Kritios Boy, c. 480
BCE
Polykleitos,
Doryphoros, c.450
BCE
Praxiteles, Hermes and
Dionysos, 4th century
BCE
Praxiteles, Aphrodite of
Knidos, 4th century BCE
HELLENISTIC ART
In the second half of the fourth century BCE, Alexander the Great created a true Greek empire, conquering
Egypt, the Near East, and India. Greek influence spread throughout the region, yet the most important
cities of the period were not even in Greece, but rather in Asia Minor (Pergamon) and North Africa
(Alexandria). This age of expansion is called the Hellenistic period and is traditionally dated from the death
of Alexander in 323 BCE to the conquest of Egypt by the Romans in 31 BCE
Many of the artistic developments in this period extended the skills attained by earlier artists; this was a
time of great artistic virtuosity during which artists tried to outdo the great works of the past. Other
characteristics of Hellenistic art may be due to foreign influence. Many works show types of people or
extreme emotional states that would have been considered unseemly in fifth-century Greece, although
patrons in Asia or North Africa may have appreciated these more dramatic works.
The best examples of Hellenistic sculpture are constructed with extraordinary skill. Some of them, like the
Nike (Victory) of Samothrace, exhibit artistic challenges—in this case, showing wind as it rushes past the
winged victory figure. Laocoön and His Sons is another example of a sculpture that displays great virtuosity.
Three figures are carved from a single block of marble, with large open areas cut through the stone,
increasing the possibility of breakage. This piece, which shows the punishment of a priest who wanted to
warn the Trojans about the Greek invaders, is also remarkable for its violent emotions and movement.
Hellenistic sculpture came a long way from the stern restraint of the early fifth century BCE
Many Hellenistic works also show a high degree of realism. Sometimes the person depicted is from the
lower classes or from a foreign culture (a barbarian, as the Greeks would say). A famous example of the
latter is the Dying Gaul, originally a bronze statue from the altar at Pergamon. The sculpture shows the
Previous Page Next Page