Classical vs. Hellenistic

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A range of sculptural styles appeared during the Hellenistic period. For example, a highly academic style, which tells a story through a range of symbolic figures, was used in a relief carved by Archelaos of Priene, The Apotheosis of Homer (150? BC, British Museum, London). The relief was dedicated to the Muses or to Homer and shows the poet along with figures representing the World, Time, Homer's great epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey, and other literary images and ideas. But perhaps the most distinctive Hellenistic style is one sometimes called Baroque. Hellenistic Baroque, like the Baroque style of 17th-century Europe, is defined by its melodramatic, exaggerated effects. It is especially associated with the ancient city of Pergamum, and its masterpiece is the so-called Great Altar of Zeus built atop the city's acropolis sometime from about 190 to 156 BC. (A reconstruction of the west facade of the Great Altar is housed in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin, Germany.) The monument may in fact be a shrine to Telephus, Pergamum's legendary hero and founder, rather than to Zeus. The life story of Telephus, from his birth to his exploits as a mature hero, unfolds in a continuous frieze inside the monument. A podium supports the monument and around it an even larger frieze recounts the Battle of the Gods and the Giants. Some figures seem ready to leap off the wall. Some even crawl up the sides of a staircase that visitors use to reach the altar. The muscles of the figures are taut and pronounced, the drapery sweeping and tumultuous, the poses violent and dramatic, the faces expressive and pained. In one scene, the goddess Athena has caught a giant by the hair; he gazes helplessly toward the sky as he tries to free himself from her grip. His expressive pose resembles that of a Trojan priest, Laocoön, in a later statue of Laocoön and his Sons (Vatican Museums), shown as he struggles to free himself from giant snakes. Although the names of the sculptors of the Laocoön...
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