Ancient Greek Culture

Discovering ancient Greek culture through art. We will be examining the artwork of four Greek periods: Archaic, Early/High Classical, Late Classical, and Hellenistic. By understanding the artworks created at these times we will be able to unlock a greater knowledge of what life in Greece was like; ranging from their bank accounts, all the way to their religious practices.

This is an example of a Cycladic work of art. A common subject of Cycladic work were women. Similar to other ancient civilizations certain parts of the women's body were emphasized, and carefully carved into the sculpture, but different to other cultures these body parts were not hyperbolized. The actual style of the piece is still very "crude," and unnatural, but we are starting to see a more anatomical body shape. The Cycladic people acknowledge women in their society, but more for their fertility than anything else. The face is still left blank and anonymous, so these works of art were not meant to be portraits of specific people,but a general representation of women or fertility. 
This is an example of Minoan art. This piece shows a man carrying a ram across his back. Not only is this work of art depicting a man, which was rare in ancient culture, it shows him performing a more mundane task. The Minoans were apart of an agricultural economy and since works of art were commissioned in this time, it was obviously important enough for them to depict their "trade." There could also be a religious meaning behind this statue as well. Sheepherders were in charge of a flock of sheep. This meant watching over them 24/7, making sure they ate, drank water, got to where they needed to be be, and stayed out of trouble. So this could be a representation of God's relationship to us. 
This is a Mycenaean work of art. Unlike some of the art we have seen thus far this piece has a practical function as a flask. This has a couple different meanings. One, the Mycenean people were wealthy enough that they could afford, or have time to make, decorative flasks. Two, they hosted parties or events at their homes and needed "fine' dining wear that they could use for these events. The pattern on the flask itself seems easy enough to make, but the balance between colors, and the symmetrical aspect between the lines and the shape of the jar show an attention to detail and intentional design. This society was known for being the "innovators," meaning they were not only well off,but had the time to think, and create. They were able to put their time less into survival and more into luxury. We can assume from that knowledge that there were social classes with their society. Where there is wealth there is at least a margin of poverty. 
This is an Archaic Greek work of art. Some of it's defining characteristics as an archaic work would be the obvious choice that it's a vase. More specifically it's a black-figure vase which was most common for this time period. The scene on the vase is the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, again hinting at the idea of telling heroic stories on vases; a common practice for the archaic period. The figures are drawn in Egyptian style profile as well, a technique that was used heavily throughout archaic paintings, vases and sculptures. The patterns along the edges are balanced, almost completely symmetrical they stay consistent all the way around.   This work of art leads us the assume that mythology, and epic heros were important to Greek culture at this time. Their art was still used for practical reasons, a vase for wine, but had a more decorative and aesthetic appeal. 
This is an early classical Greek work of art. The figure is no longer stiff and unnaturally positioned, but instead is relaxed and poised for movement(contrapposto). The figure's body has a fuller torso, defined muscles, and while still symmetrical, the figures body is more anatomically correct. It may seem unnatural for the body to be so perfectly balanced, but it appears natural when you look it over. This piece of art represents what is important to the Greeks at this time. The perfection of this figures body can lead us to assume that the Greeks not only prized perfection, but saw themselves as the superior humans, almost god like beings really. There is a very athletic look to this figure as well, meaning that the Greeks idealized their athletes as the supreme of their superior culture. Art was not created unless it was commissioned, so again we can assume that since the Greeks were willing to pay money for these sculptures it must mean they valued the images they portrayed. 
This is an example of late classical Greek art. Much like the earlier pieces of classical Greek art there is little movement shown in the figures stance; he's relaxed like the other classical Greek sculptures. This figure has an even fuller frame than the previous classical Greek sculpture. Even though the work of art is known as a "Statue of an athlete,"   he seems less athletic and more "normal" or "average," in his muscular strength and build. The statue also appears to be depicting an older man, meaning the Greeks valued young, fit bodies to show their perfection, but they valued the opinions or minds of older men. Trusting in their judgement and wisdom over the brawn of young men. In their eyes it was better to have both; which would create the ideal human.  
This is a Hellenistic work of Greek art. You can tell because not only is there movement in the sculpture, but it depicts a mundane, everyday activity that anyone can connect with. The emotional response on the boys face is also a characteristic of Hellenistic art. The look of concentration as he tries to detect the thorn and pluck it from his foot shows that Greek artists, and Greek society, was becoming increasingly interested in human emotion. They still idealized, and believed they were superior, but those in society commissioning these artworks cared less about stark, still, athletic bodies, and instead wanted to depict human emotion that was realistic and relatable at least to some extent. The difference between the body type of the classical Greek sculpture and the Hellenistic is slight, but if you look closely you can see that the sculpture of the boy from the Hellenistic period is less muscular than that of the classical Greek sculpture, meaning that while the Hellenistic sculpture is still balanced and displaying a very ideal body type, the need for showing off only athletes has become less important to the Greek culture.  
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