Module 3

Topics: Ancient Greece, Ancient Greek sculpture, 1st millennium BC Pages: 58 (6144 words) Published: March 29, 2015
"When you want to represent beautiful figures, since it is not easy to find everything without a flaw in a single human being, do you not then collect from a number what is beautiful in each, so that the whole body may appear beautiful?" -- Socrates

The destruction of the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations led to a decline in the knowledge of reading, writing, building, and art. This period is often called the Dark Ages of Greece. It was a time of poverty, depopulation, and social disintegration. By the eighth century BCE, economic and social conditions improved in Greece. At the same time, the Greek polis emerges. In sculpture, the human figural form returns. Module 3 begins with these early sculpted figures, which date to the seventh century BCE. As the Greek polis evolved into a democracy, the sculpted human figure evolved in style toward naturalistic forms. This rapid evolution in style, perhaps a natural result of radical social and political changes, distinguishes Greece from the Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern civilizations Although there were several polities (or communities) in Greece, this module will focus mainly on the archeological finds from Athens, the most celebrated of Greek cities and the capital of modern-day Greece. In Module 3, you will explore representative works from the Orientalizing, Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods of Greek art.

Interactive Timeline
1,500 BC - 300 AD
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The Male Figure in the Orientalizing Period

Mantiklos Apollo, statuette of a youth dedicated by Mantiklos to Apollo, from Thebes, Greece, ca. 700-680 BCE. Bronze, 8" high. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Enlarge [+]
This sculpted male figure, known as the Mantiklos Apollo, dates to 700-680 BCE. Unfortunately, the part below the knees is now destroyed. Although it is a representation of a complete male nude, the statue is in miniature, measuring only eight inches high. A hole in his left hand indicates that he may have held a bow, an attribute of the Greek god Apollo. His eyes, which are now hollow, were originally made of colored stones. An inscription incised into the sculpture's thighs reads, "Mantiklos offers me as a tithe (votive) to Apollo of the silver bow; do you, Phoibos, give some pleasing favor in return." This inscription indicates that the sculpture functioned as a votive offering to the god Apollo, and so it had a religious significance for Mantiklos. He likely believed the physical offering would gain him the favor of his god. Most scholars conclude that the sculpture is intended to be a portrait of Apollo, but it is still unclear whom the statue represents. Despite the details of this inscription, the sculpture's slender and rather abstract form makes this figure anonymous; the statue is not a portrait of a person but rather a type, perhaps of a male athlete or warrior. The figure has been reduced to the essentials, which may reflect the Aristotelian principle, "That which makes no perceptible difference by its presence or its absence is not a real part of the whole." His stiff and stylized form -- the hair resembles sausage rolls and does not fall naturally over the shoulders -- is an abstraction of natural forms. Egyptian statues no doubt influenced his rigid and frontal stance, which seems motionless and formal. The figure of the Mantiklos Apollo can be thought of as a precursor to the kouros, which has led some scholars to consider this sculpture proto-archaic.

The Male Figure in the Archaic Period

Kouros figure, ca. 600 BCE. Marble, 6' 1/2" high. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Enlarge [+]
Monumental and free-standing marble sculpture appeared in Greece around 600 BCE. The stylistic quality of these statues can be compared to the rigid, frontal, and block-like character of Egyptian statuary. The figure shown here is a kouros, a word that comes from the Greek word koros, which refers to...
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