Introduction | Architecture | Sculpture | Pottery | Conclusion | Bibliography


The Archaic period of sculpture spanned from about 600 - 480 BC. This time was clearly very influenced by Egyptian sculpture. Kritios boy, 480 BCThe Kouros, or male statues and the Kore, or female statues, all had the straight one-leg-forward pose as well as a slight smile known as the Archaic smile. This smile is thought to have been considered by the Greeks to be an expression of health, so one could argue that these sculptures are leaning more towards realism than the Egyptian sculptures did.typical archaic smileThe sculptures were fairly stock and rigid and did not differ very much from subject to subject. There was a set of rules which were followed when carving them, and this meant that most of them look extremely similar. As time went on, the statues of Ancient Greece took on a much more realistic feeling as art moved into the Classical Period. A very late Archaic sculpture, Kritios boy is an excellent example of the changing times. He stands softly. Unlike earlier sculptures, he does not appear to be discretely flexing every muscle in his body at once while attempting to walk. His face is neutral, and though we cannot see his arms, it is doubtful that his fists would have been clenched. The spine has a very gentle and natural S-curve which is more pleasing and lifelike to the eye than the stick-straight figures of Archaic times.

Doryphoros or Spear-bearer

PolykleitosRoman copy of The Doryphoros of Polykleitos
originally Bronze
Classical period
440 BC
Museo Archaeologico, Naples, Italy*
this refers to the size and location of a Roman marble copy

Subject: The subject of this work is considered to be an ideal human male athlete, ready for action. Ancient Greeks had very strong notions on perfection, and were very fixated on man, so what better subject than a perfect man? Polykleitos divided the human form into four equal parts, and then moved some in turn. One arm is at rest, one is holding a spear. One leg is supporting weight, the other is not. The head faces the opposite direction as the chest. These features serve to provide a balance between movement and rest which shows this perfect male at his full potential.

The Artist's Work: The skilled artist responsible for this work would certainly have had an athletic male model, who he perfected to a further extent in this statue. He probably would have used the lost-wax technique which involves making an original of stone or clay, covering it with wax and then heated to remove this wax. After this, bronze would be poured into the empty layer to produce an exact replica of the original. These bronze sculptures were able to be freestanding and delicate, unlike the stone statues which required extra support to allow their massive weight.


Reaction: At first glance, this sculpture did not impress me particularly. I suppose I would liken this to not being drawn in instantly to a painting that looks exactly like a photograph. It takes a while to grasp the concept that this was carved from a model, not taken like some kind of 3-dimentional photograph. Once my mind gets around this, I really appreciate the work. Nothing looks 'off' at all about this statue. The athlete looks like he could truly leap into action at any moment, even though he is not in the middle of an action. Once I learned about Polykleitos's thinking of having his arms and legs mirror each other and convey possible movement, I was even more astonished. He has accomplished this so well! He looks so relaxed, but in a very natural way. He has a distinct S-curve to his spine and his hands look incredibly natural; they do not look awkward at all. His face does not convey much emotion and thus doesn't distract me from the true point of the sculpture which was to show the true potential of this athlete. This sculpture makes me think very deeply about the human form, and even brought up wonder regarding the creation of man. For a sculpture to convey so much beauty as to cause me to think about matters of the divine, it must now rank among my favourites.

Hellenistic sculpture was the next wave to sweep Grecian art. During this time, women were portrayed very differently. They began to appear nude, or practically nude under sheer drapery. This new wave of sculpture wasn't as drastic of a change as classical was from archaic, but there were still many differences. Emotion was shown in both facial expressions and body shapes. People dying were now shown in true anguish, unlike before. People were shown in less perfect, but extremely realistic, curvy poses. These new poses were not only beautiful but evoked more interest from the viewer of the piece.