Claasical Sculpture Essay

1681 words - 7 pages

[YOUR LAST NAME] 1 [YOUR NAME] [PROFESSOR’S NAME] [COURSE NAME] [DATE] Classical Sculpture Classical sculpture did not appear from nothing; its genesis was not that of Athena’s birth from the head of Zeus, but a rather more sedate process. The roots of classical sculpture are, surprisingly, to be found in Egypt. The Egyptians had highly developed sculpture, most of which had religious implications, as can be seen by the hieroglyphic inscriptions on many of the pieces (Wilkinson, 34-37). Subjects of sculptures included the numerous gods and goddesses of the Egyptian pantheon, pharoahs (who were considered divine) and slaves and other figures created for inclusion in burials; these sculptures, ...view middle of the document...

cit., 204). Differences between the Greek and Egyptian belief systems were responsible, in part, for a divergence in style that resulted, ultimately, in the classical style of sculpture. As has been mentioned before, the Egyptian gods and goddesses were hybrid beings, humans with the heads of animals (e.g., Bast, a goddess with a cat’s head, Anubis, a god with a jackal’s head) or vice versa (e.g., the Sphinx at Giza, a lion with a man’s head). The Greeks, conversely, believed that their deities had human forms (Stewart, 34). The human nature of the Greek gods is reinforced in their mythology. Zeus’ dalliances with human females produced many offspring; some, such as Helen of Troy (her mother was Ledo; Hamilton, 156), produced mythologies of their own. Others, such as Hephaestos, the god of the forge, manifested human characteristics. He was depicted as crippled, in contrast to Apollo, the god of the sun, who is depicted as the ideal of masculine beauty.

[YOUR LAST NAME] 3 The Greeks had fascinations with two aspects of mathematics: geometry and certain aspects of number theory. Greek geometry was highly advanced. In approximately 250 BC, Aristarchos of Samos was able to compute, with great accuracy, not only the size of the earth, but also the respective distances to the moon and sun in terms of the earth’s radius (Heath, 321-325). Greek study of geometric figures such as pentagons and pentagrams led to the discovery of the so-called golden ratio or golden section. In brief, two quantities, a and b, are said to be in this ratio, g, if: (a+b)/a = a/b = g An approximation of this ratio is: 1 - √5 / 2 This ratio appears in nature (e.g., in the chambers of certain seashells) and also occurs in many forms of art, including, notably, and for the purposes of the instant discussion, the proportions of the Parthenon (Lendvai 67-71). A related notion was the Greek fascination with the human form. Even though they did not practice dissection, they measured the proportions of the body, and studied it with the same fascination they applied to geometric figures and certain numerical phenomena (Kleiner, 126). The combination of these influences resulted in the spectacularly lifelike Greek sculptures that are paradigmatic of the classical period. The Greeks used not only lifelike

[YOUR LAST NAME] 4 representations of the human form, but placed them in lifelike poses as well, departing from the single, rigidly defined pose that had been so characteristics of the original Egyptian influences. One very natural pose used by the Greeks involved the subject’s weight being placed almost entirely on one foot, leaving one knee slightly bent. This pose, referred to as the contrapposto, has remained a standard pose in sculpture since then. In addition to the use of this realistic pose, the Greeks also made use of accurate representations of the effect that gravity would have on muscles and the body overall when standing or sitting in certain poses, adding further...

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