Archaic Kourous notes

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Archaic Kouroi
540 BC Archaic
490 BC Late archaic
460 BC early classical/severe/transitional
400 BC high classical
4th century Hellenistic (alexander the great) 340 BC onwards
Many statues of the Archaic Period are made of marble. Stone's low-tensile strength ensures that
the limbs of any marble statue cannot be extended into a dramatic pose as any unsupported limbs
would inevitably break off. The kouros pose is well-adapted to accommodate the weaknesses of
marble: as none of the figures' limbs are extended, the statue had a fairly good chance of keeping
The kouros pose can also explained by the way Greek sculptors carved their statues. Typically
sculptors would draw an outline of a figure on the four sides of the original block of stone, before
carving away to create the figure itself. With the kouroi, the original drawings would not have to
be too complex, as they do not demand that any of the four outlined figures should be
dramatically foreshortened.
Kouros pose:
Left foot forward.
Weight evenly distributed over both legs, which causes the hips to be horizontal.
Arms straight down with clenched fists.
Straight back.
Looking straight forward.
All these features mean that the kouroi are frontally emphasised, the sculptor clearly intends for
us to view the statue from the front.
The kouros pose makes the kouroi seem unnaturally rigid and stiff, and so is one of the obstacles
that prevented Greek sculptors from making statues that looked fully realistic.
New York Kouros (580 BCE)
The New York kouros was a grave marker, and seems to
show us that the early Greek sculptors had two main
artistic interests. They were obviously interested in
depicting the human form, but they were also interested in
patterns, lines, and symmetry.
Face is very symmetrical with eyes very high and
almond shaped (would have been painted on `bright eyed
Ears: long and large, not properly placed.
Blank expression on an ovoid long and elongated
Long toes and long neck

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Braided hair with a stylised pattern
Regular with no movement
Calves same thickness as thighs
No higher hip, not natural movement. Easier to have a clenched fist
Shoulder blades and thorax and pecs etc have total symmetry.
Sounion kouros (580 BCE)
Same pose: left foot forward
Over three metres tall
More detailed pattern on his back
Slim waist
Patterns and stylisation - soft shoulder blades which is a contrast
Almond eyes with deep eyebrows including large and out of proportion
ears.…read more

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Anavyssos (530 BCE)
The kouros of Anavyssos was also a grave marker, and shows
a change in artistic approach. The sculptor seems to have
been interested in creating a more realistic statue, without
the elements of pattern and symmetry featured on the
earlier kouroi:
However, despite the sculptor's attempts at realism, the
kouros pose (and marble's low-tensile strength) prevent this
statue from looking completely realistic.…read more

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Still in same position, left leg is still
Toes have become more naturalistic -
less clumpy.
Slim (legs especially but still the harsh
shadows) but with a larger waist. Buttocks has
fleshiness. Arms are slightly away from body.
Softness of chest and back, real
shoulder blades with indentations.
Short natural hair, refreshing - shows
beginning of a change. Wearing a form of a
Face is fleshy, ears have moved down,
less high as they were before.…read more


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