Painting and sculpture in ancient Greece

Venus de Milo
© - ARJ
2nd front century J. - C. Museum of Louvre

One locates the rise and the golden age of the art of ancient Greece between approximately 1 ' 000 front J. - C. and I er front century J. - C. , in continental Greece and in the colonies of the Eastern Mediterranean, like in the south of Italy, in Sicily and in the Aegean Sea.
The first date refers to the transitional period which follows the decline of civilizations Minoan and Mycenaean; the decline of Greek art intervenes on dates different from one Hellenistic kingdom to another, with the liking of the Roman conquest, to which the kingdom lagide is the last to succumb, after the battle of Actium, in 31 av. J. - C.
The Doric orders, ionic and Corinthian, which will leave a deep print in the history of architecture, appear through the Greek monuments as well religious as public. The sculpture, largely marked at its beginnings by the hieratism of the Egyptian statuary, evolves to a naturalism with the softened forms, of which the controlled proportions will constitute guns of the beauty to which Western art will frequently refer.
Pictorial art, as for him, arrived to us in two forms, monumental painting and painting on pottery. The vestiges of the first type remained rather rare until the discovery of paintings of the tombs lycians of Poseidônia (Paestum Roman) and of the tombs Macedonians, so that the archeologists were pressed a long time primarily on the potteries to reconstitute the evolution of Greek painting. Greek art will give place, as of the Roman epoch, with many copies, which are sometimes of invaluable testimonies of disappeared works, and, through the Italian artists, will exert a considerable influence on the rise of the art and the architecture of the Rebirth.  

The geometrical period

VIIIe front century J. - C.
The beginnings of the age of iron in Greece coincide with the preexistent decline of civilizations in this area. The material heritage of the new civilization is rather limited: there remains only little of vestiges of the monumental architecture, mainly represented by primitive temples, without any mural or sculpture of important size, rare works of this type being, essentially, of the statuettes out of bronze - melted, then worked with hammered -, out of terra cotta and ivory, dedications, ex-votos or offerings funerary. On the other hand, one finds in abundance of the potteries of great quality, especially in Attic. This period holds besides its name of the geometrical reasons decorating ceramics. The decorations in stringcourses, drawn in black or reddish on clear, greyish or beige clay bottom, draw from a vast repertory of meanders, swatiska and rafters. The animal figures gradually invade the abstracted decorations, and the human figures appear the VIII E century in the form of silhouettes stylized, to dancers, processions of riders and tanks, scenes of combat, or men and women in the attitude of the lament, as on the vase of Dipylon (VIII E century), large ballot box originally used as monument.

The antiquated period

VIIe - Life front century J. - C.
Sometimes one gives at the beginning of the antiquated period the name of “orientalizing phase”, because of the marked influence of the Middle East on the representational arts. Polishes, or city-State, comes from to maturity during the antiquated period. Via colonization and trade, the cities open with Egyptian work hard stone and decorative arts of Assyrie and Mésopotamie.  
The Eastern reasons, probably borrowed from the ironwork and the textiles come from the East, give rise to a pictorial style which will supplant the geometrical style in ceramics decorations. Thus the geometrical vases, on which human and animal representations remain subordinate to the general form, lose their abstract character. The human figures intervene in compositions telling a history, often a famous episode of Greek mythology, inscriptions painted on the vase delivering the identity of the heroes and the divinities represented.  
During VII E and VI E century, Corinth, the main thing center manufacture of ceramics, export in great quantity various types of potteries, since miniature containers intended to receive oil scented to vases of big size. In the middle of the Life century, Athens will however supplant it in this role.
The Athenian potters are tested with various techniques, such that the silhouette, the lines incised and the use of the white for the painting of the vases. They are gradually put to use the process “with black figures”, borrowed from the Corinthian animalist style. In this art of the silhouette, figures are painted in black on clear bottom, and the details drawn by incision in the black slip, using a frayed instrument. The vases with black figures decorate scenes drawn as well from the mythology as of the daily life. Many artists excel in this style, adapted particularly well to a decorative support such as ceramics. Several of them sign their vases, like Clitias, painter of the François Vase (towards 570). As for Exékias, the Master of the black figure, it paints delicate scenes, sometimes impressed melancholy, on terra cotta plates, vases and amphoras, such that representing Achille and Ajax playing dice (towards 550-540).  
The end of the antiquated period, towards 530, sees appearing the process “with red figures”. In this technique, the bottom of the representation, and not the figure in itself, are coated with a black glaze. The figures remain color of clay, the details being painted, and not incised, on this clear bottom. This technique gives to the painters more a big leeway to refine returned anatomy and prospect to them.  

The monumental marble and limestone sculpture makes its appearance in Greece during the antiquated period. If a school of sculpture known as “dedalic” is still attested at the end of the VI E century, this one is replaced soon by a style marked by the influence of the Egyptian sculpture, of which there exists already a long tradition to the VII E century. However, whereas the Egyptian sculpture hardly evolves, in the one century space the Greek sculptors strip his stylization the original, frontal and hieratic type, statue in foot, a leg ahead and the hands stuck to the body, to confer naturalism of returned and subtlety to him of modelled. This kind of figure, which the Beautiful young man of Critios illustrates (towards 490-480), commonly called kouros (“young man”), is represented naked. Its female equivalent, the korê, is generally taken on the rich draperies raised by incisions and colors. Colors also recover the hair and the features of the face as well of the female statues as male. According to any probability, these figures do not represent a divinity and are not either portraits, but rather of the ideal images of the female or male body.  
The large artists of the period also create other types of sculptures; the Rider of Rampin (towards 560) - preserved at the museum of the Acropolis of Athens, the head being in Louvre, Paris - is an antiquated example of a composition combining the animal with the man. The sculptures carried out in relief or round bump, for the ornament of the stone temples, are even more complex. The first pediments indicate a predilection for the monsters; a limestone statue appearing a monster in three heads (towards 560-550), whose bright colors were surprisingly well preserved, decorated one of these pediments. The scenes of combat, like those of the pediments of the temple of Aphaia on the island of Egine, carved at the end of the Life century or the beginning of Ve century, are essential little by little. Are thus decorated scenes of combat the planks of the marble treasures dedicated to the sanctuary of Apollo in the insular city-State of Siphnos (towards 525). Following the example of the statues in foot, these reliefs present contours to surprising clearness, characteristic of the antiquated sculpture.  
The beginnings of the monumental sculpture coincide with those of monumental architecture, innovation of the antiquated period. It is during this period that the doric style and the ionic style are constituted, which will reach their apogee in Attic in Ve century.  

The traditional period

Ve - IVe front century J. - C.
The tendencies outlined in all the artistic fields during the previous centuries arrive to maturity for the traditional period which starts with the narrow direction of the term with the medic wars, i.e. at the beginning of the O C front century J. - C., and finishes with the death of Alexandre the Large one (323 av. J. - C.). Contrary at the time the preceding one, the Greek artists are not inspired any more of the artistic models their neighbors. On the contrary, they influence them: they leave to work for Persian monarchies, manufacture jewels for the Scythians (today south of Russia), and direct the evolution of arts autochtones in Italy, in particular in Etrurie and in the Rome young person.  

Athens is the artistic capital of traditional Greece: it is distinguished from the other cities by its richness. Its political supremacy enables him to play a part of defender of arts, comparable with that of the rich patrons.  
Concept of art for art, unknown factor to the O C front century J. - C., starts to be born, and the artists, who leave anonymity (the authors of Antiquity frequently evoke the reputation of such or such creator), find in the continuation of their career a personal satisfaction which stimulates them as much as the external orders. However, in the political context and artistic of traditional Greece, the artist remains a craftsman who answers, generally, at the request of customers; he is not the social giant who he will become in the history of the Occident.
The artist is with the service of the community. He exerts his functions in two quite different spheres. First of all, it decorates with the ustensils or manufactures jewels, for the personal use of the citizens. In this field, the series production is practically unknown; it is rare that an artist second-rate tries to imitate techniques or styles which exceed its capacities. Thus, even the most modest works have a “accuracy” which is explained by the adequacy between the function of the object, materials and the techniques used, and the talent of the creator.  
The artist also plays a crucial role in the public sphere: he contributes to the construction and the decoration of the temples, buildings intended to serve or alleviate the gods. These religious monuments are extremely important for the city: they enable him to post its pride and its richness, its force and its insurance. The artist also takes part in the realization of the courts or other administrative buildings. He carries out also statues which are exposed in the religious monuments, commemorative or funerary: they make sometimes use of ex-votos, private or public, in the sanctuaries.  
The tackled subjects change little compared to the antiquated time: animalist art is still present, but it is especially the representation of the men and the gods who holds the attention of the artists. The monstrous creatures, as for them, disappear or gain in probability.  

The first period
Even if Athens were by the center of Greek art, it is not in this city that is born the traditional style. During thirty years which follow the medic wars, no major building, no monument is carved there. It is in other areas of Greece that the art develops which makes following the antiquated style. Towards 480 approximately front J. - C., the sculptors give up the rigid symmetry of their couros firmly camped on their legs and are directed towards studies of young people upright, with the slackened installations, the weight related to the bent leg, the slightly tilted arms, chest and the head. The life suddenly impregnates figures remained, up to now, solidified; new fields open on the representation of the action, the rest and the emotion. The sculptors represent the gods with the image of the men and conversely. It is besides more the Man whom the artists seek to reach that a particular individual: it is rare that the statues illustrate an age or racial characters. This step explains why one speaks in art history “about traditional idealization”.  
The beginnings of the classic art find an expression led in the sculptures of the doric temple of Zeus, in Olympie, completed in 456 av. J. - C. Buried at the end of Antiquity following a flood or, for some of them, re-used later on to build walls, they are relatively well preserved. The compositions of the two pediments and the métopes reigning on the interior gantries are characteristic of the “severe” style known as of the beginnings of the O C century, marked by rather simple rigid forms, heavy draperies, the research of the emotion and characterization like by contrasts of texture and age. On the pediment is building, are illustrated the preparations of the race of tank between Pélops and Onomaos; Zeus occupies the center of it. On the western pediment, Apollon attends a violent one fights between the men and the centaurs which remove young girls at the time of the weddings of Pirithoos. The twelve métopes interior of the temple represent work of Héraclès (Hercules).  
The sculptor of Olympie remains anonymous, just like the authors of the bronze charioteer of Delphes or the bronze Zeus found with broad of Artémision, who date from the same time. As bronze is easy to re-use, there remain little the major works carried out in this material. One of the essential figures of the Greek sculpture of this period is Myron, especially known for his Discobole and its group Athéna and Marsyas.  
The apogee: Phidias and Parthenon
The Parthenon represents the summit of the Greek sculpture. Its finely carved mythological figures are impressed of a serene idealism. The ionic plank recalls the procession of the great festival of Panathénées, procession of the citizens of Athens in honor of Athéna, protective goddess of the city. One of the pediments appears its birth, the other its fight with Poséidon. The subject is rather profane for a temple, but the Parthenon was a public building as much as a religious building. If the executants are obviously multiple, the design is the fact of only one artist, probably Phidias, the eminent Athenian sculptor who directs the architectural program of the Acropolis and creates for the Parthenon the colossal pertaining to worship statue chryséléphantine of Athéna.  
Other works of Phidias and its contemporaries, like Polyclète d' Argos, Alcamène, Crésilas are known only by counterparts or texts. Often, it is not even possible to identify the authors of the sculptures, as well as the date on which works were carried out. Polyclète, whose athletes are more heavily built than those of Phidias, left us a young boy tying his hair (Diadumène) and a another bearing lance (the Colorado beetle).  
The traditional sculpture with its apogee is characterized by a more flexible attitude of the human body, a balanced composition, a idealization of the features of the face and a thinning of the body. As at the time antiquated, it is in the studies of naked masculines that the artists express best this research of the ideal proportions, more important according to them than the search for a realistic representation of the bodies. However, the sculptors can also choose to carry out dressed characters. Draperies which, at the time antiquated, were returned by simple reasons for folds and zigzags are represented, at the beginning of the period traditional, by folded the more realistic, which underlines the movement. The characters gather the sides of their clothing on their knees - collecting the shades in the deep folds of the fabric - or bring back them on their chest or their legs while letting guess the lines of their body. This way of revealing the body through clothing develops during the course of Ve century, as the plank testifies some which decorates the parapet of the temple of Athéna Nike on the Acropolis.  
IVe century
Sculpture of the IV E front century J. - C. hardly tests in the field of the representation of the action or of returned clothing, but it presents some important innovations. For the first time, the sculptor grants a major place to naked female, which gains in sensuality: indeed, the rare studies carried out before introduced women to the athletic and male forms. The faces separate: they express the age and the emotions.
Praxitèle, Scopas and Lysippe are the three large sculptors of the IV E century who marked the history of Article the style of their works - original or known by the counterparts which were made by it - is easily identifiable. There also exists of other important sculptures whose authors remain unknown.  
It is known for softness, the flexibility of its naked and the grace even the languor of its figures which reveal a perfect knowledge of the human anatomy. One must to the sculptor celebrates it Aphrodite de Cnide, often copied and adapted, as well as the Apollo sauroctone of which we have only the ancient counterpart. This last work represents the young Apollo who is on the point of killing a lizard. It is an almost effeminate but completely humanized version meeting of the god with an animal with Delphes. The museum of Olympie has an Hermes holding Dionysos child in his arms, perhaps an original of the sculptor.  
He worked with the temple of Athéna Aléa, in Tégée. The statues which reached us reveal a vigorous style from where a great emotion emerges; the faces, with the deeply inserted eyes, announce Hellenistic art.  
Sculptor of second half of the IV E century, favorite of Alexandre the Large one, works out a new artistic gun: he decreases the proportion occupied by the head and breaks with the tradition of the frontal representation by not privileging any particular point of view, even in his isolated figures. Its new artistic concerns are expressed to a significant degree in Apoxyomène (or Athlete with the strigile).
Among the original sculptures of the IV E century, it is also necessary to quote those which decorated fall it from Mausole d' Halicarnasse, in Decay (the first “mausoleum”), to which the Greeks Scopas, Bryaxis, Léocharès and Timothéos would have worked. From this period go back also Déméter de Cnide sitted (British Museum, London) and they bronzes recovered with broad to the Greek coasts in wrecks: the ships which transported these treasures probably travelled towards Italy.  
Between the medium of the O C and the end of the IV E century, the sculptures of the Athenian tombs provide another lighting on the styles of this period. The rectangular steles, which generally have the form of a niche, overcome of an architectural decoration and a pediment, represent simple and enigmatic scenes, often made up of one to three figures. To the IV E century, a large number of these high reliefs express with much sobriety the major emotions of mourning. But of others scenes of battles represent. The archeologists also put at the day, in particular in the east of Greece, very beautiful stone sarcophagi of the end of the O C and the IV E century, whose sides are decorated with reliefs. Most splendid of them is the sarcophagus known as of Alexandre, found in Sidon and preserved today at Istanbul: it appears Alexandre the Large one in the combat and hunting.


The painting of vases
With the O C and IV E centuries, the painting of vases is dominated by the Athenian style with red figures and the technique over clear bottom for the funerary offerings. There also exists of other schools in the south of Italy.   The “painter of Side”, the “painter of Niobide”, the “painter of Achilles” count among those which operated the transition from the antiquated style towards the classic art. The painters of vases refine the technique of returned anatomy and enrich their palette, thus introducing the nuances. To the IV E century, the quality of painting declines very clearly; at the end of the century, the style of the red figures is given up, just like the representation of character on ceramics. The scenes painted on the vases are inspired primarily by mythology; one finds there also subjects religious and scenes of kind, but seldom of the events of the life of every day.  
The possibilities of expression of painting on vases are limited, because the entirely black bottom makes difficult the representation the depth. Also, the development of the mural fresco which makes it possible to exploit the prospect gradually relegated this technique in a position subordinate.  
No trace of the work of the painters of the traditional period, Calls, Micon, Parrhasios, Polygnote and Zeuxis, did not reach us. There remain to us only descriptions which were reported by it by contemporaries. The fresquists are famous artists, who carry out in the temples or the public buildings of vast compositions of mythological inspiration. Among the most famous works, it is necessary to quote the Bag of Troy by the Greeks or the Descent of Ulysses to the Hells, carried out in Delphes with the O C century by the Polygnote painter and whose style of composition was undoubtedly imitated by many posterior painters. The frescos are painted on a clear plaster bottom what makes it possible to the artists to exploit the shades and the prospect, then to open the way to the IV E century with the realization of works to the more realistic style. The fresquists also decorate the tombs and carry out decorations of scene, which probably represented reasons for landscapes and elementary forms of prospect. At the time, the mosaic knows yet only the rollers, and its palette remains restricted.  
The Hellenistic period

End of IVe - IIe front century J. - C.
By his conquests, Alexandre the Large one joins together the Eastern Greece and areas in a single empire, which bursts with its death in several kingdoms, of which richest and most powerful are not in Greece but in Asia Mineure (Pergame), in Syria and Egypt (the dynasty of Ptolémées in Alexandria). At the time Hellenistic and until the Roman domination, the courses of these new monarchies become large cultural and artistic hearths. The Greek cities are found then frequently in position of poor relations, respected but dependant on the gifts or the patronage of remote monarchs.
It is difficult to define local styles associated at a court or another because the communications become increasingly easy and the artists very often move. Moreover, no major innovation intervenes in the artistic field since the problems of technique, anatomy and composition all were practically solved before the IV E century. In fact, the artists especially seek to explore the possibilities there that offers the representational art to be able to express more subtle feelings or stronger emotions.
The Hellenistic period sees the portrait taking its rise: the many monarchs, anxious to affirm their power and their divine character, call upon the painters more and more so that they carry out their portrait. But one also finds representations of landscapes which are treated like additional decorative elements. On the other hand, the painting of vase loses importance. As for the sculpture - known by counterparts but also thanks to some originals - it undergoes more than before foreign influences, in particular that of the Roman Empire.  
The portrait

The artists of the O C century occasionally carried out male heads but it is only to the IV E century that the portrait becomes an artistic kind except for whole, sometimes involving the use of mouldings on alive models. However, because of the taste inherited the traditional time for the universal idealism and types, the portraits remain often studies of characters, where the painters less worry to accurately reproduce the features of a man to reveal his personality in its role of statesman, general or philosopher. The first known portraits represent men died besides for a long time, such Socrate or Périclès. Moreover, the coins contribute to popularize the portraits of monarchs.

Compositions of group
In the statuary, the scenes comprising several characters are initially hardly present that on the pediments, but these compositions of group - generally representing figures fighting or to hug - gain the sculpture in sculpture in the round gradually, as testifies some celebrates it group of Laocoon. There exist also solidified scenes, more complex, which seem to represent into three dimensions the mural. One also knows the counterparts of groups originating in Pergame representing the defeat of the Barbarians. Most famous of them are the Gallic one holding its dead wife and committing suicide, and the Gallic one (or Gallate) dying. Relief of the furnace bridge of Zeus, preserved today at Berlin east also another major work pergaménienne. It represents a gigantomachie (battles between the gods and the giants) which testifies to the talent of the sculptor to return the violence of the action and the intensity of the emotions.
Isolated figures
The isolated figures reveal this same control of the movement; it is the case of the Victoire de Samothrace, sculpture anonymous today in the Louvre, which decorated formerly a prow of ship overhanging the basin of a fountain in commemoration of a naval victory.  
To the IV E century, unknown Hellenistic sculptors make evolve the naked female one by accentuating their sensuality. The various statues of Aphrodite bathing or drying her hair, Venus de Milo illustrate well this current, which involved the production of many works derived or copied at the time Roman. To the II E century, at the end of the Hellenistic period, femininity is underlined by an exaggeration of the curve of the shoulders, by the representation of small heads and full hips. These works contrast with the studies of male models realized at the same time because those are characterized by the development of the musculature. With the invention of the figures hermaphrodites, a satisfactory compromise is found between the most admired features anatomies male and female. At that time, the sculptors already start to reproduce or adapt freely the most famous statues of the traditional age, as if they had the feeling to have reached the limits of what it was possible to express by their Article.

Painting and mosaic

There remains little of paintings of the Hellenistic time; knowledge that we have some rests mainly on the counterparts carried out at the time Roman, that one found, enter others, on the walls of Pompéi and Herculanum. As the copyists did not work directly according to the models, contrary to the sculptors, their paintings are approximate adaptations of original works; they give especially indications on the types of compositions used by the Greek artists and on the employment which the latter made of certain details (the use of landscapes in background, for example). Several paintings - as Persée delivering Andromède or Three Graces - had to be extremely famous, because they were often reproduced. The mosaics Hellenistic, made up of tesselles square, sometimes tiny, have a very rich palette and colors. They inform us also indirectly about the pictorial styles of the time.