Head of a Youth For this assignment, I viewed the Greek “Head of Youth.” This piece is actually the head and face of a marble carving of a young, striding, nude male. I viewed this sculpture in room 102 of the Nelson Atkins Museum’s Ancient Art Collection. It is, of course, very weathered an old, with the marble crumbling on the nose and mouth. There is also a large chunk of marble missing from its chin. Found in Attica, Greece, it is approximately seven and one half inches high, and was carved in about 490 B. C.
during the Archaic Period. This period in Greek history lasted from 600 B. C to 480 B. C.
Its most important event was probably the overthrowing of tyrants in Athens and the establishment of democracy in the city, which led to important advancements in art, literature, and science. “Head of Youth” is basically a vaguely triangular head, with a very flat shape. His hair is a series of spiral coils (two rows) on the crown, and closely styled over the back. His large eyes seem to be placed high on his head, and he has very full, slightly smiling lips.
The eyes, ears, nose and mouth seem to simply be placed on a flat surface to create the face, which is probably evidence of a workshop environment used to create the sculpture. Usually, the ears, nose, eyes, and mouth were drawn onto the marble block and then carved out by workers. This process made for a very flat, geometric face, which seemed to almost contradict the accuracy with which the rest of the body is portrayed. “Head of Youth” is a prime example of a common type of Greek sculpture called a kouros, meaning “youth.” Kouroi are said to emulate the general stance of many Egyptian statues, showing the figure rigidly from the front with one foot slightly forward.
Greek architecture begins with the simple houses of the Dark Age and culminates in the monumental temples of the Classical period and the elaborately planned cities and sanctuaries of the Hellenistic period. As in any time or place, the raw materials available and the technologies developed to utilize them largely determined the nature of the architecture. The principal materials of Greek ...
The fists of these sculptures are often clenched with the thumbs forward. Kouroi even served as funerary pieces, much like many figurative Egyptian stone carvings. The replicas of young men were incredibly beautiful and showed the human body in an idealistic, poetic way. They replaced the huge vases of the Geometric times as grave markers Because their faces and bodies were so generically carved, kouroi were able to serve many purposes for the Greeks, such as those of religious symbols, dedications to deities, and decoration (105).
Despite their close adherence to Egyptian prototypes, kouroi possessed several very important characteristics that set them apart from any previous civilization’s sculptural endeavors. Firstly, kouroi were completely removed from their original block shape.
Every attempt was made to show realistic human form. Kouroi were also nude, almost celebrating the human body. Unlike the Egyptians, Greeks seemed to have no interest in permanence, but, rather, searched for ways to show action and motion (106).
The Greeks have always been known as great humanists who valued the human mind and body and their entire spectrum of abilities. They made enormous contributions to society, some of which are still in place today. Some of the greatest philosophers have come from the ancient Greek culture.
The Greeks were responsible for instituting the first Olympic Games as well as the first democratic society. The government consistently made contributions to fields in art, literature, and science. Ancient Greeks were also unique in their religious beliefs. The only trait that humans lacked in comparison to their gods was immortality.
The Greeks viewed themselves as worthy of being gods, often overlapping and blending the two together in their myths and parables (98).
This intense interest in man’s place in society explains why Greek art seems to portray a search for the perfect human form. It is known that “Head of Youth” is part of a kouros, which probably had a “perfectly” formed body, and is a prime example of the Greek fascination with human form. Unfortunately, the Greek civilization did have its flaws.
Question: "What were the contributions to Western civilization from the ancient Greeks?" Throughout history, there have been many contributions to Western civilization from the Ancient Greeks. They made long lasting contributions in the areas of art, architecture, philosophy, beliefs, religion, writings, math, drama, science, government, pottery, and Olympics, and philosophical teachings such as ...
Slavery was not only accepted, but viewed as natural and necessary. Even Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, mentioned slavery as a natural thing, something into which a person is either born or not born. Gender inequality was also a problem in Ancient Greece. Women were usually left alone in their homes, and only emerged to attend funerals or religious services. There is currently no Greek art done by females to study.
My reaction to “Head of a Youth” is one of irony. The style and form of the kouros’s face is beautiful, smooth, and simple, and I imagine his body to be the same way, wherever it may be. His highly placed eyes and wide, flat face give him a mysterious, unapproachable look. The mismatched accuracy of his body and face (very accurate body, but unrealistic face and head) remind me of certain Greek philosophers, who spent decades perfecting their theories of perfect societies and perfect humanity. Plato’s Republic is a plan for an ideal community and society, but it would never work because of basic human nature and tendencies. The Greek culture was wonderful and intelligent and enlightened, but still had major flaws that darkened their entire society.
One cannot ignore the small undesirable part, even amongst the hundreds of amazing and wonderful advances being made in their society. When I imagine “Head of a Youth” attached to its original body, I am distracted by the inaccurate portrayal of the human face. Though it is physically only a small part of a human, it holds an extreme amount of intellectual, emotional, and psychological value to viewers of every kind. To me, this contradiction mirrors the imbalance of “good and bad” in Ancient Greece.
However, “Head of a Youth” has still maintained all of its mystery and power in my mind.
Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy, is a memoir of disquieting candor and power of a cancerous adolescent experiencing and experimenting with the repercussions of chemotherapy and the threats of a manipulating society. Grealy gives her adult years somewhat shorter shrift than they deserve, but the account of her arduous coming of age is both haunting and inspirational as she makes a lyrical ...