Greek freestanding male nude figure of Kouros
A kouros is a Greek statue of a representation of a male youth. The statue first appeared in the Archaic period, 700-480 BCE in Greece. The term Kouros means a male youth. The representation was first proposed to depict Apollo in 1895. Several statues have been made of the same kind and are mostly found within among the Greek-speaking people. The sculptures were made of mostly of marble. However, other materials were used to mostly make the forms of the statues like bronze, wood, limestone, terracotta and ivory. Though there were statues made which were up to three meters tall, most of the statues were mostly life sized. The female version of the Kouros was the Kore.
The evolution of the Kouros, which is seen as a problem, is because of the development of the ‘tout court’. The ‘tout court’ was a monumental Greek sculpture developed in the Archaic period. The development of this art form was because of two reasons, as an influence from the development in the creation of the statues and religion or from the influence of foreign methods of creation. If the causes were due to external influence, the most likely societies to have influenced them were the Egyptians, the Syrians and the Anatolians. However, out of the three the strongest influence was from Egypt. The Greek and the Egyptians are known to have had long relations in terms of trade therefore making it a possibly strong interaction culturally (Neer, 2010).
The earliest creation of a marble sculpture after the original kouros following the same design was the ‘Kritios Boy’. This sculpture was created at the beginning of the classical period. As at this period, about 480 BC, artists had developed a higher degree of artistic work and naturalism and this was evident from the statue. Chronologically determining the Kouros might be a task filled with uncertainty since none of the sculptures had specific dates. However, a method of distinguishing between the evolved Kouros is done by identifying the different methods of sculpting used by the artists. As the kouros evolved, their body structures changed and their features became more humanly and defined.
Six ages in which the Kouros changed in features, specifically in their muscle structure exist. The first group is the Sounion group. This was between 615-590 BC, with the dates being quite tentative. The sculptures from this period have similarities with the early pottery from Athens. The sculptures from this period are more abstract and geometrical with more concentration on pattern than realism. The second group is the Orchomenos-Thera group. This group is estimated to have been made between 590-570 BC. This period witnessed the creation of the NAMA 3858 and the NAMA 4181. The Thera Kouros NAMA 8 is also a significant creation of this period with the defining characteristics of less defined muscles and softer features in the modeling.
The third group in the chronology is the Tenea-Volomandra group. This group is believed to have existed between 575-550 BC. This period is famous for such works as the Berlin Standing Kore, the Bluebeard Pediment and the Moschoporos. This period’s style concentrates more on the naturalism than the style. The fourth group is the Melos group. It is believed to have been from 555-540 BC. The figures from this period have simpler features than before. Their figures have a generalization of their form. The naturalism is more enhanced in this period’s sculptures. The best-preserved sculpture of this era and the best example is the NAMA 1558. The fifth group is the Anavysos-Ptoon 12 group. This group is believed to have been made between 540-520 BC. In this period, Athens is believed to have been the center of most of Greece’s artistic activity. The anatomies of the statues of this period are natural and are more human like than in any other period. Examples of sculptures from this period are the Anavysos Kouros and the Munich kouros (Osborne, 1998).
The sixth group is the Ptoon 20 group believed to have existed between 520-485 BC. This is the last stage in the development of the Kouroi type of sculptures. In this period, the Greek sculptors achieved their ultimate task of understanding the full human anatomy. They then used their knowledge to create a proportionate and harmonious sculpture with features more humanlike than any other Kouros. Examples of sculptures from this period are the Late Athenian Aristodikos Kouros and the Kouros of Reggio. As the time went by and the skill in sculpting developed, so did the humanization and naturalization of the Kouros type of sculptures.
Neer, R. T. (2010). The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Osborne, R. (1998). Archaic and classical Greek art. London: Oxford University Press.