai or girls (koré singular), offering figures of women dressed.


    The main features of archaic sculpture are:

    –       Whole body; hieratic (motionless) attitude.

    –       Law of the frontality.

    –       Modeling simple and strong geometrización.

    –       Statist positions; later only moving a bit his left leg to suggest movement gait, but without getting the feeling    of displacement; the arms take off from the body.

    –       Large almond-shaped eyes.

    –       Archaic smile or eginética, (facial expression through a forced and conventional gesture which outlines   a  smile).

    –       Long hairy head formed based on geometric elements.

    –       The sculptures were made as an offering to athletes.


    The Korai


    –       They are dressed, the study of the position of the folds on this sculpture is more important that the anatomy per se for this artist.   

    –       They are statues of religious character, found in the temples.



    1.        Lady of Auxerre, for the xoanas.
    2.       Hera of Samos, still very archaic.
    3.       The Peplos koré and other evolved korai from the 6th century BC.



    Archaic Period. The Korai



    We can find two types mainly:

    – With the Doric peplo (thick robe without folds)

    – With Jonick chitón (fine texture and abundant folds) with both feet together; the free hand holds the dress or an offering; archaic smile.

    The Kouroi

    Characteristics of the seventh century BC:

    –       With the left leg ahead, but without sensation of movement, the soles of both feet are glued to the ground.

    –       With arms fallen, glued to the body and closed fists.

    –       Simple modeling (which will evolve into more successful forms).

    –       With strong geometrización (particularly in hair and torso).

    –       Disproportions between the different parts of the body.

    –       With almond and bulging eyes.

    –       The mouth always closed and “archaic smile” (“smile eginética”). Examples: Cleobis and Bitón.


    The kouroi of the 6th century BC: evolve into more rounded shapes, perfecting the anatomical modeling; the geometrización of forms is also lower; there are already soft movements; new elements appear.



    –       The Moscóforo (young man offering  a calf as bearer)

    –       The Rampín rider, with the head slightly rotated;

    –       The kourós of Anavyssos.

    –       the Apollo of Piombino, kouroi  with sweeter lines



    The Kouroi. Archaic Period



    To this period belong works such as:

    –       The Kourós of Anavyssos (athlete).

    –       The Lady of Auxerre or Xoana (young lady dressed).

    –       The head of the Rampín Knight.

    Classic Period


    Centuries V and IV B.C, from the Persian wars when they  fight against the invading Persian until the end of the Peloponnesian War (404 BC).

    This time it meant greater boom in all literary and artistic expressions. The sculptors achieve the perfection of their techniques, as well as the best sculptural pieces, where the magnificence of the human figure is observed.

    There are 2 periods with different styles and characteristics:

    –       Style Sublime, which highlights sculptors such as Myron, Phidias and Policleto,

    –       Style Bello, highlighting sculptors Scopas, Praxiteles and Lisipo.




    In the 5th and 4th centuries ( a.C) Greek sculpture reaches its culmination, creating works that have become models of plastic perfection and beauty at this time.

    In this century there is a feverish process of achievements to commemorate the victory over the Persians and to rebuild the destroyed.

    The aesthetic aims to translate the beauty ideal, although it is a naturalistic art tends to the idealization, based on the reality archetypes are created. The true protagonist is the naked male body, getting in their realization a total mastery of the anatomy.



    The most represented topics belong to the mythical world of the gods and heroes, who are treated with great seriousness. The hieratic positions are definitely lost, making the mobility of the figures a protagonist’s factor to capturing gestures and attitudes. Also leaves the frontality, the sculptures have different viewpoints now.

    During the first 50 years of the century V (B.C.) a transition phase towards these goals is found, even with remains of archaism, the “severe style”. We see steps towards anatomical perfection, greater dynamism, and solutions to adapt the sculpture to the space in the pediments; (triangular spaces in the top front of the buildings).


    Examples of this period are:

    –       The Pediments of the Temple of Aphaia in Aegina.

    –       The Pediments of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia (already mentioned above).

    –       The Reliefs of the Ludovisi throne (Aphrodite’s birth).

    –       The bronzes of Poseidon.

    –       The warriors of the Riace.

    –       The Auriga of Delfos.


    The sculptor Kritios:

     The highlights of this stage is this sculptor, author of the “Tiranicidas” and the “Efebo” athlete, which is supposed to be the start of the Preclassic period, thanks to the novelty of its position; that is a previous time of “contrapposto”: The figure show a bend  knee to support the entire weight of the body in one leg, her anatomy is more realistic, although the hair continues in the same line, short; and the head is not completely straight, but slightly rotated and tilted slightly downward.

    From the middle of the 5th century BC begins the “classical stage”.



    He works the bronze, although the works that have been preserved are Roman copies in marble, as in the majority of cases we are going to see.



    Discobolo from sculpture Miron
    Discobolo from sculpture Miron


    His most famous work is the “Discobolus”, in which Myron proves to be the master of the movement, we are not dealing with the traditional upright posture, instead we are confront with the one who makes it been very daring, captures a moment, the time prior to releasing the disk, the time of maximum effort, therefore the entire body is in tension. The head have the feeling that do not just correspond to the tense of the body since it is too quiet, focused, but serene.


    Yours is also the Group of Athena and Marsyas, where Athena is walking and her head looks at the ground at the same point where Marsyas is looking, forming a V, Athena is serene and wears the peplo, Marsyas is a naked figure in tension, which allows to show a powerful musculature.


    Myron and Policleitus



    Also works the bronze. Publishes the “Kanon”, work which is conducting a study of measures and proportions of the human body, the beauty would be in these proportions (the total height of the body is seven times the head) and symmetry. In the “Dorífero”, spear bearer, embodied all his theories: spherical head, proportions and symmetry, classic stance or “contraposto”, erect, with some curvature in the torso and hips to rest the weight on one leg. The” Diadúmeno” has characteristics very similar to the previous sculpture, appears to tie a Ribbon to the temples.

    His work is an “wounded Amazon”, awarded at a competition for the decoration of the sanctuary of Ephesus, which competed with “Phidias and Crésilas” towards the middle of the 5th century BC.


    Together with Pericles by reconstruction and monumental management of the Acropolis of Athens, it is the sculptor of the gods, which better captures the essence of the divine, author of two gigantic crisoelefantinas sculptures (nucleus of wood with gold and ivory plates):

    Best-known works of Phidias:


                         – The Athena Parthenos, which remains a small Roman marble copy.

    The Athena Farnese , 12 meters of height and it was inside the Parthenon, the armor on his chest, a tunic to the feet, the helmet on the head and a victory of life-size in the hand, its coat of arms showed the “amazonomachy” in relief on the front and the “gigantomachy” painted by the part back.

    Zeus of Olympia, now lost, which was sitting with a victory in the right hand and a scepter in the left hand have around 15 meters is seated, showing a majestic attitude that ensured his immortality.

    Athena Prómachos, bronze, only known from coins, is the Savior and guardian of the city, depicted as a warrior had over 15 meters in height, was located in the middle of the Acropolis.

    The “Lemnian Athena” his best work, whose head has been termed as “beauty” because it corresponds to the canon of beauty perfect of the 5th century BC

    The wounded Amazon contest of Ephesus.

    – Also attributed to Phidias all the sculptural decoration of the Parthenon; (that it will influence the sculptors of the “style Parthenon” “Style Bello”, at the end of the 5th century BC)

    The Frieze of the Doric  “metopas” (compositions of two or three figures in high and  clear relief)

    The Frieze of the “panathenaic” games (representation Bas-relief  of the procession of the “Panathenaea”, on the frieze around the cellar  of the Parthenon; is not a schematic representation, the figures looks like they are alive and have and  individuality, represented by an idealized naturalism).

     – The Pediments of the Parthenon sculptures(excellent compositions, in which the figures fit perfectly to the pediment; in the East pediment represents the Birth of Athena and in the West the fight Athena and Poseidon by Attica; studied Anatomy in the nude and the dresses in the female figures, although through the “technique of wet cloths” again hinted at the Anatomy).


     The achievements at the end of the 5th century BC can be classified within a new stage in the evolution of sculpture in the classical stage, the so-called “Parthenon style” or “Style Bello”. There are two important sculptors who correspond to this period:


    Among the sculptors ascribed to this period: Made a Bust of Pericles, located on the Acropolis of Athens, with very idealized and Corinthian helmet. Also preserve its Amazon wound of the contest of Ephesus.


    His works continue in the line of wet cloth technique inaugurated by Phidias in the Parthenon, Aphrodite Frejus and the relief of the “Win tying the sandal” of the Temple of Athena Nike.

    Other examples of the sculpture of this stage: the victory of Paionios, commemorating a victory over the Spartans who collects the time victory sits on the ground, the Tunica conforms fully body and spiraling in the back, being the history of the victory of Samothrace.

    Also highlight of anonymous authors, but along the same lines of the above: the wound Nióbide, practically naked feminine sculpture which represents the moment in which she received an arrow in the back and it is struggling to remove her, stands out for the face, reflecting the suffering; and the Hera Barberini.


    The Sculpture in Greece in the 4th century BC

    It is Times of crisis for the Cities State and disintegration and transformation in the social aspect, after the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens and their respective allies. Athens, despite the political crisis, continued the artistic supremacy in Greece, thanks to a society that is elegant and refined, although in this context the artist works not to the State but for particulars individuals, because the war has sapped resources from the State coffers.

    There are changes from the previous century:

    –       Gods and athletes are still the protagonists, but now represent the gods nearest to man and not to the greats of Olympus.

    –       Athletes are represented in less heroic, everyday attitudes.

    –       The figures become freer, less majestic.

    –       The aesthetic canon is stylized.

    –       Is heightened naturalism in gestures and attitudes, the faces begun to reflect the “pathos” (its emotional expression and mood);

    –       The female nude began his appearance.


    It is the sculptor of the delicacy, elegance and the beauty of the smooth surfaces. It accentuates the traditional classical stance further tilting the hip, “praxiteliana curve”, though it continues the quietism of the composition. His works are the Hermes of Olympia (one of the few cases in which we retain the original, representing Hermes, the Messenger of the gods, being Dionysus child during a break in the road), the Apollo Sauróctono (further marks the praxiteliana curve and the body is younger), the Aphrodite of Cnidus (which initiates the female nude)(still “shyness” feels shame and is covered with the hands, will be very copied as a female beauty canon); the Arles Aphrodite (naked but with legs covered by a cloak, the nudity is not accepted immediately).





    Sculptor of the “pathos”, of the passion reflected in the figures the State of the soul (agitated anguish). Attracted by tragic or pathetic themes that can be seen in works like; his Bacchante or Maenad wound (with the body troubled by convulsive movements, with the torso twisted, rotating the neck backwards, messy hair and revolt). He also made the East of the mausoleum of Halicarnassus reliefs and the statue of Mausolus.


    Sculptor of the archaizing, admirer of Polycleitus, but in there naturalism is sharper. The New canon of beauty is more slender, now the body has eight heads, decreasing the size of it, so the body is high in proportion to the width. He cultivated the portrait, it was the sculptor preferred by Alexander the great.

    His main works are the Apoxiomeno (athlete cleaning himself with the “estrígilo” example of the new “Kanon” and the final domain of the third dimension and it is an open sculpture because it breaks the space through the great foreshortening of his right arm), the Ares Ludovisi (God of War II seated) and the Farnese Hercules (specially study the anatomical and physical strength).




    Among the works of other prominent sculptors of this century we can mention the following:

    Leda and the Swan Of Timothy.

    – The Versailles Artemisia.

    – The Apollo Belvedere of Leócares.

    – The Orante Beads.




    It Goes Since the end of the 4th century (B.C) and from the reign of Alexander the great (336-323 BC) until the conquest of Greece by Rome, in the middle of the second century B.C).

    Corresponding to the end of the Greek art , the works of this era taking models from the previous, refine them, showing a great capacity for realization, enters the figure of the child as a subject. The sculpture takes characters of monumentality, overlooking the picturesque, grotesque, the episodic, etc. The portrait takes first place. Different schools emerge in this period.




    Most important sculpture schools:

    –       Pérgamo.

    –       Rhodes

    –       Alexandria.


    This is the stage of the crisis of the polis, by bundling the constellation of (City-States) in a polity under the Macedonian domain.

    In this new political world, organized by the genius of Alexander the great statesman, they have no place the ideals of harmony and measure of the classical Greece and are replaced by new values, Greek culture universalizes, acknowledging the contributions of Eastern peoples with which melts. As a result is obtain a mixed of culture, which mixes the classical traditional Orientale (colosalismo and decorativismo) and a new conception of life, not already based on high ideals but in the search for the enjoyment of everything that life have to offer. Artistically those facts will depart the conquests of the 4th century BC.


    Hellenism Characteristics

    –       The sculpture is more naturalistic, even arriving at more crude realism occasionally.

    –       Accentuate the expressiveness of the faces and attitudes.

    –       The imbalance of the twisted bodies to the serene fidíacas positions is preferred.

    –       The drama of expressions to the calm faces.

    –        The ugliness of monsters; threatening the classical beauty.

    –        More rich points of view,

    –        It increases the monumentality and variety of the thematic utilizes.  

    –        It tends to the barroquización of the sculpture.

    –       Now the sculptors are more anonymous, they are working by schools.

    –       It tends to the barroquización of the sculpture.

    Triumph of realism, portrait

    They are going to play the individual features of the individual by what realism progresses in portraits, scrawny, sincere and deep psychological penetration.

    • The school of Alexandria, the allegories: Liked for allegories, as that of The Nile (represents the River as a human figure, surrounded by other elements who identify them).

    • The school of Pergamum, large compositions: Their great and heroic compositions of pathetic strength and great emotional intensity, as the one of the monument of Atalo (to commemorate the victory over the Gaul’s, some of them are preserved exempt highly realistic figures; (you can even clearly identify their racial traits).

    • The Reliefs of Pérgamo “Altar of Zeus” are famous; the masterpiece of this type of sculptures. The way that the effects of pain and effort are made to carve the anatomy show the masterly and skills of the artist, the theme is struggling between the gods and the Giants; “the Gigantomachy”.


    The school of Rhodes, colosalismo and movement: They like the colossal and gigantic, knotty and expressive movement, especially the gestures of the faces in pain.




    – The Colossus of Rhodes (giant sculpture at the entrance of the port of Rhodes, under which passed the ships, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world).

    – The Barberini Faun (from an extreme realism) the Winged victory of Samothrace (with folded wings and the body forward, defying the wind, showing a great masters in the study of the clothes, which are made transparent to stick to the body because of the wind).

    Set of Laocoonte (HagesandrosPolydoros and Athenodoros, famous for its expressiveness and the representation of pain through the anatomy in tension by physical exertion, summary of the Hellenistic Baroque, represents the punishment given to this Trojan priest by doubt of the Trojan horse, killing both him and his children with the sea snakes).

    – The sculptural set of the Toro Farnese (done by Apollonios and Taurisci, represents the moment in which the sons of Antiope decide to punish Dirce, who had cruelly treated his mother, dragging a bull to death).

    Athens: Highlights the sculptor Apollonius, with works of extreme realism, showing the Hellenistic departure from the classical ideals of the centuries V and IV B.C.

    The female nude: Now time of splendor of the item. The beauty of the female form is expressed with soft, sensual positions that accentuate feminine curves, has been observed detail in the hair and clothing and in the fall of the folds.


    1. Aphrodite Milo (mutilated, one of the most beautiful and famous          

    2. Vibrissa Aphrodite (success in Hellenism item).


    Gender issues

    • The child of the oca,
    • The wrestlers (athletic scene that captures the moment of maximum stress).
    • The old woman drunk.
    • Spinario (boy removing a thorn after a sports test.
    • The lying hermaphrodite.
    • The subject of children was very successful in this period.



    Funerary steles



    • They were frequently decorated with beautiful reliefs in a quiet tone.
    • Not exaggerated attitudes or convulses body pose.  
    • Males appear to walk in pensive attitude.
    • Women are always seated, with a dove or observing their personal objects.
    • The decoration of the relief intent to produce the sensation of 3 d images or exempt sculptures.
    • The figures show attitude of observation and pensive poses in accordance with the seriousness of the funerary thematic purpose.  
    Sculptures apply to the buildings