The Development of Female Figures in Ancient Greek Sculpture
Since the begining of time, art has been used to depict the female form. The way in which female figures are portrayed has changed drastically over the centuries, influenced by the culture and values of the society at the time. This can be seen clearly in the development of female figures in ancient Greek sculpture.
2. Development of female figures in ancient Greek sculpture
2.1 Archaic period
In the Archaic period, from the 8th to the 6th century BCE, we see a trend for nude women in art, with many famous pieces such as the korai from the Acropolis of Athens. These statues were often used as grave markers, and were intended to depict idealized notions of beauty. The korai were often shown with their arms extended out to their sides, and their hair styled in a similar way to that of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
The archaic period was also a time when Greece began to come into contact with other cultures, such as Egypt and Asia Minor. This is reflected in works of art from this period, which show a greater level of realism than those from earlier periods. For example, the korai from the island of Samos have more naturalistic proportions than their Athenian counterparts, and some even have individualized features such as wrinkles and freckles.
2. 2 Classical period
The Classical period, from the 5th to the 4th century BCE, saw a shift away from nude women in Greek art. This was likely due to a change in morality, with nudity no longer being seen as an appropriate subject matter for public display. Instead, we see a trend for clothed or partially clothed women in artworks from this period. One famous example is the statue of Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles, which shows the goddess partially clothed in a himation (a type of cloak).
Despite this change in subject matter, there was still a focus on idealized notions of beauty during the Classical period. This is evident in sculptures such as The Venus de Milo, which depicts an idealized version of the female form. We also see an increase in portrait statues during this period, with many famous examples such as The Pythia by Polyclitus and The Two Hermai by Scopas depicting real women rather than gods or goddesses.
2. 3 Late Classical and Hellenistic periods
In the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods (4th to 1st century BCE), we see a return to nude women in Greek art. However, these works are often more eroticized than those from earlier periods, with many sculptures depicting sensual themes such as lovemaking or bathing. One famous example is The Sleeping Hermaphroditus by Antonio Canova, which shows the mythical creature lying semi-nude on a bed with its legs entwined around a pillow.
Another trend during this period was an increase in sculptural realism, evident in works such as The Laocoon Group by Hagesandros, Polydoros and Athanadoros of Rhodes. This sculpture depicts a scene from Greek mythology in which Laocoon and his sons are attacked by sea serpents sent by Poseidon. The level of detail and naturalism in this work is unlike anything that had been seen before.
The development of female figures in ancient Greek sculpture was very noticeable. The influence of other countries and cultures was reflected in each piece of work. The nudity of the korai from the Archaic period was replaced by the clothed or partially clothed women of the Classical period, before returning to nude women in the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods. This change in subject matter reflects the changing morality of Greek society over time.