Unfinished Kouros torso

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Unfinished Kouros sculpture of asymmetric proportions made from white marble with a rough surface. The piece is in a state before its termination by the polishing of the surface. There are similar pieces in existence which are similarly not finished, as the work was abandoned for one reason or another, or because the block of marble broke and so the sculptor considered the final stages of work to be unjustified.

This fragment, from below the neck to just above the knees, shows other characteristics which lead us to identify it as an unfinished piece. Firstly, the hands where the palms and fingers are not indicated. Secondly, the genital region is outlined but not defined. While the forms and volumes are perfect for those of archaic Greek sculpture, the final polish of the surface is missing.

The first Kouroi were made from wood and have not been preserved. However, towards the 7th century BCE the Greeks began to carve stone with tools made of iron and consequently, the sculptures started to be made from this material. The best marble was to be found in the quarries on Paros and Samos.

In Ancient Greek the word kouros meant “young man” and was used by Homer to refer to young soldiers. From the 5th century BCE the word alluded specifically to an adolescent or beardless youth, but not to a child. Modern art historians have used the word since the 1890s to refer to this specific type of naked masculine statue.

Kouroi were known for a long time by the name of “Apollos”, but of few of them can it be said that they represented either this or any other deity. Most of them were devotees of some god but as participants, while others were commemorative monuments – not portraits – which were placed in tombs. Their individuality was expressed through the inscriptions which appeared on the statue itself or on a base. These are idealized figures, without signs of particular age or profession.

These pieces are only found during the archaic era of Greek art, between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE. They are figures of naked youths, in a conventional pose, symmetric, with closed fists held down by their sides, one foot slightly in front of the other – all of which did not change over this entire period. They denote a clear Cretan and Egyptian influence: long hair either plaited or bound in the Cretan style. The eyes often have an obviously Egyptian aspect which was later copied in Cretan art. The Greek sculptors learnt the art of stone carving from the Egyptians along with some formal aspects like the use of hard expressions and frontal pose. Specifically, we see find one foot in front of the other, as in much Egyptian sculpture.

The figures do not seem to display any feelings, displaying only the typical anachronistic “archaic smile”, which seems to have no formal objective except the reinforcement of the mouth. This is because the objective of the sculpture was to transmit a sensation of the strength and physical power of the young victor.

PARALLELS:

- Unfinished archaic Kouros. Paros Museum of Archaeology. Greece. Inventory number A 1377.
- Unfinished Kouros torso. Naxos Museum of Archaeology. Greece. Inventory number MN 4130.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

- CHARBONNEAUX, J. Grèce archaïque (620-480 av. J.-C.). Paris. 1968. p. 128.
- DEONNA W. Les Apollons archaïques. Genève. 1909. pp. 127-13O.
- HAMIAUX M. Les Sculptures grecques, t.I. deuxième édition. Paris. 2001. n 72. pp. 78-79.
- Hommes et dieux de la Grèce. Catalogue d'exposition. Octobre-décembre 1982. Bruxelles. n 8. pp. 44-45.
- MICHON E. "Torses archaïques en marbre provenant d'Actium", in Gazette Archéologique. 11. Paris. 1886. pp. 235-243.
- PEDLEY J. G. Greek Sculpture of the Archaic Period: The Island Workshops. Mainz. 1976. p. 33. n 18.
- RICHTER G. Kouroi. Londres. 1960. pp. 75 - 85.
- ROLLEY C. La sculpture grecque. 1- Des origines au milieu du Ve siècle. Paris. 1994. p. 168-169. fig. 147.

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