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The piece of art that intrigued me the most during my visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was of a small sculpture of Eros, the Greek God of Love. In the United States, Eros is better known as his Roman counterpart, Cupid. In Greek Mythology, Eros was told to be the son of Aphrodite and Ares. He is a youthful, winged boy that carries a bow with arrows. When these arrows hit a mortal or a God, they cause that person to either desire or be indifferent to something or someone.[1]


The Sculpture and Sketch of ErosEdit

IMG 3641

Terracotta statuette of Eros flying, 350-300 BCE

Eros

Sketch of Eros, October 2011

The photograph directly on the right is of the sculpture of Eros found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while the one directly below it is my sketch of him. I chose this sculpture out of all the sculptures in the Greco-Roman exhibit of the museum because it depicted someone who was familiar to me, more familiar to me than the Gods. I have known about Cupid, or Eros, since I was in elementary school, and I've always associated him with love, Valentine's Day, romance, and relationships. After studying Ancient Greece for two months, I saw two things that I knew of farily well combined. I was excited to observe how the Ancient Greeks saw and visualized Eros compared to my perspective. After all, the sculpture of Eros in the museum does not share many qualities with the Eros from cartoons and comic books that I was exposed to. The thing that struck me the most about Eros was his pose. With one foot forward and his arms in the air, Eros appears to be both physically and emotionally strong. However, this is almost contradictory, for Eros is a baby. It was odd to see such bravado and might in a baby. I had to keep in mind that Eros was a God, not a human.

In Ancient Greece, sculpture usually depicted "ideal" men and women, who were usually young, sensuous, and beautiful. Though Eros is a male, he is not the "ideal" male of the Archaic and Classical Periods. The only period in Ancient Greek history where art included sculptures besides those of young men and women was the Hellenistic Period, when art depicted the deformed, eldery, and children. However, the art of the Hellenistic Period had a focus on Humanism, which observed the fundamental laws of human physique, and the actions of human beings. The majority of sculptures in this time period were of humans, because sculptors oftened captured human emotion and expression, which aren't present in Eros, because he's not a human, and he doesn't have much of an expression except for a small, vague smile. In addition to that, Hellenistic sculptures captured realism in humans too. For example, a sculpting technique for drapery in clothing was invented during the Hellenistic Period, so the clothing that sculptures wore were highly detailed.[2] There isn't much detail in Eros, so this sculpture is not from the Hellenistic Period.

In the Archaic Period, humans were captured in sculpture with idealistic qualities. Sculptures were almost completely vertical and rigid, showing little to no expression. There were hardly any details in Archaic sculptures to maintain a feeling of the divine, or idealism. In Greek Art, a common theme was that with less details, the more idealistic an art form was. Though Eros isn't intricately deatiled and he is an idealistic entity, this sculpture is not rigid or completely vertical like Archaic sculptures, which was the defining quality for all Archaic sculptures.[3] Since Eros is not from the Hellenistic or Archaic Periods, he must be from the Classical Period.

In the Classical Period, the major art component of the time was described as "Aesthetic Idealism," which is idealism with realism in the form of little details and flaws. Though Eros is a mighty God, his belly bulges quite a bit, and there are a few wrinkle marks on it, indicating flaws and realism. In addition, the use of contrapposto is evident in Eros, for his torso is twisted, and his shoulders are uneven. His the weight in his legs in unequal, but one must take into account that in this sculpture, Eros is flying. All these qualities are the features of a true Classical sculpture.[4] The only major feature of Eros that deviates from Classical sculpture is that Eros is a God rather than the "ideal" Classical human that was often depicted in the time period. Eros was a sculpture from the Classical Period.

When I was sketching Eros at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was confused about which time period the sculpture was from. Something drove me to find out for myself which time period the sculpture was from. Though it took several hours of identifying sculptures from all the different time period, analyzing these sculptures, and researching trends in sculputres during each time period, I finally concluded that Eros was from the Classical Period. My confusion drove me to discover. I had to find an explanation, similar to the very early Greeks who rationalized Greek mythology and the Gods. Confusion and the unknown has driven man to his most memorable and historical discoveries, both now, and in the time of the Ancient Greeks.


CitationsEdit

  1. "Eros," Encyclopedia Mythica, accessed November 16, 2011, http://www.pantheon.org/articles/e/eros.html.
  2. Gloria Fiero, The Humanistic Tradition(New York: McGraw Hill, 2006), 134-135.
  3. Gloria Fiero, The Humanistic Tradition(New York: McGraw Hill, 2006), 116-117.
  4. Gloria Fiero, The Humanistic Tradition(New York: McGraw Hill, 2006), 118-122.

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