THREAD: The complete evolution of greek sculptures and their influence from and on foreign cultures.

The journey starts with the Cycladic culture, located in the middle of the Aegean Islands, they flourished from 3000BC to the end of the bronze age, most of their art came from before 2000 BC however.

As you can see, most of their sculptures were small and simplistic, its not known to which exact degree these served religious or artistic purposes. They were usually made out of marble.

Somewhat later, after 2000 BC, the Minoan civilisation began to flourish. While they were less interested in large sculptures and more well known for their other arts, they nevertheless produced distinct figurines. Most were made of cycladic stones, fired sand, clay and bronze.

After 1450 BC, they were disrupted by Earthquakes, Vulcanoes and our next topic: The myceneans who invaded Crete from mainland Greece, combining the 2 cultures.

The warlike Myceneans were not known for their statues, but they did produce the famous gold mask and the Lion gate.Some artistic influences were brought from the Myceneans to the skilled Minoan artists; the bronze statues of Enkomi show a blend of both styles. It was not to last

The bronze Age collapse happened and brought down these 3 Aegean cultures and their art. They may have had some influences on later cultures but not so much in terms of sculptures. For now, they were gone and forgotten.

It took until the 9th century BC, centuries after the bronze age collapse that the greeks started to produce art again, isolated from the world and each other. Simple shapes, this "geometric period" only brought about simple bronze figurines. But this was only the beginning.

After around 700 BC, the greeks once again went out into the world and they were amazed by the things they have seen, and tried to imitate what they saw. In this "Orientalizing Period" they first began adapting styles from eastern Vases and reliefs

It was the Egyptians who built the first free standing large statues, and the greeks saw and learned from it.

"The Greeks learned the techniques of handling the harder stone in Egypt, and at home they turned to the fine white marble of the Cyclades islands for their materials. It was at this time that the first truly monumental examples of Greek sculpture appeared."

After 630 BC the greeks began to make life-sized statues which presented ideal beauty. They had more natural proportions but were still very stiff and similar to Egyptian statues. With these 'Kouroi' we enter the Archaic Period

Throughout the Archaic Period, the statues gradually became more detailed, the faces more realistic, the muscles more defined. The faces were often made in a specific style, the "archaic smile". The Etruscans first began imitating the greeks around this time, see pic. 4

As anatomy became fully understood around 480 BC, the greeks began one subtle but important step: A change of posture. For the first time, the statue was not standing entirely straight, this opened the gates for further experimentation with posture.

This new style quickly becmae popular through Luck: in 480 BC, the Achaemenids destroyed the Parthenon and damaged most statues found throughout the city. The old statues were dumped outside the temple later, and new statues had to be made.

Soon after the war, Greek reliefs became more realistic, the statues became more detailed, the faces became personal for the first time, the sculptures began to appear truly lifelike: The Classical Period A stark contrast to the stiff statues of before:

This new style mostly continued unchanged into the hellenic period after 323 BC.

Hellenistic Period: Some say that greek art reached its peak here, others say it became unoriginal, nevertheless, it reached its perhaps greatest influence on the world during this time. Greek Influenced statues have been made all the way from India to Japan

As the greek statues gradually came under control of the romans, both cultures begane to influence each other. While the romans traditionally regarded the greeks as culturally superior, they had to deal with them now in reality being a subject people.

In some cases, the romans combined "roman realism" with greek Idealism, comissioning statues with youthful athletic bodies under truthful realistic heads. Note the wrinkled faces and balding heads, unseen in purely Hellenistic art

This style was not to last however, as the romans learned how to copy and appreciate older greek art, leading to a renaissance of classical greek art lasting throughout the early imperial era

This "idealized realistic" imperial style mostly remained unchanged, save for minor fashions into the 3rd century. The hair became more detailed, the curls became almost three-dimensional.

While the Crisis of the 3rd century shook the Empire, artistic sensibilities changed. While initially remaining realistic, the style became somewhat simpler again.

After the crisis was over, order returned, but the empire was changed forever. Throughout the 300s, statues gradually became less realistic again, hair was simplified, faces were harder to tell apart, and the large eyes made a return. The coins initially remained realistic.

Some attribute this change to a change in tastes, others to the poor economic situation of the later 300s, some even to Christianity (The style started before Constantine) This change is perhaps best illustrated by comparing it to the simpler archaic statues of old:

This style did not change much throghout the 400s, except occasionally declining in quality.

End of an era: The age of free standing sculptures ended for now. The germanic kingdoms in the west were not interested in statues, usually preferring decorated tools/weapons kinds.

In the East, the original birthplace of scultptures, they gradually dissapeared as well. They lived on in the form of ivory reliefs and figurines, centuries later. Justinian was known to have had a statue, only a drawing of which survives today.

Further east, the persians also stopped using greek-influenced statues. While the Achaemenids and early Parthians were heavily influenced by the greeks, the Sassanids began using their own styles, before the arabic conquest inhibited further statue construction. The 3 styles:

it was not until the high middle ages that western europeans started to make statues again, starting around 1000AD, before gradually reaching more sophisticated forms in the 1200s, eventually culminating in the renaissance and rediscovery of the greeks, but that is another story.

And so this journey ends, from the humble beginnings of the Cycladic figures, to the monumental sculptures of the greeks and romans, and back and forth again as the wheel of history keeps turning.

@Paracelsus1092 @uncle_deluge @ReginaldODonog1

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