Greek, Etruscan & Roman Art: The Classical Collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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The Fifth Century: First Half

THE fifth century witnessed a great flowering of all the arts. For this, political events were largely responsible. During the last years of the sixth century the Persian kings had extended their dominion over a great part of Western Asia and over Egypt. In the fifth century they attempted to add Mainland Greece to their empire and were defeated in three famous battles, Marathon in 490, Salamis in 480, and Plataea in 479, battles which may fairly be said to have determined the future history of Europe. In their victories the Greeks saw the seal of the gods set upon their civilization as against the despotic governments of the East. The result was a great outburst of activity, not only in architecture, sculpture, and the other arts, but also in literature, in the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the comedies of Aristophanes, the odes of Pindar and Bacchylides, the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides.

From the point of view of the history of art, the years from 480 to 450 B.C. are sometimes distinguished as the Transitional period, since it was in these years that the last lingering Archaic mannerisms disappeared. The progress of the sculptors can be clearly traced in a series of marbles. In the grave relief of a knight or armed rider (Fig. 76), from the vicinity of Thebes, the horse's head was not in profile in the usual Archaic manner, but was turned toward the spectator. The emphasis on anatomical details, especially the veins along the belly, testifies to greater interest in naturalistic representation. At the same time the very formal folds of the rider's cape, the so-called chlamys, still follow the spirit of the Archaic time. The hole in the top of the knight's left hand and another close to the horse's neck show that the reins were of bronze. Such a use of metal for details in marble reliefs was common in fifth century sculpture.

The statue of a boy (Fig. 77), a copy of Roman times, is in the pose most characteristic of late Archaic and Transitional sculpture, with the weight on one leg (here the right) and the other leg bent at the knee. This modification of the "frontality," which is so marked in early sculpture in stone, was made in the late Archaic time and was the first step in the development of new approaches to the human form in sculpture. This period saw new understanding of the breadth of presentation allowed in classical comprehension of the rôle of living things in ancient art. The immediate resulting

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Greek, Etruscan & Roman Art: The Classical Collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xiii
  • The Classical Collection 1
  • Bibliography 6
  • The Prehistoric Civilizations of Greece and Crete 11
  • The Early Iron Age 28
  • The Period of Oriental Influence 36
  • The Archaic Period 46
  • The Fifth Century: First Half 85
  • The Fifth Century: Second Half 118
  • The Fourth Century 137
  • Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman Periods 165
  • The Art of the Etruscans 189
  • Roman Art 217
  • Greek and Roman Textiles 278
  • Index 285
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