Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Anavyssos Kouros

The Anavyssos Kouros, c. 520

Stand and have pity at the tomb of the dead Kroisos, whom raging Ares slew as he fought in the front line

The kouroi figures (kouroi is plural for kouros) develop through the decades of the Archaic period from the delineation characteristic of the New York kouros to the modeling found on the Anyvassos kouros, which is dated to about 520. He marks the grave of one named Kroisos, who died in battle; the inscription is above. He is not, certainly, a portrait, but, rather, an idealized picture of a young man. Similar kouroi were placed at the graves of old men, again, not to portray the individual in life, but to suggest the ideal model of a man at the peak of his beauty and power. The modeling is beginning to show actual muscles, and the articulation of the limbs is far more naturalistic. For some (i.e. Woodford) the enhanced realism of the body clashes with the highly patterned and traditional treatment of the hair. It doesn't bother me, but, then, what do I know?

The man who looks on a kouros finds himself being looked upon by a figure that is male and impassive: here is a male who stands firm, unbending, and constant. Such a figure makes a dutiful servant to the gods or to the city, but also an image of the unageing constancy of the gods themselves.
Where the New York kouros is made up of flat planes, the Anavyssos kouros, though as tightly constructed, bears few traces of its origins in a block of stone—a contrast particularly marked in the treatment of the buttocks. Where the New York kouros simplifies the face so that only eyes, nose, and mouth impinge on the rounded surface, the Anavyssos kouros gives separate form to cheeks and chin. None of these features make the Anavyssos kouros into an individual, rather than a type, but they enrich the reference to the male body and in doing so enrich the sense of potential, the sense that this sculpted man belongs to the same world as the viewer. They show something of the scope that the naked male form offered to sculptors, who, in hundreds of kouroi produced during the sixth century, explored different ways of bringing out what it was to be a man” (Osborne, 81-2).