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Sculpture During the Classic Period
Doryphoros (Spear Bearer)
(also called "the Canon")
by Polykleitos c450-440 BC
Roman copy after a bronze original
marble height 6'6"
tree stump and leg brace are later
|Form: This frontally oriented sculpture of a young male figure is well over life sized, is idealized, and naturalistic. Some of the features of the face, the musculature of the abdomen and above the genitals have been distorted to fit in with an ideal of physical beauty. The hair, nose of the figure and eyebrows have a rather geometrically stylized aspect to them as does the overall anatomy of the figure. There is still a hint of the archaic smile.The figure stands in a life like contrapposto pose (contra- against posto- posture) in which the body takes on an over all "s" curve. There is a shift of weight at the hips and a majority of the figure's weight is on one leg. The torso is turned in a slight angle opposite to the angle of the hips. The pose looks almost as if the figure is in movement.|
This is a marble sculpture made by Romans copied from a bronze original that used the hollow casting or the cire perdue or lost wax process. The process is referred to as lost wax not because we have lost the process, but because the figure is originally sculpted from wax which is lost in the process. The original is encased in clay. Two drainage holes are placed in the clay and when the clay is heated, the wax runs out of the hole leaving a cavity. Bronze is then poured into the cavity and when the bronze cools the clay mold is broken open revealing the bronze sculpture. Since the bronze is a fairly soft metal, details can be etched and molded while the bronze is cool.
(go here for diagrams)
Iconography: This sculpture depicts a perfect and beautiful young man the essence of kalos.
In Greek epic poetry the hero is always described as handsome or beautiful and their physical appearance is a reflection of the character's virtue. The idealism or beauty of the Greek figure is linked to the concept that you can judge a book by its cover. The Greek term for beauty is kalos (calos). The term kalos can also be interchanged with and is synonymous with goodness. Therefore, to call someone or something beautiful also means that that thing is also "good."
The original sculpture was actually designed to be an icon that represented physical perfection of the human form and therefore a god-like kalos. TheDoryphoros by Polykleitos was considered so proportionately perfect that it was called the "canon" (a set of rules or criterion or standard of judgment).
The contrapposto pose serves the same purpose as the archaic smile. Both were designed to give the work a more lifelike illusion. In the case of the archaic smile, it almost as if there is the beginnings of movement in the face and the same is true of the contrapposto that seems as if the body is about to move.
Context: Schema and correction play heavily into this work. There are elements derived from the original kouros figures, such as the step forward, the idealized form and the archaic smile, but, Polykleitos builds on the naturalism to make the sculpture more life-like.
Since this is a Roman marble copy after bronze original, this would make this yet another corrected view. This copy of the work is the "correction" on the Greeks original "schema" and so its accuracy is in question. Historians and Romans have often called this work the Canon. This work was designed by Polykleitos to be his canon or his treatise (a complete guide of sorts) to making a perfect sculpture. Unfortunately, neither his sculpture or his written texts survived but we do have Roman descriptions of the text and Roman copies of the sculpture and so the Romans referred to it as the "Canon." The naming of this sculpture is complicated for this and other reasons.
It is thought that the original bronze carried a long spear and that is where he gets his name. Doryphoros in Greek translates as "spear bearer." This marble sculpture of the Doryphoros is a Roman copy of the first original bronze by Polykleitos. We are lucky enough to have a sculpture that was made at the same time as the original Doryphoros referred to as the Riace Bronze or Young Warrior from Riace (c 460-450 BCE) that approximates what the original Doryphoros must have looked like.
|Kritian Boy by Kritios, |
"Ephebe of Kritios" c480BCE
marble, height 46"
|Form: This sculpture shares much in common with the Doryphoros: it is of a young male figure, it is idealized, naturalistic and shares in the same stylizations. Some of the features of the face, the musculature of the abdomen and above the genitals have been distorted to fit in with an ideal of physical beauty. The hair, nose of the figure and eyebrows have a rather geometrically stylized aspect to them as does the overall anatomy of the figure. There is still a hint of the archaic smile.The figure stands in a life like contrapposto pose (contra- against posto- posture) in which the body takes on an over all "s" curve. There is a shift of weight at the hips and a majority of the figure's weight is on one leg. The torso is turned in a slight angle opposite to the angle of the hips. The pose looks almost as if the figure is in movement.|
Iconography: This sculpture, like the earlier Kouros figures, was actually designed to be an icon that represented physical perfection of the human form and therefore a god-like kalos. This sculpture might even have been the schema for the Doryphoros by Polykleitos.
Context: This sculpture was found in the rubble underneath the Acropolis and was preserved in the same way as the Moscophoros. Since the only sculptures that survived by Kritios were Roman marble copies, this sculpture was considered quite a find and was attributed to the sculptor based on its formal and stylistic similarities to Roman copies.
Blonde Boy's Head 480B.C.-
|This sculpture is a good formal example of the idealized distortions made by Greek sculptors of the human head and face. Side view facial features are idealized. Hair is perfect. No indention from nose to forehead, known as a "Greek Nose." The ear is too high and far back. This sculpture is made based on their conception of physical beauty. They simply decided to make nature over according to their tastes.|
by Myron c450BCE
Roman marble copy after a
Greek bronze original
Form: This sculpture shares much in common with the Doryphoros and Ephebe of Kritios: but aside from the idealized stylizations of these sculptures it appears to be in movement. In actuality the sculptor Myron has chosen to freeze an actual moment in the process of an athlete throwing a discus. Nevertheless, the sculpture, like all Greek sculptures, whether in the round or relief style, is frontally oriented. There is only one way the sculptor meant for the viewer to see the image.Iconography: This is a symbol of Greek male athleticism and therefore the ideal citizen and soldier. The athletic activity he is participating in is probably also a reference to heroism during the Olympics.
Context: This sculpture is one of the first examples of a figure caught in a convincing frozen moment. The original sculpture would have been cast from bronze and this possibly would have eliminated the need for the tree stump and for one of the arms to be engaged or connected with the leg. This sculpture also demonstrates the ability of the Greeks to actually observe nature and mimic the movement of the human body convincingly.
Hermes (Mercury) and the
by Praxiteles or his followers
marble with remnants of
red paint on the lips and hair
Classic or Hellenistic
800-700 B.C.= Oriental Influence
700-500 B.C.= Archaic Period
480-350 B.C. = Classic Age
350-100 B.C.= Hellenism (Hellenistic Art)
Form: This statue's anatomy is considerably more realistic than earlier sculptures. The musculature is softer, and more sensuous and there is even a bit of body fat. Although the statue is in contrapposto position to indicate slight movement the "S" curve of the body is heightened and the movement is more exaggerated by the arm that is held aloft. The head of the adult figure is turned towards the infant that is reaching towards the extended arm. This sculpture although still frontally oriented, is even more in the round than others. The viewer can begin to move to the far left and right to see a more interesting and complete view of the figure.Iconography: This sculpture probably represents Hermes and Dionysus. Hermes is the wing footed messenger god who served as a temporary "nurse maid" for Dionysus in order to protect the young god from Hera. Hermes is holding out a bunch of grapes, and young Dionysos's reaching for them is prophetic symbol of Dionysos's role as the god of wine. The scene is a bit of a genre scene and probably symbolizes the more humanistic or playful attributes of the gods.
Context: Stokstad asserts that this is probably a copy because of the anachronistic elements of the footwear and the fact that Romans often used braces and other elements to further support their sculptures. I believe that this sculpture is really Hellenistic because it exhibits the more dramatic and lifelike qualities of that period. This sculpture represents a break with the earlier periods in the fact that the anatomy is a bit more sensuous and realistic and that the scene is more of a dramatic and interactive moment.
Stokstad (page 210) discusses the idea that Greek art around 320 BCE goes through a marked shift and begins to change into a style that stresses life-like and less general themes. Hellenistic style art is very similar to the changes in film between the 1950 and the 1980's in the United States. If one was to think of a gangster film from the 1950's the themes, dialogue, sexual content, and violence were fairly restrained and the moral of the film would usually be that good conquers over evil or something just as high minded. Today, we have films that are much more violent, more dramatic and the higher moral them is harder to understand. The same dramatic shift happens in Greek art between the classic age and the later Hellenistic phases. The sculpture by Praxiteles is an excellent example of this shift. It is a fine example of a transitional work of art between the two periods.
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin, from Latin, ruler, rule, model, standard, from Greek kanOn
Date: before 12th century
4 a : an accepted principle or rule b: a criterion or standard of judgment c : a body of principles, rules, standards, or norms
1 a : a regulation or dogma decreed by a church council b: a provision of canon law
2 [Middle English, prob. from Old French, from Late Latin, from Latin, model] : the most solemn and unvarying part of the Mass including the consecration of the bread and wine
3 [Middle English, from Late Latin, from Latin, standard] a: an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture b: the authentic works of a writer c: a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works
5 [Late Greek kanOn, from Greek, model] : a contrapuntal musical composition in two or more voice parts in which the melody is imitated exactly and completely by the successive voices though not always at the same pitch
synonym see LAWkalos In Greek epic poetry the hero is always described as handsome or beautiful and their physical appearance is a reflection of the character's virtue. The idealism or beauty of the Greek figure is linked to the concept that you can judge a book by its cover. The Greek term for beauty is kalos (calos). The term kalos can also be interchanged with and is synonymous with goodness. Therefore, to call someone or something beautiful also means that that thing is also "good."
Pronunciation: 'trE-t&s also -t&z
Etymology: Middle English tretis, from Anglo-French tretiz, from Old
French traitier to treat
Date: 14th century
1 : a systematic exposition or argument in writing including a methodical
discussion of the facts and principles involved and conclusions reached
on higher education>
2 obsolete : ACCOUNT, TALE
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