Classics: Art and Architecture, Olympia Zeus temple, Herakles labours

  • Created by: sophie
  • Created on: 24-02-12 10:29


Filling space

Metopes, being rectangular, posed problems to sculptors. Filling the space effectively required using significant and memorable parts of the story being depicted. The images also had to be intelligible from long distances. Therefore the principle figures were as large as possible, often filling the height of the metope, restricting the number of figures that can fit.

Herakles and the Kerkopes

This was carved 550bc in Sicily. This metope represents one of the minor events in the story of the hero Herakles. When Herakles was asleep, two imp-like Kerkopes stole his weapons. Herakles woke up and caught them, tied them upside-down to a pole and carried them over his shoulders. From here the Kerkopes could see Herakles hairy bottom which they made jokes about, and Herakles let them go. The metope shows the two imps hanging on either side of the hero. All three are looking forward, but Herakles is walking to the right, his legs facing right but his torso turned forward. The striding legs provide enlivening diagonal accents in a compositions dominated by emphatic verticals and horizontals.

The design is almost symmetrical: the Kerkopes hang almost symmetrical to each other; his legs are both spread evenly. The metope was caved in relief, and the figures are not very rounded as it shows more of a flattened, non-3D pattern.

The Heroic Cattle Raid

This was carved 550bc in Delphi. The metope uses repetition rather than symmetry as a device to give composition decorative coherence. The story shows a cattle raid conducted by 2 pairs of heroic brothers (1 is lost). The heroes occupy the full height of the metope, a triad of parallel vertical figures. The sloping spears are all at the same angle and they all walk in step with one another and their cattle (legs recede in the background). A fine, tight-knit pattern is built upon repeated forms – the spears are parallel to the animal heads.

Temple of Zeus at Olympia – Herakles


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