This book - that accompanied a major exhibition at the British Museum - raises and answers many questions: Questions such as why nudity – particularly male nudity – was so central to Greek art, when other ancient civilisations both in Europe and Asia thought nudity shameful? Why these male bodies were so preternaturally perfect? Why there were so few female nudes? Why homoeroticism was such a driving force of establishment culture rather than the shadowy subculture that it normally inhabits in other times and places? And why we have preferred to think of Greek (and Roman) art as pure and white when it was often polychrome?
Greek sculpture is full of extraordinary vitality and yet, at the same time, it reaches beyond mere imitation of nature to give form to thought in works of timeless beauty. The Greeks experimented with representing the human body for over 2000 years, in works that range from prehistoric abstract simplicity to the full-blown realism of the age of Alexander the Great. It was the ancient Greeks who invented the modern idea of the human body in art, both as an object of sensory delight and as a bearer of meaning. Their unique vision has had a profound effect on the way that western civilization sees itself. This richly illustrated book explores the Greek portrayal of human character in sculpture, along with sexual and social identity. The book also draws on the British Museums outstanding collection of Greek sculpture including extraordinary pieces from the Parthenon and the celebrated representation of a discus thrower and through a number of themed sections.
The male body was displayed as if it was a living sculpture in althletics, and victors were commemorated by actual statues. In a series of lively introductory chapters, written by a selection of academics, historians and artists, it is revealed how the Greeks themselves viewed the sculpture, and how it was regarded in later pagan antiquity. Also discussed is the revival of the Greek body in the modern era, as well as the shock of the new effect of the arrival of the Parthenon sculptures in London at the beginning of the nineteenth century.