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A key component of Hellenistic sculpture is the expression of a sculpture's face and body to elicit an emotional response from the viewer.
Contrast the new Hellenistic style of sculpture from the previous Classical era.
Hellenisticsculpture takes the naturalism of the body's form and expression to level of hyper-realism where the expression of the sculpture's face and body elicit an emotional response. The sculptures are full of pathos and drama and no longer focus on the ideal.
Drama and pathos are new factors in Hellenistic sculpture. Figures are crafted and carved to cause an immediate emotional response from the viewer. The style of the sculpting is often exaggerated and details are emphasized to add a new heightened level of motion and pathos.
New compositions and states of mind are explored in Hellenistic sculptures including old age, drunkenness, sleep, agony, and despair.
Portraiture also becomes popular in this period and figures are no longer idealized, but represented as they are with all their imperfections.
That quality or property of anything which touches the feelings or excites emotions and passions, esp., that which awakens tender emotions, such as pity, sorrow, and the like; contagious warmth of feeling, action, or expression; pathetic quality.
Hellenistic sculpture continues the trend of increasing naturalism seen in the stylistic development of Greek art.
During this time, the rules of Classical art were pushed and abandoned in favor of new themes, genres, drama, and pathos that never before were explored by Greek artists. Furthermore, the Greek artists added a new level of naturalism to their figures by adding an elasticity to their form and expressions, both facial and physical, to their figures. These figures interact with their audience in a new theatrical manner by eliciting an emotional reaction from their view, this is known as pathos.
Nike of Samothrace
One of the most iconic statues of the period, it commemorates a naval victory . This Parian marble statue from the early second century BCE depicts Nike, who has lost her arms and head, alighting onto the prow of the ship. The prow is visible beneath her feet and the scene is filled with theatricality and naturalism as the statue reacts to her surroundings. Nike's feet, legs, and body thrust forward in contradiction to her drapery and wings that stream backwards. Her clothing whips around her from the wind and her wings lift upwards. This depiction provides the impression that she has just landed and that this is the precise moment that she is settling onto the ship's prow. In addition to the sculpting, the figure was most likely set within a fountain, creating a theatrical setting where both the imagery and the auditory effect of the fountain would create a striking image of action and triumph.
This sculpture of Aphrodite covered from the waist down is another well-known icon of the Hellenistic period . From the polis Milos, the Venus de Milos was created between 130 and 100 BCE by the sculptor Alexandros of Antioch. Today the goddess' arms are missing, although it has been suggested that one arm clutched at her slipping drapery while the other arm held out an apple, perhaps an illusion to the Judgment of Paris and the abduction of Helen. Originally, like all Greek sculptures, the statue would have been painted and adorned with metal jewelry, which is evident from the attachment holes. This image is in some ways similar to the Late Classical image of Aphrodite of Knidos but is considered to be more erotic than its earlier counterpart. For instance, while she is covered below the waist, Aphrodite makes little attempt at covering herself. She appears to be teasing and ignoring her viewer, instead of accosting him and making eye contact.
While the Nike of Samothrace exudes a sense of drama and the Venus de Milo a new level of feminine sexuality, other Greek sculptors explored new states of being. Instead of, as was favored during the Classical period, reproducing images of the ideal Greek male or female, sculptors began to depict images of the old, tired, sleeping, and drunk—none of which are ideal representations of a man or woman.
The Barberini Faun, also known as the Sleeping Satyr , depicts an effeminate figure, most likely a satyr, drunk and passed out on a rock. His body splays across the rock face without regard to modesty. He appears to have fallen to sleep in the midst of a drunken revelry and he sleeps restlessly, his brow is knotted, face worried, and his limbs are tense and stiff. Unlike earlier depicts of nude men, but in a similar manner to the Venus de Milo, the Barberini Faun seems to exude sexuality.
Images of drunkenness were also created of women, which can be seen in a statue attributed to the Hellenistic artist Myron of a drunken beggar woman . This woman sits on the floor with her arms and legs wrapped around a large jug and a hand gripping the jug's neck. Grape vines decorating the top of the jug make it clear that it holds wine. The woman's face, instead of being expressionless, is turned upward and she appears to be calling out, possibly to those passing by. Not only is she intoxicated, but she is old: deep wrinkles line her face, her eyes are sunken, and her bones stick out through her skin.
Another image of the old and weary is a bronze statue of a boxer sitting down . While the image of an athlete is a common theme in Greek art, this bronze presents a Hellenistic twist. He is old and tired, much like the Late Classical image of a Weary Herakles. However, unlike Herakles, the boxer is depicted beaten and exhausted from his pursuit. His face is swollen, lip spilt, and ears cauliflowered. This is not an image of a heroic, young athlete but rather an old, defeated man many years past his prime.
Individual portraits, instead of idealization, also became popular during the Hellenistic period. A portrait of Demosthenes by Polyeuktos from 280 BCE is not an idealization of the Athenian statesman and orator. Instead, the statue takes notes of Demosthenes' characteristic features, including his overbite, furrowed brow, stooped shoulders, and old, loose skin. Even portrait busts, often copied from Polyeuktos' famed statue, depict the weariness and sorrow of a man despairing the conquest of Philip II and end of Athenian democracy.
Source: Boundless. “Sculpture in the Hellenistic Period.” Boundless Art History. Boundless, 26 May. 2016. Retrieved 25 Jul. 2016 from https://www.boundless.com/art-history/textbooks/boundless-art-history-textbook/ancient-greece-6/the-hellenistic-period-67/sculpture-in-the-hellenistic-period-352-10992/