Religion and Art in Ancient Greece
(900-c. 31/30 BCE) 3 Free-standing Sculptures 3 Temple Art 4 Votive Offerings 4 Individual Needs 5 Religious Artistic Intent 5 Giving Deities their Due 6 Appendices 8 References 11 Table of Figures Figure 1 - Man and Centaur 8 Figure 2 - Anavysos Kouros 9 Figure 3 - Warrior 9 Figure 4 - Temple of Aphaia, Aegina 10 Figure 5 - Temple of Aphrodite, Aphrodisias 10 Figure 6 - Fragment of Hellenistic Relief 10 Both Tanner (2006) and Stockstad (2014) trace ancient Greek art through five distinct phases; the Archaic period, the Early Classical, High Classical, and Late Classical periods, and the Hellenistic period. They partly attribute these changes to the influence of democracy and the Ancient Greek’s dedication towards creating lofty art. There was also a lot of demand placed on Greek city states to produce items that would be valuable in trade and worthy as votive offerings.
Gardner (2007) states that it was impossible for the ordinary Ancient Greek to imagine gods in any other form other than the human one. Stockstad (2014) concluded that such art represented a triumph of reason over unbridled animal passion. Female statues, (korai; singular, kore) were mostly used to denote nymphs (immortal females serving as attendants to the gods), priestesses, and deities, and were always clothed in beautifully colored fabrics (Stockstad, 2014). In the classical period, freestanding statues were crafted to have more versatile poses than the rigidly upright ones of the Archaic era, because artists started using bronze instead of marble for their sculptures. The knowledge of manipulating several materials facilitated the beginning of contrapposto, where a figure poses with most of his weight on one leg in a way that his arms and shoulders twist off-axis from the legs and hips (Stockstad, 2014).
Classical artists also got rid of the closed-lip archaic smile that was common in Archaic statues, and used more realistic facial expressions to go with the humanistic poses and build. However Greek artists were keen to ensure that their designs integrated with the natural features of a site’s outdoor altar. Tanner (2006) states that these exterior designs were meant to promote confidence in the viewers that they can also expect to be religiously transformed by their service and their experience within the temple. Votive Offerings – Although ancient Greeks did not have a guiding work of scripture like the Muslims (Quran) or the Jews (Torah), their religion depended on time-honored observations. Haluszka (2008) believes that the Greeks occasionally held animation rituals to called the gods into special images.
Even after they started building temples for their gods, cult ceremonies still took place on altars that existed long before the Archaic period, when people dedicated rituals and prayers to sacred natural elements connected to gods. In the same manner, free-standing sculptures created in Ancient Greece started to serve commemorative purposes They sometimes bore labels of the people who had commissioned them, and at other times, those who made them. It ensured that specific individuals could be praised for their dedication to the gods. Religious Artistic Intent Gardner (2007) observes that there were two conceptions maintained by the Greeks as they incorporated religious concepts into their art. The primitive reasoning was based on the belief that gods inhabit temples based on preference, so it was the desire of every city state to acquire such a special favor.
The best way to do this was to ensure that the external architectural beauty of the building and the richness of the offerings contained inside would be attractive to the deity. It shows the belief maintained by the Greeks that every deity was linked to the earth through a naturally occurring element. Therefore, they assumed that if they accurately portrayed a god or goddess in a votive statue, he or she would be pleased to dwell there. It was very important for painters, sculptors, potters, and artists in general to acquire the knowledge and mastery of the human body. They used this expertise in their work especially when they represented deities who were supposed to be perfect in their beauty and appearance.
Tanner (2006) states that cult statues placed in temples were supposed to provide people with the privilege of praying to a specific deity face to face. This dramatization was enhanced by placing the statues and drawings at the entrance of sanctuaries and on the sacred paths that visitors used as they approached the temple. Appendices Figure 1 - Man and Centaur c. 750 BCE. Bronze, 11. 1cm high, probably from Olympia. Figure 4 - Temple of Aphaia, Aegina Figure 5 - Temple of Aphrodite, Aphrodisias c. 500 or c. 475 BCE. Built according to the Doric order during the Archaic period with little details on the frieze and no base on the column c. 100 BCE - 30 AD. Sacred signified: The semiotics of statues in the ‘Greek Magical Papyri’. Arethusa, 41, 479-494.
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