Free Standing Sculpture: Kouroi and Korai

Revision cards for New York Kouros, Sounion Kouros, Kleobis and Biton, Anavysos Kouros, Aristodikos Kouros, Nikandre Kore, Berlin Standing Goddess, Peplos Kore, and Kore 675.

  • Created by: Holly
  • Created on: 04-05-13 11:14

Introduction to Kouroi

"The Kouros is basically meaningless - or rather, its significance must lie in only distinguishing characteristics ... its nudity, its youth, its autonomy, and its immutability: in other words, its form." - Andrew Stewart, Greek Sculpture

  • The Greek figure is entirely free of any supporting stone - hence "free-standing."
  • They were used extensively as grave markers.
  • Hold no story or meaning and had no means of identification. Entirely symbolic.
  • The figure is nude, no drapery to distract from the form of the body.
  • Kouroi accentuate symmetry of human body - completely balanced eyes, ears, torso etc.
  • The horizontal symmetry uses the lines of the muscles - it is not naturalistic. The line of symmetry goes through the waist.
  • Order is shown through repetition and interlocking patterns
  • The Egyptian canon was used to mark out the proportions. 
  • They would have been brightly painted.
  • Early method of making kouros was to carve a solid block of marble.
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Introduction to Korai

  • Kore is Greek for "young, unmarried girl."
  • Female figures were almost never carved nude, particularly those for public display, due to the male-dominated culture.
  • At the time, women were expected to stay indoors and if they were to go out they had to be covered. Men had democracy and freedom but women did not.
  • As they could not carve women in the nude, they had to learn how to carve drapery.
  • Statues wore a chiton, peplos, and mantle. 
    • Chiton: A rectangle of fine linen folded along a verticle edge. Buttoned across the top to create sleeves. Usually belted. Excess is pulled over the belt.
    • Mantle: Short diagonal cloak. Worn under one arm and buttoned over the other shoulder.
    • Peplos: Woolen dress with a double fold on the front. Has no sleeves or pleats.
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New York Kouros

 New York Kouros

c. 600 - 590 BC

1.84m (life size)

Currently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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New York Kouros Notes

  • Has the typical Archaeic smile and left foot forward of a kouroi.
  • Arms joined to sides due to low tensile strenght in marble.
  • Waist is the central point of the body, but should be the hips.
  • Small waist and large shoulders highlight masulinity but are not realistic - more likely this is a by product of the carving method.
  • Awkward and rigid position, upper half of the body does not react to the bottom half - no contraposto. There is no movement.
  • Looks fit and muscular - represents youth and strength.
  • Facial anatomy is wrong: eyes too far up (should be half-way down face) and close together.
  • The overly large feet create stability.
  • Lots of symmetry"W" shape is repeated in pectoral area and knee caps. Horizontal V shape symmetry in ribcage and groin area. Eyebrows copy eyelids. The hair beads are identical. Vertical symmetry in most of the body, including the elbows. Groin "V" is also repeated in elbows.
  • Side view plays with mass and void - negative space. Space between legs creates motion.
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Sounion Kouros

Sounion Kouros

c. 590 BC


Made in Sounion, now in NAM, Athens.

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Sounion Kouros Notes

  • Dedicated to Poseidon at Sounion (town on the coast, about 20 miles from Athens).
  • Has a static posture with one foot forward and the Archaeic smile.
  • Despite being bigger than the NYK, it doesn't show much progress in terms of style.
    • May be because marble did not "encourage innovation" as it is so hard to sculpt with.
  • Arms attached to sides due to low tensile strength of marble.
  • Stylised details: large protuding eyes, defined knee caps.
  • Has patterns in the Daedalic hair. 
  • More curling pattern detail on the hair and the ears.
  • Muscles on thighs are exaggerated but softly curved, an attempt to look more flesh-like?
  • Unrealistic muscle definition on torso, lots of pattern and delineation
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Kleobis and Biton

Kleobis and Biton

c. 580 BC

2.35m (with base)

Made in Argos, now in Delphi Museum

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Kleobis and Biton Notes

  • Kleobis and Biton were two men with incredible strength. During the festival of Hera in Argos their mother needed to be taken to the temple by cart. The ox used to draw the cart had not come home in time so the young men pulled the cart. A crowd praised the effort and their mother prayed to Hera to give them a reward. And so: "their lives came to an excellent end, and in their case the god made clear that for human beings it is a better thing to die than to live." (Herodotus)
  • Identified from a fragment of an inscription on the base.
  • The Archaic smile gives the statues life, it was also the easiest expression to sculpt. Passivity of expression shows they are no longer slaves to the turmoil of human emotion.
  • Death was not a tragedy but a victory for these men as they would be remembered, and therefore be "alive", afterwards.
  • The statues don't show the brothers performing the deed but the quality of the men who did it.
  • They represent the Archaeic heroic ideal, they embody the virtue of "arete."
  • They look robust and youthful, there are fewer patterns on the body and more focus on the form. Chunky and bovine appearance suggests great strength. 
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Anavysos Kouros

Anavysos Kouros

c. 530 - 520 BC


Found in Anavysos Attica, currently in National Museum of Athens. 

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Anavysos Kouros Notes

  • Also known as Kroisos Kouros due to dedication on base - this may not relate to the statue. Inscription reads: "Stand and mourn at the monument for dead Kroisos, whom violent Ares destroyed, fighting in the front rank."
  • Has a much smoother and rounder shape than earlier statues.
    • Could be due to improvements in tools, they moved from bronze to iron.
  • During this time bronze sculptures were being created and they used a process that involved moulding, perhaps this influenced the softer form.
  • Lively face, eyes are set in and look animated. Smile creates a chain reaction in the facial muscles.
  • It has a modelled anatomy that "bears few traces of its origins in a block of stone."
  • Backview highlights the disharmony between the new found naturalism and the Daedalic pattern hair style. 
  • Hair is more flowing, it follows the curve of the back.
  • Centre of the body is still at the waist and not the hips.
  • The feet are much smaller and the hands more delicate.
  • Attention has been paid to the skeletal structure but there is still no connection between the two halves of the body.
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Aristodikos Kouros

Aristodikos Kouros

c. 510 - 500 BC


Inscription says "Of Aristodikos", currently in NAM of Athens

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Aristodikos Kouros Notes

  • Face is damaged but you can see traces of the Archaeic smile. It looks like the cheekbones were raised, showing health and youth.
  • Refined anatomy, muscle groups are accurate and bone structure can be seen.
  • Smaller head than previous kouroi.
  • Half-height of the body is at the hips - not the waist. Egyptian canon has been dropped.
  • Takes a step forward but the rigid pelvis and straight back do not allow for the illusion of movement.
  • Arms are detached from the body, due to the low tensile strength of marble support struts had to be carved. Detracts from the naturalism.
  • Incongruence between hair pattern and realism is solved by removing the long hair.
  • Overall it is one step closer to the classical ideal of the body being a system of actions and reactions.
  • Starfish shaped pubic hair? The sculptor was obviously in to experimenting where most wouldn't, the unforgiving nature of marble meant that most sculptors stuck to the status quo. Not this one. 
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Nikandre Kore

Nikandre Kore

c. 650 - 640 BC

1.75m (life size)

From Delos, currently in NAM, Athens 

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Nikandre Kore Notes

  • Dedicated by Nikandre to Artemis on Delos.
  • Inscription is on the side of the skirt: "Nikandre dedicated me to the far shooter [Artemis] of arrows, the excellent daughter of Deinokides of Naxos, the sister of Deinomenes, the wife of Phraxos."
    • (Side note: you can see how women are completely defined by the men that they know.)
  • Artemis is the goddess of pain in childbirth so it may have been dedicated to a woman who died during child birth or lost her child.
  • The hips are emphasised to show her child bearing capabilities.
  • Belt pulls down the garment and emphasises the waist, keeping it modest but still showing the female form.
  • The heavy drapery "covers the body so completely there is hardly a hint of a human form concealed beneath its severe surface." (Woodford)
  • Egyptian influence, as with the kouroi, this can be seen in the style of her hair.
  • Daedalic style face: large eyes, frontal face, triangular masses of hair.
  • No foot forward as it was considered offensive to see a woman's leg or ankle.
  • Two halves of the body are divided clearly at the waist - just like early male kouroi, except that this is anatomically correct.
  • Hair gives strength to the neck.
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Berlin Standing Goddess

Berlin Standing Goddess

c. 580 - 570 BC


Found in Attica, now in Berlin

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Berlin Standing Goddess Notes

  • Believed to be a goddess due to the traditional headdress seen on other statues of fertility goddesses.
  • Subtly varied pleats from the mantle, peplos, and the chiton worn underneath. Creates life and movement.
  • Face is bright and alert, it still has the Archaeic smile.
  • Arms are in an interesting position that gives more life to the statue. She is believed to be holding a pomegranate - a fruit with funerary associations.
  • Gesture is modest, like she is covering herself. 
  • Arms are still kept close to the body due to the low tensile strength of marble. 
  • Hair is Daedalic with lots of smaller patterns.
  • Cloak has larger concentric curves.
  • Skirt swells over hips and buttocks.
  • Balance of simple variation, for example, she only has bracelets on her left hand, her feet are slightly splayed apart, and there is variation in the position of the mantle - it is not symmetrical.
  • Suggestion of living body under the drapery.
  • Traces of red colour on the peplos. 
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Peplos Kore

Peplos Kore

c. 540 - 530 BC


Found on the Acropolis

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Peplos Kore Notes

  • Drapery is "treated in terms of broad, simple masses." (Woodford)
  • Enlivened by slight irregularities, for example: the hem just above the waist.
  • Sense of a young supple body.
  • Head is sensitively carved with Archaeic smile, it is also slightly inclined which gives her life.
  • Peplos she is wearing is very traditional, she is one of the last korai to be shown wearing it.
  • Statue is constructed out of several pieces of marble (it was not carved from a solid block).
  • Details of lips, eyes, and hair would have been painted.
  • Holes on the statue indicate that she had metal additions including earrings, a pin, and a wreath. 
  • Pleating at the bottom indicates that she was wearing a chiton beneath the peplos.
  • She is larger on top but has narrower hips than the previous korai, possibly because she represents a younger girl.
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Kore 675

Kore 675

c. 530 - 520 BC


Body was found south of the Parthnon, the head east of it - the Persians cut it off! Now in the Athens Akropolis Museum

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Kore 675 Notes

  • Made from "Parian" marble, which is of exceptional quality and uniquely translucent.
  • This kore exmplifies a standard pattern for korai: 
    • chiton, plus mantle
    • pulling the skirt to one side with the left hand
    • offering something with the right
    • breasts are quite visible and legs are outlined 
    • lots of different folds in different directions
    • three-style hair-do
  • This is a more conventional kore in comparison to the simplicity of the Peplos Kore which came 10 - 20 years after.
  • Would have been brightly painted and very attractive to look at. 
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