Classical Vs. Hellenistic Art: a Letter to Mona Lisa
I understand how difficult it is to see the difference between these two marvelous art styles! Lucky for you I’m here to help. What is most important for you to understand about these two complex artistic styles is that they’re both displaying the human figure. The difference between the two? How they represent it! Classical Greek style can be described as simple because of it’s emotionless and idealized state (93). The embodiment of these characterizations can be seen through the marble sculpture Kritios Boy (92), this sculpture shows the simplicity of the human anatomy and displays a nice neutral face. Furthermore, there are two characterizations that are crucial to identify when distinguishing the two styles. One of these characterization is called “contrapposto”, this is when the sculptures head is slightly turned and the right leg is bent forward at the knee to give the impression of the weight being held on the left leg (93) and the other is the change of using marble to create the sculptures to bronze materials. Both of these characterizations are evident in the sculpture Warrior from Riace (95), this lovely man is made of bronze and has his head slightly tilted and his weight shifted to one leg.
Hellenistic sculptures are quite different from Classical Greek sculptures in many ways. To begin Hellenistic sculptures went beyond just representing basic human anatomy, you can see movement and action being represented through them. This can be seen in the sculpture The Winged Nike (113), the wind causing the flow of her dress as she descends from heaven (112) shows a great amount of movement, triumph, and beauty whereas in classical sculptures they were quite stagnant. This can also be seen in the sculpture Laocoon and His Two Sons (115), the look of terror and anguish on their faces show the emotion typically represented in Hellenistic art, and the bulging muscles father is sporting while fighting off the snake shows action in Hellenistic sculptures. This style expresses everything that Classic Greek lacked. For example, Hellenistic style is full of expression, personality, and a range of emotions from happiness to pure terror while Classic Greek sculptures maintained a neutral look. Hellenistic sculptures depict an array of different people from infants to the elderly(112) while Classical Greek sculptures were usually young men with no defects (96). The representation of different age groups is shown in the sculpture of the Sleeping Eros (113) a small infant angel sleeping, you can see the fluidity and relaxed nature of the little angles form. Imperfections were also shown in Hellenistic sculptures, this is shown through the sculpture Boxer (114). The man in Boxer is riddled with scars and is sporting a broken nose (114), not something the Classic Greek sculptors would find very attractive.
How it works
The main difference between these two art styles is the way the human form is represented. Classical Greek sculptures give an emotionless and static portrayal while Hellenistic sculptures give an emotion, personality, and action filled portrayal.