Greece Figurative Arts
Greek art developed throughout the first millennium BC. C. The Homeric poems, which are like the beginning of the spiritual life of the Greeks, are ascribed to the dawn of this; and indeed this life seems to be inaugurated by the serious ethnic upheavals, which in the legend are overshadowed by the tale of the so-called return of the Heraclids or of the Doric migration in the Peloponnese. In reality, it seems that rough northerners have descended on the Greek peninsula at this time; it is certain that the beginning of the first millennium a. C. marks in Greece a remarkable regression in the cultural, and therefore artistic, field in the face of the luxuriant life of the age called pre-Hellenic, or Minoan, or Aegean, or Cretan-Mycenaean (v.).
This is not discussed here because it is dealt with extensively in the corresponding item; However, one cannot fail to note that there are very numerous intertwined works between the artistic and industrial products of the early first millennium, that is, of the so-called Hellenic Middle Ages, and all the art and industry that took place before 1000 BC. C., given the fact that a considerable part of these belongs also to Greek, or rather Protogenic, lineages, to the so-called Achaeans, to which the Mycenaeans belonged.
At the end of the first millennium a. C. Greek art is replaced by Roman art with its own ends, with its special aspects; but Greek craftsmen continue to work in the various fields for imperial Rome, and in some works, especially of sculpture, the Greek accent still resounds. Therefore, in considering the various artistic genres of Greece, it will also be necessary to consider those products of essential Greek character which are post-vulgar. But, having said that, it will always be convenient to define the first millennium a. C. the course of Greek art. This art can be susceptible of various chronological divisions, among which the following can be proposed: First period: archaic classical art (1000-480); Second period: art of the golden age (480-306); Third period: art of Hellenism (306-50 BC).
For the first period, three development phases can be proposed:
First phase either geometric or from the Hellenic Middle Ages (1000-700 BC): primitive geometric forms dominate not only in the decoration, but also in the expression of human or bestial figures. These forms, however, are subject to a rigid system, with those characters of harmony and eurythmy which are characteristic of every manifestation of the Greek spirit. The great monumental art is missing, even though the temple is already developing as a building in itself: hence at this stage we have only humble products, of an industrial nature, especially ceramics.
Second or Ionic phase (700-550 BC): in the architecture the Doric order temple develops, while the Ionic order is manifested. Sculpture begins with forms in the highest degree naive, but denoting a continuous effort of improvement. In ceramics and in the minor arts, the orientalizing character of the decoration is, with zoomorphic, teratomorphic and phytomorphic content, but, ultimately, the human figure prevails, represented, more than in realistic scenes, in episodes of the myth.
Third or Ionic – Attic phase (550-480 BC): the architectural activity continues, indeed it intensifies in the temple, which is mainly of the Doric order in the Hellenic peninsula and in the Italic and Siceliot colonies, while it is of Ionian in the cities of Asia Minor. More daring and refinement than in the previous phase in sculpture, with more complicated patterns in the statuary, with large and moved scenes in the relief. Among the ceramic factories the Athenian ones predominate, where we can see the change from the black-figure technique to the red-figure one.
For the second period, four stages of development can be proposed.
First or transition phase (480, year of the battle of Salamis-450 BC): the salient character of this phase is the austere grandeur, with forms that still denote residues of archaism, which however are rapidly fading. The use of the Doric order in architecture seems exclusive. In sculpture a great name prevails: Mirone, in painting that of Polygnotus, the reflections of whose art are known to us from contemporary painted vases.
Step second or Phidian (450-430 a. C.): Fidia is the supreme artist of whose stylistic formulas seem marked by all the products of the past twenty years. The peculiar qualities of Phidias seem to be united in a single building, in the Parthenon: it is grandiose art, but ideal and serene. Next to Athens, the major center of art, Argolis flourishes with Polykleitos, sculptor master of the form.
Third or transition phase (430-380 BC): in the architecture it is the prevalence of the Ionic order and it is the beginning of the Corinthian style. In figurative art, sid in sculpture and in painting, for which we have the documents essentially in the painted vases, the Phidian current dominates, on which towards the end of the century. V the supposed ionic current prevails in graceful, almost affected forms.
Step fourth, or the artists Broom, Praxiteles, Lysippos (380-306 a. C.) in the architecture prevails the Ionic order, as he warns the decline of the Doric, Corinthian, and more and more states; exotic patterns are now manifesting. In painting Apelles di Colofone stands out, while in sculpture we have the glorious triad of the pathetic Scopa, of the graceful Praxiteles, of the agitated Lysippus.
The third period, so far, does not seem susceptible to divisions into phases. It begins with 306, the year of the battle of Salamis of Cyprus, and extends up to about 50 BC. C., that is to the years of the prevalence of Caesar in the Roman world (48 BC, Caesar’s victory at Pharsalus). The architecture is distinguished by grandiose and richly adorned buildings, with cities built according to zoning plans. In figurative art, and especially in sculpture, better known to us, the currents of the previous phases continue, accentuating their characters, and merge together with searches for new effects, both in the dramatic and in the idyllic, both in the graceful and in the deformed and in the exotic. Varî are the art centers; main Pergamum and Alexandria, most recently Rhodes, and the elements of Hellenic art spread throughout all parts of