Greek Classical (Art)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As a classical refers to the classics , especially the classical archeology , the era that the Greek domestic upheavals towards the end of the 6th century. And with the victories of the Greeks against the threat from Persia in the battles at Marathon 490 BC. BC, Salamis 480 BC BC and Plataiai 479 BC Begins. The change initiated by this is particularly noticeable in art and architecture, but also in painting and vase painting, in poetry, philosophy and literature. With the death of Alexander the Great and the ensuing power struggles, division of areas and forms of rule during the Diadoch period in 323 BC. The time of the Greek classical period ends. Temporally it stands between archaic art and that of Hellenism .

Although the "classical time" extends over a period of one and a half centuries, it is not a monolithic block. Rather, this period can be divided into further units based on stylistic criteria, which merge more or less smoothly into one another, but are clearly defined in their fixed form let them separate from each other. Classical archeology distinguishes between the following styles:

  • Early Classical or Strict Style 480 to 450 BC Chr.
  • High Classic 450 to 430/420 BC Chr.
  • Rich style from 430/420 to 400/390 BC Chr.
  • Late Classic 400/390 to 330/323 BC Chr.

These style levels do not correlate with any noticeable historical events. In contrast to the upheavals at the beginning and end of the epoch, for example, the Peloponnesian War in no way influenced the development of the visual arts and that of around 430/20 BC. Forms of the rich style developed until about 390 BC. Chr. Continued. If, on the other hand, one sees the Rich Style itself as evidence of transition and upheaval, then the war would be the only externally structured and effective factor on the art of this time.

Early Classical or Strict Style

Warriors from the west gable of the temple of
Aphaia ; Glyptothek , Munich
Warriors from the east pediment of the Aphaia temple; Glyptothek , Munich

The transition from archaic art of the 7th and 6th centuries BC is most evident . In the strict style on the two gables of the Temple of Aphaia on the Greek island of Aegina . Both gables depict battle scenes. While on 510/500 BC. With the west gable created in the 4th century BC, the figures are still depicted in archaic cohesion and self-reliance and show themselves in a striking flatness and frontality, the depictions of the 15 years younger east gable begin with rotating movements to fill the depiction space given by the gable triangle in its third dimension, the depth . The archaic smile has disappeared here and gives way to a new seriousness that leads to the strict style .

This appears in full expression with the so-called " Kritios boy ". Although the motif of the Kouros archaic period can still be recognized, it probably shows it soon before 480 BC. The boy created all the design approaches that are binding for classical art: Clear distinction between standing and free leg , the resulting ponderation , which is evident in the slight elevation of the hip on the side of the standing leg. Werner Fuchs coined the term “antistrophic parallel rhythm” for the design pattern, in which one side of the body carries the forward-pushing action while the other side is withdrawn. The differentiation of the ponderation does not yet develop up to the shoulders, but with the slight turn of the head and the deep seriousness of the facial expression, a different conception of the human being comes to the fore than was previously conceivable. A state of mind can be experienced that archaic art did not know.

After the playful robes, especially from the late Archaic period, these are now simpler, the material “heavier”. The gable figures of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia show this tendency particularly well. Bronze is becoming increasingly important in the manufacture of statues; bronze casting now also masters large-format, life-size statues, such as the 477/76 BC. A group of tyrants created by the arch-founders Kritios and Nesiotes or the bronze statues of Riace . Important sculptors of the high classical period created their first works during the period of the Strict Style. Myron , Phidias and Polyklet should be mentioned here .

The erection of monumental temples spreads in Greece, Asia Minor , but also in Greater Greece and shows a new self-confidence of the clients. The most prominent example of this period is around 460 BC. The temple of Zeus erected in the sanctuary of Olympia was referred to, "Temple E" in Heraion of Selinunt also belongs to this period.

Bowl of the Pistoxenus Painter , 480 BC. Chr .; British Museum , London

The Greek vase painting developed towards the end of the 6th century BC. The red-figure vase painting that was introduced in BC continues, but now shows greater plasticity in the depiction of robes and also changes the content of their depiction in a lasting manner. No longer the concrete moment of a certain event, but the way there, the immediately before it becomes important content. At the same time, with the beginning of the Classical period, the heyday of vase painting was over and artists turned to wall painting in the years that followed.

Diskobolos , Roman marble copy from Villa Adriana . British Museum, London

However, not all areas of the Greek cultural area participate equally in the development. For the beginning of the Early Classical period, there are still simultaneous works that are entirely in the archaic tradition, such as the one around 480/470 BC. BC built the tomb of a Lycian prince in Xanthos , the "Harpy Monument". The frieze of the monument shows late archaic formal language in terms of composition, but also in the form of hair and clothing, but the archaic smile has already disappeared there too. In general, in the types of monuments that are traditionally more persistent like the grave reliefs, archaic form material, archaic linearity in the representation lasts longer than in freer genres. The so-called "Leukothea relief", also from the time around 480/470 BC. In spite of the new physicality and the intimate relationship of the depicted, BC shows clearly archaic stylization of hair and clothing.

Even in antiquity it was known that something new had begun in the field of art in the time of the Persian Wars, which began in a preliminary stage around 450 BC. Introduced the high classics beginning in the 3rd century BC and clearly set itself apart from the older ones. For example, from around 490/480 B.C. BC acting. Pythagoras of Rhegium Roman art scholarship as an innovator. Because "he first expressed tendons and veins and treated the hair more carefully" than his predecessors. Certainly Pythagoras did not invent this type of representation, but associating it with an artist personality, the phenomenon may have been with him first.

According to Diogenes Laertios , Pythagoras was also the first to devote his work to the problems of symmetria and rhythm . That before the 5th century BC In the ancient understanding of the word, Symmetria means the proportion in which different aspects of one and the same thing are related to one another, and can mean “moist” - “dry”, “warm” - “cold”, but also to parts of buildings and structural members be related to the limbs of a body. In contrast to asymmetria, symmetria is always the “good and correct” proportion. Rhythmos in its basic meaning means the regulated movement, then transfers a joining of the parts that is propagated within an order, a relation of the parts to one another that moves as a whole. With Pythagoras the confrontation with such demands begins. Myron, who is a little younger, is attested that he was the first to reproduce the truth, although he was still raw in the depiction of pubic and scalp hair as in earlier art. However, he has not (yet) reproduced the feeling or mood of the soul; nevertheless he had been more varied and more careful in establishing his symmetry than Polyklet. In Myron's work, perhaps not until his later work, what Pythagoras introduced was so developed that even Polycletus could not achieve it: Symmetria . At the same time he lacked the expressiveness of the soul. Quintilian praises Myron for the agility of his statues, with which he overcame the rigidity of earlier times with their hanging arms and closed feet - meaning archaic kouroi or koren - and defends Myron's work, because in art “it is precisely the difficult and New ones especially commendable. "

High class

Two decades only took the time period of the high classical is called, from 450 to 430/420 v. Two decades in which, with tremendous effort and enormous financial resources, but also with a previously unknown creative potential, art was brought to a previously unattained maturity. The exemplary nature of this art, which it was already considered to be in antiquity and which exerted a considerable influence on the art of the modern era in dealing with antiquity, is the basis for the designation high classical . This development was largely driven by Athens and in competition with Athens. With the victories of the Attic League in the last battles against the Persians was around the middle of the 5th century BC. The Persian danger averted and Athens demanded a certain supremacy among the Greek poleis because of its achievements . To illustrate this and to remove the ravages of the Persian Wars when the opportunity arises, Athens developed an extensive building program, driven by the party of Pericles and supported by the intellectual and artistic greats of its time.

Athens raised its democracy to a new level with the participation of all citizens thanks to the introduction of diets, the spiritual life was shaped by the forces of nous , reason, and attracted educated people from all parts of the Greek world. With Anaxagoras , Ionic natural philosophy found its way into Athens, Sophocles and Euripides created their tragedies . With the Old Comedy , the person of Kratinos also begins a critical examination of Pericles.

Pelike des Polygnotos , Louvre G 375, Paris

On the other hand, the concentration on Athens led to a loss of diversity. Centers of art that were once independent lost in importance, especially in small sculpture the wealth of ideas became impoverished and production declined. In vase painting, polychromy appears on white-ground lekyths , for which only the contours in matt gray or red color are applied before firing. Among the painters of red-figure vases, Polygnotos stands out, who probably chose his name after the important painter of that time, Polygnotos of Thasos . Also this one who immigrated to Athens, who was honored for his achievements as a painter with the Athenian citizenship, but also worked elsewhere, for example in Delphi.

Athens, which supposedly swore before the battle of Plataiai not to rebuild the sanctuaries destroyed by the barbarians, sparked the beginning of the high classical period according to current theory in 449/448 BC. BC with the plan to rebuild and redesign the acropolis and destroyed sanctuaries of Athens. The preparations necessary for this had, of course, been started long before that. Already under Kimon the Acropolis was leveled and re-terraced, in this context also expanded, which probably only after the Battle of Eurymedon around 465 BC. BC was conceivable. When then 454 BC BC the treasury of the Attic League was transferred from Delos to Athens, the Athenians had the financial means for such a project.


Parthenon , Athens

The architects Iktinos , Kallikrates and Mnesikles were appointed under the senior building supervision of Phidias for the redesign of the Acropolis, on whose building commission Perikles himself sat . The project on the Acropolis included the buildings of the Parthenon , the Propylaea , the Erechteion and the Temple of Athena Nike . Started and completed by 430 BC. Only the Parthenon and the Propylaea were of these. At the same time the temple of Hephaestus was built on the edge of the agora, the temple of Artemis Agrotera on Ilisos, the temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion and in Eleusis the new construction of the Telesterion, begun under Kimon, was completed by Iktinos.

At the Parthenon, 8 × 17 columns of Doric order formed the columnaround, the peristasis . This distinguishes the Parthenon from all earlier Doric temples, which only had six-column fronts. While Ionic temples with eight-column fronts had a double column wreath, the cella at the Parthenon was extended by two yokes . The Parthenon follows the classic ratio of columns on the front to the long sides, which was already given at the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, which was designed according to the rule "Front columns: flank columns = n: (2n + 1)". The same proportion, reduced to a ratio of 4: 9, runs through all other design dimensions of the Parthenon. The column diameter to the column spacing was determined by this, the aspect ratio of the stylobate follows it, including the naos without ante . Temple width to temple height up to the horizontal geison is determined by the ratio 9: 4, and this is followed by the ratio of temple length to temple height, which is 81:16, increased to a square ratio. The ratio of 4: 9 or 9: 4 can also be found in the design dimensions of the temple of Hephaestus.

The amalgamation of structural and decorative elements in the Doric and Ionic order is also striking in both buildings . If the frieze on the cella walls of both temples does not belong to the Doric form canon, the use of Ionic profiles on both buildings, be it at the foot of the wall at the Hephaisteion or the bead of pearl above the triglyphone of the Parthenon, is even more unusual, although there were older approaches . Similar phenomena can be observed in the Propylaea of ​​Mnesikles, who provided his Ionic columns in the vestibule of the processional path with an entasis that was peculiar to the Doric ones .

Regulated proportions, symmetry and rhythm , the subtle play with unrelated elements characterize this architecture. It goes without saying that all these buildings come up with optical refinements such as curvature and inclination . If the structural members of older temples were still autonomous structures in themselves, which either carried or weighed down, they were woven into a network of movement and countermovement in the buildings of the high classical period, they were corporeal structures in the flow of movement of the buildings.

Movement and countermovement, balancing out the opposites and contrapost were themes that occupied the Greek sculptors since the beginning of the early classical period . And in view of the fact that Phidias, an accomplished sculptor, perhaps the greatest sculptor of his time, supervised the work on the Parthenon, may explain how these problems and their solutions found their way into the field of architecture.


Statue of Apollo Kassel type , Louvre
Athena Lemnia, cast in the Pushkin Museum , Moscow
Doryphoros , National Museum, Naples

Phidias, as a key advisor and probably the most famous sculptor of his time at the start of construction of the Parthenon, had just completed the work on his Athena Promachos when he was commissioned with the construction management on the Acropolis. With him and the artists of a generation of high classics, a new view of people, art and the relationship between nature and art began. The examination of the rules of art that began in the early classical period is continued, rewritten and apparently also written down for the first time. If the early classical period “multiplied the truth” and took the path to a strongly naturalistic realism, now the regular, its discovery and implementation on the one hand, the soulfulness, feeling and mood on the other, become the main theme in the representation of people.

With regard to the regular, symmetry and the balance between movement and counter-movement, action and reaction are the goals of artistic design, each of which becomes a key form of art development. The stand, the stand motif and its effects - in the case of the naked male statue on the muscles, in the case of the female statue on the garment - are played through in ever new attempts and brought to a highly classic form, the chiastically structured, pondered counterost: the human being in balance regardless of standing still or moving action. The "antistrophic parallel rhythm" of the Strict Style is further developed into a chiastic entanglement of the active and passive limbs over both halves of the body.

The result is not immediately available and in Phidias and Polyklet, whose work received the greatest attention from Roman copyists, developments can be recognized, and even the influence of the polycletic work on that of Phidias can be determined. The work of other artists of the time, such as Kresilas , on the other hand, is difficult to grasp, should the attributions of the Amazon of the Sosikles type or Athena von Velletri to Kresilas apply, a polycletic influence could also be proven with him. From Phidias' pupil and colleague Agorakritos only the very fragmentary statue of the Nemesis of Rhamnous has been preserved, but like his contemporary Alkamenes he is already transitioning to the rich style .

The stand is on the statues of Phidias around 450 BC. Chr. Still tight, with the Kasseler Apoll both feet step with whole soles, the free leg is slightly to the side and forward. The shoulders respond weakly to the contraction of the side of the standing leg that the head is facing. The upper body is set off from the thighs with distinct groins. Quite similar, but already with the heel slightly raised on the parallel leg, Phidias presented the model soon after 450 BC. Athena Lemnia was created in BC. The motif of the propped up left arm, the angled forearm on the side of the standing leg allowed a stronger ponderation in the area of ​​the shoulder, which now clearly follows the contraction of the side of the standing leg and slopes down to it. This corresponds in a chiastic way to the rising overhang of the belted peplos, which rises to the higher right hip joint. Finally, at Athea Parthenos, the 437 BC Was completed, the free leg is slightly to the side and set back, the heel fully raised.

" Proprium eius est, uno crure ut insisterent signa " - "It is peculiar for him that the statues appear with one leg". With these words Pliny characterizes the work of Polyklets. Polyklet was the inventor of the standing motif, in which the foot of the free leg only touches the ground with the ball of the ball, with all the consequences for the ponderation and the contrapostic, which found the generally applicable formulation in his work, especially in Doryphoros . Carrying and loads, movement and counter-movement, lifting and lowering, tension and relaxation - all opposites find a harmonious balance in his work, right down to the tips of the hair with their praised pincer motifs. A man- builder , ἀνδριαντοποιός , already in the ancient judgment, while Phidias , Praxiteles and Skopas were considered ἀγαλματοποιός , god- builders , who repeatedly approached and varied his great topic, such as in Diadumenos . Varro said then to Polyklet that his statues “all go back to a single model, so to speak”.

Around 430 BC Chr. Introduced by Ephesus tendered competition the greatest artists of the high classical period:

But the most highly praised artists competed with one another, even though they were born at different times: since they had created the Amazons that were to be consecrated in the temple of Diana in Ephesus, it was agreed by the judgment of the to let the artist present themselves determine the most recognized artist, when it was obvious that one Amazon would be awarded the second prize after their own. She is the Amazon Polyklets , Phidias took second place, Kresilas the third , Kydon the fourth and the fifth Phradmon . "

- Pliny : Naturalis historia 34, 53.

Among the surviving statue types, the Amazons of the Sosikles , “Mattei” and “Sciarra” types go back to the competition. The difficulties that the high class still has in store can be seen in the fact that the allocation of Amazon types to individual artists is still controversial today.

Rich style


  • Adolf Furtwängler : Masterpieces of Greek sculpture. Art historical research. 2 volumes (text volume, table volume). Giesecke & Devrient, Leipzig et al. 1893.
  • Werner Fuchs : The sculpture of the Greeks. (With photos by Max Hirmer .) Hirmer, Munich 1969. 4th edition 1993, ISBN 3-7774-6100-8 .
  • Adolf Borbein : The classical art of antiquity. In: Classic in comparison. Normativity and Historicity of European Classics. DFG Symposium 1990. Edited by Wilhelm Voßkamp. Stuttgart 1993 (= German Symposia Report Volumes 13), pp. 281–316.
  • Martin Maischberger , Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer (Hrsg.): The Greek Classic. Idea or reality. An exhibition in the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, March 1–2. June 2002 and in the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn, July 5th – 6th. October 2002 . Zabern, Mainz 2002, ISBN 3-8053-2854-0 .


  1. Werner Fuchs: The sculpture of the Greeks. P. 49.
  2. Pliny , Naturalis historia 34, 59.
  3. Diogenes Laertios 8:47
  4. Hildebrecht Hommel : Symmetry in the mirror image of antiquity. Meeting reports of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, Philosophical-Historical Class, 5th report, 1986, p. 21 f. Note 32.
  5. Hanna Philipp : On Polyklet's writing »Canon«. In: Herbert Beck , Peter C. Bol , Maraike Bückling (eds.): Polyklet. The sculptor of the Greek classical period. Exhibition in the Liebieghaus-Museum Alter Plastik Frankfurt am Main . Zabern, Mainz 1990, ISBN 3-8053-1175-3 , p. 141 f.
  6. Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 57-58.
  7. Quintilian, institutio oratoria 13.8.
  8. Manolis Korres : The Plan of the Parthenon . In: Communications from the German Archaeological Institute Athens Department . Volume 109, 1994, pp. 53-120, plates 18-24.
  9. ^ Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 56.
  10. ^ Hermann Diels : Laterculi Alexandrini - from a papyrus of Ptolemaic times. Publishing house of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Berlin 1904, No. 7.
  11. ^ In Pliny, Naturalis historia 34, 56.
  12. Renate Bol: The Amazon of Polyklet. In: Herbert Beck, Peter C. Bol, Maraike Bückling (eds.): Polyklet. The sculptor of the Greek classical period. Exhibition in the Liebieghaus-Museum Alter Plastik Frankfurt am Main . Zabern, Mainz 1990, ISBN 3-8053-1175-3 , pp. 213-239.