University of Redlands
Compare and Contrast Two Works Of Art
Greek culture is the source from which many of the characteristic elements of Western culture derive. Their explorations and innovations in art have both fascinated and inspired other civilizations for centuries. For this assignment I chose two Greek sculptures viewed at the Getty Museum. The first is Kouros circa 530 B.C. made of Dolomitic marble from Thasos and is approximately 200 cm (80 in) in height. The second is Cult Statue of a Goddess, (most likely Aphrodite) South Italy, 425 - 400 B.C. made of Limestone and marble. It stands at a height of 220 cm (86 5/8 in). There is some dispute to the authenticity of the Getty Kouros sculpture, but assuming it is not a modern forgery it would belong to the Greek Archaic period. Cult Statue of a Goddess (herein referred to as Aphrodite) hails from the Greek Classical period. The identities of both sculptors are unknown.
In historical terms, the time difference between these two sculptures is not a relatively large one (approximately 100 to 130 years), and the two works share a few common characteristics. They are both freestanding sculptures with open spaces. Neither piece depicts a person who really existed but rather a figure representing the ideals valued during that period. These sculptures also commemorate the living instead of the dead like the sculptures of the ancient Egyptians. The time difference these pieces do reflect a change or evolution between the two Greek periods and their respective concerns and principles. Kouros represents youth and many of the ideals of the aristocratic culture of Archaic Greece, such as that of moral and physical beauty and nobility. Aphrodite represents the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture characteristics esteemed by the Classical Greek concepts of naturalism and humanism.
The physical characteristics of these pieces differ quite a bit also. Kouros is a life-sized sculpture (approximately 6 ½ feet) and displays a position adopted by the Ancient Egyptians; an upright figure sporting a stiff frontal pose, hands clenched at the sides and one foot slightly forward. The overall all renditions are block-like and sculpted with geometric reduction of details. The anatomy is made up of planes, completely symmetrical. The hair, ears, and eyes have been reduced to simple shapes again, all identically symmetrical. Kouros is depicted nude, symbolic of Archaic Greece's emphasis on the ideal individual male and autonomous Greek citizen. In contrast, Aphrodite is a considerably large female (7 feet tall and substantially wider than the Kouros). Given the larger than real-life scale, this statue probably served as a cult image in a temple. The statue's excellent state of conservation also suggests that it was kept indoors. It is free standing but also in an anatomical, not just mechanical sense. The pose is full and rounded, not solely frontal. You get a sense of the body being relaxed, with one hand extended in a gesture that gives a sense of it moving forward.
One foot is also forward with Aphrodite but with the pelvis at an angle to the ground plane creating the position known as contrapposto, the position of a human figure in painting or sculpture in which the hips and legs are turned in a different direction from that of the shoulders and head; the twisting of a figure on its own vertical axis. Additionally, no geometric reduction and arrangement of separate parts occurs with Aphrodite. You have a complete human face with each element fully articulated and naturally accurate. Whereas Kouros is nude, Aphrodite displays the figure's swirling, clinging clothing closely following the sculptural style current in Athens on the mainland of Greece in the late 400s B.C. This emphasizes the sculpture's feeling of freedom and dramatic expression. Through the use of these compositional elements, contrapposto of the body and the...