Substantive Education

March 31, 2009

An Easter gardening project

Filed under: Bible,Family stuff,Homeschooling — kbagdanov @ 9:25 pm
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Are you looking for a fun, meaningful way to celebrate the Easter Story…this might be just what you need. Recreate the tomb scene in a small garden and place in it significant items to draw to your children’s attention. This website has some great pictures and ideas to get you started.


March 20, 2009

Art of the Roman Republic

In a previous post we looked at the art of the Etruscans, now we are going to move forward into the art of the time when Rome was a republic.

First we need to know a little history. A group of Roman Aristocrats overthrew the last Tarquin king in 509 BC . For the next 450 year a small group of men, the senate, would rule Rome. By 275 BC Rome would control the entire Italian peninsula. For more than a century the Punic wars would rage finally coming to their conclusion in 146 BC. With the end of the Punic wars and the defeat of Carthage, Rome gained control of the entire western Mediterranean. By the mid second century BC Rome had conquered Greece, and by 44 BC they had acquired most of Gaul. ( modern day France.)

Aulus Metellus Bronze

Aulus Metellus Bronze

The sculpture of the Roman Republic period was influenced by the art they found in Greece but with their own twist. The Romans practiced ancestor worship. They venerated their deceased relatives and had death masks and sculptures made of them allowing the past generations to continue to participate in some ceremonies. This led to a desire to render realistic portraits.

This bronze of Aulus Metellus is life-sized. We know his name because it is inscribed on the hem of his clothing. The statue has been known since ancient times as ‘The Orator’ and the man stands as if addressing a crowd. He wears sturdy leather boots, an interesting thing to note…gods and goddesses were depicted barefoot and later on we will see that Augustus was sculpted barefoot, perhaps hinting at his deification.

The Romans were well aware of the propaganda value of portraits. This is why the

Denarius with portrait of Julius Caesar

Denarius with portrait of Julius Caesar

used them on coins. This relief sculpture of Julius Caesar on a Denarius accurately shows his careworn face and receding hairline. Roman coins are actually one of the ways we have accurate pictures or portraits of their many rulers.

The Romans developed the use of concrete to aid them in their massive building projects. Their use of concrete was a huge breakthrough that we probably take for granted. They were able to make massive building for less money and effort by building out of concrete and then applying a veneer of stone or marble over the concrete. This gave them greater freedom in the forms they could use, they didn’t have to transport as many heavy stones, and they could stretch their resources. Here we see a picture of how the concrete was used. There was a fill in the center, then often a layer of brick, and then a stone veneer. So while Greek buildings revealed their building materials, the Romans covered their up.

Model of the Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia

Model of the Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia

Another architectural feature of the Romans is the use of the round arch and vault. While other civilizations had used these, none to the degree that the Romans did. Here we can see the remains of the Sanctuary of the Fortuna Primigenia dedicated to the godess of fate and chance. The sanctuary was not discovered until after World War II when the area was being cleared of debris caused by bombings. It is a fine example of Republican architecture. It is built of concrete and is covered with a veneer of stucco and limestone.

There are seven terraces that ascend with long ramps and stairways connecting them. You can see the use of arches and colonnades. As you reach the upper levels there is a large semi-circle staircase leading to the actual temple of Fortuna. The temple is a rock cut cave where the actual acts of divination occurred.

More common temple structures were smaller urban temples built in the cities commercial centers. This temple sits

Roman temple

Roman temple

on a raised platform next to the Tiber River. While unsure, historians think it may have been dedicated to Portunus, the god of harbors and ports. It has a porch, a single set of steps, and a rectangular cella. It echoes the Greek temple plans that we have already looked at. Their are Ionic columns and two engaged columns…meaning part of the column is set into the wall. There is a frieze going around the entablature. This combining of designs and orders from the Greeks is typical of Roman buildings.

March 18, 2009

Learning in the garden Part 2

Filed under: Education,Science — kbagdanov @ 7:24 pm
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Okay so yesterday, in part one, we talked about the little kids, here are some ideas for the older students and a special history tie-in I’m excited to try out.

When kids reach 4th grade or so they are still really interested in doing science experiments and are ready to do themscientificmethod in a more organized fashion…using the scientific method. That doesn’t mean anything truly difficult, just that you are going to take what might have been a little haphazard (okay, you might not be haphazard, but I am) and give your experiments a bit more form. The scientific method is easy to teach and apply when you have a garden going and your children should be familiar with the steps.

First, you need a question. Does Miracle Gro actually help? Do sunflowers actually follow the sun? Does corn need cross-pollination to produce kernels?

Once you have a question you do some research and come up with a hypothesis or guess. Then you do an experiment to see if your guess (hypothesis) was correct. Analyze the results and come up with a conclusion. Following these simple steps gives your student practice in the methods real scientist actually use.

The garden provides a great science lab and kids can do several experiments, keep log books, and conduct research over the course of the growing season. Depending on your questions you can make experiments appropriate for any grade level.

3sisters-optA fun history/science tie in is to plant a Three Sisters Garden. I’d suggest checking out several websites and reading the instructions and stories if you decide to try this. A Three Sisters Garden is a method that the Native American Indians used and taught to settlers. The Indians planted the three sisters: corn, beans, and squash, together. The combination of plants helps each of them to produce fully. Corn uses a lot of nitrogen and beans produce nitrogen. Squash plants spread and provide a natural weed cover. The three also are a nutritional powerhouse when combined.

3sistersIf you choose to plant a Three Sisters Garden you can tie in history with a Native American study…you can tie in literature by reading some of the legends…or science, by experimenting with the combinations. One of the experiments that would be fun would be planting with and without fish. Traditionally, the Indians placed parts of a fish in the mound that the corn was planted on to provide the fertilizer that the heavy feeding corn needed. You can plant some corn with and some without the fish to see how it works. WARNING: I’d suggest you plant with a purchased fish emulsion as actually planting with fish will encourage wildlife, attracted by the smell, to come dig up your garden.

If your student isn’t intrigued by experimenting with botany and wants a little more excitement you might want to encourage them to make a study of beneficial and harmful insects that visit your garden. They could experiment with some of the organic methods used to control these visitors. Is it true marigolds discourage certain insects from invading….or pouring hot chili oil around the border of your plot? A little time on the internet exploring with yield up lots of ideas for research.

March 17, 2009

Learning in the Garden Part 1

sunflowersSo many fun things you can learn in the garden. I’m in the digging stage of putting in a vegetable garden and it made me remember some of our past gardening experiences, when the boys were young. No matter what the age of your kids, or the subject you’re teaching, keeping a garden can be a great tool for your school. Here are a few of the things we have done in our garden, along with a few I’m trying this year. Most of the following can be used whether you just have a patio with pots, or an acre of land. I’m starting with some activities for the preschool, early kindergarten stage…but that is not to say that your older kids wouldn’t have fun with these.

If your children are in preschool and early elementary school everything in the garden is a fascinating lesson. Watching the miracle of seeds developing into plants, flowers, and vegetables never gets old. A favorite activity for thebean young is to take a few bean seeds, soak them for an hour or two to get them started, then take a clear glass and fill it with damp paper towels. Place a few seeds around the edges of the glass so that they can be viewed from the outside but are still in contact with the damp paper towels. Don’t allow the paper towels to dry out. I had my boys draw pictures each day (or twice a day if there is a lot happening) of the changes in the seed. They may want to carefully measure the seed to see if it swells before the root breaks forth. As they watch they will see the root emerge, the original stem, and the first leaves unfurl. . Although the glass allows us to view what would normally be going on under the soil, there is a lot going on inside of the seed as well. I’d suggest getting a few books on seeds from the library before you start.

Another fun activity for the younger set is to get a fast growing seed like radishes, have the kids write their names in the dirt with their fingers, then sprinkle in the seeds. In a few weeks time they will have their name in the garden. Take a picture and enjoy a salad.

One year (so sad I can’t find the pictures) we planted a square of tall sunflowers with one opening, then, once the plants were about 4 inches tall, we planted morning glories around their base. As the sunflowers grew the morning glories climbed the stalks. With some careful twining and few well placed strings we were able to train the morning glories to make a roof and we had a gorgeous flower clubhouse. When the clubhouse ‘bloomed’ it was truly extraordinary. Adding to the fun were the butterflies and birds that came to hang out in our clubhouse.

It seems young children can’t get enough of little hiding places, so if the sunflower house seems a bit extravagantbean_teepee_5 another option is a bean tepee. All you need to do is make a tepee out of some long sticks or PVC pipe you might have around the house. (Pieces long enough to make a tepee a child could climb into.) Then run and tie string around most of the pieces leaving an opening. Plant 2-3 bean seeds (makes sure they are a climbing variety and not a bush.) at the base of each stick. As the plants begin to climb and send out tendrils help your children to observe closely. The tendrils will always wind the same direction and many of the tendrils in between plants will make themselves into curlicues. This is to protect the plant during growth and in the wind because the tendrils now have some give and won’t become taut and snap. As the beans mature they will hang down into the tepee and children can harvest them while they play. My boys liked to take a book into their tepee and ‘read’.garden-journal

Science and botany aren’t all that can be going on in your garden. How about keeping a gardening journal with careful observations, poems, and illustrations. This can be a spring writing project, the possibilities of what to include are endless. With a little intentional thought on the part of mom this could be your Language Arts time and what child would object to a lesson outside sitting in the garden drawing and writing about the plants they’ve grown. They can keep track of the insects and wildlife that visit their garden. They can group those animals into beneficial and harmful categories. A journal can be both practical observations and a time to be creative with stories, poems, songs, and illustrations that the garden inspires.

Reading time is easy to incorporate into the garden. You may choose to check out books on plants and gardening, orthe-secret-garden-harperclassics-006440188x-l maybe instead read some great literature. How about a cozy chair in the garden where you can read about Pooh’s adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods. Most little girls would love to sit in their sunflower house and read or be read to ‘The Secret Garden’. For the reluctant reader just moving your reading instruction outdoors can be inspiring.

Even math is more exciting when we are in a new place. I’m sure you can come up with garden ideas for addition and subtraction. Older children may want to figure the percentage of seeds that sprouted. Most seeds need to be thinned to a certain number of inches apart (don’t worry directions are on the seed packet) so it’s a great time to get familiar with using a ruler.

In ‘Learning in the Garden Part 2″ we’ll look at ideas for older students and how to incorporate history into your garden.

So get outside, get your hands dirty and play in the mud. Oh mud, maybe you could make some relief maps….. I’ll stop now.

Are schools killing our kids creativity???

Filed under: Education — kbagdanov @ 5:16 am
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Great thoughts and one of the many reasons I found homeschooling so satisfying. I thought of it in terms of ‘keeping my kids love of learning alive’. But it is probably accurate to say it kept their creativity alive too. The boys are a fairly creative bunch. Enjoy!

March 13, 2009

Etruscan Art

Filed under: Art,Fine Art,Friday classes,Uncategorized — kbagdanov @ 12:15 am
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Okay, all of my art students, we have finished Greece and are moving on to Rome, which will coincide nicely with our ancient history study.

The country of Italy is a boot shaped peninsula that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. Surrounded on three sides by water and on the North by the Alps this peninsula would set the world on fire. We begin our study at about 500 BC and there are several people groups living in Italy in city states similar to those in Greece. Twelve of these city-states, populated by a people group called the Etruscan’s, organized themselves into a loose federation and during the sixth century BC were at the height of their power. The Etruscans controlled the northern and central area of Italy which would become modern day Tuscany.

Through their trading the Etruscans were in contact with the people of Greece and Phonecia. Through this contact they were exposed to ideas, art and culture that expanded their own. This exposure would be reflected in what the Etruscans created, but always with their own unique stamp. They did not merely copy what they observed in these other cultures but they learned, adapted, and made it their own.

The Etruscans laid out their cities on a grid, much like the cities of Greece and Egypt, but with slight variations. They had two main streets, one running north and south, the other east and west dividing the city into quarters. Where the two streets intersected the Etruscans built the towns business center. Their homes were built around a central courtyard or atrium which was open to the sky. This allowed a shallow pool to collect rainwater to be used in the house. Walls were built around the city with large gates.

Porta Augusta, Perugia Italy.  Gate built during 2nd Century BC

Porta Augusta, Perugia Italy. Gate built during 2nd Century BC

The gates of Porta Augusta in Perugla Italy are one of the few examples of Etruscan monumental architecture that survives to taday. Although the arch was used in Greece and other ancient civilizations, it would be the Romans who would make widespread use of this architectural element. Unlike the Corbel arch studied earlier, this arch is made with precisely cut wedge shaped pieces. A decorative element is seen above the arch, resembling the entablature of Greek structures.

The Etruscans and Romans, from early on, incorporated Greek gods and goddesses into their belief systems. Most Etruscan art has been destroyed over time, or by the Romans. What has survived is largely funeral art which can give a skewed impression of a civilization. What survives of Etruscan temples are just the remains of the foundations, we do have a few descriptions, however, to add to our knowledge.


Etruscan Temple - Roman Art

This is a reconstruction of what an Etruscan Temple would look like. It sat on a podium and had a single set of steps leading up to the front porch. The plan was almost square and the interior was often divided up into three spaces. It is believed these would have housed cult statues.

Etruscan temples were made with mud-brick walls. The columns and entablatures were made of wood and sometimes a volcanic rock. The columns and capitals were generally of the Doric or Ionic orders. There was sometimes a frieze above the columns, but often the temple was decorated with dazzling painting rather than the friezes of Greek temples. There were additional terra cotta sculptures placed around the temple and the roof served as the base for large statue groups.

Creating sculptures out of terra-cotta required a great deal of skill and posed significant technical problems. The artist had to know how to construct the figure so that it wouldn’t collapse either from it’s own weight or while going through the firing process. The temperature in the large kiln had to be precisely regulated to avoid damaging the works.

Apollo, from Veii. c.500 BC.  Painted terra-cotta

Apollo, from Veii. c.500 BC. Painted terra-cotta

This sculpture of Apollo was originally part of a four person grouping. Apollo and Hercules were fighting over possession of a deer that was Diana’s. Diana and Mercury were looking on as the two fought. Here Apollo is seen striding forward over a decorative element, this element provided needed stability for the figure.

For those of you familiar with Greek statues you will immediately recognize the Archaic smile. It is evident that the Etruscans were familiar with the Kouroi of Ancient Greece. However, they didn’t copy the Kouroi, they made it their own. The obvious difference is that our Apollo is clothed, where the Koisos were always nudes. We also see that this Apollo is in full motion, where the Greek statues merely hinted at movement. This energy and purposeful movement is characteristic of Etruscan sculpture.

Much of what has survived of Etruscan art is from their tombs. While they practiced

Etruscan cemetery of La Banditaccia

Etruscan cemetery of La Banditaccia

cremation it appears they also thought of their tombs as homes for the dead. In the Etruscan cemetery of La Banditaccia we can see that the cemetery is designed like a town. The tombs were carved out of the ground or bedrock and there were streets tunneling between them. Some of the tombs have

Etruscan burial chamber.

corbel vault roofs that

Etruscan burial chamber.

were then covered in dirt and stone.

As you can see from these indoor pictures some of the tombs resemble the inside of houses. They were painted and decorated and fully funished. There were pots, jugs, robes, axes and other objects hanging off pillars. Most of the objects were simulated in stucco to resemble a needed item. The items were rendered in low relief and then painted.

The coffins or sarcophagi were often made of terra-cotta. This one shows a husband and wife reclining comfortable and

Etruscan Sarcophagus

Etruscan Sarcophagus

enjoying each others company. This is not a sad or somber picture of the dead, but a lively rendering showing significant details. The walls of the tombs were covered with brightly colored paintings of feasting, dancing, and musical performances. Unlike Greek tomb paintings the woman are pictured as active participants in this community life.

In ancient times the skill of the Etruscans with bronze was widely acknowledged. Unfortunately most of the pieces were melted down by the Romans to be used for coins. One of the most famous works which did survive is this She-wolf nursing the twins, Romulus and Remus. Here we have a work retelling part of the story of the founding of Rome. Although there are several versions of the legend I’ll just give a brief recounting here. Two brothers, fugitives from Troy, came to what is now Italy. One was given the kingship, the other control over the treasury. As often happens in these stories the brother in charge of the treasury seized the throne.


Romulus and Remus, Bronze

His greatest fear was that his niece would conceive a child who would be able to claim a right to the throne so he made her a Vestal Virgin. She, however, soon gave birth to twins. Some stories say the boys were the sons of Mars, other that her uncle was the father of her children. Either way, all were condemned to death. The boys were placed in a basket and set in the Tiber river to die of exposure. Instead they were watched over by the goddess of the river. They were found by a she-wolf who cared for the boys as if they were her own cubs.

As adults the boys take revenge upon their uncle…but then fight over who shall be the king. Through a series of events to long to detail here Romulus wins out and we have the birth of Rome.

March 5, 2009

The Acropolis



The Acropolis has had a long and varied history. Sitting atop a high point above the city of Athens it was originally a walled fortress. It provided a safe place to retreat to during times of war. At least that was the hope. It also became a religious center where temples were built to honor the goddess Athena who is Athens patron goddess.

During the wars with Persia the Greeks had retreated into the walls hoping to outlast the Persians but due to Plague and famine were eventually defeated. The Persian troops destroyed the Acropolis in 480 BC. Athenians vowed to keep the Acropolis in ruins as a memorial to all who had suffered and died there.

Later, Pericles, convinced them to rebuild it to it’s former magnificence. The hope was that by honoring Athenian and providing her with a ‘home’ she would stay close by and protect Athens from her enemies. Pericles also recognized that restoring the site would raise the status of Athens above the other city-states as it would demonstrate her power, wealth, and importance. Pheidias, a renowned sculptor, was put in charge of the rebuilding and employed an army of the most talented artists in Athens.

Map of the Acropolis

Map of the Acropolis

There were many religious buildings on the hilltop along with multitudes of statues. The majority of the temples were dedicated to Athena, each highlighting a different aspect of her divinity. Although visitors could see into the temples to the statues of the goddess they did not actually enter the temple. The temple was considered the ‘home’ of the goddess and people wandering in and out would invade her privacy making her less likely to stay in the city. Priest and priestesses entered the temple and various people during the many celebrations and commemorations that were observed.

One of the most famous celebrations was performed by the women of the city of Athens. Every four years they would process through the streets and up to the Acropolis proceeding to one of the smaller statues of Athena. This statue was ancient to these Athenians and was a holy relic. The women would weave a new peplos to drape over the statue and present it to her every four years.



One of the most famous areas on the acropolis is the Erechtheion This is a unique temple in that it housed multiple shrines, was asymmetrical, and was built on several levels to accommodate the hillside. According to Greek mythology Poseidon and Athena engaged in a contest to see who would gain patronage over Athens. Poseidon struck a rock with his trident bringing forth a spring of salt water, but Athena gave the Olive tree and won the contest. The Erechtheion is supposedly built on the site of this contest and one of the shrines within it encloses the sacred spring that Poseidon created. Another shrine is dedicated to a legendary king of Athens, Erechiheus. During his lifetime the goddess Demeter instructed thePorch of the maidens Athenians in the agricultural arts. And it was within this building that the venerable wooden cult statue of Athena was kept.

Architecturally the most famous part of this temple is the Porch of the Maidens. On this porch the columns have been carved as maidens. You will notice that the artist created elaborate hairstyles that fell down the necks of the maidens allowing him to strengthen that weakest part of the statues so that they could hold up under the weight of the building.



The Parthenon is the most imposing structure on the Acropolis and is often a symbol of ancient Greece, representing the height of their culture. It’s form is still an icon for democratic values and independent thought and has been copied throughout the western world.

The Parthenon is dedicated to Athena and is an excellent example of the Doric order. The sculptural decorations around the Parthenon follow the same political and ideological themes: the triumph of  Greece over Persia, the preeminence of Athens over the other

recreated interior of the Parthenon

recreated interior of the Parthenon

city-states, and the triumph of enlightenment over despotism and barbarism.

Around the pediment there were sculptures set on deep shelves and held in place with metal pins. The west pediment told the story of the contest between Athena and Poseidon. The east pediment shows the birth of Athena, fully grown and clad in armor, from the brow of her father, Zeus.

In the center Cella of the temple is the statue of Athena, standing 40 feet high and made of gold and ivory. The Doric frieze on the exterior of the building was decorated with 92 metopes. There were fourteen on each end, and 32 along each side. All of these reliefs depicted legendary battles.

Frieze from the Parthenon

Frieze from the Parthenon

On the inside of the temple there was an Ionic frieze that extend for 525 feet and told the story of the festival that took place every 4 years as the women of the city presented Athena with a new peplos.

When visualizing the Parthenon and other Greek statues and temples it is important to remember that much of the building and sculptures would have been brightly painted leaving an entirely different impression.

Over the centuries the Parthenon has been used for many different things., among them a Christian church, an Islamic mosque (at which time a spinneret was added), and a Turkish munitions storage facility. It was in this last usage that the Parthenon became a ruin. Having survived in tact into the 1600 there was a war going on between the Turks and the Venetians. The Venetians were shooting cannonballs onto the Acropolis and happened to hit the munitions being stored in the Parthenon…turning the Parthenon into a ruin overnight.

Greek Sculpture in the round.

More information for my Art class.  I’ve had to pick and choose which pieces to include here, so these are representative of the different periods of Greek scupture.  There were so many beautiful and moving sculptures to choose from, each with their own stories.  We covered more in class, but these are the ones you will be tested on.

Kroisos (Kouros)

Kroisos (Kouros)

During the archaic period Greek Sculpture followed a set of rigid guidelines, not all that different from the Egyptians.  The Kouros were life size or larger freegreek-art-41 standing sculptures of nude young men.  They were made from either wood, terra-cotta or white marble and were generally presented mid stride and were brightly painted.  The Kouros have been found in both graveyards and lining the way into a sanctuary.   Some believe that the youths may have been famous athletes, others that the figures were symbolic of fertility and the continuity of the family.

One of the identifying features of these statues is the Archaic smile.  It is a characteristic close lipped smile used to enliven the expressions of the figures.

Unlike earlier statues where the clothing gave clues as to the social class and

Peplos Kore

Peplos Kore

position of the person be honored, the nudity of these statues removes them from a specific time, place, or class.  While similar to the Egyptians these figures are more lifelike presented with greater anatomical accuracy.  Their massive limbs and torsos suggest heroic strength and on the bases of some there were engravings that advised the viewer to stop, remember and emulate the noble qualities.

The corresponding female statues were always shown clothed and were called kore.  It is believed they probably represented deities, priestesses, or nymphs.  Nymphs were young female immortals who waited upon the gods.

This is the Peplos Kore, so named because of the distinctive drape of cloth, usually of wool, that is folded over her bodice and pinned at the shoulders.  This figure once wore a metal crown and earrings and still has traces of the paint that once covered it’s surface.

When the Persians sacked the city of Athens in 480 BC many of the statues were broken and left as debris.  Later the Acropolis was built on top of the rubble.  Later excavations have revealed many of the abandoned statues.  This Kore was one of these forgotten pieces.

The Discus Thrower

The Discus Thrower

During the classical period sculpture changed dramatically.  Although sculptures still used a canon of proportions the sculptures were much more lifelike and had greater individual characteristics.  Faces showed greater emotion and figures were often found in motion.  This is no small feat.  Working with heavy marble it required a great deal of skill and mathematical understanding to provide counterbalances that left these statues standing and not tipping to one side.  The discus thrower is a perfect example of the classic period of Greek sculpture in the round.  Myron was the famous Greek Sculpture of the Discus thrower.

Myron, however, did not do this sculpture in marble, but in bronze.  The Greeks discovered how to do hollow-casting with bronze which allowed a great deal more freedom than marble and soon became the medium of choice.  This choice has left us with few original Greek statues.  It was just to easy and tempting to melt down the statues and reuse the bronze.  Fortunately the Romans often made marble copies of the works before they were melted down.  What has survived of the discus thrower are Roman copies and not the original.

In the discus thrower Myron caught the athlete as he poised to unwind and propel the discus.  While Myron

Riace Warrior

Riace Warrior

was greatly admired for this work it is interesting that he was just as famous in his day for another sculpture that did not survive, a bronze of a cow.

The Riace Warriors are two bronze statues that have survived.  The warriors were found at the bottom of the ocean and meticulous conservators have worked to restore them to their original conditions.  They provide an interesting peek into the Greek mindset.  The body is an idealized, heroic leader/warrior whose youthfulness is belied by his more mature face.  The face is that of an older man who has acquired wisdom and experience.  These advantages of youth and experience are brought together in one work.  The lifelikeness of the statue was enhanced by the addition of eyeballs made of stone and colored glass.  The eyelashes and eyebrows were made of separately cast individual strips of bronze, and the lips and nipples were done in copper.  There is plating along the teeth that suggest they were done in silver.

Aphrodite of Knidos, Praxiteles

Aphrodite of Knidos, Praxiteles

This next figure of Aphrodite was done by the Greek sculptor Praxiteles.  He created the statue for the city of Knidos.  This work is considered seminal because it is the first time we know of that the Greeks did a public statue like this of a woman in the nude.  Although nudity was expected and admired for male statues it had been considered a sign of low character in women.

This piece however won wide acceptance and viewers of the day found the statue to be of such enchanting beauty that it was considered a public model of positive moral values.  The story is told that Aphrodite herself came down to view the statue and upon seeing it exclaimed, “Where did Praxiteles see me naked?”  This was a favorite statue among the Romans and hundreds of copies were made, with more than 50 surviving to today.

The Hellenistic Period in Greek art shows a drastic change as pieces show extreme

Gallic Chieftain killing his wife.

Gallic Chieftain killing his wife.

expressions of pain, stress, anger, or despair.   Not all works during this period were like the three I’ve chosen to include here.  Some combined these elements with the classical elements.  You will notice that the artists is trying elicit a specific emotional reponse from the viewer, this was characteristic of Hellenistic art.  This movement started in Pergamon in Asia Minor.

In this first work we see one of the works done as part of a group commemorating the Greek victory over the Gauls.  The Greeks admired the heroism of the Gauls and sought to arouse the viewers admiration and pity for his subjects.  In this work we have a chieftain killing his wife and himself.  This was originally part of a group of statues on a raised dias that could be viewed from all sides.

Laocoon and His sons

Laocoon and His sons

This next work was inspired by the story of Laocoon.  During the Trojan war, the priest,  Laocoon warned the Trojans not to trust the gift of the Trojan horse, that it was a trick designed to bring the enemy into the city.  The gods who were on the sides of the Greeks during the war wanted to retaliate against Laocoon for his warning.  They sent a sea creature to kill him and his sons as the wondered along the shoreline.

This work was meant to be viewed from the front and many historians believe this is actually an original Greek sculpture and not a Roman copy.  The work shows the anguish of Laocoon as he struggles to free himself and his children.

This last work is the famous Nike, or goddess of victory.  Originally

Nike of Samothrace

Nike of Samothrace

seen descending from the prow of a ship this sculpture shows the goddess as she descends against an ocean breeze.  Her arm which has been lost (although pieces have been recovered) would have had her right arm coming up to cup her mouth as she shouted out the victory.   The original piece was fittingly part of a war memorial.  Feeling the movement and power of the piece viewers are struck by it’s size and beauty.  The wings provide a backward thrust that balances the forward motion of the body.  The image of the body underneath the clothing is clearly seen showing the skill of the artist.

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