Greek Free-Standing Sculpture

A revision guide on free-standing sculpture for AQA Classics. 

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  • Created on: 04-04-13 16:22
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The Archaic Period (600 490BC)
As the Greeks learned how to make monumental statues from the even more ancient
civilisation of Egypt, the earliest of the archaic kouroi show a clear Egyptian influence. The
kouros pose and headdressstyle of the kouroi's hair seem to be clear indications of the
Greek sculptors' debt to the Egyptians. However, there is one striking difference: the Greeks
preferred to depict their statues naked.
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Kouros Pose:
The kouros pose defines the Archaic Period. Most kouroi stick rigidly to this 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
New York Met Museum Link:
Kouros = `youth', kouroi = `youths'.
Materials and Production in the Archaic Period:
Egyptian statue (clothed).
New York Kouros: 600BC
Kouros of Anavyssos: 530BC

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Many statues of the Archaic Period are made of marble. Stone's lowtensile 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 welladapted to
accommodate the weaknesses of marble: as none of the figures' limbs are extended, the
statue had a fairly good chance of keeping intact.
The kouros pose can also explained by the way Greek sculptors carved their statues.…read more

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Kouros of Anavyssos: 530BC
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:
The archaic smile can be seen as an attempt to create a more realistic expression
than the blank expression of the New York kouros.…read more

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Berlin Kore: 57060BC
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Generally believed to represent the goddess Demeter or Persephone , the figure holds a
pomegranate in her right hand whilst the left draws the top half of her drapery modestly over
her chest. Although the kore is not in the kouros pose, the statue still has a strong frontal
emphasis due to the method of production which remains the same for both kouroi and korai
The figure's hair is unrealistic and loaflike.…read more

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The archaic smile of the Berlin Kore creates the impression that the goddess is a benevolent
one. As Demeter/Persephone was associated with the harvest, it is understandable why the
sculptor would want to depict the deity as being kindly and welldisposed toward the viewer. A
kindly Demeter equates to a successful harvest, which in turn means a wellfed and thriving
polis .…read more

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The Classical Period: 490 ­ 323BC
The Classical Period as a whole stretches over 166 years. The Classical Period is divided
into two distinct periods, the 5th century Classical Period, that runs from 490 ­ 400BC, and
the 4th century Classical Period, which stretches from 400 ­ 323BC. The 5th and 4th century
Classical Periods have radically different aesthetics and preoccupations.…read more

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Hubris :
The Greeks seem to have viewed their victories in the Persian Wars as a victory awarded by
the gods. As the Persian Empire was so vast, according to the Greeks, it was by definition
hubristic (excessively large). Similarly, as the Persian King was a monarch with absolute
power, he was also by definition hubristic (excessively powerful).…read more

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Kritios Boy: 490BC
The Kritios Boy is the first statue of the 5th century Classical Period, and represents an
artistic revolution as the statue manages to break out of the restrictive kouros pose and
create a fully realistic statue. Kritios achieves this in a number of ways:
Unlike the Archaic kouroi, the statue's weight is not evenly distributed across both
hips.…read more

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The Tyrannicides: 477BC
The Tyrannicides is a much more explicitly political statue than the Kritios Boy. Originally
exhibited in the Athenian Agora , this statue was made of bronze (although only survives in
Roman copies of the original Greek statue).
The historian Thucydides recounts the story of the pederastic pair Harmodius (the eromenos
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) and Aristogeiton (the erastes ), who lived when Athens was ruled by the tyrant Hippias.
Hippias' brother Hipparchus was infatuated with the young Harmodius.…read more


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