- Identify the stylistic category to which each work belongs (example: Archaic Greek, Classical Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, etc.). Explain in your own words why each work is exemplary of this category.
Just as the master works of painters change through each generation as new styles and techniques are adopted so too are changes evident in the evolution of sculptural image and design as particular eras lend their techniques and styles to their creation. The statue Kourus, created in the archaic style of ancient Greece (600 to 480 B.C.), is an example of a classical style used initially by the ancient Greeks which was heavily influenced by the ancient Egyptians wherein the standard Egyptian frontal pose can clearly be seen.
The statue of Laocoon and his two sons was created in the style of Hellenistic period as seen by melodramatic and violent movement of the statue, a style distinctive of this particular period of history. Similarly the statue, Augutus of Prima Porta, is an example of a statue created during the Roman period easily identifiable due to the iconography associated with the statue as the power of Rome embodied by Augustus as emperor.
- What was the purpose or function of each work? You will need to discuss the subject: is a real person depicted? Or a generalized type? Is the subject taken from a story (history? myth, etc.?)? Do we know where it was displayed originally and who the viewers might have been? Be thoughtful and logical here. If the text does not give specific information for each work, what might we logically conclude from the general information given?
It must be noted that these Kourus statues were actually quite proliferate in the ancient Greece and were usually used as a means of honoring the God Apollo or as a monument to victors of particular games. As such, in accordance with the ancient Greek tradition of competing in the nude such statues are always portrayed as being naked in order to show the “beauty of the naked form” as mentioned by the ancient Greeks.
This can be seen in the detail attributed to the openness and muscularity of the piece with great detail being emphasized on the knee caps and rib case area. It is said that the Lacoome was originally created for the home of a wealthy Roman, probably Nero himself, due to it being found within an area located near the Domus Aurea. The inspiration for the statue came from the story of Lacoome in ancient Greek mythology who attempted to warn the Trojans of danger of the Trojan horse yet was subsequently attacked, along with his sons, by a serpent sent by Athena.
- What observations can you make about the relationship between the material (for example: bronze, marble, etc.) and how the subject looks. Does the material contribute to a particular effect?
Unlike the Kourus which was created from a single piece of marble or type of stone the Laocoon was crafted through the use of 7 interlocking pieces. A greater attention to detail and realism can be seen in this statue wherein through the utilization of white marble as a medium the statue seems almost alive, frozen in time so to speak, with an almost eerie accuracy in terms of defining appropriate human musculature. Notably the Augustus statue contains various references to divinity as seen in the various iconographies such as being barefoot with Cupid on his right leg (a subtle reference to his connection to the ancient Caesarian bloodline which attributes its ancestry to the Goddess Venus herself).
- In what way are these sculptures similar to each other? Consider key categories for comparison, such as: subject matter, scale, purpose, function, culture, etc. Be especially attentive to how the works look similar to each other.
When examining the statues side by side it becomes clear that each is a product of the historical period in which it was made with the similarity of all three of them being built to scale.
- In what ways are the works different — how do they look different from each other in spite of the fact that they depict the same generals subject (that is, the male figure, and the historical context of the work (what is happening during the period in which each of the works was made)?
Each statue has its own distinctive style attached to it, for example the Hellenistic and archaic Greek sculptures celebrated the beauty of the human form while the distinctly Roman style of the sculpture of Augustus emphasized the use of realism similar to the Hellenistic style but this time robed in clothing and with an emphasis on the use of particular types of iconography. It must be noted that the Kourus when compared to the other two lacks detail, this is due to the fact that it was meant to be a generic representation of general Greek youth and virility rather than a particular person.