Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Blond Boy

The so-called Blond Boy, from the Acropolis, dated to around 480 BCE, is a good example of the so-called “severe style,” in which the archaic smile has been replaced by a pout. Paint remaining on the pupils indicates something about the original conception, which would have created a concentrated, somewhat somber stare, perhaps aloof, but also self-aware. He knows you’re looking at him, and acts unconnected, unconcerned.

Compared to the typical archaic face, all these facial features seem compacted and tightly-knit. In the Blond Boy this effect arises, as Rhys Carpenter has pointed out, from a simple system of proportions in which multiples of basic horizontal and vertical modules (e.g. the width of the nose at the junction of the eyebrows) are applied to all the basic parts of the face. A uniform 3 : 4 proportion between all the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the face is at the root of its (literal and metaphysical) measure and order. The new, increasingly squarish (or perhaps we should say ‘foursquare’) canon of proportions which we see under development in the Blond Boy seems to represent an adaptation of the ‘feeling’ of the severe style to an increasingly sophisticated tradition devoted to an analysis of, and speculation about the significance of the interrelationships of the various parts of a work of art—a tradition which went back to the very beginning of Greek art and began to move in important new directions in the fifth century. (Pollitt, 39-41).