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Greek Painting of the Hellenistic Period c. Some Background Since the 18th century, Greek sculpture has been the object of something akin to idolatry, and only recently have we been able to put it more in context. It is mainly in connection with sculpture that we have tended to speak of "the Classical beauty of Greece".
It is sculpture that is currently held to be the most representative and indeed the most excellent of the arts of ancient Greece.
And it is an art with which we have the good fortune to be particularly well acquainted. It certainly produced some of the greatest sculptures ever. This emphasis of ours would appear to be justified.
Our admiration for vase paintings and mosaics was not shared by the Greeks, who considered them of minor importance, but they really did consider sculpture to be an outstanding feature of their civilization, worthy of the critical and historical interest attested to in many texts.
And whereas buildings that have survived reasonably intact are few and far between, and major paintings have virtually disappeared, works of sculpture have been preserved in vast numbers.
To be convinced of this, one need only cast an eye over the reserves of a great museum such as the Paris Louvre. Chronologically, surviving works of Greek sculpture cover a good thousand years, without a break - from Archaic times to the Imperial period - and geographically extend from the Italian colonies to Asia Minor.
To this abundance of statues, statuettes and relief sculpture must be added written sources of two kinds.
First, inscriptions on the works themselves: These inscriptions give, in whole or in part, the identity of the work, the date, the name of the votary or patron, and that of the sculptor.
Most statues have been separated from their original pedestals, but attempts to match them are none the less instructive, making it possible to sketch out the careers of certain artists.
Secondly, there are many texts concerning sculpture and sculptors, some literary, and some in the form of inscriptions: Apart from Pliny the Elder. In the 19th century, the German J. Overbeck made a collection of such passages, which, though not exhaustive, runs to some three hundred pages.
Damage to Greek Statues Given the abundance of surviving monuments and a mass of textual information, archeologists of Greek sculpture would appear to be in a strong position.
But much more than this is required if we are to obtain a complete and reliable picture. The first obstacle is one common to the study of all relatively ancient civilizations: It might reasonably be claimed that the fame of the Venus de Milo is owing to the loss of her arms; from this derives her strange fascination.
But in ancient times, there was nothing unsual about her. Her arms would have been posed in natural fashion; she may have held some object in her hands.
She is by no means unique in this respect. The outstretched arm of the Ephebe of Antikythera, for instance, seems to make so striking a gesture only because he was grasping or holding up for inspection something that has since disappeared.
Unfortunately, the restoration of missing parts of statues is virtually impossible. In Greek Architecturethe recurrence of basic elements often means that the whole can be reconstructed from a relatively small fragment.
See also Egyptian Architecture. Sculptors on the other hand, being subject to no consistent rule, were free to impart to an arm any movement they saw fit and to place in an outstretched hand anyone of a number of objects.
Reconstructions are therefore a matter of conjecture. We will never solve the mystery of the arms of the Venus de Milo, unless of course the originals one day come to light! Indeed, the only hope of restoring the integrity of statues lies in identifying broken fragments.Real-world dating and relationship advice for modern men and women.
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Chronology and Identification of Greek Sculptures. Besides the problems of restoration, identification and attribution, there is the difficulty of ascertaining two other important details in the history of a work: the date and place of its origin.