Grecian sculpture has long been regarded as one of the most valuable practices in art history. A movement characterized by a sculptural approach that would become the standard for artists for generations to come, this movement was renowned for its unprecedented naturalism. There are a number of world-renowned Hellenistic pieces in top collections across the globe, including the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the most famous of all. Even though you may be familiar with these awe-inspiring works of marble art, you may not be familiar with the movements created by them.

What was the Hellenistic Period?

Between 323 BCE and 31 CE was the Hellenistic period in ancient Greece. A Greek artist had been developing naturalism for hundreds of years during this time. Sculptors continued to pursue naturalism during this time.

There has always been a fascination with naturalistic sculpture going as far back as Ancient Greece’s Archaic period, which lasted from the 8th century until 500 B.C.E.. It has been said that the sculptures made during this time period portray more realism than those that preceded them, but their poses are rigid and their expressions Similar to Archaic sculptures, archaic sculptors tended to use (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) “the male kouros, as well as the female kore, as well as the standing nude youth”. The landscape changed around 500 BCE, however, when the Classical period began. As classical sculptors, they insisted upon perfection in their work with an increased focus on detail and idealized perception of human anatomy. They then turned to a cast of diverse and divine heroes from Greek mythology instead of kouros and kore figures. In 323 BCE, this approach was taken a step further. Sculptors began adapting Classical techniques to render realistic figures during this period. In the aftermath of this phenomenon came the Hellenistic period, which lasted nearly 200 years.

Classic Characteristics

Greek sculptors imbued their works with three characteristics that enabled them to achieve this lifelike aesthetic The movement is expressive and the anatomy is realistic.


Dynamic silhouettes and sinuous forms were employed by sculptors to suggest motion in their sculptures so that they would appear as human as possible. The focus on expressive and exaggerated movements is particularly apparent in Laocoön and His Sons, one of the most well-known masterpieces of its time.

Based on a Greek epic, the sculpture features three figures Laocoon, a priest from Troy, and his two sons, Antiphantes and Thymbraeus. They are escaping from a pair of serpents in a desperate bid to save their lives. During the dramatic twists and turns, they seem to entangle themselves even more, culminating in a swirling, action-packed scene that illustrates the Hellenistic fascination with


Anatomy also benefited from this focus on movement, as revealed by the Hellenistic study of human As contemporary painting and sculpture had moved away from ‘universal, emotionless and rigid poses of the Archaic’ (Google Arts & Culture), Hellenistic artists took inspiration from human human postures to create monuments inspired by reality. In the case of the Venus de Milo, figures were rendered in an asymmetrical stance rather than in an unrealistic erect posture. As contrapposto (“counterpose”) implies movement due to realistic weight distribution and an S-shaped body, it is quite similar to the previous pose.

Greek artists sought to replicate the appearance of real bodies as well as natural poses. The prominence of this can be seen in the nonidealized sculptures of gods that were prevalent during this period, as well as in statues of everyday It is one of the immediate results of the new international Hellenistic milieu that a wide range of subjects was introduced to Greek art which had little precedent in earlier times. There are representations of unorthodox subjects, like grotesques, as well as conventional inhabitants such as children and the elderly.


Hellenistic sculpture, like Grecian sculpture, is known for its fascinating level of Aside from realistic anatomical features, this can also be seen in drapery, a sculptural element that was particularly prevalent at

It was for three reasons that sculptors chose to adorn their figures with “fabric” They perform this sculpting for a variety of reasons, including balancing the obvious movement of the figure, as well as highlighting its lifelike anatomy and displaying Wet drapery first captured the attention of Roman and Greek artists during the Classical period, and later Greek artists adapted it.


Hellenistic sculpture has endured over the years as one of the most influential genres in the practice. The Renaissance was characterized by the emphasis on anatomy that Italian artists like Michelangelo modeled themselves after In the Baroque period, Bernini found inspiration in the dynamic movement of the era A talented Italian artist called Giovanni Strazza used a technique called “wet drapery” to construct the remarkable Veiled Virgin in the 19th century. There are many pieces from Hellenistic art which have gone on to endure. These pieces—among many more—are testament to the impact of sculpture on history.


By Peter