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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Aphrodite of Melos

Not all Hellenistic artists followed the descriptive customs. Many actually turned to the past, creating an different style by reexamining and borrowing features from earlier Classical styles and combining them in new ways. By this time, Praxiteles and Lysippos were famous  for their models, so many looked to their works. This was definitely the case with the sculptor of the Aphrodite of Melos, also known as the Venus de Milo. The figure recalls Praxiteles' work, especially with the S-curve composition. The figure has heavier proportions of High Classical sculpture, but the twisting stance and the strong projection of the knee make this Hellenistic art. Similarly, the rich three-dimensionality of the drapery, seemingly in the process of slipping off the figure, adds a note of erotic tension, which is also a characteristic of Hellenistic. "The Aphrodite of Melos is classical in essence, with innovatory features such as the spiral composition, the positioning in space, and the fall of the drapery over the hips (Louvre)." Because she is missing details, like her arms, no one quite knows which goddess she could be portraying. According to whether she held a bow or an amphora, she was Artemis or a Danaid. Because of her half-nakedness and her sensual, feminine curves, many think she represents Aphrodite. She also may have held an apple, an allusion to the Judgement of Paris, a crown, a shield, or a mirror in which she admired her reflection. However, there is also the possibility she might  the sea goddess Amphitrite, who was venerated on the island of Milo. So we might never truly understand who she was supposed to be depicting, but this sculpture definitely represents Hellenistic Classical art.

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