Classical Greece (480-323 BCE)

Forward to Hellenistic Greece
Back to Etruscan Art

Siren Vase
Discobolus (Discus Thrower)
Temple of Zeus
Charioteer at Delphi
Zeus and Ganymede
The Riace Warriors
Artemision Bronze
Parthenon Marbles

Athena the Virgin
Caryatids of the Erechteion
Hermes of Praxiteles
Ephebe of Marathon
Bust of Hygeia
Motya Charioteer
Aphrodite of Knidor
Apulian red-figure Amphora
Bust of Hygeia

After the defeat of the Persians in 479 B.C., Athens dominated Greece politically, economically, and culturally. The Athenians organized a confederacy of allies to ensure the freedom of the Greek cities in the Aegean islands and on the coast of Asia Minor. Members of the so-called Delian League provided either ships or a fixed sum of money that was kept in a treasury on the island of Delos, sacred to Apollo.

With control of the funds and a strong fleet, Athens gradually transformed the originally voluntary members of the League into subjects. By 454/453 BCE, when the treasury was moved from Delos to the Athenian Akropolis, the city had become a wealthy imperial power. It had also developed into the first democracy. All adult male citizens participated in the elections and meetings of the assembly, which served as both the seat of government and a court of law.

Greek artists of the fifth and fourth centuries BCE attained a manner of representation that conveys a vitality of life as well as a sense of permanence, clarity, and harmony. Polykleitos of Argos was particularly famous for formulating a system of proportions that achieved this artistic effect and allowed others to reproduce it. His treatise, the Canon, is now lost, but one of his most important sculptural works, the Diadoumenos, survives in numerous ancient marble copies of the bronze original.

The middle of the fifth century BCE is often referred to as the Golden Age of Greece, particularly of Athens. Significant achievements were made in Attic vase painting. Most notably, the red-figure technique superseded the black-figure technique, and with that, great strides were made in portraying the human body, clothed or naked, at rest or in motion. The work of vase painters, such as Douris, Makron, Kleophrades, and the Berlin Painter, exhibit exquisitely rendered details.

Although the high point of Classical expression was short-lived, it is important to note that it was forged during the Persian Wars (490–479 BCE) and continued after the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BCE) between Athens and a league of allied city-states led by Sparta. The conflict continued intermittently for nearly thirty years. Athens suffered irreparable damage during the war and a devastating plague that lasted over four years. Although the city lost its primacy, its artistic importance continued unabated during the fourth century BCE.

[Source: metmuseum.org]


Image source: britishmuseum.org

The Siren Vase was created 480 – 470BCE in Attica.
The sirens of Greek mythology were bird-women whose singing lured sailors off course, causing shipwreck and disaster. In Book 12 of Homer’s Odyssey, the hero took the advice of the sorceress Circe to block the ears of his crew with wax so they could safely navigate around the rocky island guarded by the sirens.
The Discobolus of Myron (or discus thrower) was completed at the start of the Classical period, figuring a youthful athlete throwing discus, about 460–450 BCE. The original Greek bronze is lost but there are numerous Roman full-size copies in marble and bronze, and smaller scaled versions in bronze. Myron is often credited with being the first sculptor to master realism and the rhythmos style (harmony and balance).
Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The Temple of Zeus at Olympia was an ancient Greek temple in Olympia, Greece, dedicated to the god Zeus. Built in the second quarter of the 5th c BCE it was a fully developed classical Greek temple of the Doric order.
The image is a detail from the temple’s frieze depicting Heracles and the Cretan bull. It can be seen at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, Greece.
The Charioteer of Delphi is one of the best-known Ancient Greek statues and is considered one of the finest examples of ancient bronze sculptures. It is a life-size, 1.8m statue of a chariot driver that was found in the Sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi. It is now in the Delphi Archaeological Museum.
It was part of a larger group, the chariot, at least four horses and perhaps two grooms; fragments of the horses were found. It is conjectured to be the work of sculptor Pythagoras of Samos or of Calamis.
An inscription on the limestone base of the statue shows it was dedicated by Polyzalus, the tyrant of Gela, a Greek colony in Sicily, as a tribute to Apollo for helping him win the chariot race. The statue survived by being buried in a rock fall at Delphi.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Zeus and Ganymede is a terracotta statue group, depicting Zeus carrying the boy Ganymede off to Mount Olympus. Created c470 BCE, is on show near where it was originally found in the Archaeological Museum of Olympia.
The Riace Warriors are two full-size Greek bronzes of naked bearded warriors, cast about 460–450 BCE sculptures were made using the lost wax casting technique.
They were found in the sea near Riace, Calabria, southern Italy. They are on show today in the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia at Reggio Calabria.
At the time the sculptures were made, much of Calabria, certainly its coastal cities, were inhabited by Greek-speaking peoples as part of Magna Graecia. Some suggest Statue A (the younger man) was created by Myron, and that statue B was by Alkamenes, a student of Phidias.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The 209 cm Artemision Bronze was also recovered from the sea, near Cape Artemision, in northern Euboea, Greece. Most scholars suggest the bronze represents Zeus, though some opine it might be Poseidon. It depends whether he was holding a thunderbolt or a trident.
The eye-sockets and eyebrows were originally inset, probably with bone and silver, the lips and nipples with copper. The sculptor is unknown. It is on show at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
The controversial Parthenon Marbles aka Metopes of the Parthenon are held at the British Museum, based upon Lord Elgin acquiring Turkish permission to acquire them and ship them to the UK. They consist of 92 marble plaques from the persityle on the Athens Acropolis. Created by Phidias in the 440s BCE. The themes are battles with the Amazons, the Fall of Troy, fighting the Giants, Centaurs fighting Lapiths.

Image source: athensgreecenow.com

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Athena the Virgin or
Athena Parthenos was fabricated by Phidias and his assistants and housed in the Parthenon in Athens as its focal point.
The massive sculpture was made with gold and ivory, and perhaps unsurprisingly has not survived.

There have been many replicas and works inspired by the statue, in both ancient and modern times. The image shows one in Nashville, Tennessee.

Image source: athensgreecenow.com

The image shows the Caryatid porch of the Erechtheion temple at the Athens Acropolis. Caryatids are sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar (male versions are called an atlas or telamon.]
The 4th c BCE marble statue of Hermes and the Infant Dionysus is believed to the the work of Praxiteles. It is considered to be the epitome of of youthful gods in Greek art.
It was found in the ruins of the Temple of Hera, in Olympia, Greece.
It is on show at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The 340-330 BCE Ephebe of Marathon (aka Marathon Youth), is a Greek bronze sculpture found in the Aegean Sea in the bay of Marathon. Ephebe menas an adolescent boy. It is suggested that the subject is the winner of an athletic competition. Its soft musculature, exaggerated contrapposto and its style suggests it is from the school of Praxiteles. It is also suggested that he was leaning against something, given his upraised arm and weight distribution.

Image source:
Wikimedia commons

Scopas worked with Praxiteles and sculpted parts of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. He led the building of the new temple of Athena Alea at Tegea, where this, believed to be a Bust of Hygeia, was found.

Similar to Lysippus, Scopas is artistically a successor of the Classical Greek sculptor Polykleitos. The faces feature deeply sunken eyes and a slightly opened mouth, regular characteristics in the figures of Scopas.

Works by Scopas are in the British Museum, at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, the Capitoline Museum. His most famous statue of Meleager, is unmentioned in ancient records, yet survives through numerous replicas.
The Motya Charioteer dated to 470-460 BCE was found in Motya near Sicily.

The marble statue depicts a young male figure in a swinging contraposto pose, with his right foot forward, his left hand resting on his hip, and his right arm raised. He wears a very long chiton, with a broad flat belt over his chest. Two holes once accommodated a metal fitting at the centre of the belt, perhaps a clasp. The figure’s musculature, genitals, and posterior are clearly visible; the sculptor managed to create the illusion that they are seen through the sheer fabric of the chiton. Bulging veins are depicted on the upper arms in a rudimentary manner.

It is on view at the Museo Giuseppe Whitaker. Motya.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

The Aphrodite of Knidos, aka The Colonna Venus, was created by Praxiteles of Athens around the 4th c BCE. While the male nude was well established by then , this was the first full-size female nude. alleged to have used the courtesan Phryne as a model for the statue, which added to the gossip of the time.
This statue became the paragon of the proportions for a female nude.

The original is lost but it survives through countless Roman copies.

Do compare this statue with the 3rd-2nd c BCE Capotiline Venus, the 2nd c BCE Venus de Milo and the 1st c BCE Venus de Medici.
This Apulian red-figure Amphora is attributed to the Patera painter. This individual’s name is unknown, but consistent individual characteristics of style makes his work recognisable. Because many of his images include long handled pateras (libation bowls) he is known as the Patera painter. Most of his subjects were funerary scenes with naiskoi (small temples) or stelai (monumental stones) and human figures.
He used further colours (purple-red, white and yellow) which gave a rich appearance to his works. He also painted fine floral decorations. An extremely large number of vases have been attributed to his hand on the basis of style.
The image is an 80 cm version, dated to c340-330 BCE and featuring a number of figures carrying vases, the youth on the bottom right has a white oinochoe in his left hand.

Image source: antiquitiesexperts.com

Forward to Hellenistic Greece
Back to Etruscan Art

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *