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Read and learn for free about the following article: Greek architectural orders. Coulton, J. J. Ancient Greek Architects at Work: Problems of Structure and Design . Ithaca NY: Cornell University L'architecture Grecque 3 vol. Paris: Picard.
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- Ancient Greek art
Free-standing figures share the solidity and frontal stance characteristic of Eastern models, but their forms are more dynamic than those of Egyptian sculpture, as for example the Lady of Auxerre and Torso of Hera Early Archaic period, c. After about BC, figures, such as these, both male and female, wore the so-called archaic smile. This expression, which has no specific appropriateness to the person or situation depicted, may have been a device to give the figures a distinctive human characteristic.
Three types of figures prevailed—the standing nude youth kouros , the standing draped girl kore and, less frequently, the seated woman. The youths were either sepulchral or votive statues. More of the musculature and skeletal structure is visible in this statue than in earlier works.
The standing, draped girls have a wide range of expression, as in the sculptures in the Acropolis Museum of Athens. Their drapery is carved and painted with the delicacy and meticulousness common in the details of sculpture of this period. Archaic reliefs have survived from many tombs, and from larger buildings at Foce del Sele now in the museum at Paestum in Italy, with two groups of metope panels, from about and , and the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi, with friezes and a small pediment.
Parts, all now in local museums, survive of the large triangular pediment groups from the Temple of Artemis, Corfu c. The Moschophoros or calf-bearer, c. Peplos Kore , c.
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Frieze of the Siphnian Treasury , Delphi , depicting a Gigantomachy , c. The Strangford Apollo , , one of the last kouroi. In the Classical period there was a revolution in Greek statuary, usually associated with the introduction of democracy and the end of the aristocratic culture associated with the kouroi.
The Classical period saw changes in the style and function of sculpture. Poses became more naturalistic see the Charioteer of Delphi for an example of the transition to more naturalistic sculpture , and the technical skill of Greek sculptors in depicting the human form in a variety of poses greatly increased. From about BC statues began to depict real people. The statues of Harmodius and Aristogeiton set up in Athens to mark the overthrow of the tyranny were said to be the first public monuments to actual people.
At the same time sculpture and statues were put to wider uses. The great temples of the Classical era such as the Parthenon in Athens, and the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, required relief sculpture for decorative friezes , and sculpture in the round to fill the triangular fields of the pediments. The difficult aesthetic and technical challenge stimulated much in the way of sculptural innovation.
Unfortunately these works survive only in fragments, the most famous of which are the Parthenon Marbles , half of which are in the British Museum. Funeral statuary evolved during this period from the rigid and impersonal kouros of the Archaic period to the highly personal family groups of the Classical period. These monuments are commonly found in the suburbs of Athens, which in ancient times were cemeteries on the outskirts of the city.
Although some of them depict "ideal" types—the mourning mother, the dutiful son—they increasingly depicted real people, typically showing the departed taking his dignified leave from his family. They are among the most intimate and affecting remains of the ancient Greeks. In the Classical period for the first time we know the names of individual sculptors. Phidias oversaw the design and building of the Parthenon. Praxiteles made the female nude respectable for the first time in the Late Classical period mid-4th century: The most famous works of the Classical period for contemporaries were the colossal Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Statue of Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon.
Both were chryselephantine and executed by Phidias or under his direction, and are now lost, although smaller copies in other materials and good descriptions of both still exist. Their size and magnificence prompted emperors to seize them in the Byzantine period, and both were removed to Constantinople , where they were later destroyed in fires. The transition from the Classical to the Hellenistic period occurred during the 4th century BC. Greco-Buddhist art represented a syncretism between Greek art and the visual expression of Buddhism.
Thus Greek art became more diverse and more influenced by the cultures of the peoples drawn into the Greek orbit. In the view of some art historians, it also declined in quality and originality. This, however, is a judgement which artists and art-lovers of the time would not have shared. Indeed, many sculptures previously considered as classical masterpieces are now recognised as being Hellenistic. The technical ability of Hellenistic sculptors is clearly in evidence in such major works as the Winged Victory of Samothrace , and the Pergamon Altar. New centres of Greek culture, particularly in sculpture, developed in Alexandria , Antioch , Pergamum , and other cities, where the new monarchies were lavish patrons.
During this period sculpture became more naturalistic, and also expressive; the interest in depicting extremes of emotion being sometimes pushed to extremes. Genre subjects of common people, women, children, animals and domestic scenes became acceptable subjects for sculpture, which was commissioned by wealthy families for the adornment of their homes and gardens; the Boy with Thorn is an example. Realistic portraits of men and women of all ages were produced, and sculptors no longer felt obliged to depict people as ideals of beauty or physical perfection.
The world of Dionysus , a pastoral idyll populated by satyrs , maenads , nymphs and sileni , had been often depicted in earlier vase painting and figurines, but rarely in full-size sculpture. Now such works were made, surviving in copies including the Barberini Faun , the Belvedere Torso , and the Resting Satyr ; the Furietti Centaurs and Sleeping Hermaphroditus reflect related themes. This made sculpture, like pottery, an industry, with the consequent standardisation and some lowering of quality.
For these reasons many more Hellenistic statues have survived than is the case with the Classical period. All these statues depict Classical themes, but their treatment is far more sensuous and emotional than the austere taste of the Classical period would have allowed or its technical skills permitted. The multi-figure group of statues was a Hellenistic innovation, probably of the 3rd century, taking the epic battles of earlier temple pediment reliefs off their walls, and placing them as life-size groups of statues.
Their style is often called " baroque ", with extravagantly contorted body poses, and intense expressions in the faces. The reliefs on the Pergamon Altar are the nearest original survivals, but several well known works are believed to be Roman copies of Hellenistic originals.
These include the Dying Gaul and Ludovisi Gaul , as well as a less well known Kneeling Gaul and others, all believed to copy Pergamene commissions by Attalus I to commemorate his victory around over the Gauls of Galatia , probably comprising two groups. Discoveries made since the end of the 19th century surrounding the now submerged ancient Egyptian city of Heracleum include a 4th-century BC, unusually sensual, detailed and feministic as opposed to deified depiction of Isis , marking a combination of Egyptian and Hellenistic forms beginning around the time of Egypt's conquest by Alexander the Great.
However this was untypical of Ptolemaic court sculpture, which generally avoided mixing Egyptian styles with its fairly conventional Hellenistic style,  while temples in the rest of the country continued using late versions of traditional Egyptian formulae. Hellenistic sculpture was also marked by an increase in scale, which culminated in the Colossus of Rhodes late 3rd century , which was the same size as the Statue of Liberty. The combined effect of earthquakes and looting have destroyed this as well as other very large works of this period. Statue of a prince or dynast without crown, traditionally thought to be a Seleucid prince, maybe Attalus II of Pergamon.
Bronze, Greek artwork of the Hellenistic era , 3rd-2nd centuries BC. Clay is a material frequently used for the making of votive statuettes or idols, even before the Minoan civilization and continuing until the Roman period. During the 8th century BC tombs in Boeotia often contain "bell idols", female statuettes with mobile legs: By the Hellenistic period most terracotta figurines have lost their religious nature, and represent characters from everyday life.
Tanagra figurines , from one of several centres of production, are mass-manufactured using moulds, and then painted after firing. Dolls, figures of fashionably-dressed ladies and of actors, some of these probably portraits, were among the new subjects, depicted with a refined style. These were cheap, and initially displayed in the home much like modern ornamental figurines, but were quite often buried with their owners.
At the same time, cities like Alexandria , Smyrna or Tarsus produced an abundance of grotesque figurines, representing individuals with deformed members, eyes bulging and contorting themselves. Such figurines were also made from bronze. For painted architectural terracottas, see Architecture below. Figurines made of metal, primarily bronze, are an extremely common find at early Greek sanctuaries like Olympia , where thousands of such objects, mostly depicting animals, have been found.
They are usually produced in the lost wax technique and can be considered the initials stage in the development of Greek bronze sculpture. The most common motifs during the Geometric period were horses and deer, but dogs, cattle and other animals are also depicted. Human figures occur occasionally.
The production of small metal votives continued throughout Greek antiquity. In the Classical and Hellenistic periods, more elaborate bronze statuettes, closely connected with monumental sculpture , also became common. High quality examples were keenly collected by wealthy Greeks, and later Romans, but relatively few have survived.
Actor from the New Comedy , about BC. Tanagra figurine of fashionable lady, Architecture meaning buildings executed to an aesthetically considered design ceased in Greece from the end of the Mycenaean period about BC until the 7th century, when urban life and prosperity recovered to a point where public building could be undertaken. Since most Greek buildings in the Archaic and Early Classical periods were made of wood or mud-brick, nothing remains of them except a few ground-plans, and there are almost no written sources on early architecture or descriptions of buildings.
Most of our knowledge of Greek architecture comes from the surviving buildings of the Late Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods since ancient Roman architecture heavily used Greek styles , and from late written sources such as Vitruvius 1st century BC.
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This means that there is a strong bias towards temples , the most common major buildings to survive. Here the squared blocks of stone used for walls were useful for later buildings, and so often all that survives are parts of columns and metopes that were harder to recycle. For most of the period a strict stone post and lintel system of construction was used, held in place only by gravity.
Corbelling was known in Mycenean Greece, and the arch was known from the 5th century at the latest, but hardly any use was made of these techniques until the Roman period. The use of large terracotta roof tiles , only held in place by grooving, meant that roofs needed to have a low pitch. Until Hellenistic times only public buildings were built using the formal stone style; these included above all temples , and the smaller treasury buildings which often accompanied them, and were built at Delphi by many cities.
Other building types, often not roofed, were the central agora , often with one or more colonnaded stoa around it, theatres , the gymnasium and palaestra or wrestling-school, the ekklesiasterion or bouleuterion for assemblies, and the propylaea or monumental gateways. Tombs were for most of the period only made as elaborate mausolea around the edges of the Greek world, especially in Anatolia.
They sometimes had a second story, but very rarely basements. They were usually built of rubble at best, and relatively little is known about them; at least for males, much of life was spent outside them. Temples and some other buildings such as the treasuries at Delphi were planned as either a cube or, more often, a rectangle made from limestone , of which Greece has an abundance, and which was cut into large blocks and dressed.
This was supplemented by columns, at least on the entrance front, and often on all sides. Marble was an expensive building material in Greece: It was used mainly for sculptural decoration, not structurally, except in the very grandest buildings of the Classical period such as the Parthenon in Athens. There were two main classical orders of Greek architecture, the Doric and the Ionic , with the Corinthian order only appearing in the Classical period, and not becoming dominant until the Roman period. The most obvious features of the three orders are the capitals of the columns, but there are significant differences in other points of design and decoration between the orders.
The Doric was the earliest, probably first appearing in stone in the earlier 7th century, having developed though perhaps not very directly from predecessors in wood. The Ionic style was first used in the cities of Ionia now the west coast of Turkey and some of the Aegean islands, probably beginning in the 6th century.
The more ornate Corinthian order was a later development of the Ionic, initially apparently only used inside buildings, and using Ionic forms for everything except the capitals. Most of the best known surviving Greek buildings, such as the Parthenon and the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, are Doric. The Erechtheum , next to the Parthenon, however, is Ionic.
The Ionic order became dominant in the Hellenistic period, since its more decorative style suited the aesthetic of the period better than the more restrained Doric. Some of the best surviving Hellenistic buildings, such as the Library of Celsus , can be seen in Turkey , at cities such as Ephesus and Pergamum. Model of the processional way at Ancient Delphi , without much of the statuary shown. The theatre of Epidauros , 4th century BC. Coins were probably invented in Lydia in the 7th century BC, but they were first extensively used by the Greeks,  and the Greeks set the canon of coin design which has been followed ever since.
Coin design today still recognisably follows patterns descended from ancient Greece. The Greeks did not see coin design as a major art form, although some were expensively designed by leading goldsmiths, especially outside Greece itself, among the Central Asian kingdoms and in Sicilian cities keen to promote themselves. Nevertheless, the durability and abundance of coins have made them one of the most important sources of knowledge about Greek aesthetics.
The most widespread coins, used far beyond their native territories and copied and forged by others, were the Athenian tetradrachm , issued from c. Some of the Greco-Bactrian coins are considered the finest examples of Greek coins with large portraits with "a nice blend of realism and idealization", including the largest coins to be minted in the Hellenistic world: The portraits "show a degree of individuality never matched by the often bland depictions of their royal contemporaries further West". Greek designers began the practice of putting a profile portrait on the obverse of coins.
This was initially a symbolic portrait of the patron god or goddess of the city issuing the coin: Later, heads of heroes of Greek mythology were used, such as Heracles on the coins of Alexander the Great. The first human portraits on coins were those of Persian satraps in Asia Minor. Greek cities in Italy such as Syracuse began to put the heads of real people on coins in the 4th century BC, as did the Hellenistic successors of Alexander the Great in Egypt , Syria and elsewhere.
The placing of inscriptions on coins also began in Greek times. All these customs were later continued by the Romans. Arethusa on a coin of Syracuse, Sicily , Drachm of Aegina with tortoise and stamp, after BC. Silver coin from Heraclea Lucania. The Greeks seem to have valued painting above even sculpture, and by the Hellenistic period the informed appreciation and even the practice of painting were components in a gentlemanly education.
The ekphrasis was a literary form consisting of a description of a work of art, and we have a considerable body of literature on Greek painting and painters, with further additions in Latin, though none of the treatises by artists that are mentioned have survived. It is the beginning of a street which crosses the entire Acropolis: A colossal theatre, able to contain nearly 10, spectators, has benches embedded in the flanks of the hill. Pliny the Elder , after having described the sculpture of the classical period notes: Cessavit deinde ars "then art disappeared".
A period of stagnation followed, with a brief revival after the th — BC , but with nothing to the standard of the times preceding it. During this period sculpture became more naturalistic, and also expressive; there is an interest in depicting extremes of emotion. On top of anatomical realism, the Hellenistic artist seeks to represent the character of his subject, including themes such as suffering, sleep or old age. Genre subjects of common people, women, children, animals and domestic scenes became acceptable subjects for sculpture, which was commissioned by wealthy families for the adornment of their homes and gardens; the Boy with Thorn is an example.
Realistic portraits of men and women of all ages were produced, and sculptors no longer felt obliged to depict people as ideals of beauty or physical perfection. The drunk woman at Munich portrays without reservation an old woman, thin, haggard, clutching against herself her jar of wine. The period is therefore notable for its portraits: One such is the Barberini Faun of Munich , which represents a sleeping satyr with relaxed posture and anxious face, perhaps the prey of nightmares.
Another famous Hellenistic portrait is that of Demosthenes by Polyeuktos, featuring a well-done face and clasped hands. Another phenomenon of the Hellenistic age appears in its sculpture: This made sculpture, like pottery, an industry, with the consequent standardization and some lowering of quality.
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For these reasons many more Hellenistic statues have survived than is the case with the Classical period. Hellenistic sculpture repeats the innovations of the so-called "second classicism": The multi-figure group of statues was a Hellenistic innovation, probably of the 3rd century, taking the epic battles of earlier temple pediment reliefs off their walls, and placing them as life-size groups of statues. Their style is often called " baroque ", with extravagantly contorted body poses, and intense expressions in the faces.
Pergamon did not distinguish itself with its architecture alone: The Barberini Faun is one example. These characteristics are pushed to their peak in the friezes of the Great Altar of Pergamon , decorated under the order of Eumenes II — BC with a gigantomachy stretching metres in length, illustrating in the stone a poem composed especially for the court. The Olympians triumph in it, each on his side, over Giants — most of which are transformed into savage beasts: Their mother Gaia comes to their aid, but can do nothing and must watch them twist in pain under the blows of the gods. One of the few city states who managed to maintain full independence from the control of any Hellenistic kingdom was Rhodes.
After holding out for one year under siege by Demetrius Poliorcetes — BCE , the Rhodians built the Colossus of Rhodes to commemorate their victory. Progress in bronze casting made it possible for the Greeks to create large works. Discovered in Rome in and seen immediately by Michelangelo ,  beginning its huge influence on Renaissance and Baroque art.
The group is one of very few non-architectural ancient sculptures that can be identified with those mentioned by ancient writers. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing based many of the ideas in his 'Laocoon' on Winckelmann's views on harmony and expression in the visual arts. The fragmentary Sperlonga sculptures are another series of "baroque" sculptures in the Hellenistic style, perhaps made for the Emperor Tiberius , who was certainly present at the collapse of the seaside grotto in southern Italy that they decorated.
From the 2nd century the Neo-Attic or Neo-Classical style is seen by different scholars as either a reaction to baroque excesses, returning to a version of Classical style, or as a continuation of the traditional style for cult statues. Sepulchral monument of a dying Adonis , polychrome terracotta , Etruscan art from Tuscana , BC.
Gravestone of a woman with her child slave attending to her, c. Aphrodite and Eros fighting off the advances of Pan. Marble, Hellenistic artwork from the late 2nd century BC. Paintings on panels were arguably the most prestigious medium in art, but no examples have survived.
Ancient Greek art
It is possible to get some idea of what they were like from related media, and what seem to be copies of or loose derivations from paintings in a wider range of materials. Few examples of Greek wall paintings have survived the centuries. The most impressive, in terms of showing what high-quality Greek painting was like, are those at the Macedonian royal tombs at Vergina.
Researchers have been limited to studying the Hellenistic influences in Roman frescoes , for example those of Pompeii or Herculaneum. Some of the paintings in Villa Boscoreale clearly echo lost Hellenistic, Macedonian royal paintings. Perhaps the most striking element of Hellenistic painting is the increased use of landscape. Recent discoveries include those of Macedonian chamber tombs,  and the recently restored 1st-century Nabataean ceiling frescoes in the Painted House at Little Petra in Jordan. Recent archaeological discoveries at the cemetery of Pagasae close to modern Volos , at the edge of the Pagasetic Gulf , or again at Vergina , in the former kingdom of Macedonia , have brought to light some original works.
For example, the tomb supposedly that of Philip II has provided a great frieze representing a royal lion hunt, remarkable by its composition, the arrangement of the figures in space and its realistic representation of nature. Certain mosaics , however, provide a pretty good idea of the "grand painting" of the period: It is believed to be a copy of a painting described by Pliny which had been painted by Philoxenus of Eretria for King Cassander of Macedon at the end of the 4th century BC,  or even of a painting by Apelles contemporaneous with Alexander himself.
Gnosis created is the first known signature of a mosaicist. The emblema is bordered by an intricate floral pattern, which itself is bordered by stylized depictions of waves. The Nile mosaic of Palestrina is a late Hellenistic floor mosaic depicting the Nile in its passage from Ethiopia to the Mediterranean.
The Hellenistic period is equally the time of development of the mosaic as such, particularly with the works of Sosos of Pergamon , active in the 2nd century BC and the only mosaic artist cited by Pliny. One of them is watering herself while the others seem to be resting, which creates effects of reflections and shadow perfectly studied by the artist. Central panel of the Abduction of Helen of Troy by Theseus , floor mosaic , detail of the charioteer , from the House of the Abduction of Helen, c.
A stele of Dioskourides, dated 2nd century BC, showing a Ptolemaic thureophoros soldier wielding the thureos shield. It is a characteristic example of the "romanization" of the Ptolemaic army. Unswept Floor , Roman copy of the mosaic by Sosus of Pergamon , c. A mural painting from Delos , c. Fragments of mural paintings from Delos , c.
The Sampul tapestry , a woollen wall hanging from Lop County , Xinjiang, China , showing a possibly Greek soldier from the Greco-Bactrian kingdom — BC , with blue eyes , wielding a spear, and wearing what appears to be a diadem headband; depicted above him is a centaur , from Greek mythology , a common motif in Hellenistic art;  Xinjiang Region Museum. The Hellenistic Age comes immediately after the great age of painted Ancient Greek pottery , perhaps because increased prosperity led to more use of fine metalware very little now surviving and the decline of the fine painted "vase" the term used for all vessel shapes in pottery.
Most vases of the period are black and uniform, with a shiny appearance approaching that of varnish, decorated with simple motifs of flowers or festoons. The shapes of the vessels are often based on metalwork shapes: Painted vase types that continued production into the Hellenistic period include Hadra vases and Panathenaic amphora. At this time Asian motifs found their way onto all makes of Greek pots. Curvilinear patterns, sometimes of wild exuberance, supplant the older, rectilinear ones. New subjects appear, especially such monsters as the sphinx , siren , griffin , gorgon , and chimaera , as well as such exotic animals as the lion.
The Corinthian painters created a silhouette technique in which figures painted in the characteristic black glaze were incised with thin lines to show detail. Athenian painters adopted this black-figure pottery style around bce but emphasized human figures rather than Oriental animal motifs as pictorial themes. The superior quality of their clay, pigment, and decoration quickly enabled the Athenian artists to overtake those of Corinth. From bce on, Athens increasingly became the dominant centre for Greek pottery, eventually exporting its ware throughout the Mediterranean world. It was during this period that the practice of signing of pots by potters and painters first became common.
Athenian pottery of the 6th century bce often features narrative scenes composed of black figures painted on a light inset background panel, while the surrounding vase surface is a deep, lustrous black. The method by which this distinctive colour was achieved, involving a complicated three-stage process of firing, has been successfully analyzed and reproduced in the 20th century.
Red-figure pottery , invented at Athens about bce , is just the reverse of the black-figure style in that the reddish figures appear light against the black background of the pot surface. Details of the figures such as eyes and interior lines were painted on in black, the brush allowing more subtle characterization than did an incising tool. The red-figure technique allowed a more naturalistic and aesthetically appealing treatment of human figures. The red hues mimicked the colour and tone of sun-bronzed skin and dramatically spotlighted the figures against the dark background.
Around bce Greek artists abandoned the convention of using only profile views and began to use three-quarter frontal poses, as well as foreshortenings and the carefully depicted overlapping of one figure on another. These advances ushered in the zenith of Greek pottery design and also give some idea of contemporaneous achievement in large-scale painting. The drawing on Greek ware of this period is often of the highest quality, and the subject matter is an inexhaustible mine of information on Greek life and thought.
Greek artists sought to endow their figures with mood and character, as well as the capacity for action. Monotony was avoided by the use of different poses, gestures, and expressions to render emotion and clarify the narrative action. The repertoire of subjects was greatly enlarged, using scenes from everyday life as well as the standard heroic and mythological themes.
Greek pottery began to decline surprisingly early, in the mid-5th century bce. Because of the inherent limitations of the curving pot surface, pottery painters could no longer compete with the rapid strides toward naturalism taken by painters of larger works such as wall paintings. Various attempts to introduce spatial depth into their designs by the selective grouping of figures failed.
After bce pottery painting was increasingly trivialized in conception and sentimental in emotional tone. Drawing became overrefined and careless, and groups of figures were crowded together without meaning or interest. By the 4th century, the figured decoration of pottery had become a dying art, and it had disappeared from Athens by bce.