Published on October 25, 2016
Greek art and sculpture has had a profound effect for art throughout the ages. Many of the styles have been reproduced and copied by some of what the modern day audiences would class as some of the finest artists to have ever lived – a great example here is Michelangelo. But how to catch up with all these ancient statues? How to shine during a coctail party? To the rescue comes DailyArtDaily and this article of ours where you will learn about SIX (only six, we promise) ancient Greek sculptures you should know!
First of all you must know, that Modern scholarship identifies three major stages of a Greek sculpture – the Archaic period, Classical and Hellenistic. Frequent subjects were the battles, mythology, and rulers of the area historically known as ancient Greece. Regarding the materials, Greek sculpture was most often in bronze and porous limestone, but whilst bronze seems inspirationfashion inspired by art greek hellenistic sculpture never to have gone out of fashion, the stone of choice would become marble. There is a trouble with bronze – as it was a very precious material and very often the original bronze sculptures were melted. Also a fun fact – original Greek statues were brightly painted, but after thousands of years, those paints have worn away. So the whole idea of classicism being white and “elegant” is a huge MYTH. Yes. That’s a kind of info that will impress your friends!
The Moschophoros, c. 570 BCE
The Moschophoros, c. 570 BCE, Athens, Acropolis Museum.
Moscophoros, which means “the calf-bearer”was found in fragments in the Perserschutt in the Acropolis of Athens. The statue is estimated to have originally measured 1.65 metres (5.4 ft) in height. According to an inscription on its base, the statue was a votive offering to the goddess Athena by a certain Rhonbos (although the name is not entirely legible) and it is thought to represent Rhonbos himself, bringing sacrifice. Moscophoros is a typical Archaic sculpture – static, naked with a smiling face.
The Artemisian Bronze, c. 460 BCE,National Archaeological Museum, Athens
The Artemision Bronze thought to be either Poseidon or Zeus. It was found by fishermen off the coast of Cape Artemisium in 1928. The figure is more than 2 m in height. There are still debates over the subject of this sculpture because its missing thunderbolt rules out the possibility that it is Zeus, while its missing trident also rules out the possibility that it is Poseidon. It has always been associated with ancient sculptors Myron and Onatas. It is certainly the work of a great sculptor of the early Classical period, notable for the exquisite rendering of motion and anatomy.
Hermes of Praxiteles
Hermes and the Infant Dionysos, 4th Century BC, Archaeological Museum of Olympia
Created in honor of the Greek god Hermes, Hermes of Praxiteles represents Hermes while carrying another popular character in Greek mythology, the infant Dionysus. The statue was made from Parian marble and is believed by historians to have been built by the ancient Greeks during 330 BC. It is known today as one of the most original masterpieces of the great Greek sculptor Praxiteles. The face and torso of Hermes are striking for their highly polished, glowing surface. The back, by contrast, shows the marks of the rasp and chisel, and the rest of the sculpture is incompletely finished.
Winged Victory of Samothrace
Winged Victory of Samothrace, 3rd or 2nd Century BC, Musée du Louvre, Paris
A 200 B.C.- marble sculpture depicting the Greek goddess Nike, the Winged Victory of Samothrace is considered today as the greatest masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture. It is currently displayed at Louvre and is among the most celebrated original statues in the world. It was created between 200 and 190 B.C. not to honor the Greek goddess Nike but to honor a sea battle. It was first erected by Macedonian general Demetrius following his naval victory in Cyprus. The nude female body is revealed by the transparency of the wet drapery, much in the manner of classical works from the fifth century BC, while the cord worn just beneath the breasts recalls a clothing style that was popular beginning in the fourth century. In the treatment of the tunic-sometimes brushing against the body, sometimes billowing in the wind-the sculptor has been remarkably skillful in creating visual effects.
Venus de Milo
Aphrodite, known as the “Venus de Milo”, C. 100 BC, Musée du Louvre
It’s popularly believed that this Grecian statue depicts the Greek Goddess of love and beauty, who was often rendered half-naked. However, some have suggested the sculpture is not Aphrodite/Venus, but Amphitrite, the sea goddess who was particularly adored on Milos. Still others have proposed she’s Victory, or perhaps a prostitute. With her arms long missing, would-be context clues have been lost for centuries. Regardin the arms:
A farmer Kentrotas, who found the whole statue in 1820 also found fragments of an arm and a hand, but as Venus de Milo was being reassembled, those arms were discarded for having a”rougher” appearance.
Laocoön and His Sons
Laocoön and his sons, also known as the Laocoön Group. Marble, copy after a Hellenistic original from ca. 200 BC. Found in the Baths of Trajan, 1506; Vatican Museums, Source: Wikimedia Commons
A statue currently situated at the Vatican Museum in Rome, ‘Lacoon and his Sons’, also known as the ‘Lacoon Group’ was originally created by three great Greek sculptors from the island of Rhodes, Agesander, Polydorus greek and Athenodoros. This life-size statue is made of marble and depicts a Trojan priest named Lacoon, together with his sons Thymbraeus and Antiphantes, being throttled by sea serpents. In style it is considered “one of the finest examples of the Hellenistic baroque” and certainly in the Greek tradition, but it is not known whether it is an original work or a copy of an earlier sculpture, probably in bronze, or made for a Greek or Roman commission.
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