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Kaitlyn – I agree that seeing what is progressive or regressive is highly subjective, and it is hard to determine a certain rule for the way that the art had shifted. The Hellenistic era did bring art that was different from Ancient Greek art, but I would not say that it was a regression. Like you, I think it was more progressive.
Maggie – Yes! I completely agree with you that the Hellenistic art is more of a progression towards humanist values. The focus on realism and humans caught in serene and highly emotional moments gives such a great perspective on the human range of emotions. I do not necessarily see why Hellenistic art would be seen as regression, maybe this is because it is shifting focus away from the gods toward humans, and this can be seen as “loosing” focus according to religious ones.
Bob – you make an excellent point about the influences of the Romans taking over before the Hellenistic period. I completely agree with you that there is great diversity in the various humans chosen for depiction in art. Seems like the Hellenistic period focuses more on the diversity of beauty, that can be captured through emotions.
Lucas – I agree that we see a variety in the chosen individuals to be depicted, and that there is variety in their appearance. The sleeping cupid is a great example of this, it is very different from art we noted from the Classical period. Thank you for this post!
I feel like overall in Ancient Greek art we see a lot more detailed attention to the human body in its natural state. But even more so during the Hellenistic era. While in the Classical era it seems as if the human body and beauty was more generalized, and there is more focus on status of the individual that leads to beauty, the Hellenistic era focuses more on the individual as having beauty in their own sense. For example, if we look at the PRAXITELES’ APHRODITE OF KNIDOS or the GRAVE STELE OF HEGESO, these two depictions of women look very similar, though one is a goddess and one is human. The representations seems to place focus on the significance of the depiction. While in the Hellenistic Era, we see the Gaul a barbarian and a father with his two sons that are being slaughtered by the gods, these wouldn’t seem like significant or important individuals but there is much detail placed in the depictions of their individual beauty.
I would even say that in the Hellenistic era we see more variety in pose of the human body, as if it were captured in brief moments. The Classical era seems to be more modest, placing the human body in poses of thought and consideration, while the Hellenistic era is capturing emotions in the pose. In this sense, I would say that the Hellenistic era is placing more emphasis on individualism.
Aubri – that is a very interesting point regarding real bodies being molded to fit beauty standards. You do have a good point, though! Look at the amount of plastic surgery, fad diets, and whatnot that are created as opportunities for people to achieve ideal proportions and beauty. Thank you for this post! That’s quite some food for thought.
Lucas – I agree that the Classical Period led to more detailed understandings of human anatomy that focused on realism. It is pretty neat to see! Thank you for this post.
When I think about ideal proportions, this makes me think about the Fibonacci Sequence, where the next number is found by adding the two numbers before it. This can be seen in spirals, and has been found in the proportions of the human body as well. If you look at the theater at Epidauros and the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, you can kind of see this in the shape and form of the seating, how each rim of the circle is proportionally larger than the previous ones. This isn’t exactly the Fibonacci Sequence, but it is a type of proportion that is very pleasing to see.
As for the sculptures of human bodies, you can see that there is much detail placed in the anatomy assessment of the body. Pergamon is a perfect example of this, there is so much detail placed into the anatomy and detailing of the Gaul’s body, it is perfect. If we look at the mathematics of the human finger, as an example, it would look like in the image below. The sum of the two smaller bones equals the length of the next bone. This can be extended and applied to the rest of the body.
Honestly, we have seen influences of this ever since the Classical Period. Take a look at the Vitruvian man, for example. Where Leonardo Da Vinci completed an art and mathematical analysis of human anatomy. This is a study of the ideal proportions of the human body that he based on De Architectura a guide for building by the Roman architect Vitruvius between 30 and 15 BC (Richman-Abdou, 2018). The Golden Number, the ideal proportions that creates “beauty” is something that I believe we can see in everything today.
Richman-Abdou, K. “The Significance of Leonardo da Vinci’s Famous ‘Vitruvian Man’ Drawing, My Modern Met, 5 Aug 2018, https://mymodernmet.com/leonardo-da-vinci-vitruvian-man/
When it comes to the question of who owns the past, in a sense, I feel like we all do. Not to completely globalize every historical event, but most historical events and ideas have affected many of our societies in one way or an other. However, when it comes to artifacts that are found and displaying them in museums – I feel conflicted. For example, many of the artifacts that we have seen are excavated from ancient cultures and moved to completely different geographical locations for display. The Funerary Krater that was found in the Dipylon Cemetery in Athens is on display in New York. The White-Ground Ceramic Painting is in Scotland. There are other artifacts that were found in Italy and Greece that are displayed in museums there, which seems more appropriate. Or if we look at the gold mask of Tutankhamun that is not displayed in Egypt, while the Palette of King Narmer was not allowed to leave Egypt. This seems more culturally sensitive that the culture that owns the artifact is consulted before it leaves their country.
Now, it is not always possible to consult the culture, especially if we are looking at ancient cultures that are not existent anymore. But have these cultures really past? Did they not influence cultures that do still exist today? Would this not be their heritage and therefore knowledge that they have a right to? I think that it is important to maintain cultural sensitivity and relevance when looking at art, instead of a finders keepers attitude, we need to understand and be sensitive to the importance that an artifact may have to a current culture.
Valene – thank you for the examples of Alaska Native art. At the same time that I appreciate museums, I do find it a strange concept, especially when it is not an ancient culture but a living culture. It’s almost like a zoo for cultures. I feel like for examples with Alaska Native arts, where there are still tribal entities who can voice the concern of the people, that it becomes more controversial to take and display finds without consulting the tribe that owns the lands where the artifact was found.
Laura – “the artwork was seized by a conquering culture and never returned.” I completely agree with this statement! This seems like such an ironic notion, that a country goes into a different country and brings something home. Like a child that is showing off a shiny find. It seems that this would be disrespectful toward the culture that lost a piece of their own heritage.
Lucas – I agree with you about how the Greeks shifted a lot of focus on the art from focusing on gods to focusing on humans. This is a really good point. Thank you for this post!
Aubri – thank you for this! Yes, I agree that in the eras that we have looked at earlier, there is a lot of emphasis on gods and the role that humans have in relation to them. The Ancient Greeks definitely did shift their focus more towards humans, in all their nude simplicity.
According to Robert Grudin, a contributor to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, humanism focuses on an objective analyses of the human experience. Over time, humanism has evolved and shifted, but in early humanism there was much focus on understanding human reality and emotions. There was a lot of focus on humility, kindness, compassion, and virtues such as judgement, prudence, and eloquence (Grudin).
I think that we can see this focus on the human experience and emotions very well in the Kritios Boy, as there is much emphasis on his human side rather than making him a seemingly perfect model. Same thing with Lysoppos’ Man Scraping Himself, Lysippos chose to show an athlete not in practice doing some action that impresses the most, instead he is standing in a somewhat awkward, natural pose, without perfect posture. I also think it is interesting how his face seems childish, and his chin is not a perfectly chiseled square jaw. I think all these details hint towards the reality of a human, not being perfect, being humble, and full of emotion. Exekia’s ceramic painting of Ajax and Achilles Playing a Game is also a piece of art that shows humanist ideals, where we have two war demigods and warriors that have many stories about their strength and courage, but Exekia chose to paint them as they are playing a game together. This seemingly unconventional scene points out the humans in both of the demigods, as they are enjoying a leisurely pass-time activity together.
Honestly, maybe the ideas of humanism have been around since before Ancient Greece. Just looking at the Colossal Figure of Akhenaten, this sculpture was such a contrast to other pharaohs images. Although perfect posture, this pharaoh chose to display his out of shape body and probably was true to his actual image. Something that seems to be very humanist of him.
Grudin, R. “Humanism.” Encyclopedia Brittanica, Jan. 18, 2019, http://www.britannica.com/topic/humanism
It is very interesting to me that Evans would call the complex in Knossos a “palace,” but scholars now believe that it actually wasn’t a home for royals. Instead, there seemed to live aristocrats there. I wonder if not Evans jumped to conclusions, and in a fit of passion, called it a palace because it would be more exciting to excavate something royal instead of “some aristocratic” family’s home. Same thing with Schliemann, as he discovered the funerary mask and claimed it belonged to Agamemnon, did he do so out of pure excitement? Fooling himself into believing the myths because they are more exciting than reality? What blows me away is the extent that Schliemann brought his methods to, with altering the mask to fit a story better and using insensitive methods for excavating areas. Did he do this with malicious intent for wanting to “look” good, or did he simply fool himself into believing the myths for pure excitement?
Either way, I think that the methods that both gentlemen had used has made us now understand the importance of ethical archaeology, and being sensitive for the culture and heritage that is being excavated. The passion for unveiling “magical” history that drove these men to want to prove mythology might have made a lot of people believe in the mythology rather than questioning what is actually history. Sometimes reality is not exciting, and making myths into history can be alluring because of this.