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Many pieces of Greek sculpture are very familiar to us - the Discobolus, the Venus de Milo and the Parthenon frieze, for instance - but our appreciation of them as works of art, enshrined in museums, is far removed from the ways in which the ancient Greeks saw and perceived them. To comprehend why Greek sculpture looks as it does we have to recreate the conditions of its production and consider those who commissioned, used and viewed it as much as the sculptors whom we traditionally associate with its creation.
In a stimulating new approach to the subject, Understanding Greek Sculpture re-examines the contexts in which Classical statuary was made and displayed. In its original intended setting, Greek sculpture not only looked quite different - massed together or elevated on pediments and friezes, and brightly painted - but it also served social, religious and political purposes that might surprise us.
Drawing on literary, historical and archaeological evidence, Nigel Spivey explains the techniques of the manufacture of Greek sculpture and traces its production from the eighth century BC to the Hellenistic period. In an eloquent text illustrated throughout with diverse examples, he explores the effects on sculpture of the demands of votive religion, the culture of heroes and the faith in deities in human form. He also looks at the causes of the Greek Revolution when sculptors discovered how to portray the human body naturalistically.