Above: Fragmentary colossal head of a youth, 2nd c. BCE; on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Source: Unsplash. Creator: Levi Meir Clancy. License: Unsplash license.
Articles from the
Oxford Classical Dictionary
sculpture | canon | classicism | epigraphy | imagery | orientalizing | portraiture | retrospective styles | bronze | metallurgy | mines & mining | marble | Paros | Pentelicon | quarries | coins | money | cult of statues | hero-cult | cemeteries | Ceramicus | funerary art | stele | Phidias | Praxiteles
Greek Sculpture: The Archaic Period
"Authoritative and brilliantly illustrated. . . . The book recommends itself not only for its synthesis of existing knowledge, but also for its original ideas." ―The Daily Telegraph. For most people there is no more satisfying expression of Greek art than its sculpture. It was the first, the only ancient art to break free from conceptual conventions for representing men and animals, and to explore consciously how art might imitate or even improve upon it. The first stages of this discovery, from the semi-abstract beginnings in the eighth century BC to the more representational art of the early fifth century, are explored and illustrated in this handbook.
Greek Sculpture: The Late Classical Period and Sculpture in Colonies and Overseas
This is the last in the series of Sir John Boardman's acclaimed handbooks on Greek sculpture; a sequel to similar volumes on the Archaic and Classical periods. Here, the story continues through the fourth century B.C. to the days of Alexander the Great. The innovations of the period are discussed, such as the female nude and portraiture, along with many important monuments including the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and several of the great names such as Praxiteles and Lysippus who were lionized by later generations. The volume also presents Greek sculpture made in the colonies of Italy and Sicily from the Archaic period onwards, as well as that made for eastern, non-Greek rulers. A final section considers the role of Greek sculpture in moulding western taste to the present day.
Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World
ed. Vinzenz Brinkmann, Renée Dreyfus, and Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, 2017
This stunning book uses 21st-century technology to reveal the original colors of ancient sculpture. When Renaissance artists sought to imitate ancient sculpture, their medium of choice was pure, white marble, but little did they know that the works they emulated were originally painted in dazzling and powerful hues—from red ocher and cinnabar to azurite and malachite. By illustrating painted reconstructions of well-known sculptures in relation to original examples, this volume reveals how ancient artists in Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Aegean, Greece, and Rome brought unexpected and breathtaking color to their artworks. Accompanying these reproductions are watercolors of Greece’s landscapes dating from different years, which show how our perception of ancient art has changed over time. Generously illustrated, this book testifies that the study of ancient sculpture is incomplete without an understanding of the many ways that color was employed to bring such art to life.
The name of Pheidias and the renown of his sculptural masterpieces have resonated through the centuries. Pheidias’s works were endlessly copied by the Romans and his name was used to denote excellence well beyond Antiquity. His statue of Zeus at Olympia was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the Athena Parthenos has linked his name forever with the Parthenon and its sculptures. And yet there is no firm proof that any surviving original is by his hand. What can we know about Pheidias and his work? This book attempts to answer this question by presenting both the archaeological and the written evidence for the output of this remarkable artist. It assembles and assesses all the available material in order to provide insights into Pheidias’s contribution to the development of Greek sculpture. Full and illustrated discussions of the works associated with Pheidias are accompanied by catalogues of each statue type discussed. In addition, the relevant ancient sources are quoted, translated and commented upon. This book is a comprehensive guide to Pheidias and his works. It will be essential to all interested in art history, the material culture of the Classical world, & the Classical tradition.
Below: Marble statue of a lion, ca. 400–390 BCE. Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Greek Sculpture & the Problem of Description
Although scholars have emphasized the importance of isolating the objective evaluation of evidence from interpretation, in practice, it has proved difficult to determine the distinction. This study examines the scholarship on description for a select number of well-known Greek statues from the eighteenth-century through the present. The impact of the historical, cultural, and intellectual contexts of this specialized scholarship is demonstrated through considerations of issues such as ethnicity, psychology, theories about artistic form, and evolving conceptions of nude and clothed figures.
"Tool marks" and "joins", "Cycladic" and "Daedalic styles", and "kouroi" and "kanephoroi" are among the many terms pertaining to the study of classical stone sculpture that are succinctly described in this latest addition to the popular Looking At series. Presented in glossary format, this superbly illustrated book gives concise definitions of the words and phrases most frequently encountered by museum visitors in exhibition labels and texts. Throughout the book, the author focuses on the technical aspects of sculpting that influenced the style and character of the finished works. An introductory essay underscores the importance of understanding why and how ancient stone sculpture was produced, allowing readers to gain a greater appreciation of the aesthetic value of individual works. Featuring numerous illustrations of ancient stone sculptures, many from the collections of the Getty Museum, this work is a valuable guide for students, scholars, and all who wish to heighten their enjoyment of this classical art.
This work offers a comprehensive and accessible overview of the reception and afterlife of the most famous ancient statues discovered in Rome and Italy from the Renaissance to the close of the nineteenth century. Before Leonardo's Mona Lisa, Botticelli's Birth of Venus or Van Gogh's Sunflowers, sculptures like the Laocoon, the Apollo Belvedere or the Medici Venus set the taste of artists, connoisseurs and the educated elites of the West for almost five centuries. Reproduced in every possible media for gardens and palaces throughout Europe, celebrated by poets and writers from Marino and Byron to Proust and Dickens, they served as sources of inspiration for artists as diverse as Michelangelo, Rubens and Turner. Originally published in 1981, this book was hailed by Ernst Gombrich as a thought-provoking work that met a 'long-felt want'. Reprinted five times since with minor alterations, Haskell and Penny's book has become a classic of art history that is still used as the standard reference by scholars and anyone interested in the reception of the classical tradition. This new edition offers a complete revision of the original text to incorporate updates and new information on the single statues and their context in the light of research undertaken in the field over the past three decades.
Anyone who visits the National Archaeological Museum in Athens will vividly recall its centrepiece, the Horse and Jockey bronzes that were recovered in pieces from the sea off Artemision in 1928 and 1936. Bronze sculptures were popular throughout the Hellenistic world, the most famous being the Colossus of Rhodes, but very few survive today and the majority of those that do come from shipwrecks. The Horse and Jockey is one of the best to survive and forms the focus of this well-illustrated and informative study. Combining `a technical, stylistic, and iconographic examination of the bronzes with a careful assessment of the archaeological, epigraphic, literary, and iconographic evidence for horse racing', the volume discusses the rescue of the bronzes off northern Euboia, their initial condition and restoration before describing and analysing each part of the horse and its young jockey in turn. Hemingway considers the construction of the sculpture in detail, making comparison with similar examples, and assesses attempts by scholars during the last seventy years to date the bronzes and identify their purpose. Art historians have suggested that the bronzes depict a hunting or battle scene but Hemingway sides with those who interpret it as a representation of horse racing, `the most prestigious and splendid of all Greek sports'. The book concludes with Helen Andreopolou-Mangou's chemical analysis and metallographic examination of the bronzes.
Below: Bronze statuette of a horse; late 2nd–1st century BCE. Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
The Votive Statues of the Athenian Acropolis
Worshippers dedicated hundreds of statues to Athena on the Acropolis during the period between Solon's reforms and the end of the Peloponnesian War. This work brings together the evidence for statue dedications on the Acropolis in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., including inscribed statues bases that preserve information about the dedicators and the evidence for lost bronze sculptures. Catherine Keesling questions the standard interpretation of the korai as generic and anonymous votaries, while revealing more about the origins and significance of Greek portraiture.
Hellenistic and Roman Ideal Sculpture: The Allure of the Classical
In this book, Rachel Kousser draws on contemporary reception theory to present a new approach to Hellenistic and Roman ideal sculpture. She analyzes the Romans' preference for retrospective, classicizing statuary based on Greek models as opposed to the innovative creations prized by modern scholars. Using a case study of a particular sculptural type, a forceful yet erotic image of Venus, Kousser argues that the Romans self-consciously employed such sculptures to represent their ties to the past in a rapidly evolving world. Kousser presents Hellenistic and Roman ideal sculpture as an example of a highly effective artistic tradition that was, by modern standards, extraordinarily conservative. At the same time, the Romans' flexible and opportunistic use of past forms also had important implications for the future: it constituted the origins of classicism in Western art.
Composite statues of gold (chrysos), ivory (elephas), and other precious materials were the most celebrated artworks of classical antiquity. Greek and Latin authors leave no doubt that such images provided a centrepiece for religious and civic life and that vast sums were spent to produce them. A number of these statues were the creations of antiquity's most highly acclaimed artists: Polykleitos, Alkamenes, Leochares, and, of course, Pheidias, whose magnificent Zeus Olympios came to be ranked among the Seven Wonders of the World. Although a few individual images such as Pheidias' Athena Parthenos have been the subject of detailed scholarly analysis, chryselephantine statuary as a class, from the exquisite statuettes of Minoan Crete to the majestic temple images constructed by classical Greek city-states and imitated by the Romans, has not received comprehensive study since 1815. This book presents not only the ancient literary and epigraphical evidence for lost statues and examines representations of them in other media, but also assembles and analyses much-neglected physical survivals, elucidating throughout the innovative techniques, such as ivory-bending, employed in their production as well as the variety of social, religious, and political roles they played within the ancient societies that produced them.
The Language of the Muses: The Dialogue Between Roman and Greek Sculpture
Since the Renaissance, it has been a generally accepted thesis that almost all Roman sculptures depicting ideal figures, such as gods, personifications, and figures from myth, were copies of Greek originals. This book traces the origin of that thesis to the academic belief in the mythical perfection of now-lost Greek art, which contrasted with the reality of the “imperfection” of Roman works. In a new take on long-held beliefs, Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s role is found to be less important than those of Giorgio Vasari and Ennio Quirino Visconti. The author argues that, contrary to the accepted wisdom of the last three hundred years, Roman sculpture had very much its own style and ideals. This synthesis of the history of the study of Roman sculpture does away with the idea that the genre of ideal works consists of mechanical copies and argues that they are, rather, creative adaptations.
Below: Marble votive relief fragment of goddesses, mother, nurse, and infant; late 5th century BCE.
Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
One of the world's leading authorities on ancient bronze sculpture, Carol C. Mattusch urges us to discard the terms "Greek original" and "Roman copy" and to adopt instead terms that distinguish unique works from those produced in series and those produced as variations on a theme. She discusses the dating of bronzes based on criteria of technique and style, and considers technical innovations in the art of portraiture. Most controversially, she offers evidence that Greek artists cast bronzes in series based on a single model. Mattusch points out that examples of series castings can be found among the statuettes and vessel attachments from the Geometric and Orientalizing periods. From the Classical period onward, statues also appear to have been cast in series. Certain styles and types of images that achieved widespread popularity during the Hellenistic and Roman periods were produced in large quantities and in several different places. This book will raise important new questions in the field of Classical bronze sculpture. How long might a single model remain in use and how far might casts from it be transported for production? What is the significance of an artist's signature on a work in a series and what influence was wielded by the potential buyer? And, given these issues, what should the criteria be for distinguishing Greek works from Roman ones?
Art as Plunder: The Ancient Origins of Debate about Cultural Property
This book examines the ancient origins of debate about art as cultural property. What happens to art in time of war? Who should own art, and what is its appropriate context? Should the victorious ever allow the defeated to keep their art? These questions were posed by Cicero during his prosecution of a Roman governor of Sicily, Gaius Verres, for extortion. Cicero's published speeches had a very long afterlife, affecting debates about collecting art in the 18th century and reactions to the looting of art by Napoleon. The focus of the book's analysis is theft of art in Greek Sicily, Verres' trial, Roman collectors of art, and the later impact if Cicero's arguments. The book concludes with the British decision after Waterloo to repatriate Napoleon's stolen art to Italy, and an epilogue on the current threats to art looted from archaeological contexts.
Art and Inscriptions in the Ancient World
ed. Zahra Newby & Ruth Leader-Newby, 2007
The ancient visual environment was packed with instances where words and images appeared side by side: statues with dedicatory inscriptions, labels on paintings or mosaics, or complex juxtapositions of images and engraved texts on funerary monuments. In the past these elements have often been divorced from one another and studied in isolation. In this volume art historians and epigraphers have come together to look at the complex ways in which images and words interacted with one another, illustrating, explaining or reinterpreting each other or, conversely, making competing demands upon the viewer. Their essays range widely in their focus from archaic Greek pottery through Hellenistic honorific statues and Pompeian wall-paintings to Late Roman mosaics. The insights that emerge contribute to our wider picture of the relationships between art and text in the ancient world, as well as illuminating the complexity and variety in ancient material culture.
Art & Experience in Classical Greece
An account of the development of Greek art in the Classical period (about 480-320 BC) which places particular emphasis on the meaning and content of Greek sculpture, architecture and painting. Professor Pollitt reminds us that the visual arts in Greece, as elsewhere, were primarily vehicles of expression. He does not ignore formal development but always relates this to social and cultural history, which it reflected and from which it grew. While his subject is art, he refers frequently to the literature and philosophy of the period which were shaped by the same influences.
Below: Marble architectural fragment, ca. 350 BCE. Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
The Art of Ancient Greece: Sources and Documents
This book is a companion volume to Professor Pollitt's The Art of Rome: Sources and Documents (CUP, 1983). An authoritative and reliable sourcebook, the present work contains a comprehensive collection in translation of ancient literary evidence relating to Greek sculpture, painting, architecture, and the decorative arts. The material is presented in a way which makes this important evidence available to students who are not specialists in the Classical languages or Classical archaeology. Accompanying the author's translations of a wide selection of Greek and Latin texts is an accessible, substantial bibliography, as well as an introduction, and explanatory commentary.
Hellenistic Sculpture, Volume I: The Styles of ca. 331-200 BC
Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, 1990
Ridgway examines the sculpture of "perhaps the most difficult century within the Hellenistic period." Beginning with a discussion of the difficulties involved in the analysis of Hellenistic sculpture and acknowledging the debates in the field, she states her own conviction that "much thought about ancient sculpture ought to be reconsidered or changed. . . . This book raises many questions, casts many doubts, and reopens many issues that have been considered closed."
Below: Marble stele (grave marker) of a woman, mid-4th century BCE. Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
License: CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, one of the world’s leading experts on classical sculpture, turns her attention in this volume to the fourth century, a period of transition from the classical Athenian style to an array of styles found simultaneously in the Hellenistic diaspora. Though a period very rich in important monuments, the fourth century has been particularly challenging and vexing to scholars, and Ridgway’s is the first comprehensive study of this sculpture in sixty years. Ridgway’s careful summaries of ongoing scholarly debates illustrate how the fourth century fits into the development of Greek sculpture and architecture. Discussing figural sculpture, votive and document reliefs, funerary art, and architectural sculpture from Greece proper to the non-Greek territories of Lykia and Karia in the Anatolian peninsula, she looks at major monuments and categories of monuments, describing each work carefully, puts into perspective problems surrounding interpretation and dating of the sculpture, reviews and evaluates previous scholarship on the subject, and offers her own views. Ridgway pays particular attention to Greek originals, but also provides valuable chapters on Roman copies, one of the most difficult but critical areas for understanding Greek sculpture. Taking a skeptical stance, Ridgway revisits scholarly attempts to attribute sculptural work to the famous masters of the fourth century: Praxiteles, Skopas, and Lysippos. She undertakes a factual analysis of the extant evidence for and against various attributions, bolstered by a critical reading of ancient literary sources.
Early Hellenistic Portraiture: Image, Style, Context
ed. Peter Schultz & Ralf von den Hoff, 2007
This work examines the styles and contexts of portrait statues produced during one of the most dynamic eras of Western art, the early Hellenistic age. Often seen as the beginning of the Western tradition in portraiture, this historical period is here subjected to a rigorous interdisciplinary analysis. Using a variety of methodologies from a wide range of fields - anthropology, numismatics, epigraphy, archaeology, history, and literary criticism - an international team of experts investigates the problems of origins, patronage, setting, and meanings that have consistently marked this fascinating body of ancient material culture.
In archaic and classical Greece, statues played a constant role in people's religious, political, economic, aesthetic, and mental lives. Evidence of many kinds demonstrates that ancient Greeks thought about--and interacted with--statues in ways very different from our own. This book recovers ancient thinking about statues by approaching them through contemporary literary sources. It not only shows that ancient viewers conceived of images as more operative than aesthetic, but additionally reveals how poets and philosophers found in sculpture a practice ''good to think with.'' Deborah Tarn Steiner considers how Greek authors used images to ponder the relation of a copy to an original and of external appearance to inner reality. For these writers, a sculpture could straddle life and death, encode desire, or occasion reflection on their own act of producing a text. Many of the same sources also reveal how thinking about statues was reflected in the objects' everyday treatment. Viewing representations of gods and heroes as vessels hosting a living force, worshippers ritually washed, clothed, and fed them in order to elicit the numinous presence within. By reading the plastic and verbal sources together, this book offers new insights into classical texts while illuminating the practices surrounding the design, manufacture, and deployment of ancient images. Its argument that images are properly objects of cultural and social--rather than purely aesthetic--study will attract art historians, cultural historians, and anthropologists, as well as classicists.
Faces of Power: Alexander's Image and Hellenistic Politics
Alexander the Great changed the face of the ancient world. During his life and after his death, his image in works of art exerted an unprecedented influence–on marbles, bronzes, ivories, frescoes, mosaics, coins, medals, even painted pottery and reliefware. Alexander's physiognomy became the most famous in history. But can we really know what meaning lies behind these images? Andrew Stewart demonstrates that these portraits―wildly divergent in character, quality, type, provenance, date, and purpose―actually transmit not so much a likeness of Alexander as a set of carefully crafted clichés that mobilize the notion "Alexander" for diverse ends and diverse audiences. Stewart discusses the portraits as studies in power and his original interpretation of them gives unprecedented fullness and shape to the idea and image called "Alexander."
Below: Bronze box mirror depicting head of Pan; late 4th century BCE. Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.