Art history owes some of its most important works to Greek sculpture of the time from around 1600 BC to 30 BC. Greek statues, sculptures, busts, and reliefs of that phase fascinate even today and appear like a mirror of a world of gods, kings, and myths.

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Greek Sculptures

Greek statues - Icons of contemporary history

Sculptures, statues, reliefs, and busts from ancient Greece have a significant status in art history. Some of the most famous works of art in the history of humankind date from around 1600 B.C. to 30 B.C. This epoch was to have a decisive influence on the development of art throughout Europe in the centuries that followed. Even today, many contemporary artists draw on ancient stylistic elements and Greek artistic aesthetics in their works.

Busts, statues, and reliefs were very common in ancient Greece and were of great importance to culture and society. They were commissioned to publicly honour and commemorate gods, rulers, and heroes, as well as athletes, scientists, or artists. Therefore, sculptures were present in many places in the cityscape: statues appeared in streets, public squares and gardens, busts were placed in private homes and public buildings, and reliefs adorned temples, altars, and tombs. However, the busts, portraits or faces of the statues usually did not reflect the actual appearance of the persons to be depicted. Instead, the design was based on fixed types and general categories such as age, origin or social status. Various materials such as stone, marble, bronze, wood, ivory, or clay were used to produce the Greek figures. Usually, the works were painted colourfully afterwards. The supposedly typical white, which is commonly associated with ancient sculptures today is merely because the colours faded or peeled off over the centuries.

From Mycenae to Hellenism - The Important Epochs of Greek Art and Sculpture

The phase of antiquity from which many of today's widely known Greek busts, statues and reliefs originate can be divided into four periods - the Mycenaean, the Archaic, the Classical and the Hellenistic. In the Mycenaean period between 1600 BC and approx. 1200 BC, when the first advanced civilisation in Europe developed in Greece, art took its first major steps in development. Important handicrafts such as precise metalwork, colourfully painted ceramics and fine jewellery originate from this period. Sculpture still played a somewhat subordinate role in this phase and concentrated mainly on smaller figures and reliefs. However, in the Archaic era from around 800 BC onwards, the free-standing, large sculptures we know today began to emerge. Among the best-known works of art from the Archaic era are the depictions of young men (kuros) and young women (korai). Their characteristics were an upright, frontal position, very ideal proportions, and great symmetry in the design. This design scheme was valid for several centuries. The classical epoch from about 500 BC onwards broke up with this very static leitmotif. A design that was more strongly oriented towards the real human anatomy and depicted people in more natural postures became increasingly prevalent. In addition, Greek statues increasingly showed sequences of movements, as they could be seen at sporting events or chariot races. In Hellenism from around 300 BC onwards, the sculpture was characterised by a great stylistic and motivic diversity. The elaboration of the sculptures became increasingly detailed and realistic, and the figures were shown in dynamic and lively poses. As a motif, in addition to gods, rulers and heroes, the sculptors now also took up the life of the "common" people and showed scenes from everyday life.

Greek Statues, Busts and Reliefs at ars mundi

The sculpture of Greek antiquity gave rise to numerous motifs that have become icons of art history. Thanks to their historical background, beauty, and great symbolic content, they have lost none of their appeal over many centuries up to the present day. Among the most important Greek statues are certainly the "Venus of Milo" and the "Nike of Samothrace", dating from the heyday of Hellenism. Moreover, the images of Greek deities, such as the bust of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility, the statue of Poseidon, the god of the sea, or the portrait of Asclepius, the god of healing are among the classics. Artefacts depicting historical figures, such as a bust of Alexander the Great or the mask of Agamemnon, are other popular motifs. These and many other Greek sculptures, Greek busts, and reliefs can be found in this section as high-quality and detailed reproductions.