The Sense of Realism

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Updated: Jun 29, 2022
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The Bronze Statue of a Man (heroically-scaled athlete) is an example of ancient Greek art from the Hellenistic Period. It is believed to date back to the mid-second century to the first century BCE. The piece depicts a man standing upright, posing with one hand on his hip and the other held above his head. The sculptor utilizes diagonals, enlarged proportions, and smooth textures to draw the eye of the spectator, make the subject appear heroic, and convey a sense of reality.

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The Bronze Statue of a Man uses diagonals to demonstrate movement within the piece. The man depicted forms one main diagonal. He has one arm held out in front of and above the other. He also has his hips slightly twisted, with one leg extended past the other. All of these alignments of the man’s extremities, create a sense of movement. This sense of movement is fitting for the piece as the man depicted is supposedly a heroically scaled athlete. It also makes the figure stand out, capturing the view of the observer.

Another aspect of the statue that draws the eye of the viewer is the enlarged proportions. One can tell that the statue is portrayed as a hero not only because the man is heroically nude, but also because he is portrayed in heroic scale. The statue stands quite tall, standing several feet taller than the actual height of the man that it portrays. This use of enlarged proportions creates a sense of power and might that a hero would exhibit, as well as drawing attention to the piece.

A final aspect that the statue exhibits is its smooth texture. The sculptor uses the bronze medium to his advantage as it allows him to create a smooth-skinned figure. This smooth texture creates a sense of realism as the facial features and defined muscular body look as they would on an actual person. By making the statue life-like, the sculptor builds on the diagonal portrayal to create a sense of movement and fluidity. The smooth bronze medium also gives the statue a sense of solidness and mass, adding to the enlarged scale to make the figure seem stronger and heroic. The scene as a whole can be best described as dramatic. This is due to the sculptor pairing realistic features with a sense of movement and size to create one figure that exhibits power and heroism.

This sculpture was created during the Hellenistic period. This period saw the combination of Greek and Roman artistic elements. Greek artists also started to represent a wider variety of individuals and ethnicities in their works as the Greek empire expanded vastly during this time. Although the Bronze Statue of a Man was created during this stylistic period, it does not incorporate all of the formal characteristics typical of artworks of the time. This statue appears to only incorporate the Greek artistic features that were common of the period. The man depicted is heroically nude, muscularly defined, and heroic in scale. These are all Greek aspects, but any other influences are noticeably absent from the piece. For example, Roman influence is most noticeably identified by an emotional expression on the face of the statue. Here, the man’s face is expressionless which was a common feature in artistic works from the Greek periods preceding the Hellenistic period. The sculpture also demonstrates little torsion or three-dimensionality. His torso is straightened, and his extended arms overlap with his other body parts. The observer can appreciate the sculpture in its entirety by only looking at the front of it. These aspects deviate from those typical of the Hellenistic period, where Roman elements were combined with Greek and the sculptures had a sense of torsion and three-dimensionality.

The Bronze Statue of a Man can be compared to The Blinding of the Cyclops, Polyphemus. The two share many artistic aspects that characterize Greek art. Firstly, the figures portrayed in the pieces are both depicted have enlarged proportions, are nude, and are muscularly defined. The men in the Blinding of the Cyclops, Polyphemus share these characteristics since they are the heroes of the piece. The cyclops also shares these qualities, albeit for a different reason. He is depicted as the central figure, and therefore is much larger than the already heroically scaled men surrounding him. Polyphemus’ size makes him appear strong and powerful, much like the enlarged proportions of the Bronze Man. This size, also in a similar fashion, creates a dramatic effect. Polyphemus, like the Bronze Statue of a Man, is aligned along one main diagonal. This diagonal stretches from his foot to his head, structuring the composition and drawing the eye of the spectator. The Blinding of the Cyclops, Polyphemus is an ideal example of Hellenistic art because in incorporates Roman aspects in addition to the previously mentioned Greek features. There is a baroque effect, as the figures are engaged in a dramatic scene of battle. The figures also exhibit emotion which is another Roman feature. The shared traits between the two pieces that can be related to the Hellenistic period are their sense of realism and movement. The sense of realism, a common trait among Hellenistic artwork, is displayed through smooth texture and detailed, human-like features. The sense of movement is another trait often seen in pieces from the Hellenistic period. The movement in The Blinding of the Cyclops, Polyphemus stems from the torsion seen by the heroes surrounding the cyclops. Their bodies are twisted and arms are extended, either holding a weapon or to brace themselves. The movement in the Bronze Man stems from his extended arm and the diagonal alignment of his body.

The Bronze Statue of a Man is located in the Greek and Roman Gallery. It stands in the center of the room with other sculptures from the same stylistic period surrounding it. It is one of the larger statues in the gallery. Other ancient Greek and Roman artworks are in the adjacent hall, characterized by the columns which seem as if they could be found in an ancient Greek or Roman temple. This section of the museum contains many other similar works from the same or bordering stylistic periods. The majority of these neighboring pieces are sculptures that share many of the same traits as the Bronze Statue of a Man. For example, the majority of the sculptures are heroically nude with a smooth texture and detailed bodies. The Bronze Statue of a Man is correctly placed with this group since it shares the same stylistic period and/or nationality as many of the other pieces in the group.

In conclusion, The Bronze Statue of a Man effectively draws the attention of the viewer, appears powerful and heroic, and achieves a sense of realism. The sculptor attains these features with the statue by utilizing diagonals, enlarged proportions, and a smooth texture. The piece dates back to the Hellenistic period, although it does not share all of the aspects that other sculptures from this time do. It is located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art within the Greek and Roman Gallery. It is among several other sculptures that share the same or similar style, heritage, and period of creation.

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The Sense Of Realism. (2022, Jun 28). Retrieved from