The ancient Greeks are known as a self aware people. No other culture in western civilization history was quite as introspective as the Greeks. They prided themselves as the most civilized society in the world. In fact the term “barbarian” basically meant non Greek. The development of Greek civilization rises from the ashes of the ancient Mycenaean and Minion cultures. From After the decline and eventual fall of the Mycenaean culture in 1100 BCE, the Aegean Islands would experience a “dark age” period for about 200 – 300 years. By 800 BCE Greece would begin to show growth and stability in their government, economy and culture.
This period is referred to as the Homeric Age. The writer Homer would write the stories of prehistoric Greek history (If you have not had to read The Iliad or The Odyssey in your academic career thus far, just wait, it is coming. ) It is the Greek culture that would be the basis for western cultures for art, architecture, music, theater, philosophy, literature and politics. Geometric Period (1000 BCE – 700BCE) Funerary krater: In year 1050 there is evidence of the development of a specific Greek style. This specific style is found first on the vases/ceramic wares. The decoration on the surface is a narrative of a funeral procession.
The figures are very simplified; depicted into very simple geometric shapes; torso and hips are triangular. We see a body lying in state (prothesis) which means this vase could have been used as a grave marker. I do want you to notice that there is more of an attempt to display real human emotions. The mourners’ arms are raised over their head as if in distress. It is no surprise that the Greeks would acknowledge real emotional grief in this painting. They were a civilization that was self aware. Their deities were not only human looking but also had very human characteristics.
In fact the only difference between the gods and humans was that the gods were omnipotent. Found to be inscribed on the Temple of Apollo were these words “Man is the measure of all things. ” The fact that this was written on the temple of a god says an awful a lot about this Greeks. Ancient Greek Culture can be broken into 4 distinct styles/periods. The Geometric Period (1000 BCE-700BCE) is the oldest. The funerary krater is an example of that style that n painting. The Man and Centaur is an example of geometric style in sculpture. A man is stabbing a centaur which is half man half beast.
We classify this statue as geometric partly because of the date of this piece (750 BCE), but also of the simplistic shape of the subjects. This is a small open form cast statue, unlike the statues of the Egyptian and Near East, which are typically closed form. On the left are two examples of closed form sculpture. The figures do not break or reach out into space. The man and centaur physically reach out to each other, also we can physically move in and through the statue. The Greeks were excellent seamen. They would encounter and do business with other civilizations and countries.
The art of the Near East, Asia Minor and Egypt would influence Greek artists. Orientalizing is the style that is an assimilation of Greek taste and Eastern iconography. This style was first seen in Corinth, which was the most powerful city state of the Greek culture, as well as a large and diverse trade center. The wide mouth picture or olpe shows the Near East taste for hybrid animals. The black and red colors are also a orient influence. The details are incised (scratched) in the figure. The amphora vase displays larger and curvy figures in the neck of this vase.
The geometric patterns, first seen in the Geometric style, are also part of the Orientalizing vases. On the neck of the vase are an illustration of Odysseus and his crew fighting the Cyclops Polyphemos. Their rendering is very reminiscent of Minion Cretes figures. There is definitely an elegant and refined quality to these figures. The body of the vase is an illustration of the story of Perseus and Medusa. The Greeks would use the stories about their gods and heroes as metaphors. Medusa and Polyphemos represent the primitive forces of terror and cannibalism, while Odysseus and Perseus represent reason as triumphing over evil.
Archaic Period (600BCE – 480BCE) By the late 6th century Athens will become the leading city state of Greece. This is due partly because of Solon a major political figure in Athens. He is believed to be responsible for the development of the judiciary system and formulating the popular assembly and council. He would also develop the representative government which is the basis of democracy. Art would develop at a fairly rapid pace: This is the time of great writers of early literature such as Aesop and Sappho. Greek tragedies and comedies would flourish at this time and the visual arts would also experience a growth.
The status of artist will be elevated to a higher level. There are pieces of art that are actually signed by artist. The ancient Greeks seem to enjoy competitive sports (They are the ones who created the Olympic Games). This love of competition was also applied in the fine arts. Writers and artists would compete with each at festivals but also they would compete for art commissions. Athens would initiate monumental building projects for their city. Probably the earliest example of the archaic style is found on the vases produced at this time. The Greeks adhered to standard vase shapes.
Certain shapes were associated with a certain purpose. Although Athens was a major pottery center; it would be in Corinth that the Black figure vase painting technique would be first developed. Ajax & Achilles: In Black figure painting, the artist paints the figures in silhouette with a slip. The vase is then fired. The firing process changes the slip color black. After the firing the artist goes back into the figure and adds details using a stylus. Exekias was considered one of the finest painters of 6th century. Achilles and Penthesilea: Exekias mastery as a painter is evident the piece Achilles and Penthesilea.
The motif on the neck and bottom register still show an Orientalizing influence, but the center scene of the main characters show that Exekias was observing the human form in action and he tries to replicate the movement. And while he may not have been conscience of it, Exekias uses design principles to strengthen and enhance the composition. The Greeks would be the first people in western civilization to try to capture emotional expressions on the faces of their subjects. The dramatic stories that were illustrated on these vases may serve foreshadowing for the development of the Greek theater.
By mid 6th century BCE the red figure vase painting technique was developed. This particular style became very popular and would stay in vogue through out the archaic period. This style allowed the artist to have more control and make more details. This piece to the left, Death of Sarpedon, was created by 2 Artists; Euphrinios (painter) and Euxitheos (potter). As you can see the painter had a keen eye for human anatomy. The detail on the figures even his attempt to foreshorten the knee shows that the painter was trying to create a sense of form on a 2 dimensional surface.
It is during the archaic period that the Greeks would excel at creating monumental sculpture. These life size statues show again the influence of other cultures on the early work of the Greeks. The Greeks learned to carve from the Egyptians sculptors. The Kouros (young man) is a fine example of the Egyptian style on Greek art: the stiff arms, one leg stepping forward, the heavy shaped eyes and the slight smile on the face. However we do see the Greek taste prevailing in the fact that the subject is completely nude and is carved completely away from the stone. This is the earliest known freestanding life size statue.
Most kourai (plural spelling) were believed to have been grave markers. There is also evidence that this figure was probably painted. The Peplos Kore (the garment she is wearing is called a peplos) was the female equivalent of monumental sculpture. Kore were always clothed, but the artist does allude to the figure underneath the garment. The arm may have held flowers, or some other type offering. She too shares the heavy lined eyes and “archaic smile” of the Kouros. Recent evidence has suggested that the Kore may have been a representation of Athena. She may have worn metal crown, earrings and was painted with colored wax.
The skills of Greek sculptures developed to create more lively and rounded forms of Kouros and Kore. This statue (to the right) was found with the inscription “Stop and grieve at the tomb of the dead Kouros, slain by wild Aries in front of the rank of battle”. This suggests that the Kourai were originally grave markers. Kore from Chois: The garment called chiton, found on Chois an island off Asia Minor. The more elaborate hairstyle and garment gives our lady a more elegant appearance. Statues of men were often warriors, athletes or deities, but statues of women were exclusively deities or some other supernatural being.
Monumental statues were used on the temples of the Greeks. The Dying Warrior is located in the temple of Aphaia. The warrior would have had bronze armor and actually painted. This warrior could have been an ally or enemy. The Greeks traditionally did not treat the visual representation of their enemies as weak or small unlike other ancient cultures. The warrior is struggling to rise, attempting to pull the arrow out of his side. Since this was for a pediment on a temple there would be some unusual space issue to be addressed.
However that problem will be solved by twisting and turning the figures which also will help to heighten the drama of the event that is illustrated. Speaking of architecture the development of the Greek temple finds its origins in the early sanctuaries and outdoor altars/shrines. As time moves forward and the Greek civilization grows so would their architecture. The model of the Greek temple is influenced by the megaron plan that was part of the Mycenaean palace and the monumental architecture of Egypt. The Temple of Apollo is a considered Doric style because of the column that is used.
These temples usually consisted of a naos, pronaos and opisthodomos. As well as a room were the offerings for Apollo was kept. Another Doric style temple is the Temple of Hera I. A single row of Doric columns surrounds a cella or naos. The (elevation) arrangement of the temple. Temple the friezes, pediment and entablatures were decorated with sculptures that told narratives about that particular deity. The Greeks would place their columns on the outside of their temples which actually forms a wall, which is called a peripteral. The squatty appearance of the Doric column is the most utilitarian of the Greek column orders.
Column Order: In Greece the appearance of columns was considered to be very important. Some art historian would say that the column orders are possibly the Greeks’ best architectural contribution. Each style represents advancement in not just aesthetics but also an achievement in engineering. Treasury of the Siphnians: Built in Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. The caryatids statues stand with one engaged leg on pedestals; with elaborately carved capitals that make these columns Ionic order. A winged sphinx is in the center of pediment that definitely shows a Near East influence. The winged female in the corner is Nike the goddess of victory.
The borders are in an egg and dart and egg and leaf pattern to frame out the pediment. . Classical Period (480BCE – 325BCE) By the classical period the Greeks would establish an ideal of beauty that would be based on three general concepts: humanism “Man the measure of all things”, rationalism “Know Thyself’ (inner significance of forms), and idealism. “Nothing in Excess” (produce only essential forms). Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle would philosophies on rational thinking; these fathers of western philosophy basically believed that everything had a purpose, there are no accidents, and it all works in a design.
Artists would also become theoreticians and write books about art. Classical artists would rely more on close observation of the natural world and try to look for the universal idea in each form. It would be especially at this time that the Greek artists would try to create the perfect image. Humanism + Rationalism = Idealism It is during the classical period that Greece would also begin to experience internal political issues. War between Sparta and Athens would break out. Athens, who just some 40 years earlier defeated the Persian, were defeated by the Spartans in 404 BCE.
Shortly following this, the power of the Macedonians would grow and Greece would become united under the kingship of Phillip of Macedonia and his son Alexander the Great. Alexander’s death marks the end of the classical period in Greece. Most of what is known about Greek paintings is scene on the vases as well as mosaic copies of their paintings. By the end of the 5th century the white ground painting technique became very popular for lekythoi, one of the standard vase shapes used by the Greeks. This technique allowed for even more detail and realism. Vase painters could use a fuller range of colors.
Figures are outlined in black on a white painted background, the vase was then fired and other colors would be applied using tempera paint. Because this type of decoration deteriorated quickly, it was used only for votives, funerary or religious ceremonies. While the image in your text is of a warrior, most lekythos in the classical period were paintings were of women. By this time women would begin to make a more prominent appearance in artwork. Traditionally the only women who were portrayed in Greek art were goddesses and less powerful supernatural beings.
But by the mid 5th century more images of mortal women would be memorialized on graver and funerary markers. Battle of Issos: also known as Alexander confronts Darius III or the Alexander mosaic. This is a mosaic copy of a Greek painting by a woman Helen of Egypt. Mosaics made from small tessarae stones that would pressed into grout or cement that would provide a durable surface. This is a dramatic narrative of an actual battle between Alexander and Darius II of Persia. The artist uses foreshortening and modeling techniques to create a realistic and active composition.
Alexander and Darius are seen as equals on this battle scene, Alexander swooping in from the left and Darius in armor and clearly leading the battle. Both men are focused on each other. Even though parts of this mosaic are clearly gone, the gaps appear to be clouds of dust that would be kicked up. The Kritios Boy is considered a transitional piece from archaic to classical style. The Greeks would found less inspiration from Near East and Egypt art and would develop their own aesthetic. This period of self awareness is defined by the Kritios boy. Gone is the Egyptian influenced archaic smile, instead of our boy seems more solemn.
Also the Greeks would develop their own artistic aesthetics and move from stylization to a more natural appearance. This statue was found at the site of Acropolis at Athens. More than likely it was a memorial figure. There is some slight idealization, but overall the most impressive fact about this piece is that it is a free standing figure in a contrapposto position. While this is carved from marble by the end of the archaic period hollow casting would be primarily used to create monumental sculpture which would allow for more flexible figures.
Another development in the classical period was the more prevalent use of large scale bronze casting. This is the original bronze statue of either Zeus throwing a thunder bolt or Poseidon throwing a trident. Confirms the Greeks mastery and skill in sculpting, the figure takes up room, projects into space, the tensing of the muscles gives this art life like qualities. Artists would study athletes as they trained. Poseidon/Zeus’s eyes would be inlaid with glass, and silver for eyelashes. There are not many origin bronze statue left of Greek art. Often the bronze would be recycled for other uses.
This is a roman copy of the origin Greek sculpture **FYI – chances are that quite a few of the Greek marble statues are Roman copies. The practice of recycling bronze would remain in place for several hundreds of years. ** The artist for this piece is Myron who originally may have done this in bronze. Poseidon/Zeus projects out into space, the discus thrower circles out into space and twists and turns back in. Myron’s subject is a natural looking athlete. Probably was commissioned to commemorate the Olympic Games that started 776 BCE. . In 1972 two original Greek bronzes were recovered from the bottom of the sea.
Amazingly well preserved, they are dated about 450 BCE which makes them a transition from early to mid classical period. They are slightly larger than life size which leads historians to believe they were meant to commemorate some important event. The artist obviously paid attention to human anatomy going as far as to include detail of veins on the hands and legs. The positions of the warrior’s arms suggest that he was carrying a shield and maybe a sword or spear. The figure definitely begins to exhibit a more idealized form and therefore some abstraction begins to develop.
Polyklietos was art theorist who through mathematics wanted to create the perfect proportion of the figure. He would develop a canon of proportion for the perfect human form. His canon was based on the ratio that the perfect male form is 6-7 heads high. The Spear Bearer/Achilles statue is the result of Polyklietos’ theories. He also used mathematics to balance a more dynamic figure that is more dynamic. Grave Stele of Hegeso: Wealthy families would use the stele as memorials. Carved in low relief the stelai (plural) that have been recovered were scenes of women in daily life.
This figure on this grave stele is identified as Hegeso. She is believed to a wealthy woman because she is shown choosing jewelry from a box presented by her maid. This is an intimate setting; a viewer has a discreet view of the life of mortal women in Greece. . The Acropolis (high city) started construction began in 490 BCE. Located in Athens was the major hub of the city: administrative, religious, commercial and civic activities centrally located on the highest point. The Acropolis was designed to celebrate the civilization and culture of Athens. The Parthenon: The Parthenon was the symbol of order and rational thought.
Created as a temple for Athena, the patron goddess of Athens the Parthenon exemplifies the Greek temple model. Doric order peristyle cella open to the east and an unconnected space opens on the west. The front entrance has an Ionic order colonnade which creates from a distance a lighter and leaner appearance. This lighter appearance creates a sense of movement because the building appearance to become more narrow toward the top. East Pediment of the Parthenon: The figures fill the pediment are fully sculpted and than secured by metal pins into the cornices and pediment of the Parthenon.
The space issue is solved by placing the figures in various positions. Male figures are either Heracles or Dionysus and the females Hestia, Aphrodite and Dione. Probably had gold and silver inlaid through out the temple and an ivory statue of a 40’ Athena. Lapith Fighting a Centaur: The Doric Metope relief is of a Lapith, an ancient warrior race, fighting a centaur. The Lapith is shown thrusting out into the viewer space, while twisting away from the centaur. The figure nearly breaks clear away from the background. The centaur arches his back very dramatically.
The Greeks would continue to use legendary stories as metaphors for reason (Lapith) triumphing over passion (Centaur). Athena: Located in the Naos of the temple of Athena. She wears the armor that is identifies her as the goddess of war. Original statue would have stood approximately 40 feet on a high pedestal. In her right hand she holds statue of Nike. Temple of Athena Nike: This temple is only 27’ by 19’ that is surrounded by a low wall parapet decorated with relief of Athena and victories. The structure has Ionic order columns in an amphi phostyle which is a porch on each side. A blind porch faces over city.
Part of the parapet (low wall) has a sculptural relief of Nike. She wears a very delicate garment and her body is a closer representation of the female form. Notice the attention to detail and twisting of the body. The Erechtheion is the second most important building at the Acropolis. It is an odd temple that instead of the symmetrical plan, this temple is based on an asymmetrical plan and housed several different shrines. The temple is built on the site of the famous Poseidon and Athena competition. The sacred rock with trident imprint is enclosed on north porch. The famous Porch of Maidens is located on the south side of the Erechtheion.
The columns are placed as such on the porch to appear balanced. The engaged leg is covered by the fluted dress. The maidens have a Doric capital and ionic entablature, however the columns are considered to be Ionic order. Attic Grave Steles: memorials would continue to be built for wealthy and prominent citizens. This stele shows a beginning an aesthetic change in art. The features on the faces of sculptures become more individualized enough that to be a portrait but still some evidence of idealization. On this stele there does seem to appear to be more tolerant older acceptance of maturity over youth and beauty.
This is also a monumental stele, stands over 5 feet tall. By the late classical period there is a shift in the style in Greek sculpture. Aphrodite of Knidos is the first full nude female sculpture. This Aphrodite is a composite of 2 Roman copies. The neck, right forearm and hand, feet and legs restored in the 17th & 18th century. Note the modest gesture of Aphrodite; the figure could be an idealization. She is meant to represent the model of high values. This was placed in open shrine and meant to be viewed from all angles. Praxiteles would modify the canon of proportions that would be applied to the female form.
Supposedly Aphrodite would exclaim to Praxiteles “When did you see me, naked. ” Praxiteles was active in Athens between 370-335 BCE, his canon would be leaner and taller. The body would become 8-9 heads tall, giving the figure a more heroic proportion. The facial expressions are more introspective, minor deities in happier and lighter moments. The Scraper (Apoxyomenos): Another well known sculptor of the late 4th century was Lysippos. Lysippos claimed to be a self taught artist, would say that nature as his teacher. Probably was influenced Praxiteles and may have even incorporated Praxiteles’ canon of proportions.
Even an athlete is a typical subject matter in Greek, this one is a little different in the fact that athlete is not shown in an athletic endeavor. Our scrapper projects himself into the viewers’ space and there is some curvature in spine; an over all a very sedate composition. Alexander the Great: Lysippos was best known for the monumental sculptures of Zeus. Could be why he was chosen to do a statue of Alexander the Great. Head was part of a full size statue. Not believed to be a generic portrait but an actual likeness. Eyes deep sets, meditative, upturned slightly.
This also leads viewers to assume that Alexander may have been a benevolent and generous ruler. Hellenistic Period (480BCE – 325BCE) Hellenistic period is defined by Alexander’s death in 323 BCE to the beginning of Roman Empire. Alexander would unite Greece and conquer Persia, Syria and Phoenicia, occupy Egypt, established the Alexandria seaport, and would continue to March as far east as India. Alexander’s death in 323 BCE would cause a split of his kingdom (one story is that as Alexander lay dying on his bed, his generals asked him who should succeed him as king, and with his last breath he gasped “The strongest”).
By early 3rd century Alexander’s generals would divide the empire into thirds: The Ptolomies would rule Egypt, Antigonids would have Macedonia & mainland Greece, and the Seculids would control Asia Minor, Persia & Mesopotamia. Within 2 centuries the divided kingdoms would be under Roman rule, with Egypt holding out the longest. In the Hellenistic period the Egyptian city of Alexandria became the center of learning due to the great library that Alexander would build. This library which held over 700,000 papyrus and parchment rolls would benefit rulers of ancient civilization for the next 100-200 years.
The Hellenistic Theatre would continue to grow. Theatres were not just for entertainment, but also religious communal ceremonies that involved dance, music and poetry. Stage would face the hill that created a natural stadium seating. Most theatres were built in the 4th century and would be continually updated. The theatre at Epidauros is a classical example of a Greek theatre: semis circle/tiered seating, orchestra performance area. Backdrop and backstage area consisted of proskenion that separated orchestra from skene ramp. Seats created out of wedge shapes.
Temple of the Olympian Zeus was originally built on a Doric temple. Started Base foundation measures 135 ft x 354 but would not be completed until reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian. Commissioned by Antiochus and designed by Cossutius. Located at the foot of the Acropolis, Olympian Zeus is a larger traditional Greek temple. The columns are a composite if Corinthian capitals and Ionic shafts. This creates an elegant and more refined look. Nike of Samothrace is a fine example of Hellenistic sculpture. This statue was possibly meant to commemorate a sea victory, or to be placed on the bow of a ship.
But more than likely it was placed on a cliff or in an artificial hillside niche. The artist used canon, pose and drapery to create a powerful all around dramatic effect. The stance of Nike spirals upward, her garment is shear and accentuates the curves of her figure. The heavy dramatic pose of Nike is a typical characteristic of Hellenistic art. In the Hellenistic period the taste moves from harmony and balance to more character driven portraits and dramatic events. Aphrodite of Melos sometimes known as Venus de Milo is one of the most famous sculptures in art.
She is a little heavier and rounder even though the artist may have used Praxiteles canon of proportion. Her body does have a stronger twist and more prominent knee projection which is Hellenistic. Scholars’ debate about what she was doing with her hands: holding an apple, looking into a shield of Ares, or just hands covering body. The Hellenistic Ruler is the best example of the classical Hellenistic style of art. This is a larger than life size sculpture that was favored by Hellenistic audience. But we see that the abstraction of the human form is apparent.
The artist shows an over development of the musculature of the ruler. The facial features though are more individualize and seem to convey an actual personality of a ruler who saw himself as divine and all powerful. The Lacoon is a based on the story of the Trojan priest who tried to warn the king of Troy about the wooden horse. The Hellenistic taste for extreme drama motivated their art production. The skill of artist not only conveys emotion and movement of figures but also stability of figures in a dynamic composition. Hellenistic artists and patrons would also produce and support a more realistic approach in sculpting.
The subject matter of more realistic art was often children and working class people. . The other trend is called anti classical. The subject matter is not gods, heroes or royal portraiture, but rather of . The sleeping Eros shows a child in complete repose. Even though Eros is a god, this portrayal of him as a child would become more identified with this deity (his roman name is Cupid). This bronze sculpture of Eros gives him a sweet expression on his sleeping face and no tension apparent in his body. On the other side of this sweet child is the old woman sculpture. This type of image is relatively rare in Greek art.
She stands only 4 feet tall and as you can see she is definitely not idealized. Who she is supposed to be is very debatable: some scholars believed she is an aging follower of Dionysus. Dionysus is the god of fertility and wine, so is she drunk? Is she on her way to “worship” or did she just finished “worshipping”? Or is she a market woman, who has had a rough and hard life. One thing is for sure, and that is Hellenistic sculptors would try to appeal across class lines and do more genre (art of everyday people and/or life) The Boxer is another example of genre art. While the figure is somewhat idealized, but he face shows a man who has seen and experienced the pain of his profession both physically and emotionally. Alter from Pergamon Pergamon was the Hellenistic capital in Asia Minor. The kingdom of Pergamon became the new hub of artistic activity. A much more dramatic style identified as the Pergamonese style is display in the Altar of Zeus. This altar was built for the to commemorate their victory over the Gauls. Originally placed in an enclosure, in the open courtyard, sits on a high podium with ionic colonnade. The frieze is decorated in high relief. The story is the traditionally gods versus titans.
The interior of the altar is the story of how Pergamon was founded. King Attalous defeated the Gauls in 238 BCE. Since it was prohibited to show current events in memorials the Battle of Gods and Giants again serves as a metaphor. The Pergamonese would try to reassert their independence and Greek superiority much like the Athenians did in building the Parthenon. However the frieze figures on the altar seem to more than likely to reflect the current uncertainness that surrounds the Greek empire. Over 200 figures in a variety of poses literally crawl, run, scoot and fly off the surface of the podium.
On the faces of these figures show a wide range of emotions, from fear to arrogance to even disbelief. The Greeks keen sense of observation and ability to reproduce and expand on the human form would cause them to be admired and imitated in western cultures. While Greeks admired art, they did not necessarily admire artists. While the work is to be admired, artists were merely copying the greatness of the human form, not for creating it. Chapter Five Web resources http://www. pbs. org/empires/thegreeks/ Never can go wrong with PBS http://www. agathe. gr/ Athena Agora excavations