The ancient Greeks and Romans left such artistic treasures in art and architecture that the world is still using them as models. Their sense of style and symmetry was such that everything seemed to fit together perfectly. There was an emphasis on the capture of beauty and perfection so that what is left will always be classic art. The Statue of Meleager and A Grave Marker are perfect examples of how statues from two different empires represent the societies and the artistic periods of their day.
Two unknown sculptures produces both The Statue of Meleager and A Grave Marker.
Lack of records is a sad fact of much of the artistic works of the ancient periods. Many could not read or write even if they were accomplished artist. The records that were kept have had to constantly battle the test of times. Much of the materials used for writings simply could not stand up to the elements of time. Then of course, many important documents were destroyed each time a different empire would overtake the one before it.
So the world is left with incredible pieces of art work yet it will never know whose hands crafted it with such talent.
These two statues are no different. It is evident by the craftsmanship that whoever carved them, were not armatures, but talented sculptures. Their works have remained, but the names and lives are lost forever. Since the sculptures’ identities are lost forever, there is no way of knowing who the patrons of these great works of art were. However, there surely would have been a patron of each of the works. The sculpture of a youth from A Grave Marker has been recognized as being from circa three hundred and eighty B. C. Since it is a grave marker, there surely would have been a patron.
It would have been commissioned after the death of this young man since the death of one so young would not have been expected. The patron would have been wealthy since many of the graves in ancient Greece were not marked at all. This one proclaims wealth and importance. Even though the Greeks tried hard to not have a social hierarchy, There was a notable social mobility for certain groups, and exception not permitted in ancient Greece. (D’Ambre) The fact that the subject is a youth points toward some kind of family importance because he would not have lived long enough to have established his own life and accomplishments.
This grieving patron would have hired the best that Greece offered at the time. The sculpture would have to have known the subject to have created such a life like image. There were no photographs at the time so the work would have had to be done from memory. Therefore the sculpture would have also been in a state of mourning when the work was done. The Stature of Meleager would also most likely been commissioned by a patron. The time and materials that it took to produce a work like this would not have been something that a sculpture would not have had the money to produce.
It would have taken a great deal of time to sculpt and the artist would have needed money to live. This could have only been possible if he was paid for his services. This statue was produced during the Hellenistic Period which was a time that Greece was under Roman rule. Since the subject is of a god, there is a possibility that the patron could have even been the government. The subjects and uses of A Grave Marker and the Statue of Meleager were quite different. A Grave Marker had a youth who was robbed of his life while young as the subject. He was obviously a real person, while Meleager was a mythological god.
The young man, as stated earlier, would have been from a prominent family and possibly even a family that was involved in a high ranking political official. The purpose of the statue was to mark the grave of this young man. The family would have wanted this statue so that they would not forget him and that family throughout the ages would get to see the magnificence of this young man who died too soon. Not only would family be reminded of him, but the rest of the world as well would know that he existed. It would have also had the purpose to help relieve the grief that this family obviously suffered.
There would be an image on which they could focus. This image would have captured this young man when he was at his best and so could the family focus on the best time of the subject’s life. The Statue of Meleager would have had the purpose of illuminating the greatness of the Greek god, son of Althaea and Oeneus. He was married to Cleopatra and produced two children, Parthenopeus and Polydora. However, he was in love with Atalanta, a huntress. It was because of her that he had to kill her two brothers, and this led to his death. The purpose of this statue in society was to keep alive the memory of the gods of Greece.
When viewed by a person of that culture, he/she would be reminded of the story of this god. Both statues would have been for public display. A Grave Marker would have been outwardly displayed on the grave and the Statue of Meleager would have been prominently displayed in a public place or the garden or courtyard of a wealthy person to be seen at lavish parties and get togethers. Both statues are made of marble so that they would last for many years. Therefore, they would have been made for display instead of decoration. Most sculptures would have been painted, but the painted exterior of has worn away with time.
Romans were nearly exclusive in the mixtures of supplies used both for painting and sculptures because of the cost. A Grave Marker is the oldest of the two sculptures. The sad countenance of the young man whose likeness is portrayed allows the viewer to experience the tragic sadness of a life that has been lost too soon. The lines are delicate and flowing while they create a feel of movement. While the hair seems tight and a little unrealistic, it could symbolize the harsh stiffness that is present in death. The statue only consist of the torso and head of the subject perhaps suggesting that he was cut down in life as he is in the statue.
The Statue of Meleager is missing its head. However, the grace that the body can only allow the viewer to imagine the delicacy of what the head would have looked like. Meleager is standing, but instead of seeming harsh and erect, he is leaning slightly onto a stump for support, while a wrap is draped fluidly around his neck and shoulders. There are no harsh lines in this stature, only curves, that while delicate, they do not take away from the masculinity of the subject.
D’Ambre, Eve. Roman Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998. Ramage, Nancy. Ramage, Andrew. Roman Art. New York: 2008.