Substantive Education

May 28, 2009

Roman Art History Part 3

Filed under: Ancient Rome,Art — kbagdanov @ 2:15 am
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Last but not least.  Here is the end of the pieces that will be on the test.  They all should be familiar to you students.

Another famous Arch is the Arch of Constantine.  I’m going to just quote the description of this arch from Art History by Stokstad cause it’s perfect.

Constantine's Arch

Constantine's Arch

“In Rome, next to the Colosseum, the Senate erected a memorial to Constantine’s victory over Maxentius, a huge, triple arch that dwarfs the nearby Arch of Titus.  It’s three barrel-vaulted passageways are flanked by columns on high pedestals and surmounted by a large attic story with elaborate sculptural decorations and a traditional laudatory inscription.  The “triumphal insignia’ were in part looted from earlier monuments made for Constantine’s illustrious predecessors, the Good Emperors Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius.  The reused items visually transferred the old Roman virtues of strength, courage and piety associated with these earlier emperors to Constantine.  New reliefs made for the arch recount the story of his victory and symbolize his power and generosity.”

A new style of art was instituted with Constantine. “This style, with its emphasis on authority, ritual and symbolic meaning rather than outward form, was adopted by the emerging Christian church.  Constantinian art thus bridges the art of the Classical world and the art of the Middle ages.”

Constantine also commissioned a colossal, 30 foot statue of himself.  This statue was on a wooden frame.  The sculptor carved thRoman Art 88 head, arms, and legs out of marble and then used bronze for the drapery of the fabric.  All that remains of the statue is the marble pieces.  This statue was supposedly used as a stand-in for the emperor whenever the conduct of business legally required his presence.   The sculpture combines traditional Roman practices of portraying people as they truly looked, with his heavy jaw, hooked nose, and jutting chin….with a rigid symmetrical simplicity that illicits power and imperial dignity.  There is no hint of frailty or imperfection in the sculpture.


Roman Art History Part 2

Filed under: Ancient Rome,Art — kbagdanov @ 1:38 am
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Roman Mosaic, Here a floor after a dinner party

Roman Mosaic, Here a floor after a dinner party

So here is the continuation of pieces for the art history test.

Mosaics were used by the Romans to decorate floors, ceilings, walls, patios, and public buildings.  This mosaic is the floor in a Roman Villa.  It is supposed to show the debris that would be on the floor at the end of a dinner party.  The bones and shellfish give indications of the lavish feast that has been served and are a reminder of the homeowners wealth.  You will notice the detail of the mosaic work including shadows and a little mouse scurrying in for a taste. Mosaics could be of such fine detail that from a distance it was hard to distinguish them from paintings.

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre

Roman Theaters were generally built into hillsides to make construction of the seating areas easier.  The theatres were built into semi-circles much like the earlier Greek theatres.  One of the main differences is that the Greek theatres stage area would be open to whatever was behind the theater –  such as a grove of olive trees, the sea, or mountains.  The Romans, on the other hand, built a back to their theaters similar to what we do today.  This area would have several places for actors to enter and exit.  There were also many alcoves and niches around the theater where statues of current leaders were displayed.  Roman theaters similar to this one were built throughout the Roman empire and many were still being used into the 1980’s although most have closed in an effort to preserve the sites.

Roman Coliseum

Roman Coliseum

Easily recognizable is the Roman Coliseum.  This structure was so named because in ancient times there was a giant statue of Colossus next to the arena.  In Latin the word arena means sand, and since sand was spread on the floor of the coliseum to soak up the blood of combatants theses structures came to be called arenas.

The Coliseum is an outstanding example of the Roman use of arches.  Here we see three levels of arches with a fourth solid level on the top.  Between each arch is a column.  On the first level the columns are of the Doric Order, on the second level the Ionic Order, and on the third the Corinthian Order.  The top level had niches

Interior of the Roman Coliseum

Interior of the Roman Coliseum

where statues were placed.  The inside of the Coliseum was set up much like our stadiums are today, with arched tunnels leading spectators into the stadium.

A floor was placed over a maze of rooms at the base of the stadium.  Here you can see what the Coliseum looks like without the floor in place.  These rooms were used to house the wild animals that would be used in the games.  There were also areas for the gladiators, doctors, weight rooms, etc.  Lavish games were hosted by the leaders of Rome to garners support and favor with the general population.  The Coliseum could also be flooded to stage mock sea battles.

The Coliseum is an oval that measures 615 feet by 510 feet and is is 159 feet high.  The opening ceremonies to dedicate the Coliseum lasted 100 days and according to some counts 9,000 wild animals and 2,000 gladiators died for the amusement of the spectators. Unfortunately much of the Coliseum was dismantled in subsequent generations for materials.



One of the other amazing architectural feats of the Romans is the Pantheon.   This is a temple to ‘all the gods’.  Originally the Pantheon stood on a podium and was approached by stairs from a square with colonnades.  Passing centuries have buried the podium and stairs.   The entrance to the Pantheon resembles a Greek temple but then the porch gives way to a massive rotunda with 20 foot-thick walls that rise 75 feet in height.  These walls support a dome that is 143 feet in diameter and 143 feet from the floor to the summit.

In the center of the rotunda is an oculus, or central opening that

Ceiling of the Pantheon

Ceiling of the Pantheon

allowed in sunlight (and rain).  This massive structure was made possible by a very important invention of the Romans…cement.  Cement allowed the Romans to construct large buildings cheaply and efficiently all over their empire.  Once constructed, concrete buildings could then have a facade of marble, stucco or other material attached.  In the case of the Pantheon the use of concrete allowed the builders to make the ceiling out of sunken panels or coffers.  This reduced the weight of the ceiling considerably.  Marble veneers, architectural details,  richly colored marble, columns, pilasters, and entablatures hide the concrete work inside of the Pantheon.

Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus

The Romans effectively used a simple design of square against circle to create a sophisticated design that imparts of sense of awe and of being able to commune with the gods.  Maybe this is why in later centuries the Pantheon was converted into a Christian church.  It was this use of the building that helped it to survive the middle ages when most pagans structures were destroyed in an effort to rid the city of their influence.

Another unique feature of Roman architecture is the Monumental Sculpture.  These often took the form of the Triumphal Arch.  These freestanding arches commemorated a military victory and were part of the victory celebration.  Here we see the Arch of Titus in Rome.  After Titus died and was deified his brother commissioned the construction of this arch as a memorial of Titus’s conquest and defeat of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

The arch is constructed of concrete and covered in marble.  Originally the arch served as the base for a statue of a horse and charitot driver that was 50 feet high.  The reliefs on the arch depict Titus’s capture of Jerusalem.  This capture ended a campaign to crush a rebellion of the Jews in Palestine.  The Romans sacked and destroyed the sacred temple and carried off it’s sacred treasures to display in a triumphal procession through Rome.  One portion of the relief shows Titus with an eagle carrying him skyward to join the gods, an acknowedgement that Titus was deified, or declared a god at his death.

May 27, 2009

Roman Art History Test

For my Art History students, here are the pieces that will be on your test and just a few notes to jog your memory.  Hopefully you will know more details.  As a note, I’ve tried to use pics that are public domain, but it is sometimes hard to determine and/or get permission.  I’d sure like input from anyone on how people handle using images on the Internet of things like art pieces…it seems everyone has the same ones…..Are there guidelines somewhere?

In no particular order on this post here are the pieces you will need to be familiar with.

Bronze of Romulus and Remus and the she-wolf.  Etruscan

Bronze of Romulus and Remus and the she-wolf. Etruscan

A Bronze piece from the Etruscans.  Legend has it that Rome was founded by twin boys Romulus and Remus.  The details vary but the basic story is that the boys father was king, their uncle overthrew him, and then ordered the boys to be killed.  They were abandoned by the river, adopted by a wolf who raised them as her cubs.  They were then discovered by a shepherd who had no children of his own and so he and his wife raised the boys.  They learned of their royal birth, attacked their uncle, restored their father to his kingdom, and then set out to make their own kingdoms.  The twins settled in on the Palatine Hills and here there are several stories, but basically, as with their father and uncle before them,  they were not capable of sharing and so contest and battles ensue leaving Romulus the victor and Remus dead.  Romulus then goes on to found the city of Rome.

An Etruscan town

An Etruscan town

This is an example of Etruscan architecture.  By taking note of the car in the bottom of the picture you can see the size and grandeur of the cities built by the Etruscan’s.  Also you are given an example of an arch.  The arch will become a trademark of Roman architecture.  This wall that surrounds the city provided security and also told visitors of the might of the people who dwelt there.

Model of an Etruscan temple

Model of an Etruscan temple

This model of an Etruscan temple shows an interesting mix of influences that the Romans would adapt and change to suit their own building projects.  The porch area resembles the ancient Greek temples that we have studied, although here the front steps are a small set of steps on the front of the temple as opposed the Greek style of stairs surrounding the entire porch or temple.  As with other ancient buildings the Etruscans painted their temples with bright colors.  Statuary was put on the roof and around the temple.  This temple has three cella’s, or areas that would have had a votive statue to a god or goddess within them.  Note that this part of the temple is closed, not open to someone just walking by.

Etruscan, terra-cota sarcaphogas.

Etruscan, terra-cota sarcaphogas.

This sarcophagus was made for an Etruscan.  Terra-cotta was a challenging medium to work in and demanded that it’s artist have precise control over the temperature and time as they fired items.  We can see in this piece a family enjoying an intimate moment.  There is none of the formality or obsession with the dead in this as we have observed in the Egyptians.  With the Greeks we often saw expressions of grief and loss…while in this piece we seem to have a fond remembrance of the deceased.  We are meant to celebrate their life.

Aullus Metellus, The Orator

Aullus Metellus, The Orator

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.

Note the differences between this statue and similar Greek statues.  While both cultures made statues of their leaders to instill confidence there are marked differences.  Most notable at first glance, our Roman is clothed.  Secondly, he wears shoes, going barefoot was a sign that the statue was of a god.  Also, our orator appears to have been a real person.  The Romans generally presented their leaders with recognizable features as they appeared in life.  The Greeks presented idealized statues of their leaders showing them as gods with perfect proportions, bodies, and strength.

This piece was done during the Republican period of Rome when leaders in the Senate ruled (ideally) through reason and with the support of the people.  The Senate was the governing body and the ability to speak eloquently was paramount to success.

Caesar Augustus, Augustus Caesar, Octavian

Caesar Augustus, Augustus Caesar, Octavian

In contrast this bronze of Caesar Augustus was done at the beginning of the Imperial period of Romes History.  Augustus would become the first emperor of Rome and would make use of sculpture as a form of propaganda.  In this work Augustus is presented in the same pose as the orator, illustrating that he is a civilized ruler who rules with reason and the support of the senate.  But there are also marked differences between this work and the one above.

We see a more idealized portrayal of Augustus here, he is presented in his youth as the height of his strength with a calm, sure expression.  He is wearing his armor to show his skills as a general.  His feet are barefoot, a nod to his deification in later life.  At his feet rides cupid on a dolphin.  This is meant to remind the viewer that Augustus claimed to be descended from Venus. (Remember, Cupid is Venus’s son.)

This work was placed in the entry way of Livia’s villa.  Livia was Augustus’s wife and this statue would have greeted guests as they entered the villa.

Bust of Caraculla

Bust of Caraculla

Contrast the previous two works with this bust of the emperor Caracalla.  As Augustus had before him, Caracalla is seeking to send a message to his people as to what kind of a man he is.

Here we see a man who will be ruling with an iron fist.  He is hard, cold, and will do what needs doing.  He ruled during a time of anarchy and unrest with a constant turnover in leaders.  He had to be constantly vigilant against would be usurpers to his power.  All of this is reflected in his face. This is not a man who is going to tolerate any dissension in the ranks.

Due to the length of this post I’m going to have to do it in parts.  Part two should post shortly.

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 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.

February 10, 2009

Greek Architecture Part 1

More info. for my Art Classes. This will probably take several posts to get through the Architecture…greece-5

Early Greek temples were made of mud and bricks with wood roofs. They had a simple rectangular structure with a sheltered porch area. We have had to piece together their structure and look by ruins, descriptions, and small ceramic models. This model of a temple was found in the Sanctuary of Hera. Notice the geometric design on the steeply pitched roof. The main room was called a cella or naos. There would have been a statue of the god or goddess in this area that the temple was dedicated to. There was a small reception area that preceded the main hall that functioned as the temples vestibule.

Greek temples grew in both size and complexity. Stone and marble began to replace the mud, bricks, and wood. Of course using stone and marble created problems with weight and the designs of temples had to be worked out carefully so that the columns and walls could support the roof and the decorative architectural elements that began to be added on. greek-8

A number of standardized plans began to develop. Builders experimented with the elevations of temples..or the proportions and appearance of columns and entablatures. During the archaic period two distinct designs developed, the Ionic Order and the Doric Order. The Corinthian Order would come later and, at first, be used largely in interior areas.

The Temple of Hera (The wife of Zeus) is one of the earliest standing temples. It was built in about 550 BC. (Actually there are two Temples of Hera, built right next to one another about 100 years apart…they are generally referred to as Hera I and Hera II.)

Hera I is a large, rectangular temple with a post-and-lintel structure. There is a stepped foundation that supports a peristyle. A peristyle is a row of columns that surround the cella (main area) on all four sides. The single peristyle plan is also called a peripteral temple. See figures E through G. Both Hera I and the Parthenon are examples of a peripteral temple.

Hera is also a Doric Temple, meaning it used the Doric Order, or set of proportions in it’s construction. Working with stone and marble presents several difficulties because of the weight of the stones. The Greeks found that columns of a certain diameter and height could support the rest of the structure. In general, the Doric order has shorter, fatter columns than the other orders and is the oldest of the Orders. The columns sat directly on the floor of the temple and had a very plain capital. Each successive order would elaborate on these basics, adding more decoration, more heights, and thinning the columns.

Let’s take a look at each of the parts of the temple so that we can compare the orders and look at some examples.

The columns is generally what we think of as being distinctive of each Order. The columns are an upright support hat extends from a base at the bottom to a capital at the top — much like the feet, body, and head of the human figure. The central part is known as the shaft. The shaft is not one huge solid piece, but several drum shaped pieces that are stacked onto a metal pole. This provides flexible support, allowing these works of art to survive time and earthquakes. The capital was often a stylized representation of natural forms, such as animal horns or plant leaves.

You can see the basic parts of a column below. A Doric Column did not have a pedestal, but sat directly on the floor of the temple, or the stylobate. Greek temples generally had stepped foundation and the top level, which was also the floor of the temple was the stylobate. The entire stepped foundation was called the stereobate.

The columns support a horizontal element…hence the post-and-lintel construction. This element is called the entablature and is divided up into three different parts: the architrave, the frieze, and the cornice.
At each end there was a triangular gable called the pediment.
greece-8In Hera I you can see the classic components of a Doric Temple. The fluted shafts of the columns that rest without any bases on the stylobate and the very plain capitals made up of necking transition to a cushionlike echinus and then a square abacus on the top.
There is a three part entablature that has a plain flat band that is the architrave, it is topped by a decorative band called a frieze. In the Doric order the frieze has flat areas called metopes that alternate with projecting blocks that have three vertical lines on them called triglyphs. This part of the entablature were usually painted, or carved and then painted in bright colors.
The Doric column is only about four times as high as the diameter of the column. This design creates a feeling of stability and permanence. The columns are wider the middle than at the tops or bottoms. Hera I has an uneven number of columns and there is a central row of columns that supported the roof, and divided the main cella in two. This suggests that there were two deities worshiped here, possible Hera and her mate Zeus…or Hera and Poseidon, patron god of the city.
Here is some additional info and a summary from Greek Architecture for Dummies.

Doric: Heavy simplicity

The oldest, simplest, and most massive of the three Greek orders is the Doric, which was applied to temples beginning in the 7th century B.C. As shown in Figure 2, columns are placed close together and are often without bases. Their shafts are sculpted with concave curves called flutes. The capitals are plain with a rounded section at the bottom, known as the echinus, and a square at the top, called the abacus. The entablature has a distinctive frieze decorated with vertical channels, or triglyphs. In between the triglyphs are spaces, called metopes, which were commonly sculpted with figures and ornamentation. The frieze is separated from the architrave by a narrow band called the regula. Together, these elements formed a rectangular structure surrounded by a double row of columns that conveyed a bold unity. The Doric order reached its pinnacle of perfection in the Parthenon.

February 6, 2009

What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed? Michaelangelo

Filed under: Ancient Greece,Art,Fine Art — kbagdanov @ 5:33 am
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Just a heads up, I’ll be posting many nude male sculptures over the next week for my Art class. If you’d rather skip that then please come back in a week or two. We are studying Ancient Greek art and are moving into sculpture. No way around it, the ancient Greeks were enthralled with the beauty of the male body.

Having said that, I thought I would share some more quotes from Michaelangelo. He was a flawed, complex, gifted, man who has left us a legacy of faith and beauty. Having seen some of his works in person I am awe. These quotes give me much to contemplate.

Carving is easy, you just go down to the skin and stop.michelangelo-creation

Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come.

I am still learning.

I live and love in God’s peculiar light.

I live in sin, to kill myself I live; no longer my life my own, but sin’s; my good is given to me by heaven, my evil by myself, by my free will, of which I am deprived.

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.

If we have been pleased with life, we should not be displeased with death, since it comes from the hand of the same master.



Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.

Many believe – and I believe – that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love for God and I put all my hope in Him.

My soul can find no staircase to Heaven unless it be through Earth’s loveliness.

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.

What do you despise? By this you are truly known.

January 16, 2009

Greek Vases Part 2

Continuing with our discussion of Greek Vase painting…See Part 1 if you are lost.


Greek Vase Priam painter

Not all subjects used for ceramics were gods and heroes. This Hydra or water jug was painted by an artist scholars have named the Priam Painter. In this work we get a glimpse of everyday life. Most women in ancient Greece were confined to their homes and so the daily trip to the water well or fountain was a welcome event. This was a time to gather, see friends, and swap gossip. On this vase we see a group of women with storage jars very like the one they are painted onto. The women are getting water for their homes. The painting has a very geometric pattern overlying it with the Doric columns and detailed boarders. There is a fine balance of vertical, horizontal, and rounded elements. The woman and jugs provide a contrast adding energy and life to the painting. The women’s skin has been painted white, a common convention for female figures that was also used by the Egyptians and Minoans. A bit of reddish purple paint has been to create details on the architecture and clothing.

At the same time the Priam Painter and others were creating their black-figure wares, some painters turned to another process called red-figure decoration. As its name suggests, this was a reversal of the previous method. The figures were now red set against a black background. The dark slip was painted on as the background around the outlined figures which were left unpainted. Details were then drawn on the figures with a fine brush dipped in the slip. The result was greater freedom and flexibility of painting rather than engraving the details. Artists quickly adopted this new method. One of the best known red-figure painters was an Athenian named Euphronios who was particularlygreek-sarpedon-vase known for his study of human anatomy.

On this piece done in 515 BC the painting is done on a Calyx Krater. The vase is called that because it’s handles curve up like the flower, calyx. Kraters were used to mix wine and water, the favored drink of the Greeks. They could also be used to cool wine down. The wine would be placed in a smaller vase and then cool water put into the Krater and the wine was then set in the cool water. The idea is similar to our placing champagne in a bucket of ice to chill it.

On this Krater we see the death of Sarpedon. According to the Illiad, written by Homer, Sarpedon was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman. He was killed by the Greek warrior Patroclus during the war with the Trojans. In this depiction we see Hypnos (sleep) and Thanatos (death) carrying Sarpedon from the battlefield. We see Hermes, who is the messenger of the gods and is identified by his winged hat and staff, ready to guide our warrior to the netherworld…another of Hermes responsibilities.

We see once again the importance to the Athenians of balance. In this composition the vertical and horizontal lines take the shape of the vase into account. There are fine details in the clothing, musculature, and faces of each figure.


Greek Vase Pan Painter

We now enter into the Classical Period of Greek Art. Over this brief span of about 160 years the Greeks would establish the ideal of beauty that we still strive for today. The classical period is defined by two events in history, at it’s beginning, the defeat of the Persians in 479 BC, and at the end, the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. The speed at which art changed during this period is extraordinary. Here we will just be examining the vases of the classical period…in future posts we will examine the architecture of the period and the sculptures.

During the fifth century artists continued to work with red-figure painting. Among the outstanding artists of this period was the Pan Painter. He seemed to be inspired by the less heroic stories of the gods. In this bell krater we see Artemis slaying Actaeon. Artemas, the goddess of the hunt, was bathing and Actaeon happened upon the goddess. She was so outraged she caused Actaeon’s dogs to mistake him for a stag and attack him. Artemis then shoots the fallen hunter herself. We can see the slender and graceful figures have been painted in with delicate details.


Greek Vase - classic period

In the late classical period artists were using the white ground method which was far more complex and involved painting the vases with tempura after firing. Unfortunately none of the murals painted during this period remain, although we have descriptions of them written down. Most of the vases made in this manner were used for non-utilitarian purposes, for example funeral vases. Funeral vases were used for pouring liquids during religious rituals. Most convey sadness and a depiction of the dead person being honored.The paint was to fragile to put on a water jug or something that would be handles regularly. In this example we see two women, the one girl, probably a servant moving a chair.

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