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Work Kouros

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

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Kouros

© 1997 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Marie-Bénédicte Astier

The bronze kouros from the Gillet collection illustrates one of the major statuary types of the Archaic period. The figurine observes strict conventions-the effect of religious conservatism. The progress made in the observation and mastery of anatomy are already discernible, as are the signs of a specific stylistic language. The statuette, which has a spherical head, broad shoulders, a narrow pelvis, and powerful muscles, is in the Argive tradition.

Kouroi: Religious figures with a conventional schema

The Louvre bronze collections were enriched in 1973, thanks to the generosity of the Gillet family, by a male statuette illustrating one of the major types in Greek sculpture of the Archaic period: the kouroi. The figurine observes strict conventions that were the result of religious conservatism, owing to the votive function of the object: it shows a young male nude, presented in a frontal pose, with his arms by his sides and his leg left slightly advanced.

A creation of a workshop in Argos

The statuette is similar to the imposing figures of Cleobis and Biton, two marble kouroi now in the Archeological Museum of Delphi, which are attributed to an artist from Argos (in the northeastern Peloponnese). Besides a few small differences in detail, partly due to the change in scale and material, the structure of the body is the same as theirs, with broad shoulders, a narrow pelvis, strongly delineated knees, and powerful muscles. The trapezoidal shape of the face and the spherical form of the head are also similar.
All three demonstrate the sculptor's wish, by employing a distinct stylistic language, to signal that they belong to a civic community. Several fragments of statuettes and a rich collection of terracottas, discovered in the temple of Aphrodite in Argos itself, present similar features that seem to confirm the attribution of this small kouros to the body of Argive works.

A pretext for the study of human anatomy

The Louvre bronze appears to be less strictly geometric than the large statues in Delphi. The kouroi type allowed sculptors to make anatomical studies of the male body and attempt to represent it, gradually progressing towards a more faithful and masterly observation of musculature and facial features. The eyes of the "Gillet kouros" are not totally frontal and are incised, which adds to the expressiveness of the figure. The transition between planes is more supple and more subtle. The modeling of the abdomen reveals a more nuanced approach to anatomy, with the disappearance of the thoracic arch, the depiction of the collarbone, and the softening of the pectorals. The Louvre statuette was thus made just a bit later than its illustrious models, which were created around 590-580 BC; it seems to have been produced some time between 575 and 570 BC.

Bibliography

C. Rolley, La sculpture grecque. 1- Des origines au milieu du Ve siècle, Paris, 1994, p. 168-169, fig. 147.C. Rolley, Les bronzes grecs, Paris, 1983, p. 86-87, fig. 64.C. Rolley, "Une statuette archaïque au Musée du Louvre", Revue Archéologique, 1975, 1, p. 3-12. N. Duval, "Un petit" kouros "archaïque en bronze", Revue du Louvre, 1974, p. 313-318.

Technical description

  • Kouros

    C. 575-570 BC

    Argive style

  • Bronze

    H. 17 cm

  • Gillet gift, 1973

    Br 4510

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Lower ground floor
    Pre-Classical Greece
    Room 1, temporarily closed to the public
    Display case 29

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