Greece’s Golden Age – Unit 2 Essay

Document Type
5 pages
Word Count
1186 words
Course Code
lstd 3113
SierraLynn Anderson
Unit 2 Essay
Greece’s Golden Age
In terms of art, the word “classic” is used to describe works that have been judged over
the centuries and deemed to be of the highest quality of its kind, a paradigm of sorts. This word
is the ideal description of one of the most influential time periods of creation. The Classical
Period (480-323 B.C.E), also known as the Golden Age, was transformative in greek artistic
culture. Artists began to move away from stagnant, rigid sculptures of gods and goddesses and
synthesized the humanistic, realistic, and idealistic art movements. With the instrumental works
of Vitruvius, Polyclietus, and Myron, Greek artistry began to take on a new form that would
influence the artistic community for the rest of time.
The forefather of Classical style was not a sculptor nor a painter, but a Roman architect.
Marcus Vitruvius Pollo, commonly known as Vitruvius, was an author, architect, and engineer
who lived during the first century B.C. He served under the Roman Emperor, Ceasar (his patron)
as a military engineer and paved the way for modern architecture. Vitruvius is also credited with
writing the works that would soon lay out the parameters for the art of the Classical Period, De
Architectura (published as the Ten Books on Architecture) (LeV. Crum 1). In these books,
Vitruvius not only outlines many aesthetic principles and guidelines used by ancient Greeks and
Romans but discusses how these principles relate to art and nature. He believed that the
structural foundations of a building should imitate those found in nature, specifically in the
human anatomy. Vitruvius emphasized the need for symmetry, balance, and distinct proportions
in the creation of all art, whether it be architectural or artistic. He claimed that “‘Without
symmetry and proportion there can be no principles in the design of any temple” and that this
also reigned true for the replication of the human body (Fiero 114). Within De Architectura,
Vitruvius discussed specific rules on which the proportions of the human body should be based.
These rules became known as the “Classical Canon,” or the laws by which the Classical Style
would follow. However, It was not until the famous Leonardo da Vinci formulated the
Proportional Study of Man in the Manner of Vitruvius (Figure 1.0), an image that most everyone
is familiar with, in 1487 that the Vetruvian Model became the central model for the ideally
proportioned human being. (Fiero 114)
The prominent Classic Style sculptor, Polycleitus, also wrote a manual on proportion
titled, The Canon, inspired by the works of Vitruvius. The manual, long lost to history, is
believed to have employed the Vitruvian canon and preached the laws of symmetry and
mathematical basis for human proportion (Fiero114). These works
lead to more realistic sculptures with increasingly naturalistic
depictions of human anatomy. Polycleitus applied these guidelines to
his sculptures and brought a new sense of idealism to Hellenic
artistry. One of his most famous creations, the Doryphorus (Spear-
Bearer), is widely revered as the “embodiment of the canon of ideal
human proportions” (Fiero 120). The sculpture depicts a confident
and poised warrior or athlete that strides forward in a way that
portrays motion and yet, stillness at the same time. The athlete’s
composure is muscular and defined in a way that was not presented
before the Classical Period. This model, a naked man, is the only
medium in which Polycleitus worked. He spent his entire career
attempting to artistically personify the ideal human (man) using the

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