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Current time:0:00Total duration:5:52

Video transcript

we're in the New Acropolis Museum in Athens looking at the Critias boy we're in the very late archaic period some call this the severe style we might even call this early classical it's really this transition between the late archaic in the early classical and the sculpture is such a great embodiment of that it allows us to see the transition between the archaic kouros and the much more naturalistic movement filled figures that we find on the Parthenon for example in the freezer in the meta piece this sculpture was probably broken originally when the Persians invaded Athens and desecrated the Acropolis this was a huge blow to the Greeks and when they finally recovered this territory they took the sculptures that had been destroyed and they buried them so it's ironic that the reason that these sculptures are preserved is in part because they were destroyed but to make the story even more complicated before the Greeks had been defeated by the Persians they had an earlier victory at marathon where an overwhelming force of Persians was defeated now that first victory by the Greeks over the Persians is important to understand in relationship to this sculpture because some art historians have suggested that the newfound naturalism that we see in the sculpture is a result of the new sense of self the new sense of self determination that came in the wake of the victory over the Persians and a sense of Athens as the leader among the Greek city-states who united against the Persians so like the earlier Kouros figures this is marble it's a standing nude he's relatively still although there is this potential for movement so with the cross figures you had a figure that was both standing still and moving simultaneously but here we have incipient movement movement about to take place we have a sense of process and I think it's that unfolding of time that makes this figure seem so much a part of our world instead of the timeless world of the chorus well the Kouros figures were depicted as stick figures there were mechanical joints that were suggested but did not really exist didn't really work well that's right there was no way for those figures to actually move is this figure the much more naturalistic renderings of the volumes of the body the understanding of the musculature the understanding of the bone structure and especially the transitions from one part of the body to the next make the potential for movement believable although we don't see the feet and the right side we don't see the calf there is a sense that this figure is standing in opposed that our disorients call contrapposto that is his weight is shifted on to one leg and here's the important part as a result other things happen within the body so that one shift in one part of the body affects the rest of the body so the body acts in unison we can see that very clearly with the knees the weight-bearing knee is higher than the free leg knee and that's because that knee droops down a little bit the axes of the hips are no longer aligned the weight-bearing leg has a hip that juts upward into the torso where the free leg the hip hangs down the shoulder above the weight-bearing leg actually drops down slightly and that compresses the torso in between his life likeness is carried into the head which shifts a little bit so we don't have that strict frontality that we saw on the core ROI the symmetry of the body is broken in actuality human beings are never symmetrical right our bodies move and shift that's why the choroid seems so artificial exactly they seem transcendent and timeless but because the kriti of way is asymmetrical we have a sense of his engagement with the world gone is that archaic smile that seems to transcend reality but one of the really interesting things about the Critias boy is if if we look from the side we see her arch in his back and there's a sense that he's moving forward and holding himself back at the same time he's a bit of a tease well he's in a very relaxed pose we should mention that the Greeks had started to make bronze sculptures just before this and bronze allowed artists to create sculptures with limbs more separated from the torso or limbs lifted into space and you can see why that could be tricky in marble in fact this figure has lost its leg and it's lost its arms on his left hip you can still see a fragment of the strut or bridge that would helped support the arm that would have been next to it it also lets us know that the arm really was at his sides very much like a traditional Kouros so we see the desire on the part of the Greeks on the part of this artist to create a sculpture that's more open where the limbs and the torso are more separated from one another but in marble that's really hard to do one more point about the interest in bronze unlike so much marble sculpture here we have eyes that have been hollowed out they would have been inset probably with glass paste eyes that would have been very lifelike and that's a technique that was commonly used in bronze in traditional marble sculptures you actually have the eyes part of the solid piece of marble and they would have just been painted there is this interesting reference to the technique of bronze casting even here in a marble sculpture and I should mention it that the reason we call the Critias boy is because the Critias sculptor was an important sculptor in bronze at this time of which this is very stylistically similar in the entire body we've moved away from the linear representation of symbols of the body and we now have these smooth beautiful volumes that represent this Greek ideal of the athletic male youth that represented the peak of human achievement and also the qualities of the divine you