Classic Period

Getty Kouros

A kouros is a statue of a standing nude youth that did not represent any one individual youth but the idea of youth. Used in Archaic Greece as both a dedication to the gods in sanctuaries and as a grave monument, the standard kouros stood with his left foot forward, arms at his sides, looking straight ahead. Carved in from four sides, the statue retained the general shape of the marble block. Archaic Greek sculptors reduced human anatomy and musculature in these statues to decorative patterning on the surface of the marble.

The kouros embodies many of the ideals of the aristocratic culture of Archaic Greece. One such ideal of this period was arete, a combination of moral and physical beauty and nobility. Arete was closely connected with kalokagathia, literally a composite term for beautiful and good or noble. - The Getty Museum

Getty Kouros, ca. 530 BCE, or modern forgery.
Marble, 81 1/8" x 21 1/2".











The Archaic or "Kouros" smile
Calf-bearer, ca. 560 BCE. Marble, 65" high.
Kroisos (Kouros from Anavysos), ca. 530 BCE. Marble, height 6' 4".











Berlin Kore
Kore in Ionian dress
Berlin Kore, ca. 570 - 560 BCE. Marble with remnants of red paint, height 6' 3".
Kore in Ionian dress, from the Acropolis, Athens, ca. 520 - 510 BCE. Marble, 1' 9" high.











painted Kore

Reconstruction of a painted Kore











Black-Figure Style
Corinthian black-figure style

Along with a newly developed taste for monumental sculpture, Archaic period produces starkly different tradition in vase painting. By mid-sixth century, Athenian painters adopt black-figure style from Corinthians.

  • Silhouette design against red colored clay
  • Internal details scratched with needle-like tool
  • Technique favors a decorative, two-dimensional effect
Corinthian black-figure amphora with animal friezes, from Rhodes, ca. 625 - 600 BCE. 1' 2" high.










Dionysos in a boat
Exekias, Dionysos in a Boat. Interior of an Attic black-figured kylix, ca. 540 BCE. Diameter 12".











Greek Pantheon
"Man is the measure of all things." - Protagoras
supreme god and god of the sky
Zeus gives birth to Dionysos
goddess of marriage, and married women
god of the sea
goddess of corn, fruit and agriculture
god of the sun, music and poetry
goddess of the moon, hunting and chastity
goddess of wisdom, law, math, war strategy
goddess of love and beauty
god of eloquence and speech
god of war
god of wine and merrymaking
Zeus, seated on a rock, gives birth to the god Dionysos from his thigh. Hermes stands by holding the royal sceptre of his father in one hand, and in his other, his own herald’s wand. Attic Red Figure, ca. 470 - 460 BCE.











Common Greek Vessel Shapes and Uses
transportation of goods
water jar
mixing wine and water
ceremonial oil jar
pouring wine
cup for drinking
cup for drinking, sometimes purely decorative











Red-Figure Style

Limitations of black-figure style led to development of red-figure style, gradually replacing black-figure style by 500 BCE.

  • Red figures against black background
  • Forms drawn with brush or by squeezing paint through animal bladder
  • Allows for greater detail and realism
    • Consequently, see far less use of profile view
    • Allows for greater foreshortening and three-dimensional effects
  • Less tedious technique allowed more freedom
Theseus Slaying The Minotaur, Amphora, 460 BCE.











Herakles wrestling Antaios
Psaiax, Herakles Wrestling the Nemean Lion, amphora, ca. 525 BCE.
Euphronios, Herakles Wrestling Antaios, Athenian red-figure calyx krater from Cerveteri, Italy, ca. 510 BCE.











Exekias, Achilles and Ajax Playing a dice game, black-figure amphora, from Vulci, Italy,
ca. 540 - 530 BCE. 2' high.
Andokides Painter, Achilles and Ajax playing a dice game, from Orvieto, Italy. Red-figured side.
ca. 523 - 520 BCE. 1' 9" high.











Douris, Eos and Memnon, Interior of an Attic red-figured kylix. ca. 490 – 480 BCE. Diameter 10 ½".










Ancient Greece in Context
Geometric Style after 900 to 700 BCE
776 BCE
First Olympic games
Archaic Period 600 - 480 BCE
First life-size Greek statues with "Archaic smile"
Innovations in black and red-figure vase painting
Construction of oldest peripteral Doric and Ionic temples
750 - 700 BCE
Homer writes the Iliad and the Odyssey
Orientalizing Style 700 to 600 BCE
563 BCE
Siddhartha (founder of Buddhism) born in Nepal
510 - 508 BCE
Athens establishes first democracy, "deme"
Classic Period ca. 480 to 323 BCE
480 - 479 BCE
Persians invade Greece, Athenians defeat Persians at the Battle of Marathon
Polykleitos formulates canon of proportions
Corinthian order introduced in temple architecture
after 447 BCE
Athenians rebuild the Acropolis
431 - 404 BCE
Peloponnesian Wars/ Sparta conquers Athens
363 BCE
Alexander the Great comes to power and begins to spread Greek ways across the East
Hellenistic Period 323 to 30 BCE











The Classic Period
ca. 480 - 323 BCE
Calf-bearer, ca. 570 BCE. Marble, 65" high.
Kroisos (Kouros from Anavysos), ca. 525 BCE. Marble, height 6'4".
Kritios Boy, ca. 480 BCE. Marble, height 46".












not contrapposto
contrapposto = the disposition of the human figure in which one part is turned in opposition to another part (usually hips and legs one way, shoulders and chest another), creating a counterpositioning of the body along its central axis.
not a contrapposto pose
contrapposto pose













Polykleitos, Doryphoros (Spear Bearer), Roman copy after an original of ca. 450 - 440 BCE.
Marble, 6' 11" high.











Polykleitos' principle of symmetria
In the mid fifth century BCE, the sculptor Polykleitos of Argos set out make a "perfect" statue constructed according to an all-encompassing mathematical formula, the Pythagorean theorem. - Janson's
"[Beauty consists] in the proportions, not the elements, but of the parts, that is to say, of finger to finger, and of all the fingers to the palm and the wrist, and of these to the forearm, and of the forearm to the upper arm, and of all the other parts to each other" - Gardner's History of Art












Riace Warrior A
Riace Warrior A, found in the sea off Riace, Italy, ca. 450 BCE. Bronze, height 6' 8".
Riace Warrior B, found in the sea off Riace, Italy, ca. 450 BCE. Bronze, height 6' 8".











Riace Warrior A detail
Riace Warrior B detail











Zeus (or Poseidon), ca. 460 - 450 BCE. Bronze, 6' 10" high.