Class Name and Date
Art 230: Ancient Art. Fall 2015
Hellenistic Bronze Sculpture
20.9cm (8 1/4 in) H
3rd–1st century B.C.
This bronze statuette with silver eyes depicts the goddess Aphrodite. Aphrodite’s left hand reaches to grab the fallen fabric or to cover herself while she turns her head to look at the apple in her other hand. This piece was made from the 3rd-1st century placing it in the Hellenistic Period.
Nude female figures were rare in earlier Greek art periods while male nudes were very common. In the Hellenistic Period, erotic artistic subject matter became more popular which lead to the production of many sensuous statues of a nude Aphrodite. The changing artistic subjects of “a nude Aphrodite… reflect[ed] the increased secularization of traditional religion.” The goddess holds an apple in her right hand, which references the story of Helen and Paris. This myth is shown in other artworks from previous periods, but the actual visual representation of the apple in the myth appeared first in the Hellenistic period. Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty; she could be naked to show off her curvy body and emphasize the qualities of which she is the patron.
Some Hellenistic artists used the style and elements from the Classical periods and incorporated them into new Hellenistic characteristics. This piece takes the popular contrapposto pose and incorporates a Hellenistic twist. Contrapposto is a weight-leg, free-leg stance. On the side that bears the weight, the hip is higher than its counterpart, and the shoulder on the weight side is lower than the other. Like other artworks, this piece balances parts of the body that are free with parts that are engaged. Her free-leg is paired with her engaged arm that holds the apple. The slight turn of her upper body is a Hellenistic element. Artists during the Hellenistic period were interested in more expressive poses and showing emotion. Aphrodite’s head is tilted downward as she examines the apple; the gesture is expressive, and it suggests that she is thinking about the prize that she just won. Her other hand covers herself or reaches for the fabric which is a modest gesture.
The fabric gathers around her thighs as if the garment were falling down. Maybe the fabric fell down because she was concentrating on the apple, and she became distracted. The cloth bunches in the front and then pools around her feet. Bronze has the ability to make the fabric appear more light and fluid than it would look like in marble.
The material also helps the figure and the fabric appear realistic. With bronze, artists of the Hellenistic Period “were able to capture the dynamic realism, expression, and detail that characterized the new artistic goals of the period.” Bronze can make the drapery look more lifelike. The shiny medium picks up the highlights in the fabric and Aphrodite’s hair making them more noticeable and gives them more texture. The dark metal also emphasizes the shadows on this artwork. Using bronze allowed the artists to create a more dramatic piece, which was an important feature in the Hellenistic period.
- Archino, Sarah. “ART 230: Early Classical Greek Lecture.” Lecture at Furman University, Greenville, SC, November, 11, 2015.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Bronze statuette of Aphrodite with silver eyes.” Accessed November 21, 2015. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/255409.
- Hemingway, Colette and Sean Hemingway. “Art of the Hellenistic Age and the Hellenistic Tradition”, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/haht/hd_haht.htm (accessed November 22, 2015).
- National Gallery of Art. “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World.” Accessed November 22, 2015. http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/exhibitions/2015/power-and-pathos.html.
- Pedley, John Griffiths. Greek Art and Archaeology. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education Inc., 2012.
- Stokstad, Marilyn and Michael W. Cothren. Volume I Art History. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education Inc., 2014.
 John Griffiths Pedley, Greek Art and Archaeology, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2012), 355.
 Colette Hemingway and Sean Hemingway, “Art of the Hellenistic Age and the Hellenistic Tradition”, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/haht/hd_haht.htm (accessed November 22, 2015).
 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Bronze statuette of Aphrodite with silver eyes.” Accessed November 21, 2015. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/255409.
 Pedley, Greek Art History and Archeology, 354.
 Marilyn Stokstad and Michael W. Cothren, Volume I Art History, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2014), 147.
 Sarah Archino, “ART 230: Early Classical Greek Lecture” (lecture at Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina, November, 11, 2015).
 National Gallery of Art. “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World.” Accessed November 22, 2015. http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/exhibitions/2015/power-and-pathos.html.
Image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art