Greek Grave Steles

.. tool used for cleansing the body after exercise), perhaps contemplating its use in his next life in Hades, or perhaps reminiscing the many years it had served him by cleansing his beautiful human body. His name Eupheros is inscribed on the pediment above his head. Eupheros is dressed in a himation (large cloak) and sandals and wears a headband. The folds of his drapery, which pile on his arm and wrap around his body subtly indicating the natural contours of his body.

According to Oliver “Eupheros was a victim of the plague that ravaged Athens in 430-427 ” however, nothing the stone confirms this. Furthermore, she goes on to say “a desire to commemorate the many victims of the plague may have something to do with the reappearance of decorated gravestones in Athens at this time. ” Whatever the reason, Eupheros certainly conveys the divine spark that the Greeks found in every mortal through their outer appearance. With his noble simplicity and quite grandeur Eupherous could have passed off as a God (had he not been on a stele). However, the fact that he is not naked the lack of heroism which becomes evident in the next century, show that although still experimenting the artist is not quite bold as to pass of man as God. In the search to embody the complete man the artists of this period had to grapple with the question of mans immortality. This was a question that had to be left unresolved till the next century.

Consequently, this very doubt makes one appreciate and understand the vulnerability in the simplicity of this boy. For, immortality is a question for which we too have yet to find an answer. Finally as we come to the end of the 5th century there continues to be a preference for the lone figure steles, although steles with two or more figures do exist as well. Steles that belonged to women most often depicted them with maids, and scented oil vases. They were also depicted admiring their jewelry or gazing at mirrors, as in the example (fig. 5).

However, this sort of depiction was not to exaggerate their vanity but to simply state that their outer beauty reflected the inner. The artist”endeavors to create ideal beauty and goodness that were identical not only figuratively but actually. ” As a result the artist went beyond the formal and technical means of creating harmonious and balanced images to impart to their works of art something of this “greatness of spirit. ” There is nothing that is affected theatrical or superficial about this girl. She simply stares at the mirror in the same contemplative mood as Euperous.

The back of her hair is veiled and she is adorned with earrings. She wears a peplos with an additional shawl wrapped around her shoulders. The shawl has then been flipped casually over her arm, and it has fallen back towards her elbow when the mirror was raised up. It is a pity that this stele should be so damaged. However, the pleasure of a ruined antiquity is imagining it original splendor.

With the other examples one sees the tremendous strides that the artist has made by desiring to reach higher planes technically and physiologically through his sculpture. And these two planes met during the fifth century before Christ and made an impact on people, for many centuries to come. Therefore, at the end of this golden period when art was almost at a climax one could anticipate the achieved advancements of this stele even though the stele itself is quite ruinous. Likewise, one cannot help but be reminded, just as the girl in the stele might be thinking, that even such idealistic achievements must come to an end. This young girl with her broken arm damaged hair who in the prime of her life was the embodiment of the Greek ideal gives this stele a poignancy of an unfinished epitaph. By the end of the Pelopenisioan war and the beginning of the fourth century gravel steles change dramatically. Gone are the elusive single figured steles. During the fourth century steles with three or more figures become popular.

As a result these steles become less like the original steles and more like meteopes of a building, where the stone slab becomes less rectangular and more broader. According to Bordman, by the addition of more figures, apart from taking the viewers focus away from the deceased, it also made it harder for the deceased to be always readily distinguished, unlike in the example. (fig.6). Dated around 350-340, this marble stele was found in Athens at the river Ilissus. The aloof nude young man is the dead, while “his father sadly contemplates his sons untimely death. ” There is ambiguity on weather a slave or a younger brother weeps or sleeps.

According to Barron the boy weeps and according to Rielter the boy ignorantly sleeps while a dog noses around in a puzzled air. Unlike in the classical period and in the Archaic period the dead is depicted as a nude. And unlike in the classical period where the viewer was able to identify with the deceased, here the viewer is more inclined to identify with the mourners. It seems that the artist having mastered the techniques of depicting a realistic profile view in the previous century now depicts a successful frontal view. The diseased (fig.6) is in a vacant gaze, and stares past the observer.

The artist has rendered the young man with a heroic quality, and in doing so has distanced the viewer from the diseased. In the classical stele “there are no obvious promises or threats of what might lie beyond the grave, simply an appreciation of life and a quite record of loss. However the fourth century stele begins to popularize even in Attica the death feast motif where the dead reclines as a hero and there are intimations of immortality. ” The artist no longer doubts mans immortality but is completely sure of it and so is the young man on the stele. This takes away the vulnerability that the classical steles embodied.

One might more likely be awed by this than be touched as one was with the classical stele. Steles such as this one continued to be built, until cemeteries of Athens become cultural showplaces. “By a sumptuary decree Demetrious Poliorketes who governed Athens put an end this lavish display in 317. ” “And here the story ends, the anti luxury decree of Derrios forbade the erection of sculptural gravestones and thenceforth there appear only insignificant pillars bowls and slabs in the graveyards. ” The new law killed one of the most beautiful forms of artistic expression and not until the second century B.C did elaborate sculptural gravestones appear.

However, it never rose to the enchanting simplicity and physiological complexity that the classical period achieved. Although the Romans did make successful copies of these steles”the Roman copies do not convey the subtleties and magnificence of the Greek proto types, and they lack the inner life we sense in the original work. ” In the classical period if the figures on a stele contemplated they did not make an outward show of it as steles from the fourth century, if they were engaged in a certain action, it was done simply and naturally, unlike the exaggerated action of steles of the Archaic period. And yet these steles were not absolutely perfect or flawless, for that was something artists were still striving for during the fifth century. This makes it all the more appealing since it represents the continuous human struggle for perfection and never quite reaching it. The statement below shows how the emotion that the classical period evokes in one is capable of even overriding logical thought One of the most deeply rooted notions of civilized man is that there existed, at some time in the remote past an era when humanity reached a glory from which it has been in decline ever since.

This is the belief in the golden age. The Greeks dreamed of a golden age just as we do now: When Saturn did reign, there lived no poor The king and beggars on roots did dine. But when we think of a golden age we think most often of that classical period in Ancient Greece roughly defined as the fifth century BC, distinguished for art of a serene and restrained majesty, and an ideal beauty of proportion form and impression to which we have never attained. (Robertson Davis The Greek Miracle : Reflections of a Golden Age pp69) Finally one cannot help but ponder if the Greek stele sculptors would still have carved such enigmatic expression of the departed had they known that these would be their portals to immortality. Bibliography Bibliography 1. Barron, John.

Greek Sculpture, E.P. Dutton and Co. Inc., Newyork, 1985. 2. Bordman, John.

Greek Sculpture : The Classical Period, Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1985. 3. Bordman, John. Greek Sculpture: The late Classical Period, Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1995. 4.

Lawrence, A.W. Greek and Roman Sculpture. 5. Oliver, Diana. The Greek Miracle, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1993.

5. Richter, M.A. The Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks, Yale University Press, London, 1950. List of Illustrations Fig.1 Relief of warrior runner, Marble, 570-500B.C National Museum, Athens. Photo taken from : Richter, The Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks, pp372. Fig.2 Grave Stele by Alxnor of Naxos, Marble, 490-480B.C.

National Museum of Athens. Photo taken from: Barron, Greek Sculputre, pp50. Fig.3 Grave Stele of a little girl, Marble, 450-440B.C. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo taken from: Oliver, The Greek Miracle.

Pp141. Fig.4 Grave Stele of Eupheros, Marble, 430-420B.C. Kerameikos Museum, Athens. Photo taken from: Oliver, The Greek Miracle. PP143. Fig.5 Grave Stele of a girl with mirror, Marble, 420-410B.C. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Photo taken from : Richter, The Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks, pp535 Fig. 6 Gravestone from near the river Ilissos, Marble,340B.C. National Museum of Athens. Photo taken from: Bordmen, Greek Sculpture: The Late Classical Period. Pp125 Figure 1 Relief of warrior runner, Marble, Figure 2 Grave Stele by Alxnor of Naxos, Marble, 490-480BC. Figure 3 Grave Stele of a little girl, Marble 450-440 Figure 4, Grave Stele of Eupheros, Marble, 430- 420BC.

Figure 5 Grave Stele of a girl with mirror, Marble,420-410 Figure 6 Gravestone from near the river Ilissos, Marble 340BC.

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