Greek civilizations began to emerge in the ninth and eighth centuries BCE, divided into four periods, the Geometric, Archaic, Classical and the Hellenistic. Made for trade, many metal and ceramic wares were created in exchange for grain and raw materials. With human form and proportion being the Greek artists’ main focus, a multitude of ancient art including, sculptures, paintings, architecture, and ceramics have been made to perfection. Ancient Greek ceramics and vases are beautiful pieces of art that were made in different shapes and sizes, many of which are preserved and kept in museums.
There were two techniques in adding detail to these artifacts, the black-figure technique, and the red-figure technique. With the black-figure technique, a sharp tool was used to cut through the slip, a mixture of clay and water applied to the surface of a pot, creating intricate details of the black figures, revealing the unpainted clay underneath, only visible through the firing process. With the red-figure technique on the other hand, it was reversed. The figures were a reddish, orange color and any negative space surrounding them were painted black. In the ceramic that I chose, the artist decided to use the black-figure technique. The audience can really see the contrast between the people and the background and even the different colors within the shields, skirts, and hats.
There are three warriors depicted, two of which are carrying what seem to be javelins aimed at each other. One warrior is carrying a shield on his left arm, while the other on the right arm. The artist made it so the back of the shield on the left arm is facing the audience and the hand is facing the right direction, unlike many of the paintings we saw in ancient Egyptian art. On the other warrior, the audience can see that the front of the shield is facing the audience. Such minor details make it so that it is realistic as it can be in Greek standards. We can also see two other people standing behind the warriors which could be rulers guiding them. Just like ancient Aegean art, the figures were drawn very curvy; we can see the pear-shaped bodies of the warriors with a small chest and thick thighs. Patterns on this ceramic are surprisingly symmetrical and repeated as seen on the shield and the bottom. Even more fascinating, with unbelievably complex details are the sculptures of Greece. There were two types of sculptures, one was marble which was the medium for Lacaoon and His Sons. The audience can really see the definition in the hair and muscles in the bodies. Even the fangs of the snake are digging into the thigh.
The poses and facial expressions are more dramatic, with both of the boys looking worried and frantically trying to get away from the snake, the boy to the right is even leaning over with one leg up to try and get the snake off of his leg. Laocoon himself has his head back in pain as the snake is biting into his thigh. The second type of sculpture is bronze, which was the medium for Perseus with the Head of Medusa. The hollow-casting of Bronze allowed the artists to create more complex poses, unlike marble statues where extended body parts had the risk of breaking off. Again, the Greeks paid attention to the muscles and hair making it look very realistic. Perseus is shown carrying the head of Medusa, a woman who was transformed by Athena, completely severed from her body, which lays lifelessly on the floor. The audience can see that Perseus’ arm is completely detached from his body which is one of the benefits of bronze sculptures. He is also standing in the contrapposto pose, which gives the body a more balanced look.
My favorite part about this sculpture is the detail in the wings and the ripped neck. Sculptures have come a long way since they were first made. Although Greek architecture is not in the best condition today, we can still appreciate the hard work and thought put into it. One that is still standing today is the Temple of Poseidon, the Greek God of water which originally comprised of 36 columns and now, 18 columns remaining. The columns of the temple were made in Doric order, one of the three orders of greek architecture, a simple, round column that was bigger on the bottom and gradually got skinnier going up, which made the columns look bigger than how they really were. The big blocks sitting on top of the columns remind me of Stonehenge. With intricate details and different types of materials, the Greeks were able to make beautiful pieces of art.
All four of the pieces I chose were very different from each other, but they all told a story of what the Greeks thought to be everyday life. Ancient Greek is one of my favorite things to study whether it be the art or mythology, and it was very interesting to see how detailed the artists were and how most of the art is still standing today and I hope to see some of these pieces in person.
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