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Art from ancient Greece is usually categorized into three important stylistic periods. These are the Archaic, the Classical, and the Hellenistic periods. The archaic period is dated from about 1000 BC although the really information about Greece's art was known 200 years later. The beginning of the Persian Wars in the period between 480 BC and 448 BC is usually taken to be the time dividing the archaic period and the classical period. On the other hand, the time during the reign of Alexander the Great 336-323, is assumed to be the separating period between classical and Hellenistic periods. This essay will discuss female sculptures during these periods.
During the classical period the making of sculptures in Greek followed rigid guidelines that were similar to those of the Egyptians. Female sculptures were always appeared clothed and were commonly called the Kore, a Greek word for female. The archaic period lasted from 600 BC to 480 BC; it was a period that saw the gradual but sure development of sculptures from the earliest kore to the variety and richness of the 6th century work that emphasized elaborate drapery and delicate details. The kore were either commemorative or votive statues which were commissioned by wealthy patrons to either serve deities or as commemorative figures of some members of a family. Here the human anatomy was acknowledged under the cloth but was not emphasized as in the nude kouros (male statues). The kore were always made standing in a forward pose. Examples of female sculptures that were made during the archaic period include: the Peplos kore of 530 BC, which was made standing in a rigid pose. It appeared obedient and immobile but full of strength and femininity; the Chios kore of 520 BC, which had elegant features; and many others. The archaic kore paved way to the philosophical, cultural, and political innovation of the classical period in Greece (Ancient Greece 1).
The archaic period was followed by the classical period. This period saw a dramatic change in sculpture. Sculptures became much more lifelike with greater individual characteristics. There was a profound show of emotion on the faces and figures appeared often in motion. It is during this time that the Greeks discovered how to do hollow-casting using bronze, a discovery that gave sculptors more freedom that the usual marble. This period experienced a shift from the rigid archaic to a more realistic and even idealistic portrayal of human figure. In the archaic period, females were shown in clothes, but during this era, females were depicted in their nudity often with flowing robes. A new standard of human beauty was developed by controlling the human form basing on principles of symmetry, proportion and balance. This period was divided into three; the early classical period, the Golden age, and the late classical period. In the late classical period emphasis was made on need of expressing emotion in art, elegance of emotion and graceful beauty. Examples of sculptures made during the classical period include: Aphrodite of Knidos. It was the first Greek sculpture that was done in the nude. At that time nudity was only admired and expected in male statues. The Aphrodite of Knidos however received a wide acceptance from viewers who found it to have enchanting beauty. It was in fact considered by many as a public model that showed positive moral values. It was a favorite among many people whereby many copies of it were made some of them still survive up to date; the Nike of paeonios, Nike was a votive offering to Zeus from the Messenias and the Naupactians for winning the war against the Spartans; and many others (Kbagdanov 1).
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The classical period was followed by the Hellenistic period which began in 323 with the dying of Alexander the Great and ends in 31 BC with the battle of Actio. The Greek art under drastic transformations during this time and evolved on the foundation set by the classical period. Sculptures expanded their horizons with sweeping lines, dramatic posing, coupled with high contrast of light, emotions and shadow. Using the rules of the classical period, the sculptures were able to experiment and explore their works from points of view that were different and unique. Idealism from classical works paved way for a higher intensity of naturalism that came as a logical conclusion of the sculptures of the late classical era, who envisioned a more realistic way in which the human figure could be expressed. There emerged bold expressions of power and energy in the sculptures. Themes in the works of this period shifted from religious and naturalistic matters to human expression. The sculptures tended to embrace more their physical surroundings rather than the self containment of the earlier styles. Examples of female sculptures during this period include: the Nike of Samothrace, which showed a mastery of sculpturing and a deep understanding of the world as expressed using aesthetic conventions and techniques; the voluptuous Aphrodite Venus was made in such a way to depict eroticism as she is being seduced by Eros. Such statues become very popular during this period where they were used to adorn many halls of museums around the world; another one was the Aphrodite of Melos which is still admired today as a personification of the whole essence of beauty (Greek art 1).
As it has been shown, female Greek sculptures evolved over a period that was divided into three parts, the archaic period, the classical period and the Hellenistic period. There was a gradual change in style of sculpturing from one period to the other where by the Hellenistic period represented the culmination of many years work and efforts that saw the realization of great artistic work in the history of Greece and the whole world.