The Classical period (5th - 4th century BC)
- Youth (the 'Kritian boy), from Athens Acropolis. About 480 BC
Cast No. B068a
In the early 5th century Greek artists began consciously to attempt to render human and animal forms realistically. This entailed
careful observation of the model as well as understanding the mechanics of anatomy - how a body adjusts to a pose which is not
stiffly frontal but with the weight shifted to one side of the body, and how a body behaves in violent motion. The successors to
the archaic kouroi, mainly
athlete figures, are thus regularly shown 'at ease', one leg relaxed, with a complementary shift in the shoulders, and the whole
emphasized by contrasts of rigid and relaxed in limbs.
- Metope from the temple of Zeus, Olympia.
Athena and Heracles recover the apples from Atlas. About 460 BC
- Head of a seer from the east pediment of the temple of Zeus, Olympia.
About 460 BC
The new style is best expressed in the Parthenon marbles of about 450-435 BC but there was a preceding style of some
importance - the Early Classical, sometimes called the Severe Style, which is exemplified in the sculptures for the Temple of
Zeus at Olympia. Here the figures are mainly lifelike but drapery forms are plainer (a change from the archaic Ionian chiton to
the more austere peplos for women), and there are deliberate attempts at depiction of emotion in faces and of different ages in
rendering of bodies.
Reclining figure of Dionysos from the east pediment of the Parthenon. About 430 BC
Cast No. A091
- Reclining figures of Dione and Aphrodite from the
east pediment of the Parthenon. About 430 BC
Cast No. A094
- The 'Dresden Zeus'. Copy of a statue of about 440 BC
Cast No. C049
These innovations were foresworn by Pheidias, in his design for the Parthenon, and replaced by a more idealized realism in
which body forms were often more regular than in life, and heads, except for monsters like centaurs, seem passionless, calm.
Dress, after the austerity of the Early Classical becomes dramatically realistic. But the Parthenon is the fullest expression of
what is sometimes called the High Classical. It is in this period and style too that, in the following hundred years, many of the
basic types for the Greek gods were devised, and these remained influential throughout antiquity.
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