Sculpture is one of the most expressive forms of art. Since ancient times, people worked with different materials to create statues. Each historical period is characterized by particular philosophy, themes and ideas. These themes and ideas are expressed through forms and materials. Some early periods influence techniques and concepts adopted by later periods.
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In addition, art of a particular period may influence the art of a particular author, as it can be observed in two western sculptures from the Metropolitan Museum, Statue of a Wounded Warrior that embodies the “classical” style of the Parthenon, and Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Antonio Canova that was created in the early 19th century.
As well as ancient sculptor, Canova used the same techniques and material for his statue. Thought, the styles of the statues are much alike, there are some differences that are worth special attention. In this paper, we are going to compare and contrast the styles, techniques and themes of the two sculptures from different periods.
The Statue of a Wounded Warrior is a Roman copy of the statue of the Greek origin that dates back to the 138–181 A.D. of Mid-Imperial, Antonine period. This is the statue of a young warrior which is a bit bigger of a true life-size. He stands as if he is going to throw a spear. Judging from the fact that it is a warrior and the posture of a man, we can conclude that he used to hold a sword or a spear in his right hand and a shield in this left hand.
It is quite possible that he is going to attack the enemy and protect the last minutes of his own life. The statue is not identified until nowadays. There are suggestions that it depicts Protesilaos, a Greek hero, or just a warrior that is falling because he was wounded in his right armpit. The statue is very realistic and made in classical Pantheon style.
The second sculpture also exemplifies the features of the Pantheon style, however, it refers more to the Renaissance period and, indeed, it is less destructed because it was created much later in the 19th century. It depicts a character from the ancient Greek mythology, Perseus, who killed Medusa. The statue has almost the same size as a previous one, but it is put on the pedestal. It is done with a certain purpose; in particular, people were forced to look at the statue upward to feel the greatness of the hero.
Both statues are made from marble. This material is a great to convey the details. It makes both statues look very realistic and shows all lines of the body and face expressions. It produces the effects that the sculptures can return to life. However, the Statue of a Wounded Warrior is yellow and rough when touching it.
This makes the statue look realistic and believe that it depicts a real person. As the body has some lacks, the material also has them and, as such, expresses them. As opposed to the Warrior, the statue of Perseus is very white and smooth. All lines are perfect. Thus, it contributes to the “glorious” view of the statue. This technique shows that the main hero (Perseus) has a perfect body, as well as soul and mind.
As it has already been mentioned, both sculptures have almost a life-size scale. Again, it is used to make them look realistic, as in both periods (classic and Renaissance which refers to classical, and as a consequence influenced Canova’s work) reality was the main aim. However, the statue of the warrior is not standing on the pedestal. It is done in order to make the statue “closer” to the audience, make people look into the warrior’s eyes and feel his anticipation and mood.
On the contrary, the figure of Perseus is standing on the pedestal and it is done with the purpose to produce more lyrical effect on the audience. People cannot look into the eyes of the statue and thus, they can observe only its figure. As it has already been mentioned, people should look upward that makes them feel the strength and perfectness of the figure.
The statue of the warrior conveys motion. It depicts the warrior who is struggling for his life. His arm is put up and he walks, or falls backward (as it is provided in some interpretations of the statue). The motion conveys emotions and makes the audience think about the outcomes of his actions and his further fate. In the second statue, everything is decided, the motion is left behind and the audience can see only result of his actions. Perseus is a hero, he defeated the Meduse and he demonstrates his victory while holding the head of the beast.
Both sculptures represent particular individuals. Statue of a Wounded Warrior represents Protesilaos and the last minutes of his life. However, considering the fact that the statue has not been identified, it can refer to any warrior and its main idea to show the strength of spirit of the individual who struggles until the very end. The hero of the second statue is a well-known mythic character who had particular features. The intention of the author was to express those features and show the real character of the hero.
Comparing both statues, it can be said that the lines of the body and other details are depicted more accurately in the Perseus with the Head of Medusa. It is very proportional and each detail is paid special attention so that the viewer could admire it for a long time. On the contrary, the lines of the warrior’s body are simplified, the drapery is folded non parallel, but the main focus is on the eyelids.
Thus, the author wanted to attract attention to the eyes of the warrior and show his emotions. Thus, the eyes represent the abstract idea, the idea of struggle, hesitation and other emotions that the warrior could feel at that moment. This is how the statue evolves this idea.
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The detailed carving on the face of the statue and expression of the face and less detailed on the back of the sculpture, suggests that it was meant to be seen from the front. As opposed to the statue of the warrior, Perseus was designed to be seen from different viewpoints. Thus, the author wanted to attract attention to every detail and make viewers not to think about emotions or some moral issues, but admire the beauty of the statue.
The statue of the warrior incorporates with the surrounding environment and gathers the space. It is placed among other sculptures of the period and completes the general atmosphere. The second statue is meant to be used as a decoration, as it is actually used in the museum. The commission and placement of both statues were motivated by the historical period when they were created and their look.
Both statues represent western architecture, however, of different periods. From the first sight, they are much alike, but a closer look and interpretation of both statues help seeing major differences between them, as well as similarities.
Picture 1. Perseus with the Head of Medusa, 1804–6. Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757–1822). Marble.
Picture 2. Statue of a wounded warrior, ca. 138–81 a.d.; Antonine. Roman copy of a Greek bronze statue, ca. 460–450 b.c. Marble.