Sunday, December 5, 2010

Greek Art - The Language Of Statues

Can statues really talk? Don’t answer too quickly. They do talk, only not in the way we think of verbal communication. Like a lot of art, the reason for its existence focused on providing representations of the Greek gods and goddesses.

Like so many elements of modern culture (including art, Mediterranean food, politics and more), the Greeks moved art forward by a quantum leap with their sculpture during the Archaic Period (8th to early 5th century BC). Their influence provided the foundation for the later Classical and Hellenistic Greek ages and later for the Romans. Broad, well-laid foundations last. This one did right into the western sculpture we know today.

It didn’t happen over night. And like those who came after them, the anonymous Archaic Greek sculptors built on the work of the Egyptians. Perhaps because of this, the early Greek statues depicted rigid, unnatural forms similar to today’s mannequin—feet together and a blank stare on their faces. But even this was a tremendous advance because the Greeks of the Archaic Period were the first to create free-standing statues. The Greeks eventually did away with colorful adornment via paints and dyes. They paid more attention to the details of facial feature and the anatomical construction.

Look a little closer and you’ll hear better. The sculpture Kritios Boy (c. 480 BC) depicts a young man standing at rest. His body language tells us he’s on his way to somewhere—the position of his legs for the implied weight shift of walking and the subtle motion of the hips. The Greeks captured the fluidity of movement in most of their statuary.

The high point of Greek sculpture came during the Hellenistic Period (late 4th—1st Century BC). The ideas and techniques of the previous centuries blossomed to true greatness when the emphasis went onto the dynamic and extreme poses. The epitome of Hellenistic art shines in Nike of Samothrace—you can hear the wind blowing the folds of her clothing and through the feathers of the extended wings.

Perhaps the most talkative of the statues is named Laocoön, which shows the tormented Trojan priest Laocoön and his two sons in a battle to the death with sea serpents intent on strangling them. This was heavy penalty for offending Apollo or Poseidon (the history isn’t clear) by warning Troy about a wooden horse. Just looking at their faces and the strain of their bodies shouts to us.

But you won’t need to shout when you take a break from the culturally rich world of Greek statuary at Ziziki’s. Our Dallas Greek restaurants provide plenty of culinary communication. Just peruse a Greek art book—after you examine our delicious Greek menu and enjoy a scrumptious meal.

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