The Evolution of Greek Sculpture

The sculpture of ancient Greece from 800 to 300 BCE took inspiration from Egyptian and Near Eastern monumental art, and evolved into a uniquely Greek vision of the art form. Greek artists captured the human form in a way never before seen where sculptors were particularly concerned with proportion, poise, and the idealised perfection of the human body.

Greek sculptural figures in stone and bronze have become some of the most recognisable pieces of art ever produced by any civilization and the Greek artistic vision of the human form was much copied in antiquity and has been ever since.

Influences & Evolution

From the 8th century BCE, Archaic Greece saw a rise in the production of small solid figures in clay, ivory, and bronze. No doubt, wood too was a commonly used medium but its susceptibility to erosion has meant few examples have survived. Bronze figures, human heads and, in particular, griffins were used as attachments to bronze vessels such as cauldrons. In style, the human figures resemble those in contemporary Geometric pottery designs, having elongated limbs and a triangular torso. Animal figures were also produced in large numbers, especially the horse, and many have been found across Greece at sanctuary sites such as Olympia and Delphi, indicating their common function as votive offerings. https://www.youtube.com/embed/qNf-0a6TvSw?autoplay=0

The oldest Greek stone sculptures (of limestone) date from the mid-7th century BCE and were found at Thera. In this period, bronze free-standing figures with their own base became more common, and more ambitious subjects were attempted such as warriors, charioteers, and musicians. Marble sculpture appears from the early 6th century BCE and the first monumental, life-size statues began to be produced. These had a commemorative function, either offered at sanctuaries in symbolic service to the gods or used as grave markers.

The earliest large stone figures (kouroi – nude male youths and kore – clothed female figures) were rigid as in Egyptian monumental statues with the arms held straight at the sides, the feet are almost together and the eyes stare blankly ahead without any particular facial expression. These rather static figures slowly evolved though and with ever greater details added to hair and muscles, the figures began to come to life.

Why did Greek sculpture evolve?

Definition. The sculpture of ancient Greece from 800 to 300 BCE took inspiration from Egyptian and Near Eastern monumental art, and evolved into a uniquely Greek vision of the art form.

How did sculptures evolve?

Over time, the use of sculptures evolved such that by the start of civilization, people used them as a representation of gods. Ancient kings who wished to immortalize their rules had statues made in their likeness, and in so doing, they led to the beginning of portrait sculpting, an art that continues to date.

How did styles of Greek sculpture change over time?

How did styles of Greek sculpture change over time? It started with statues with their arms stiffly at their side to more realistic statues in natural poses, showing muscles, hair, and clothing in much greater detail.

What are Greek sculptures made out of?

Regarding the materials, Greek sculptures were most often in bronze and porous limestone. While bronze seems never to have gone out of fashion, the material of choice would eventually become marble. There is a trouble with bronze – it was a very precious material

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As we learned this week, sculptors in Ancient Greece strove to achieve perfection in the works of art they created. Carefully examine the following sculptures and read about each one in your textbook, course and video lectures, and through reliable internet resources:

Peplos Kore, from the Acropolis, Athens, c. 530 BCE
Warrior, found in the sea off Riace, Italy, c. 460-450 BCE
Hagesandros, Polydoros, and Athanadoros of Rhodes, Laocoön and His Sons, 2nd-1st c BCE

Then, in a minimum of 2 well-developed paragraphs, answer the following questions:

  • What specific visual similarities do you observe in these three sculptures?
  • What specific differences do you see? Consider the representation of the figure, facial expression or suggested emotion, additional objects portrayed, and the role of the viewer for each sculpture.
  • How is each sculpture representative of the period in Ancient Greece (e.g., Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic) in which it was created?

Be sure to explain your ideas clearly and support them by discussing specific details about each sculpture.

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