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what is perfect with the ancient Greeks thought the human body was perfect but for them it was not an individual that was perfect it was the almost mathematical precision where the proportions of every part of the body were perfect in relationship to the others we're looking an ancient Roman copy of a Greek bronze original by the great artist Polly cleitus who sought out to demonstrate just that what would perfect ideal beauty be thinking about the mathematical relationship of each part of the human body to the other and in relationship to the whole this is a sculpture called the duro forest the reference means a spear bearer and he would have originally been holding a bronze spear we call it the Duras Polly client is apparently called it cannon not to mean a piece of armament but a kind of idealized form that could be studied and replicated that is a set of ideas that you followed the idea that you could create a perfect human form based on math was really part of a bigger set of ideas for the Greeks if we think about Pythagoras for example Pythagoras discovered that harmony and music was based on the mathematical relationship between the notes in fact Pythagoras tried to understand the origin of all Beauty through ratio and so it follows that the Greeks would be looking for that in one of the forms that they felt were most beautiful that is the human body the Greeks would perform their athletics nude celebrating the body and its physical abilities but even when they represented figures in noble pursuits like this figure we have a figure whose clothes have been taken off this is not because soldiers went into battle nude in ancient Greece but because this sculpture is not about warfare it's not a portrait of an individual this is a sculpture that is about the perfection of human form this was found in a Palestra in Pompeii a place where athletes would work out perhaps as a kind of inspiration for them so that's another layer of meaning the Roman loved Greek art and had it copied in marble very often and even in a city like Pompeii we found thousands of sculptures that are copies of ancient Greek originals this is based on a sculpture that is at the very beginning of the Classical period before the Parthenon sculptures but it's after the archaic figures it's after the standing figure that we know as the Kouros here the Greeks have turned away from the stiff renderings that had been so characteristic of the archaic and have instead begun to examine the human body and understand its physiognomy this is one of the classic expressions of contrapposto the dura forest stands on his right foot his left leg is relaxed the right leg is weight-bearing that the left hand would have been weight bearing with the spear similarly the right arm is relaxed so there's a sense of counterbalancing and harmony in the composition of the body in a chorus figure you have both feet firmly planted although one leg is forward but nevertheless if you were to draw a line between the ankles they would still be horizontal to the floor and in a chorus the figure is symmetrical here both of those things have changed and you see that his left ankle is up and so you have a tilt of that axis that axis of the knees are tilted in the opposite way the hips are parallel to the axes of the knees but also tipped and then look what happens as a result of that in those earlier figures there was a perfect symmetry in a perfect line that could be drawn down the center of the body here there's a gentle s-curve and you can see for instance that his right side is compressed compared to the left side because the left hip is literally hanging down over that free leg it's not being supported to complete that sense of balance and harmony Polly cleitus turned the head slightly breaking that symmetry of the archaic kouros figures with the invention of contrapposto by the Greeks in the fifth century BCE you even have for the first time in Western art history figures who seem fully alive as though they move in the world they're like us this is a sculpture that is for all of the complexity of what we just discussed is simply walking but the mechanics of the human body walking are incredibly complicated here we have a civilization that not only was interested in understanding through careful observation how the body moved but were interested culturally in capturing that and so we have a society that puts human potential at the center and creates figures who are not transcendent who don't exist in a separate world but who exist in our world they're in a way ideal mirrors of ourselves you
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