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Title: Photo Album

Ant 293 Lecture Four Ancient Greek Sculpture
  • Contents
  • 1. Archaic style
  • clarity ideal
  • 2. Classical style
  • torso pose balance proportion 'godliness'
  • 3. The Parthenon sculptures A Case
    Study stature of Athena metopes
    pediments Ionic frieze

  • 1. Archaic Style
  • the earliest Greek nudes are called 'Apollos'
  • the Greeks thought of Apollo as a perfectly
    beautiful man
  • his body conformed to certain laws of proportion
    and so partook of the divine beauty of
  • in the embodiment of Apollo everything must be
    calm and clear

  • however, the early 'Apollos' are not beautiful
  • they are alert and confident, but stiff
  • the transitions between their members are abrupt
    and awkward, and they have a curious flatness, as
    if the sculptor could think only of one plane at
    a time

  • Clarity
  • the shapes are neither pleasant nor comfortably
    related to one another, but each one is firmly
    delineated and aspires to a shape which the eye
    can grasp

  • Ideal
  • Archaic Greek sculpture starts from the concept
    of a perfect shape and only gradually feels able
    to modify that shape in the interests of

  • Aelian tells us that Polyclitus once made two
    statues of the same model, one according to
    popular taste, probably naturalistic, the other
    according to the rules of art
  • he invited his visitors to suggest improvements
    and modifications to the former, all of which
    were carried out
  • he then exhibited the two statues the former was
    ridiculed, the latter appreciated as a fine work
    of art

  • 2. Classical style
  • Perfection of internal structure of torso
  • nude males of the 6th C BCE change gradually,
    becoming smoother and less 'severe'
  • it is best shown in the junction of the hips,
    abdomen and thorax

  • ten years later, in about 480 BCE, these
    differences are even more marked in the Ephebe of
  • the legs and divisions of the torso flow together
    with the same full and fruitful rhythm
  • the hips are not parallel, but since he rests his
    weight on his left leg, that hip is slightly

  • Polyclitus' control of muscle architecture was
    very rigorous, and from him derives what the
    French call cuirasse esthetique
  • this was a formalized disposition of the muscles
    and was used in the design of armour

  • Pose
  • the positioning of the Classical sculptures also
  • the objective seemed to be to find a pose that
    combined repose with the suggestion of potential
  • Polyclitus invented a pose in which the figure is
    neither walking nor standing, but simply
    establishing a point of balance

  • Balance
  • a figure may have within itself the rhythms of
    movement, but yet always comes to rest at its
    true centre

  • Proportion
  • many of our ideas about correct proportions come
    down to us from ancient Greece
  • when working with the nude form the Greek artist
    articulated a concept of a perfect shape and
    adapted natural form to this idea

  • Polyclitus was concerned with the idea of
    completeness, balance, and clarity, communicated
    through the nude form of the male athlete
  • it is presumed that he wrote about a system of
    proportions in a book now lost

  • Phidias determined that the ideal body was based
    on a system using a total of 7.5 heads, with the
    length of the person's head as the basic
    measuring unit

  • His system has
  • a. waist 3 heads
  • b. hips 3.75 heads
  • c. legs 1/2 body length
  • d. knees 5 heads
  • e. ankle 7 heads
  • f. ankle to foot 1/2 head

  • 'Godliness'
  • the ancient writers recognized that Polyclitus
    had created a perfectly balanced man, but added
    that he had not created the likeness of a god
    this was the achievement of Phidias
  • from 480 to 440 BCE, and parallel to the series
    of athletes was a series of votive statues which
    culminated in the great Apollos of Phidias

  • 'wholeness'
  • in the 4th C BCE, Praxiteles sculpted physical
    beauty in terms of strength, grace, gentleness
    and benevolence
  • after Praxiteles, the perfect man in ancient art
    fragments into very graceful, or very muscular,
    or merely 'animal'

  • this statue stood nearly 12 metres high, framed
    on three sides by a two-tier set of interior
    Doric columns
  • it was constructed of sheets of gold and ivory
    around a plastered wooden armature
  • although destroyed in antiquity, miniature marble
    replicas of the Roman period attest to her
  • Athena is portrayed as a warrior, resting after

  • a winged victory is in the palm of her
    outstretched right hand, while the left supported
    a round shield
  • a spear rested against her right shoulder
  • she is in a simple tunic, and over her shoulders
    and chest is the aegis, the snake- fringed,
    fish-scaled poncho given to her by Zeus
  • she wears a helmet
  • she was also adorned with sculptures

  • above the architrave, resting on the columns, ran
    the Doric frieze consisting of alternating
    metopes and triglyphs
  • the metopes measured 1.2m high and 1.22-1.33
    metres wide
  • there were 92 fourteen on short sides, and 32 on
    long sides
  • each side of the building relates to a different

  • west side Amazons fighting Greeks
  • north side scenes from the sack of Troy
  • east side Olympian gods fight for supremacy in
    the universe over giants
  • south side most show Centaurs fighting Greeks
  • most metopes have been badly mutilated
  • an exception is the western corner of the north
    side, and the 'Centauromachy', now housed in the
    British museum

  • it is thought that two goddesses in lively
    conversation were spared destruction by Christian
    fanatics because it was misconstrued as the
    Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel in a New
    Testament scene of the Anunciation

  • as for the Centaurs, the metopes tell the story
    of a feast between Hippodameia and Perithoos,
    king of the Lapiths, with Centaurs as visitors
  • the Centaurs could be cultured and wise, but when
    inflamed by wine, could get ugly, and at the
    wedding they tried to abduct a number of women
    and a battle broke out
  • each metope tells a story of rape or mortal

  • Pediment East side
  • sun god Helios and chariot emerging from the sea
    at dawn Dionysos reclining naked
  • probably Persephone seated with her mother

  • Dionysos relaxed and resting on a rock draped
    with the skin of a panther watches Helios rise,
    giving dawn to a new day

  • at the centre it was high enough for figures to
    stand more than twice life size
  • the sharp angles of the corners implied a much
    smaller scale
  • the designer of the pediment arranged the
    figures, both in relation to the frame and in the
    relationship of one figure to another, so as to
    minimize the potential for extreme variation in

  • both east and west have suffered much vandalism
  • the east was almost emptied when in late
    antiquity the temple was converted into a church
  • the central figures have been lost however,
    Pausanias described them
  • he describes the miraculous birth of Athena

  • a girl, perhaps Hebe, recoils from witnessing the
    birth of Athena

  • perhaps Hestia, goddess of the hearth
  • with Aphrodite reclining luxuriously in the lap
    of Dione, her mother

  • the reclining figure is the female equivalent of
    the male nude in the opposite corner and
    completes a trio of figures
  • to balance the chariot of the rising sun is shown
    Selene, the moon goddess, sinking beneath the
  • the torso of Selene survives in Athens

  • the head of one of the horses that drew the
    chariot of the moon goddess, Selene, across the
    night sky

  • Pediment West Side
  • the west pediment sculpture had survived well
    until the explosion that wrecked the Parthenon in
  • nevertheless it is known by remaining figures,
    Pausanias, and a drawing in 1674 that the theme
    concerns Athena's struggle with Poseidon for the
    patronage of Athens

  • Jacques Carrey's drawing in 1674 of the west
    pediment sculptures
  • Athena and Poseidon dominate the centre
  • their chariots fill spaces between them and
    figures in the two corners, perhaps judges

  • figure of Iris heralded
  • the chariot of
  • Poseidon
  • she was
  • the goddess of the
  • rainbow and of the
  • upper atmosphere

  • Ionic Frieze
  • ran within the outer colonnades, around all four
    sides of the building

  • gods and goddesses, and godlike men and women
    were depicted in the Ionic frieze
  • normally, subjects for temple sculpture were
    events from mythical gods and heroes
  • in this frieze, the Athenians chose to represent
    themselves as an idealized, living community
  • the pediment sculptures were in the round, and
    the metopes in high relief, the frieze sculptures
    are in low relief, 1m high and 1.6m long

  • the subject was a procession that divides into
    two branches, each starting out from the
    south-west corner
  • this is the Panathenaea, a festival in honour of
    Athena held annually in Athens during the summer
    month of Hekatombaion, and every four years
    celebrated with especial splendour, when it was
    known as the Great Panathenaea

  • one branch of the procession ran along the south
    side of the building, turning on the east, where
    it ran to face a group of gods/esses seated to
    look south
  • the other branch ran along the west side and then
    on to the north, until it too turned the corner
    on the east and there faced a group of gods/esses
    seated and looking north

  • between the two banks of gods is a group of cult
    officials engaged in some rite involving children
    with stools and a blanket of cloth
  • this is thought to be the peplos, a robe newly
    woven each year by Athenian girls and women and
    dedicated at the Panathenaea to the statue of
    Athena Polias on the Acropolis

  • Episode one
  • the west frieze has a troop of horsemen, some
    mounted, some not, some facing one way and others
    another, in an introductory episode of
    preparation for the cavalcade that lies ahead

  • Episode Two
  • the cavalcade is found around the corner on the
    north and south sides, where sixty horsemen
    occupy about half of the entire long flank
  • horsemen are divided into ten ranks of unequal
    number, each rank divided by a rider who is
    placed nearest the viewer, and not overlapped by
    any other figure in his rank
  • this gives the illusion of a 'ride past'

  • ahead of the horsemen were chariots, ten on the
    south frieze and eleven on the north
  • the first one or two are stationary and then the
    teams appear to fly headlong in a race, before
    being reined in to anticipate the figures of
    pedestrians who walk ahead
  • two figures ride side by side in a car, a driver
    in flowing tunic and an armed foot soldier
  • the latter seems to leap out of the cars to
    complete the race on foot

  • the lead chariots are reined in before the
    pedestrians in front of them
  • these seem to be bearded elders, perhaps
    officials of the Athenian democracy, or possibly
    winners of a male beauty contest that was one of
    the festival events
  • the winners carried branches in the procession,
    and some hands do look as if they are holding

  • ahead of the elders walked musicians, both string
    and wind players
  • in front of these were youths carrying water jars
    and in front of them trays
  • the contents of the jars probably had to do with
    the feast at the culmination of the festival
  • so too were the four sheep on the north, and four
    cattle on the north and south friezes

  • Episode Three east side
  • young women appear for the first time in the
    frieze, their tunics and cloaks concealing their
  • a number of the women carry jugs and bowls for
    the pouring of liquid libations, and at least one
    carries a stand for burning incense

  • the women bring the procession and its offerings
    nearly to the gods, fulfilling the role of women
    in Greek religion as intermediaries between the
    world of mortals and that of the divine
  • the two groups of gods are flanked by two groups
    of men, who stand or lean on staves
  • these are either magistrates, or heroes of
    Athen's past

  • the gods are shown as the dignitaries of a
    grandstand audience, seated and thereby on a
    larger scale than the human figures of the

  • the Ionic frieze is the most ambitious of all the
    sculptures of the Parthenon and the most
    expressive of a national ideology
  • it presents a story narrated as a festival
    procession spanning the outer limits of the city
    and its sacred heart, connecting the legendary
    past with an idealized present and uniting the
    mortal inhabitants with their divine patrons