Greek Sculpture a Timeline of Greek Sculpture Essay

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Greek Sculpture

A Timeline of Greek Sculpture

Polykleitos, Doryphoros (early fourth century BC)

As Paul Johnson (2003) records, this ancient example of Greek classicalism "epitomizes a canon of male beauty embodied in mathematical proportions" (p. 63). Showing the perfection of contraposto, Doryphoros (or the spear-carrier) is a balanced representation of the body's muscles. Polykleitos, a contemporary of Phidias, had his own school of young artists, which carried on into the third century BC. Polykleitos' works are treated on in his own treatise, called "The Canon," which gave explicit attention to symmetry, clarity, and wholeness. The Spear-carrier is one of the best examples of Polykleitos' teaching -- however, this example is a copy of his original, and is held in Naples -- a fitting representation of the art of Greek sculpting.

Praxiteles, Aphrodite of Knidos (mid-fourth century BC)

Praxiteles actually made two statues for Kos -- so the legend goes. One statue depicted Aphrodite (Venus), modestly clothed in draping garments -- the other boldly depicted the goddess in the nude. The modest Venus (as it has been called) has been lost to history, but the nude Aphrodite was set up in an open temple and could be viewed from every side. The Aphrodite of Knidos that survives today is believed to be a Roman copy. According to Paul Johnson, it is the first "fully-realized female nude statue in history, certainly in Greek monumental sculpture, and was evidently modeled on Phryne, as the bracelet on her left arm reveals" (p. 65). Praxiteles' Aphrodite serves as the basis for the cult of Venus "as the arch-image of female sexuality" (p. 65).

3. Praxiteles, Hermes and the Infant Dionysus (fourth century BC)

Again, like many ancient sculptures, the originality of this one is debated. Whether it is a Roman copy or an original by Praxiteles, this representation of Hermes is nonetheless still attributed to the Greek sculptor. It contains that special kind of reverence for emotion that the classical Greek sculptor appreciated and attempted to capture in stone (Haaren, 2000, p. 86). Here, Hermes is carrying Dionysus (an infant about to be raised by the nymphs to whom Hermes is delivering his charge). The power of the sculpture is in its grace and elegance: "The figure of Hermes as strong, active, and graceful, the face expressive of nobility and sweetness -- is most beautiful" (Ancient Greek Art).

4. Faun of Praxiteles (fourth century BC)

Although called the Faun of Praxiteles, this is another sculpture whose creator is debated. Famous for inspiring Nathaniel Hawthorne's romantic Roman novel The Marble Faun during his visit to Rome, this representation of the Greek satyr is less distinguished than the work of the major classical masters -- but it exhibits the type of aesthetic to which the period was given. Within the faun's features is seen a kind of mischievousness in his listless, lounging posture -- as though merely waiting for the opportunity to pounce or strike. The drama implicit in the sculpture would become fully realized in the coming centuries of Greek craftsmanship, beginning with the Farnese Bull of the next century.

5. Apollonius and Tauriscus, Farnese Bull (third century BC)

Michelangelo was a great admirer of this Greek marvel, just as much as he was of the Laocoon. According to Pliny the Elder, the Bull was carved from a single block of marble. Grand in size, it remains antiquity's largest gift of sculpture to the modern world. As "The Farnese Bull" tells us, "In Grecian art, sculpture and mythology, of which poetry was the highest and most artistic expression, went hand in hand, and long before the myth which the work represents was incorporated into stone, it had been immortalized by a celebrated tragedy of Euripides." The story set in stone by Apollonius and Tauriscus, here, is the story of Dirce, who was tied to a wild bull as a punishment for her attempting to get Zethus and Amphion to do the same to Antiope, who was their mother. The sons, not quite completely held under the sway of Dirce, realized it was their mother they were about to punish, and instead tied Dirce to the bull's horns -- as is seen in the carving.

6. Epigonos of Pergamon, The Dying Gaul (c. 225 BC)

This unique work of Greek art is singular for the fact that it is a kind of sympathetic gesture to what the Greeks would…

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