Tuesday, 1 May 2012

How to use this blog

This blog is intended to supplement the e-book:
Evolution of Western Art, by Remy Dean.

It is expected that this weblog be used alongside the text in the book to provide the bibliography and visual reference. There is a blog entry to correspond with every entry in the book and each on-line post provides links to images and further reading, enabling the reader to adapt their own experience to match their interests. As the blog is now 'live' - it can be adapted to reflect new on-line content and to provide supplemental information as it becomes available.

In the web-active edition of the book, there is a link at the end of each entry that takes you to the corresponding entry on this blog. For ease of navigation, to read off-line and to support this weblog, please consider buying the e-book

Weblog posts have been uploaded in chronological order to match the structure of the book's text. So if you scroll from this post onwards, you will find the postings in the correct order to match the book. Alternatively, you can use the search box on the left to 'dip in' to the content at random, or use the label lists of work titles and artists names in the left column.

Read the Introduction: An Art Oddysey at amazon (click 'Look Indside') - where you can also purchase and download the full text.

You can download free Kindle reader software by following the appropriate link to the left of this blog, or by going here...

(Text from the book, and link up-dates, will be gradually added to the posts, as time and funding permits.)

Monday, 16 April 2012

Ancestors and Antecedents: Things (400,000 BCE)

Since humanity existed, we have made things, and some of those very first things could be considered to be art. The earliest known cave paintings are as old as 35,000 years, though fragments of pigment and the primitive equipment for grinding and mixing pigment, discovered in Zambia, has been dated between 350,000 and 400,000 years old – it is thought that these were used for making body paint and ‘make-up’, possibly for ritual purposes. 

image from Wikimedia Commons

Simple stone hammers, and flakes of flint for cutting, were in use by pre-human species more that two-and-a-half million years ago. Carved stone glyphs and artefacts such as stone hand axes are thought to date back more that one million years! Because we are dealing with minerals and stone, which in themselves are millions of years old, it is very difficult to date much of this evidence accurately. Even if we give-or-take several millennia, it seems safe to say that where we find evidence of the earliest humans and related hominid species, we find artefacts, and possibly some form of art. These are things made by our ancestors and date so far back in time that many of them were actually used by our close ‘cousins’, such as the Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Homo Neanderthalensis, and all the other Homo genus who have since become extinct. 

Obviously, our own ancestors, the forebears of modern humans, did not become extinct, though historians, geneticists and archaeologists believe that during the last ice age, the total human population of Earth dropped to around 10,000. Some think that at one earlier point, up to 100,000 years ago, there may have been as few as 2,000 humans in the entire world! It is generally accepted, through genetic evidence, that the entire human race can be traced back to a single ‘mother’. 

It is during the latter centuries of the ice age that modern humans migrated up from Africa and through Europe, or Eastward to Asia. This coincided with the displacement and eventual demise of all the other hominid species. These migratory clans of early ‘modern human’, Homo Sapiens, were set aside from their competitors by more than just their ultimate survival. Around this ‘make-or-break’ evolutionary bottle neck, our ancestors were the first to fashion ‘non-functional’ objects. 

To call these objects ‘non-functional’ is misleading as they appear to have had a key role to play in ensuring the survival of those peoples, and therefore must have served some social, psychological and/or metaphysical functions. So although these things were not necessarily tools, they seem to be either the by-product of, or the catalyst for, whatever characteristics our ancestors needed to survive. It seems that all human and humanoid species had some innate need to make art of some sort, hence the pigment and glyphs carved by many pre-human species, but it is the direct ancestors of modern humans that were the first to produce objects that we begin to recognise as art.


Short article at the Archaeology Journal's website about the discovery of pigments in Zambia which could be 400,000 years old

Hunter-Gather Migrants: Three Venuses (40,000 BCE)

Three Venuses, (left to right):
Venus of Hohle Fels, Venus of Dolní Věstonice, Venus of Willendorf

The earliest piece of art, so far discovered*, is known as the Venus of Hohle Fels and is made of ivory, carved to resemble a very well-endowed female figure. It is a small statuette, measuring only about six centimetres, but with proportionally huge breasts, belly, thighs and genitalia, whilst the head is reduced to little more than a nub. Radiocarbon dating supports the archaeological evidence and confirms the figure as being 35,000 to 40,000 years old, making it the oldest known artificial representation of the human figure.

Before 2008, when the Venus of Hohle Fels was discovered, that title had been held by another, so called ‘Venus’: the Venus of Dolní Věstonice, found in the Czech Republic in 1925 which is almost 30,000 years old and also remarkable in being the earliest known ceramic figurine, predating fired pottery. It is another small figure that fits neatly in the hand at around 11 centimetres and again we see the huge breasts, belly and thighs with the head and other features reduced to very basic forms.

The Venus of Hohle Fels also predates, by up to ten millennia, what had until its discovery been the oldest known piece of carved sculpture: the Venus of Willendorf, which was discovered a century earlier in 1908. This Venus remains the most widely known and artistically sophisticated of the three. It is also a small mobiliary (portable) item about 11 centimetres tall and carved out of limestone. Its head has no individual facial features and is instead carved all around with a design that resembles a woolly hat, thought to represent braided hair.

All three Venuses have striking similarities. They share the hugely emphasised female characteristics of breasts, belly, thighs and genitalia, though other features, notably the head and face are not represented or are reduced to symbols. This indicates that they are certainly not portraits of an actual individual person, but are symbolic of an ideal feminine state, representing abundance and fertility, both of the people and of the land. This abundance was virtually unknown during the times the three Venuses were made, times when the human race was fighting for daily survival.

The Venuses of Hohle Fels and Willendorf were carved a long way from where they were found, suggesting that the cultures that carved them had developed this skill and traded carvings for other things, or carried these items as they migrated, perhaps as charms, fetishes or totemic items. It seems that it was these peoples, who carved and made the first art, who managed to survive one of the most arduous periods in all human history. They managed to avoid the mass extinction that befell so many other species, including all other hominids. All those other peoples who did not make art, did not make it… This is the very first example of art saving the human race.

This period was in the late Ice Age as the glaciers receded and the oceans rose… There were cataclysmic climate changes so severe that they very nearly finished off all human species. Certainly, individuals as fat as those symbolised in these figurines would have been impossible, or extremely rare. If someone who looked anything like one of these Venuses actually did exist, then they would have been worth sticking with! This leads us to believe that the figures were probably religious symbols, representing fertility and abundance, or at least a hope for such fertility and abundance.

It seems that those clans, tribes and groups of humans who developed some form of art, also stood a better chance of survival during these harsh conditions. But how did making art help our kind to survive? There are three main theories to consider:

Theory one: technological advancement…

The very act of carving bone and stone and modelling in ceramic improved upon the technology and tools of the time. If a crafter can carve a figure from some hard substance, then it follows that they would also be able to fashion better and more useful tools, better stone axes, spearheads, flint knives and fish hooks from shell, for example. This would then give them a competitive advantage when it came to hunting, fishing and defending.

Theory two: trading goods…

If a culture had the time to carve such items, it implies that they were not spending every moment of the day in search of food and shelter. Instead, they carved items that could be traded in times of hardship, for food, shelter, tools and so on. This trade would also contribute to the strengthening of relations with other clans and would be the beginnings of a culture.

Theory three: belief in something greater…

This third theory is necessary to support the first two. The humans of the time developed a belief system that included the concept of a deity, or the personification of an ideal, perhaps what we would call a fertility goddess. A belief that something better was possible and even that there was something, or someone, ‘out there’ that could help in a dire situation that otherwise could feel completely hopeless. They were able to represent something that was not there, abundance and fertility, and keep that concept in mind when facing seemingly insurmountable odds. This itself may have been what saved our ancestors from giving up and helped them to struggle on for that extra day without food, or to climb that last mountain to see what the next valley held for them. They were able to represent abstract hope in a tangible form – it gave them something to hold on to, both literally and metaphorically…


The 'Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind' exhibition was on at the British Museum, London, in 2013... there is still good info and related resources at their website.

* There are a few disputed claims of other artefacts of similar antiquity, such as the Hohlenstein-Stadel 'Lion-Man', which seems to be as old, but with more recent modifications... 

Cave Dwellers: Chauvet Caves (30,000 BCE)

The Chauvet Caves, in France, contain excellent early examples of prehistoric ‘parietal art’, which is a term for wall paintings and murals. The paintings, which were made and added to over a long period from 28,000 to 17,000 BCE, have a lovely sense of line and are clear and very well observed, mainly depicting animals. There is a particularly pleasing ‘sketch’ of a bear, a rhinoceros, and a row of different horses’ heads showing variations in the species, almost like a catalogue for identification. There is also a human hand print, using negative space to define the hand. This early kind of printing was achieved by the pigment being chewed and sprayed from between the teeth over the splayed hand that acted as a stencil.

Short article about the Chauvet Caves at the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

image from Wikimedia Commons

Click image above for more info and preview, or to buy this excellent documentary film (made by the great Werner Herzog) about the Chauvet Caves - it is 'required viewing' for anyone with even the slightest interest... available in multi format, region-free, Blu-ray edition including 2D and 3D versions, or if you prefer a standard DVD, use this link...

Cave Dwellers: Lascaux Caves (16,000 BCE)

Some of the most famous and best examples of prehistoric cave wall art can be found in the Lascaux Caves, also in France. These paintings are similar to the parietal art at Chauvet Caves, but are more recent, being made over a period from around 16,000 to 14,000 BCE. In both examples the drawings overlap and are painted on the walls without any defined boundaries. At Lascaux, the pigment is perhaps stronger and the style a little more stylised. The forms are more ‘coloured-in’, yet the style remains fundamentally the same, almost as if done by one artist. This style of drawing spans a period of around 5,000 years, so it has actually been executed by many many generations of artists. So what can this tell us? This indicates that the cave art, though obviously executed with an aesthetic sense, is formulated in a similar way as a hieroglyphic language. Although the earlier cave paintings of beasts were obviously observed ‘from life’, eventually an accepted prescribed way to draw each of them developed. So, this is not ‘expressive’ art, it is more like a type of picture writing and follows a set of patterns that have become meaningful to the culture that produced them.

This propensity to follow set-out methods and perpetuate a ‘template’ approach to visual art, seems to become ingrained in the human psyche and continue through countless generations until challenged by the Pharaoh Akhenaton… but more about him later… about another 15,000 years later (as the chronometer flies).

As with the three Venuses, we do not know for sure the reasons why those prehistoric people painted on their cave walls. There has been a lot of educated guesswork, sometimes supported by archaeological evidence. It could have been the graffiti of their time, or the equivalent of clip art… Again, we have three main theories to consider:

Theory one: documentary…

One recurring motif in prehistoric cave art is the row of similar-though-slightly-different animals, very much like a type of identification chart. So perhaps one of the functions of the drawings was to document the different species of animals for instruction and education. “Hunt these, run away from those.” Perhaps it was simply a record of what they saw and how they lived.

Theory two: storytelling…

The images are painted onto the cave walls in a seemingly random order and some of them are in very dark recesses, and would only ever have been visible by firelight. This implies that the act of going to see them, or having them revealed, was meaningful in some way. Many of the beasts that are portrayed would not have been food animals, and some may have been seen only during their seasonal migrations. Perhaps the images were used as backdrops that set the scene in terms of seasons and the images were revealed in some sort of narrative order. The stories could have served to entertain, to educate, or both.

Theory three: magic…

In some caves, there are figures that combine human and animal attributes. Some human figures, on closer inspection, have hooves instead of feet. A stag rearing up on its hind legs, on closer inspection, is a human imitating the beast by wearing animal furs and horned headdress. This leads many to believe that the paintings of animals have some symbolic, if not magical significance.

One possible motivation is the practice of sympathetic magic, which is a form of superstition that leads to a belief that a representation of a thing can have an effect upon the real thing. (A current example would be a voodoo doll.) The people may have painted the animals in an attempt to exert some sort of influence over them. A possible scenario would be that the animals are seen, but then disappear. The cave dwellers paint pictures of those animals, and they re-appear. This may lead to a belief that the act of painting the animals caused them to come back. This then becomes self-fulfilling, “If you paint them, they will come”. We of course would understand that the herds migrated away and then passed back through the area as the seasons changed… They would have (almost certainly) returned whether their effigies had been painted onto the cave walls or not.

Shamanism could be called a form of magic and is still widely practiced today. A shaman is a person of wisdom and power who is ‘in-tune’ with the natural world. Aboriginal Australians, Native Americans, Druids and practitioners of the Asatru philosophies are all examples of today’s shamanic cultures. Generally, shamanistic cultures believe that there are several different worlds that coexist and overlay each other – the world of the living, the world of the ancestors, the world of dreams and the spiritual realms. To a shaman, all of these worlds are equally ‘real’ and influence each other. Shamanism is also closely associated with animism, a belief that there is a life force that unites everything, and that everything has a spirit. The shaman works with this life force in order to better understand the spirit of a thing, place or animal.

In the prehistoric period, early humans would not have seen themselves as very different from the animals around them, particularly the social carnivores such as wolves and big cat species, and would have closely observed them to learn from their behaviours. You want to hunt antelope? Then observe other successful hunters and learn the techniques of tracking, camouflage and stealth needed to catch such very fast prey. The deep understanding of the behaviour of other animal species, both hunter and prey, would have been essential knowledge and the cave art could be a record of the on-going contemplation and discussion relating to this pursuit. Drawing something is a very good method of study as you have to observe and distil the essential features. This is why drawing from life is still at the core of art and design courses to this day, despite the development of photography and digital media.

The motivation to make cave wall paintings was probably a combination of all these ideas and could have been different from one clan to another, from one millennia to another. Then as now, art had the potential to entertain, educate, document, challenge, change, and to transcend.


Article at the BBC website about designs found in the Lascaux Caves that could be the earliest star charts

Virtual Visit - walk through the cave system via this interactive website

People of Göbekli Tepe: Stone Circles (10,000 BCE)

Göbekli Tepe, near the Euphrates in South Eastern Turkey, is an extensive complex of megalithic stone circles. These are possibly the first temples ever built. The culture responsible for their construction also initiated agriculture and the domestication of animals, apparently to feed the workforce and worshippers. This is the beginning of what we could call civilization, and once again, art is the primary driving force. Here again, it seems that art is representing ideas and concepts that are otherwise intangible and related to belief in ‘something more’ – some historians think this is where the very first ‘organised religion’ began.

Since its chance discovery, by a man herding goats in 1994, research has shown that the ‘T’ shaped megaliths arranged in circular formations were constructed between 13,000 and 12,000 years ago. This predates Stonehenge by up to seven millennia. The site at Göbekli Tepe is still being excavated. So far, four standing stone circles have been dug out and it estimated that there are 20 more similar structures yet to be unearthed. The circles vary in diameter between 10 and 30 metres and the surfaces of the huge stone megaliths are decorated with sophisticated deep reliefs and sculptured forms, mainly of animals including boar, big cats, foxes, horses, insects, reptiles and birds. There are some stylised human figures and abstract symbols that can also be found in cave art. It is thought that each stone circle was at least part walled with random stone and probably had a roof.  The evidence being uncovered there challenges many established ideas about human history and the development of early civilization.


Article about Göbekli Tepe at the Smithsonian website with a good Göbekli Tepe photo gallery

Another interesting article about Göbekli Tepe at the National Geographic website

People of Çatalhöyük: Shrines to the Mother and the Cow (7,000 BCE)

Çatalhöyük is also in Turkey, and is the site of the earliest known town at the hub of the first complex civilisation that we have evidence of. Archaeologists believe that it functioned as a trading centre for nomadic hunter-gatherers as well as a residential town for a population of around 6,000. Apart from houses, there were other buildings with specific purposes such as grain stores, animal enclosures, markets, workshops, and shrines. There is also evidence that the earliest known economy developed here, based around trading in livestock, particularly cattle, and an early form of writing was developed to keep track of the ownership of cattle and other property.

The depiction of cattle is prevalent throughout ancient art and had been a repeated feature of cave paintings. It appears that to the people of Çatalhöyük, cows were holy. Here again, we also have the obese female figure being worshipped, this time in a purpose built temple, probably as a mother goddess of fertility and abundance. At the time when Çatalhöyük was established, the world human population had increased into the millions and agriculture had begun to develop as a result… some of the goddess figures found here are depicted in the process of giving birth, and share their shrines with stylised carvings of cows and the horned heads of cattle. This leads some commentators to believe that the people saw a correlation of the two, mother and cow, as essential elements for survival.

The mother figure is very obviously required for the continuation of the human race. Even with no knowledge of biology, it is quite clear where the baby is physically produced! It is theorised that this observation would lead to a belief that all, or most, acts of creation were from the feminine principle. It is the female of the species that literally births the next generation, be that human, goat, bird, or cattle. This would lead to a general understanding that the feminine principle is more dynamic than the masculine, and so fertility and creativity became associated with, and attributed to, the mother figure. This resulted in all known prehistoric religions having a matriarchal focus, with the worship of goddesses as a central feature.

image from Wikimedia Commons
The reverence for cows would have stemmed from this general belief system, but the cow would also have been seen as an essential survival tool for other obvious reasons. A hunted cow could render up meat, leather, horn, bone and so on, but if you have access to a domesticated cow, you have a source of milk, manure, warmth and of course more cows. A cow can eat grass and straw, which are indigestible to a human, but turn these into milk, which is nutritious and could well make the difference between surviving through lean periods or not. In cold weather, the cow would also provide heat for your dwelling. If you have cows to spare, you can have meat, or trade calves for other food, goods and labour… Anyone with ‘cattle to spare’, would have been considered rich.


Excellent website dedicated to the on-going excavations and discoveries at the Çatalhöyük site

Click image above to preview or buy this Kindle book about the Çatalhöyük discoveries

Mesopotamians: Susa Beaker (5,000 – 4,000 BCE)

Image-based on-line 'tutorial' about the development of ancient ceramics

Ancient Egyptians: The Pyramids (2,655 – 2,575 BCE)

images (C) Remy Dean - please credit

Minoans: Bull’s Head Libation Vessel (1,600 – 1,500 BCE)

photos by Remy Dean
photos (C) Remy Dean - please credit

The Minoan civilisation was a precursor of Ancient Greek culture and was based on the island of Crete from before 3,000 until around 1,000 BCE… Cattle are still prominent in the art and worship here, however, it is the worship of bulls in Minoa that gave rise to the myth of the minotaur.

One of the finest finds excavated at the Knossos site is a Bull’s Head Libation Vessel exquisitely carved from black serpentine, detailed in light relief and inlayed with shell around the muzzle. The eyes are striking, made of quartz crystal and jasper, and seem almost alive as they catch the light. The magnificent horns are of gold. The level of technical ability represented in this piece is a major step in its own right, but it is the naturalistic accuracy of the model fused with the artistic purity of the forms that show a change in how humans now see, and respond to, the world around them.

This vessel is religious art and its making would have been a devotional act in itself. It was then used ritually to present offerings of wine or oil. This shift of reverence from cow to bull also marks the beginning of the change from matriarchal to patriarchal dominance. For the first time we have a culture that worships the masculine over the feminine. Their pantheon still comprises both gods and goddesses, but increasingly through their long cultural development, it is the male principle that finds favour. Why would this change come about?

Before this period, cultures knew very little of each other. It was unlikely that one culture or clan would travel far enough to interact with another. With the increase in world population and improving technologies, such as wheeled carts and boats, the overlap of one society with another became ever more likely. When one culture meets another, there is often a clash. This is one of the sad facts of human history. The competitive streak that pushed our early ancestors to survive and progress also leads to a propensity for conflict. The Minoans were one of the earliest civilisations to have to deal with potential invaders who might come across their rich culture and regard it with envious eyes. This necessitated a much more protective and pugnacious attitude. This is what they saw as being represented by the bull, rather than the cow. It was the bull who protected the herd, saw off rivals, sired the calves. Cows were still revered as mother figures and symbols of fertility and abundance, but it was the powerful bull that kept them safe and made their way of life possible…

Minoans: The ‘New Palace’ at Knossos (1,600 – 1,500 BCE)

photo by Remy Dean

Above: The 'red devil' bull mural at the New Palace

photo by Remy Dean

Above: The throne room of King Minos
photo by Remy Dean

Above: The main approach road into Knossos - the earliest known paved roadway

These images (C) Remy Dean - please credit

The site at Knossos, now known to be the centre of Minoan society, was excavated during the first part of the twentieth century. During the excavation, a huge coloured wall relief of a giant red bull was uncovered. This scared the local labourers who refused to continue working. Sir Arthur Evans, the archaeologist in charge, had to call in a priest to convince the workers that what they had unearthed was not an actual devil!

As the dig at Knossos progressed, it became apparent that what had been discovered was the remnants of a civilisation that had long been a legend, even to the ancient Greeks. They found the world’s first paved road, the first running water system, some of the earliest multi-storey buildings with more than a thousand interconnected rooms - thought to be the inspiration for the 'labyrinth' of the mythical Minotaur. The throne and throne-room of the, until then, mythical King Minos was another first, as he established the now familiar format of kingship.

Parietal art featured throughout the city. There is a famous mural of a young man jumping over a charging aurochs, which is a now extinct ancestor of our domestic cattle. An elegant mural of a bird seems to be painted as a decorative piece of ‘art for art’s sake’, bearing strong stylistic parallels with classical oriental art. Though primarily decorative, this would be a very early example of art as we know it: no longer a type of picture writing, but an image created by for its aesthetic merits and maybe signifying poetic cultural meanings. Perhaps a bird had similar connotations to the people of Knossos as it would to people today: the spirit of freedom and the joy of nature expressed in its song. It seems that the Minoans were the precursor to what eventually blossomed into the Classical period of the Ancient Greeks, but Minoan civilizations eventually fell due to natural disaster, unable to survive the dramatic climate change caused by a nearby volcanic eruption.

Akhenaten: Art of the Amarna Period (1353 – 1334 BCE)

Interesting article about Akhenaten with photo gallery at Ancient Egypt website

Click image above for reviews or to buy this book about Akhenaten and his reign at Amarna

Thutmose: Bust of Queen Nefertiti (circa 1340 BCE)

Images of this sculpture with accompanying notes at the Berlin Egyptian Museum website

Funerary Artists: Death Mask of Tutankhamen (1346 BCE)

Click image above for reviews or to buy this catalogue from National Geographic publishing that accompanied a major touring exhibition of the treasures of Tutankhamun
BBC gallery of images showing treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun / Tutankhamen

Archaic Greeks: Temple Statuary (1,100 – 450 BCE)

Babylonians: The City of Babylon and The Ishtar Gate (604 – 562 BCE)

King Nebuchadnezzar (II) ruled at the height of the Babylonian Empire, liberated his people from Assyrian rule, defeated the Egyptians, and re-built the great city of Babylon famed for its grandeur including the ‘hanging gardens’ – one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. The hanging gardens, which could be considered an early example of land art, grew on artificial terraced hills around the city that were irrigated using ingenious pumps of similar design to those later to be known as Archimedes Screws. He also had a great bridge built across the river Euphrates to connect the two halves of the city, and also a tunnel under the river, both huge engineering achievements for the time.

The city of Babylon was lavishly decorated, exemplified by the impressive Ishtar Gate and procession-way adorned with animal motifs, such as well-observed, roaring lions that contrast with mythical chimera and fantastical beasts. These large wall reliefs were created with colourfully glazed tiles which for the time was a technically advanced use of ceramic design. The lion and chimera were illustrative of the myths and storytelling traditions of an advanced culture.

This was the culmination of Ancient Mesopotamian civilization. The city of Babylon was a great trade centre and its kings upheld a moral code to protect the weak from oppression by the strong… This included equal rights for women and tolerance for other religions. They guaranteed safe passage for all merchants, regardless of whether they were from warring nations or not. The result was that Babylon grew even richer and also became the cultural capital of the world, where people would come together not only to trade goods, but also to exchange ideas and information. It was a great melting pot of early civilization and formed the cultural bridge from the ancient to the Classical period and it is from the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus that we know much about the city of Babylon.

Kritios (attrib): Kritios Ephebe aka The Critian Boy (480 – 490 BCE)

More than eight centuries after the reign of Akhenaten, as the late Archaic period blurs into the early Classical, we see signs that artists, particularly sculptors, are again beginning to really look at the world around them and reflect what they observe. The use of portraits can, by now, be found on mummy cases of the Greco-Egyptian period, though these are highly stylised.

One artefact has been found that literally embodies a radical new way, not only of observing from life, but in the understanding of life. It is known as The Critian Boy. Its name comes from being attributed by some scholars to the sculptor Kritios, because it bears some resemblance to other works by him and his students.

Remarkable in its naturalistic, anatomical accuracy, this scaled-down statuette (less than a metre tall) shows a significant and sudden shift in the way that the human body is represented and is one of the earliest examples of anatomically accurate sculpture created from careful and direct observation of a subject. Skilfully carved from white marble, it demonstrates a good knowledge, not only of the surface but also of the underlying skeleton and mechanics, of the body. All the major muscle groups are represented, correctly proportioned and the stance is a realistic, weight-bearing one. This marks the dawn of humanism in art.

Preview or Buy Evolution of Western Art

Phideas (attrib): Riace Warriors (circa 450 BCE)

Click image above for reviews or to buy this excellent film about the Spartan stand against the Persian onslaught - historically accurate, all be it dressed with generous artistic licence... 
Click image below for reviews or to buy this book about Classical Greek art