Greek Art : The Hellenistic Period
The Hellenistic period is usually said to begin with the conquests of Alexander the Great,
around 330 B.C., during which time Greek art and culture spread to other lands. The sculptures
of Hellenistic times tends to be much more active and intense, often in groups engaged in
violent activity. One of the best examples of this style is the sculptural decorations of
the Great Altar of Zeus at Pergamum. The first image shows the goddess Athena gripping a
rebellious Giant by the hair; the second shows a close-up of Artemis' dog biting another giant.
Another well-known Hellenistic scupture is the Winged Victory of Samothrace, now in the
Louvre, Paris. Although headless and armless, her rippling garment conveys a real sense
Roman Art: Pompeii
In general, the sculptures of the Roman period continued the trends of the Hellenistic
period, i.e., large, multi-figure groups with great detail and emotional intentisty. (In many cases, it is very
difficult to distinguish between Hellenistic works, Roman copies of Greek works, and Roman originals).
Good examples are the Farnese Bull and the Laocoön.
Many of the most important artworks from Roman times are those which have been discovered in or near
the famous buried city of Pompeii. The eruption of nearby Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. completely
covered this Roman seaside city but preserved it more-or-less intact. Also buried in the same event
was a nearby city called Herculaneum, where many important artworks have been found. Below is an aerial photo of Pompeii,
followed by some ground-level views showing the remains as they appear today.
Not only were items of daily life discovered, but also many painted walls with vivid scenes
taken from myths, as seen below. Another technique that the Romans were quite skilled at was mosaic,
the making of pictorial scenes, often quite large, from minute pieces of colored stones.
With the fall of the (Western) Roman Empire and the start of the Middle Ages, there began
a period of about 1000 years during which there was little or no depiction of famous myths
in art. It was only around the 14th century A.D. that the accomplishments of the Classical civilizations
were rediscovered or revived, a time now referred to as the Renaissance (a word from French
meaning "rebirth"). For this, see the next page here.
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© 2005 B. Precourt email me