The new motifs that distinguish the Orientalizing style
from the Geometric—fighting
animals, winged monsters, scenes of combat—had
reached Greece mainly through the importation of ivory
carvings and metalwork from Phoenicia or Syria, pieces that
reflected Mesopotamian as well as Egyptian influences. Such
objects have actually been found on Greek soil, so that we
can regard this channel of transmission as well established.
They do not help us, however, to explain the rise of
monumental architecture and sculpture in stone about
650 B.C., which must
have been based on acquaintance with Egyptian works that
could be studied only on the spot. We know that small
colonies of Greeks existed in Egypt at the time, but why, we
wonder, did Greece suddenly develop a taste for
monumentality, and how did her artists acquire so quickly
the Egyptian mastery of stone carving? All the earliest
Greek sculpture we know from the Geometric period consists
of simple clay or bronze figurines of animals and warriors
only a few inches in size. The mystery may never be cleared
up, for the oldest surviving Greek stone sculpture and
architecture show that the Egyptian tradition had already
been well assimilated and Hellenized, though their link with
Egypt is still clearly visible.
B.C. Limestone, height 24
cm). Musee du Louvre, Paris.
150. Standing Youth (Kouros).
B.C. Marble, height 6'4"
m). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
151. Kroisos (Kouros
from Anavysos). ñ.
525 B.C. Marble, height 6'4"
m). National Archaeological Museum,
Kouros and Kore
Let us consider two very early Greek statues, a small
female figure of about
149) and a lifesize nude youth of
about 600 B.C.
and compare them with their Egyptian
predecessors (fig. 66).
The similarities are certainly striking. We note the
block-conscious, cubic character of all four statues, the
slim, broad-shouldered silhouette of the male figures, the
position of their arms, their clenched fists, the way they
stand with the left leg forward, the emphatic rendering of
the kneecaps. The formalized, wiglike treatment of the hair,
the close-fitting garment of the female figure, and her
raised arm are further points of resemblance. Judged by
Egyptian standards, the Archaic statues seem somewhat
primitive: rigid, oversimplified, awkward, less close to
nature. Whereas the Egyptian sculptor allows the legs and
hips of the female figure to press through the skirt, the
Greek shows a solid, undifferentiated mass from which only
the toes protrude.
But the Greek statues also have virtues of their own that
cannot be measured in Egyptian terms. First of all, they are
earliest large stone images of the human form in the entire
history of art of which this can be said. The Egyptian
carver had never dared to liberate such figures completely
from the stone. They remain immersed in it to some degree,
so that the empty spaces between the legs and between the
arms and the torso (or between two figures in a double
statue, as in fig. 66)
always remain partly filled. There
are never any holes in Egyptian stone figures. In that
sense, they do not rank as sculpture in the round but as an
extreme case of high relief. The Greek carver, on the
contrary, does not mind holes in the least. The arms are
separated from the torso and the legs from each other,
unless they are encased in a skirt, and the carver goes to
great lengths to cut away every bit of dead material. (The
only exceptions are the tiny bridges between the fists and
the thighs of the nude youth.) Apparently it is of the
greatest importance to the sculptor that a statue consist
only of stone that has representational meaning within an
organic whole. The stone must be transformed; it cannot be
permitted to remain inert, neutral matter.
This is not, we must insist, a question of technique but
of artistic intention. The act of liberation achieved in our
two figures endows them with a spirit basically different
from that of any of the Egyptian statues. While the latter
seem becalmed by a spell that has released them from every
strain for all time to come, the Greek images are tense,
full of hidden life. The direct stare of their huge eyes
offers the most telling contrast to the gentle, faraway gaze
of the Egyptian figures.
Whom do they represent? We call the female statues by the
general name of Kore (Maiden), the male ones Kouros (Youth)—noncommittal
terms that gloss over the difficulty of identifying them
further. Nor can we explain why the Kouros is always nude
while the Kore is clothed. Whatever the reason, both types
were produced in large numbers throughout the Archaic era.
and their general outlines remained extraordinarily stable.
Some are inscribed with the names of artists ("So-and-so
made me") or with dedications to various deities. These,
then, were votive offerings. But whether they represent the
donor, the deity, or a divinely favored person such as a
victor in athletic games remains uncertain in most cases.
Others were placed on graves, yet they can be viewed as
representations of the deceased only in a broad (and
completely impersonal) sense. This odd lack of
differentiation seems part of the essential character of
these figures. They are neither gods nor mortals but
something in between, an ideal of physical perfection and
vitality shared by mortal and immortal alike, just as the
heroes of the Homeric epics dwell in the realms of both
history and mythology.
If the type of Kouros and Kore is narrowly circumscribed,
its artistic interpretation shows the same inner dynamic we
have traced in Archaic vase painting. The pace of this
development becomes strikingly clear from a comparison of
the Kouros of figure
with another carved some
75 years later (fig.
and identified by the inscription on its
base as the funerary statue of Kroisos, who had died a
hero's death in the front line of battle. Like all such
figures, it was originally painted.
(Traces of color can still be seen in the hair and the
pupils of the eyes.) Instead of the sharply contoured,
abstract planes of the older statue, we now find swelling
curves. The whole body displays a greater awareness of
massive volumes, but also a new elasticity, and countless
anatomical details are more functionally rendered than
before. The style of the Kroisos thus corresponds
exactly to that of Psiax's Herakles (fig.
Here we witness the transition from black-figured to
red-figured in sculptural terms.
ñ. 570 B.C. Marble, height of entire
statue 65" (165
cm). Acropolis Museum, Athens.
153. The Rampin Head.
B.C. Marble, height 11 1/2" (29.3
cm). Musee du Louvre, Paris.
numerous statues from the middle years of the sixth century
marking previous way stations along the same road. The
magnificent Calf-Bearer of about
570 B.C. (fig.
a votive figure representing the donor with the sacrificial
animal he is offering to Athena. Needless to say, it is not
a portrait, any more than the Kroisos is, but it
shows a type: the beard indicates a man of mature years. The
Calf-Bearer originally had the Kouros standing pose,
and the body conforms to the Kouros ideal of physical
perfection. Its vigorous, compact forms are emphasized,
rather than obscured, by the thin cloak, which fits them
like a second skin, detaching itself only momentarily at the
elbows. The face, effectively framed by the soft curve of
the animal, no longer has the masklike quality of the early
Kouros. The features have, as it were, caught up with the
rest of the body in that they, too, are permitted a gesture,
a movement expressive of life: the lips are drawn up in a
smile. We must be careful not to impute any psychological
meaning to this "Archaic smile," for the same radiant
expression occurs throughout sixth-century Greek sculpture,
even on the face of the dead hero Kroisos. Only after
500 B.C. does it
gradually fade out.
One of the most famous instances of this smile is the
wonderful Rampin Head (fig.
probably belonged to the body of a horseman. Slightly later
than the Calf-Bearer, it shows the black-figured
phase of Archaic sculpture at its highest stage of
refinement. Hair and beard have the appearance of richly
textured beaded embroidery that sets off the subtly accented
planes of the face.
154. "Hera," from Samos ñ. 570-560 B.C.
Marble height 6'4 1 (1.9m). Musee du Louvre, Paris.
155. Kore in Dorian
530 B.C. Marble, height
cm). Acropolis Museum, Athens
156. Kore, from
Chios (?). ñ.
520 B.C. Marble, height 217/8"
Acropolis Museum, Athens
The Kore type is somewhat more variable than that of the
Kouros, although it follows the same pattern of development.
A clothed figure by definition, it poses a different
problem: how to relate body and drapery. It is also likely
to reflect changing habits or local differences of dress.
Thus, the impressive statue in figure
about the same time as the Calf-Bearer, does not
represent a more evolved stage of the Kore in figure
an alternative approach to the same basic task. She was
found in the Temple of Hera on the island of Samos and may
well have been an image of the goddess because of her great
size as well as her extraordinary dignity. If the earlier
Kore echoes the planes of a rectangular slab, the "Hera"
seems like a column come to life. Instead of clear-cut
accents, such as the nipped-in waist in figure
find here a smooth, continuous flow of lines uniting limbs
and body. Yet the majestic effect of the statue depends not
so much on its abstract quality as on the way the abstract
form blossoms forth into the swelling softness of a living
body. The great upward sweep of the lower third of the
figure gradually subdivides to reveal several separate
layers of garments, and its pace is slowed further (but
never fully stopped) as it encounters the protruding shapes
of arms, hips, and torso. In the end, the drapery, so
completely architectonic up to the knee region, turns into a
second skin of the kind we have seen in the Calf-Bearer.
The Kore of figure 155,
in contrast, seems a linear
descendant of our first Kore, even though she was carved a
full century later. She, too, is blocklike rather than
columnar, with a strongly accented waist. The simplicity of
her garments is new and sophisticated, however. The heavy
cloth forms a distinct, separate layer over the body,
covering but not concealing the solidly rounded shapes
beneath. And the left hand, which originally was extended
forward, offering a votive gift of some sort, must have
given the statue a spatial quality quite beyond the two
earlier Kore figures we have discussed. Equally new is the
more organic treatment of the hair, which falls over the
shoulders in soft, curly strands, in contrast to the
massive, rigid wig in figure
149. Most noteworthy of all,
perhaps, is the full, round face with its enchantingly gay
softer, more natural smile than any we have seen hitherto.
Here, as in the Kroisos, we sense the approaching
red-figured phase of Archaic art.
Our final Kore (fig. 156),
about a decade later, has none of the
severity of figure 155,
though both were found on the
Acropolis of Athens. In many ways she seems more akin to the
"Hera" from Samos. In tact, she probably came from
Chios, another island of Ionian Greece. The architectural
grandeur of her ancestress, though, has given way to an
ornate refined grace. The garments still loop around the
body in soft diagonal curves, but the play of richly
differentiated folds, pleats, and textures lias almost
become an end in itself. Color must have played a
particularly important role in such works, and we are
fortunate that so much of it survives in this example.
When the Greeks began to build their temples in stone,
they also fell heir to the age-old tradition of
architectural sculpture. The Egyptians had been covering the
walls and even the columns of their buildings with reliefs
since the time of the Old Kingdom, but these carvings were
so shallow (for example, figs.
that they left the continuity of the
wall stir-face undisturbed. They had no weight or volume of
their own, so that they were related to their architectural
setting only in the same limited sense as Egyptian wall
paintings, with which they were, in practice,
interchangeable. This is also true of the reliefs on
Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian buildings (for example,
There existed, however, another kind
of architectural sculpture in the ancient Near East,
originated, it seems, by the Hittites: the great guardian
monsters protruding from the blocks that framed the gateways
of fortresses or palaces (see figs.
This tradition must have
inspired, albeit perhaps indirectly, the carving over the
Lion Gate at Mycenae (see fig.
We must nevertheless note one
important feature that distinguishes the Mycenaean guardian
figures from their predecessors. Although they are carved in
high relief on a huge slab, this slab is thin and light
compared to the enormously heavy, Cyclopean blocks around
it. In building the gate, the Mycenaean architect left an
empty triangular space above the lintel, for fear that the
weight of the wall above would crush it, and then filled the
hole with the comparatively lightweight relief panel. Here,
then, we have a new kind of architectural sculpture: a work
integrated with the structure yet also a separate entity
rather than a modified wall surface or block.
600 B.C. (figs.
Here again the sculpture is confined
to a zone that is framed by structural members but is itself
structurally empty: the triangle between the horizontal
ceiling and the sloping sides of the roof. This area, called
the pediment, need not be filled in at all except to protect
the wooden rafters behind it against moisture. It demands
not a wall but merely a thin screen. And it is against this
screen that the pedimental sculpture is displayed.
157. Central portion of
the west pediment of the Temple of Artemis at Corfu,
ñ. 600-580 B.C.
Limestone, height 9'2" (2.8
m). Archaeological Museum, Corfu
TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS, CORFU.
That the Lion Gate relief is the direct ancestor of Greek
architectural sculpture becomes evident when we compare it
with the facade of the early Archaic Temple of Artemis on
the island of Corfu, erected soon after
drawing of the west front of the Temple of Artemis at Corfu
Technically, these carvings are in high relief, like the
guardian lions at Mycenae. Characteristically enough,
however, the bodies are strongly undercut, so as to detach
them from the background. Even at this early stage of
development, the Greek sculptor wanted to assert the
independence of his figures from their architectural
setting. The head of the central figure actually overlaps
the frame. Who is this frightening creature? Not Artemis,
surely, although the temple was dedicated to that goddess.
As a matter of fact, we have met her before: she is a
Gorgon, a descendant of those on the Eleusis amphora (fig.
Her purpose here was to serve as a guardian,
along with the two huge lions, warding off evil from the
temple and the sacred image of the goddess within. (The
other pediment, of which only small fragments survive, had a
similar figure.) She might be defined, therefore, as an
extraordinarily monumental and still rather frightening hex
sign. On her face, the Archaic smile appears as a hideous
grin. And to emphasize further how alive and real she is,
she has been represented running, or rather flying, in a
pinwheel stance that conveys movement without locomotion.
The symmetrical, heraldic arrangement of the Gorgon and
the two animals reflects an Oriental scheme which we know
not only from the Lion Gate at Mycenae but from many earlier
examples as well (see fig.
52, and fig.
of its ornamental character, it fits the shape of the
pediment to perfection. Yet the early Archaic designer was
not content with that. The pediment must contain narrative
scenes. Therefore a number of smaller figures have been
added in the spaces left between or behind the huge main
group. The design of the whole thus shows two conflicting
purposes in uneasy balance. As we might expect, narrative
will soon win out over heraldry.
Aside from the pediment, there were not many places that
the Greeks deemed suitable for architectural sculpture. They
might put free-standing figures (often of terracotta) above
the ends and the center of the pediment to break the
severity of its outline. And they often placed reliefs in
the zone immediately below the pediment. In Doric temples
such as that at Corfu (fig.
158), this "frieze" consists
of alternating triglyphs (blocks with three vertical
markings) and metopes. The latter were originally the empty
spaces between the ends of the ceiling beams; hence they,
like the pediment, could be filled with sculpture. In Ionic
architecture, the triglyphs were omitted, and the frieze
became what the term usually conveys to us, a continuous
band of painted or sculptured decoration. The Ionians would
also sometimes elaborate the columns of a porch into female
statues, which is not a very surprising development in view
of the columnar quality of the "Hera" from Samos (fig.
159. Plan of the
Treasury of the Siphnians
160. Reconstruction of
the facade of the Treasury of the Siphnians, using fragments
found in the Sanctuary of
Apollo at Delphi, ñ 525
SIPHNIAN TREASURY, DELPHI.
All these possibilities are combined in the Treasury (a
miniature temple for storing votive gifts) erected at Delphi
shortly before 525
B.C. by the inhabitants of the Ionian island
of Siphnos. Although the building no longer stands, we can
get a general idea of its appearance from the reconstruction
in figures 159
Of its lavish sculptural decor, the most
impressive part is the splendid frieze. The detail reproduced here (fig.
shows part of the battle of the Greek gods
against the giants. On the extreme left, two lions (who pull
the chariot of Cybele) are tearing apart an anguished giant.
In front of them, Apollo and Artemis advance together,
shooting their arrows. A dead giant, despoiled of his armor,
lies at their feet, while three others enter from the right.
161. Battle of the
Gods and Giants,
from the north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians.
B.C. Marble, height 26" (66
Archaeological Museum, Delphi
The high relief, with its deep undercutting, recalls the
Corfu pediment, but the Siphnian sculptor has taken full
advantage of the spatial possibilities offered by this
technique. The projecting ledge at the bottom of the frieze
is used as a stage on which he can place his figures in
depth. The arms and legs of those nearest the beholder are
carved completely in the round. In the second and third
layers, the forms become shallower, yet even those farthest
removed from us are never permitted to merge with the
background. The result is a limited and condensed but very
convincing space that permits a dramatic relationship
between the figures such as we have never seen before in
narrative reliefs. Any comparison with older examples (such
will show us that Archaic art has
indeed conquered a new dimension here, not only in the
physical but also in the expressive sense.
163. Dying Warrior,
from the east pediment of the Temple of Aphaia, Aegina. ñ. 490 B.C.
Marble, length 72" (183 cm). Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich
163. Dying Warrior,
from the east pediment of the Temple of Aphaia, Aegina. ñ. 490 B.C.
Marble, length 72" (183 cm). Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich
TEMPLE OF APHAIA, AEGINA.
Meanwhile, in pedimental sculpture, relief has been
abandoned altogether. Instead, we find separate statues
placed side by side in complex dramatic sequences designed
to fit the triangular frame. The most ambitious ensemble of
this kind, that of the
east pediment of the Temple of Aphaia at Aegina, was
created about 490
B.C., and thus brings us to the final stage
in the evolution of Archaic sculpture. The figures were
found in pieces on the ground. The position of each within
the pediment, however, can be determined, since their height
(but not their scale) varies with the sloping sides of the
triangle (fig. 162).
The center is accented by the
standing goddess Athena, who presides over the battle
between Greeks and Trojans that rages to either side of her
in symmetrically diminishing fashion.
The correspondence in the poses of the fighters on the
two halves of the pediment makes for a balanced and orderly
design. Yet it also forces us to see the statues as elements
in an ornamental pattern and thus robs them of their
individuality to some extent. They speak most strongly to us
when viewed one by one. Among the most impressive are the
fallen warrior from the left-hand corner (fig.
and the kneeling Herakles, who once held a bronze bow, from
the right-hand half (fig. 164).
Both are lean, muscular figures whose
bodies seem marvelously functional and organic. That in
itself, however, does not explain their great beauty, much
as we may admire the artist's command of the human form in
action. What really moves us is their nobility of spirit,
whether in the agony of dying or in the act of killing.
These men, we sense, are suffering—or
fate has decreed, with tremendous dignity and resolve. And
this communicates itself to us in the very feel of the
magnificently firm shapes of which they are composed.
from the east pediment of the Temple
of Aphaia, Aegina.
B.C. Marble, height 31" (78.7