Hellenistic Sculpture Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1682 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

¶ … sculpture from the Hellenistic period of Greek art called the "Kritios Boy" which was discovered in the late 1800s by archaeologists in the ruins of the Greek acropolis in Athens. The artist who created it is unknown. This statue represents Greek culture, especially the Hellenistic period in a variety of ways and styles. The "Kritios Boy" is a commanding sculpture about 3 1/2-feet high, and is intricately carved out of pale marble. Anyone familiar with Greek statuary will, after study, seethe form and flow of the work shows a conspicuous difference to earlier types and works of Greek sculpture. The most striking difference is the movement and flow of the piece. The sculptor used distinctive movement with one foot slightly raised, which then caused the artist to place the highest percentage of the weight of the work on the flat foot of the statue.

Art critic Reinhard Lullies writes, "This figure deviates from the strict system of the Archaic statues in so far as its weight is no longer evenly distributed on both legs. A slight distinction is made between the right supporting leg and the left which merely balances the figure."

This statue has long been seen as the first statue discovered that shows this uneven allotment of weight and most art experts and historians judge this points toward a great transformation in style and form in Greek sculpture. The discoverers named this statue "boy" mostly on account of the statue's short stature. Showing the detail and craft of the sculptor, the boy's realistic hair is depicted as almost feminine tight curls arranged in a halo around his head. Lullies continues, "The hair lies on the head in fine waves running from the crown of the head, and is taken up over a circlet. The down on the nape of the neck is arranged in alternating curls and straight wisps."

This attests to the ability of the sculptor and the importance of detail in the sculptures of the time. Perhaps the most remarkable features are the sculpture's eyes, which are inlaid into the eye sockets. Many art experts think this inlaying of the eyes was a replication of different techniques used in bronze statuary, and this indicates the Greeks worked in that method, too, during the Hellenistic period when they created this statue.

The statue is approximately half the size of an adult male (another reference to the name), and yet it is meticulous in detail, showing an insightful face, physical poise, and delicately carved legs and feet that seem almost ready to take the boy on a walk through the ruins. These minute details of the statue convey quite a tale of Greece at the time.

This piece seems to emulate exactly what people see in their minds when they picture Classical Greece and Classical Greek sculpture. The boy has the physique and pose of a competitor - a runner or perhaps a discus thrower. The sculptor, as most do, created the statute in three dimensions, and so, all the areas of the body, from the head and arms to the back and legs are all carved carefully and with great features, which helps the viewer understand what the Greeks thought was the ideal male body of the era. The Greeks have always been recognized as one of the world's most advanced ancient cultures. They fashioned the first form of what we know call democracy, were excellent teachers and athletes, and they created a comprehensive and multifaceted civilization that turned into an example that many other civilizations around the world wanted to emulate and improve upon. The Greeks treasured art and many artists throughout their civilization created sculpture, vessels, and other artworks that adorned their homes and buildings. And of course, most people know they invented the ancient Olympic Games, which have been modified today but still continue to be one of the premier athletic contests in the world. They appreciated and openly admired the human body (in the first Olympics competitors competed in the nude). This statue seems to truly illustrate this great sense they had for athleticism, refinement, splendor, and decoration.

This sculpture clearly illustrates how Hellenistic culture was evolving and changing. The statue includes movement, which makes it a more natural and realistic rendition of people and life of the time. Rather than appearing stylized and even overly rigid, this figure seems as if it could easily come to life, and that represents a great change in style and purpose of Greek sculpture. Another critic writes, "This new device, called a 'contrapposto' stance, gives the sculpted figure a definite presence; the weight shift gives the figure a sort of conveyed gravity and enhances its realism."

This was a departure from earlier pieces which depicted the body in a rigid and unbending style, which many critics called "severe." Another critic notes, "These statues typically stood rigid and straight-backed, feet together, staring straight ahead with no expression on the face except for a slight curving of the lips, which is now dubbed as the 'archaic smile.'" This piece also indicates that artists were studying the human body much more intimately, and they had the desire to depict not only the features, but the muscles, the tendons, and even the skin as realistically and clearly as they possibly could. As critic Carpenter continues, "The marble has been worked with magnificent skill to mirror the sensuous beauty of barely adolescent youth, and a surprising familiarity with superficial anatomic form has converted the back, from neck to ankle, into one of the most correctly lovely of all preserved fifth-century statues."

Realism was important, as was democracy, education, and a balanced civilization. This work also shows this balance, this attention to detail, and even the need for a balanced society, as the work depicts a boy that has some distinctly feminine features, such as the hair and the eyes.

This sculpture seems to have been created for any number of compelling reasons. The Greeks were quite artistically inclined at the time, and decorated their homes and buildings with a variety of artwork, including intricate carvings, paintings, and sculpture. They loved the human form and celebrated it in their artwork, and this piece certainly celebrates the human form. The artwork also deviates from earlier styles in that the face especially is almost perfectly symmetrical; in fact, it follows a model for symmetry and balance between the features, which can almost be measured precisely.

Thus, the sculpture quite accurately depicts their love of the human body, competition, and attention to detail.

There could be another very important reason for creating this statue. The sculptor could have been making a subtle statement about Greece at the time that would live on for posterity. Greece was a successful nation that influenced other nations around the world, and also became one of the great conquering nations under Alexander the Great. However, all conquering nations must eventually fall, and Greece fell just as others before her and after her fell. The sculptor, by creating a work that had nothing to do with conquering, war, and domination, may have been speaking out for peace in the nation and in the world. Clearly, this is not an antagonistic or violent piece. The subject looks at once like a God or an angel, and may be an understated way for the sculptor to say, "let the world stay at peace rather than at war." Clearly, the Greeks were a sophisticated and open society that allowed for dissent and discussion. While there are of course numerous reasons why this statue was created, and one surely is for the beauty and grace of the content, there are certainly other reasons that could have added to the sculptor's desire to create and control.

Most critics agree that this statue is a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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