Polykleitos: Search for the Perfect Human Form

Topics: Sculpture, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopedia Pages: 4 (1186 words) Published: April 11, 2009
Polykleitos, a Greek sculptor from the mid-fifth century BCE, revolutionized the way sculptures were created thereafter by revealing a new way to look at the human figure. After receiving his education in Argos, a school in Greece (Kleiner, Mamiya 133), Polykleitos entered a sculpting contest to create an Amazon for the temple of Artemis at Ephesos. Phidias, who was famed for his contribution to Greek sculpture, had also entered the contest and lost to his younger rival, Polykleitos. After this competition, Polykleitos’ reputation soared (Britannica “Polykleitos”). His very name means “far famed” in Greek (Lapatin 1). Later artists deliberately used characteristics from Polykleitos’ work to better their own works, such as the architect Vitruvius (Lapatin 11). Polykleitos’ use of contrapposto helped lead the way for sculptors to use more naturalistic stances rather than the rigid frontal pose common for that time period (Britannica “Polykleitos). His use of contrapposto, along with the Canon, would set a new standard of realism (Lapatin 12). Contrapposto is a sculptural scheme in which the statue standing has one leg supporting the weight, and one leg is bent (Britannica “Contrapposto”). The basis for the Canon is an association among the measures of an entire work, and of the whole work to a part of the body selected as a standard. For example, the entire figure is eight heads high (Schultz, Wilkins 81). Polykleitos wanted to impose mathematic perfection on the human body and order to the movement of the figure (Kleiner, Mamiya 132). Pythagoreous and his followers believed that underlying harmonic proportions could be found in all nature. By this basic belief, Polykleitos sought to make a perfect human form by mathematical formula (Kleiner, Mamiya 133). The basic underlying structure of his Canon is made up of common fractures, or exact divisions, of the figures’ height. The precise measurements of the Canon are lost, but the scheme promoted by the Roman writer...

Bibliography: "contrapposto." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 14 Mar. 2008 .
"Polyclitus." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 23 Mar. 2008 .
Wilkins, David G., and Bernie Schultz. Art Past, Art Present. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. 78-81.
Kleiner, Fred S., and Christian J. Mamiya. Gardner 's Art Through the Ages. 12thth ed. Vol. 1. Belmont, California: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2005. 132-133.
Lapatin, Kenneth D.s. "Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and Tradition." The Art Bulletin (1995): 1-20. 24 Mar. 2008.
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