There is something ethereal about a Chola bronze that appeals to your senses and its very difficult to capture it on a photograph. Take this superb late Chola bronze 13th Century Skanda from Chennai Museum.
Prasad is one of the few artists who can bring out the beauty of a bronze in a sketch.
I have read many articles which talk of the Tribanga pose and its aesthetics, but is there more to it than just the triple flexion of the body around a central axis. Today we are to try and understand the inner working of this flexion, its evolution in Greek sculpture and if there are any parallels to it in the Indian bronze sculpting and if so - is it in the styling of these bronzes that make them so endearing to our senses. Watching this wonderful video on evolution of Greek sculpture, helped me realise how artists try and constantly innovate the form and proportion to showcase their creations better.
Greek Sculpture - Evolution
We have had this discussion many times within our friends, especially with Arvind, when we were studying the evolution of the Ardhanari form - the flexion of the leg, we summarised then was maybe partly to offset the male /female portions.
Tracing the refinement of the Ardhanari image
But today after seeing the video made me rethink the theory. For the bronze Skanda is not a composite form like ardhanari, but the flexion and exaggerated twist do add to its aesthetic appeal. Art and art forms evolve, the artist learn from themselves and the works of great masters who worked before them. Greek art, especially their marble sculptures are the pinnacle of sculpting. Thanks to Google and wiki, will try and present how their art evolved and its relevance to the Chola bronze’s styling.
A kouros is the modern term given to those representations of male youths which first appear in the Archaic period in Greece. (The archaic period in Greece -800 BCE – 480 BCE, is a period of Ancient Greek history. The term originated in the 18th century and has been standard since. This term arose from the study of Greek art, where it refers to styles mainly of surface decoration and sculpture, falling in time between Geometric Art and the art of Classical Greece
The characteristics of the sculptures of this period are :
* Frontal pose with no torsion of the body. Head erect, eyes front, face flat, head square, waist narrow, muscles squarish and poorly delineated.
* Left foot advanced with no corresponding hip displacement. This characteristically rigid frontal striding pose is reminiscent of statues of Egyptian pharaohs.
* Arms hanging straight at sides fingers curved, thumb foremost, although a few show one arm extended forward from the elbow, holding an offering.
The marble Kritios boy or Kritian Boy belongs to the Early Classical period of ancient Greek sculpture. It is a precursor to the later classical sculptures of athletes. The Kritian boy is thus named because it is attributed on slender evidence to Kritios who worked together with Nesiotes (sculptures of Harmodius and Aristogeiton) or their school, from around 480 BC. The statue is considerably smaller than life-size at 1.17 m (3 ft 10 ins).
With the Kritios Boy (ephebos) the Greek artist has mastered a complete understanding of how the different parts of the body act as a system. The statue supports the body’s weight on the left leg, while the right one is bent at the knee in a relaxing state. This stance, known as contrapposto, forces a chain of anatomical events: as the pelvis is pushed diagonally upwards on the left side, the right buttock relaxes, the spine acquires an “S” curve, and the shoulder line dips on the left to counteract the action of the pelvis
The Doryphoros “Spear-Bearer”,is one of the best known Greek sculptures of the classical era in Western Art and an early example of Greek classical contrapposto. The lost bronze original would have been made at approximately 450-40 BC.
The Greek sculptor Polykleitos designed a work, perhaps this one, as an example of the “canon” or “rule”, showing the perfectly harmonious and balanced proportions of the human body in the sculpted form. A solid-built athlete with muscular features carries a spear balanced on his left shoulder. In the surviving Roman marble copies, a marble tree stump is added to support the weight of the marble. A characteristic of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros is the classical contrapposto in the pelvis; the figure’s stance is such that one leg seems to be in movement while he is standing on the other.
The S curve
The S Curve is a traditional art concept in Ancient Greek sculpture and Roman sculpture where the figure’s body and posture is depicted like a sinuous or serpentine “S”. It is related to and is an extension of the art term of contrapposto which is when a figure is depicted slouching or placing one’s weight and thus center of gravity to one side. However, the S Curve involves more of the body than the contrapposto, and is therefore considered to be a more advanced technical development.
Aphrodite of Milos, better known as the Venus de Milo, is an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. Created at some time between 130 and 100 BC, it is believed to depict Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans) the Greek goddess of love and beauty. It is a marble sculpture, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) high. Its arms and original plinth have been lost. From an inscription that was on its plinth, it is thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch.
Now, we return the Chola Bronze, to see if any of the above techniques are evidenced in the art and if so which one and most importantly did it assist in adding to its beauty.
I found some interesting articles on the same with some fantastic photos to illustrate the axis, the rhythm and how the flow of the body is deliberately altered to create the effects described above. I tried to reflect the same study in our bronze with some surprising results.
The diagrams of the movement and flow in the Greek sculpture so closely resemble the Chola bronze.
The rear view of bronze shows the exaggerated `S’ so talked off above to move in conjunction with the Contrapposto.
Would be interesting to hear your views and to dwell more into this. Really fascinating confluence of art.
Images Courtesy: Wiki, internet. sketches and Bronze are of Prasad.
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