The World of the Individual – The Fourth Century BC and its Aftermath

13 thoughts on “The World of the Individual – The Fourth Century BC and its Aftermath

  1. Does Pollitt believe that the sculpture of the 4th century BC is a departure from or a continuation of the Classical tradition?

    • Pollitt believes that formally the art of the fourth century (400 B.C.-323 B.C.) certainly remains in the strain of Classical art, however what it means to express is entirely different. Pollitt points to the types of monuments that were being commissioned and the sources of these commissions as a connection to the fifth century and attributes he terms “stylistic mannerisms” such as compositional patterns, the rendering of hair and musculature as a continuation of the Classical strain of art. In this chapter, the author wishes to move beyond stylistic analysis and instead look at “what it expresses” to connect it to the succeeding Hellenistic age. Pollitt argues that Classical Art aims to illustrate the perfection that can be reached through a community that relies upon rational thought and action as its compass. In the era following the Peloponnesian war, this vision was shattered and instead of advocating community, Hellenistic art often focuses upon the actions and values of the individual.

      • Pollit believes that the sculpture of the fourth century may have been a continuation in terms of style, but the message intended for the viewer was entirely different. The author explains that in the aftermath of conflict during this time period, modern cities, such as alexandria, became so large that communal relations were no longer possible. The only options were private, intensely personal experience or universal/general thought. Through the use of many examples, the author effectively demonstrates this concept. I found the comparisons between sculpture on the parthenon, for example, and specific 4th century and onwards examples to be very helpful. For instance, the example with Priam and his intense emotional experience and later, similar sculptures served well to support the argument that 4th century sculpture was more similar to later periods of sculpture than to previous classical sculpture.

    • Pollitt believes that Classical Sculpture has more in common with the Hellenistic era than with the high classical, based on what it expresses. This is because instead of representing the community and what it stands for it focuses more on the individual and his values. Such works as vase paintings focused more on human emotion and tenderness, with an emphasis on pathos over ethos. Almost erotic images of the human body were also a characteristic, according to Pollitt. Praxiteles best represents this. Nude females, shading, and perspective become common during this era. Overlapping also comes into use. Overall, Pollitt describes the nature of Classical Sculpture to be more personal and erotic, with a heavier emphases on proportions and how one expresses and unique individual rather than just an idea.

    • I agree with Pollitt’s characterization of the ethos of the classical period. Due to Greece’s “new state of mind,” its not surprising that there was a shit of focus from ethos to pathos. Ethos refers to the guided beliefs and ideals that characterize a community or nation, where as Pathos exemplifies immediate personal reaction. This shift in emphasis reflects the experiences and development of human emotion at this time. Artists were likely to represent specific feeling in their art such as anguish, tenderness and humor. Pollitt provides a justification to the shift claiming that, “perhaps because conceptions of ‘character’ are inevitably bound up with the morals and ideals of a specific social group and the artists of the period preferred to avoid involvement in such questions.” (J.J. Pollitt 143)

    • Despite the tumultuous circumstances of the 4th century, Pollitt argues that sculpture in this period was full of artistic achievements. Defining features of 4th century sculpture are emphases on emotionality and individuality, according to Pollitt. This means that sculptors want to display emotional extremes through facial expression, body torsion, and muscular tension. Depicting distinct individuals in sculpture was important in this period as well. This was almost an attempt at portraiture, as each figure’s personality exudes from the heightened attention to rendering facial expression and how they interact with the viewer. Sculpture in the 4th century revolved around the representation of emotion and individuality.

    • Politt argues that there are stylistic connections between the sculptures of the Classical period and the fourth century, particularly in the musculature and rendering of the hair, but that there is a clear break between the two periods (Politt, 136). Politt explained that the early fourth century sculptural elements and those that appeared until the late first century can be seen as a continuum after the break from the classical period, but I see how the sculptural elements of classical period carried over into the fourth century. There is a shift of what the sculptors valued from the intricate musculature and the wet drapery from the classical period to the emotion and importance of the individual in the fourth century. Rather than idealizing the figure, they are depicted as they would in reality (less wet drapery and less intense musculature), but with also more extremes. The figures in the fifth century were naturalistically sculpted, figures did interact, the hips were tilted in contraposto, and there was both emotion and physical depictions of allegorical ideas (especially with the multiple Nike figures). The fourth century sculptors drew upon these ideas that would continue to be built upon into Hellenistic Period. Overall, I see a transition more than a break between the centuries because fourth century sculptors are clearly influenced by what came before, but they reached a point in which they wanted to take their stylistic ideas to the next level.

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