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Beauty has its own rules

Have you ever wondered why we stand in ecstasy in front of an ancient Greek statue, why 2.000 years later these same statues inspired the artists of the Renaissance, or why the concept of classical beauty makes us think of ancient Greek art and sculpture? The beauty of ancient Greek sculpture has withstood the test of time, maybe because it is based on rules, sometimes obvious and sometimes less apparent, maybe because the ancient Greek artists never stopped experimenting in an attempt to capture ideal beauty and to give life, motion and feelings to their work.

Iniohos_phto by Vitsaropoulos

Take for example the Charioteer at the Delphi Museum. Someone would claim that its beauty is due to its proportions and its face which looks so real. However, its perfection is based on minute details. The Charioteer is composed of seven bronze parts each of which was cast separately. The sculptor connected them in such a way that the links are not visible on the outside surfaces, only on the interior ones. He gave life and motion to his creation. Notice how the head and his glance turn slightly to the right. This, however, was not enough for the artist. A lot of other barely visible details succeed in making us see motion. The drapery of his robe, for example, above his belt has more volume on the right than on the left. The right eye is a little bit bigger than the left.

Ancient Greek artists achieved the impossible. Without undermining the sense of balance, they introduced into their work very subtle asymmetries in order to make them more realistic. The beauty of Greek sculpture is not cold. On the contrary: it has pulse and variations.

Polycleitus gives his own version of ideal beauty. The work of this artist is based on “mathematical” proportions. The hips are 2/3 of the torso, the thighs 2/3 of the leg; the torso has the same length with the leg. The height of most of his statues would be the same as the width if the arms were spread out, something that reminds us of the Da Vinci drawing. The art of Polycleitus reflects the theories of the Phythagoreans who found the harmony of the universe in the harmony of numbers and proportions.

Iniohos_Photo by Vitsaropoulos

Next time you visit an archaeological museum, stand in front of the statues and try to discover on your own, or with the help of a tourist guide, the hidden harmonies that explain why their beauty has lasted so long.

 

Author: Andreas Lazaridis
Translator: Sophia Theona
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