How does the portrayal of drapery in sculpture change between 650 BC and the end of the fifth century BC? (You may refer both to relief andfree standing sculpture in your answer.)
There is no shortage of examples to illustrate how sculptors met the twin challenge of portraying draped figures: how to suggest the human form beneath the drapery and how to explore the decorative effects of the drapery. The drapery concerned is the peplos, a heavy wollen garment with a double thickness of cloth folded over the upper body, and the chiton, a lighter garment, often worn with a cloak, the himation, worn diagonally across the upper body.
One of the earliest draped figures is the Nikandre dedication from Delos, c650 BC. The living forms are visible only at the extremities e.g. the feet. There is hardly a hint of the body beneath, illustrating a primitive technique, the figure is crudely shaped from the rectangular block. A later kore either a goddess or a woman is dated c570 560 BC. An Attic work, the approach is livelier: this is seen in particular from the rear view. Her garment swells over her buttocks, suggesting the body beneath, and the sculptor has explored the effects of pattern e.g. the concentric folds of her cloak. The dedication to Hera on Samos (c560 BC), like the Nikandre dedication, had one arm across her breast. However, the carving is much more subtle: her body swells out from under her belt, and the artist has explored the variety of the folds, contrasting the heavier cloak with the lighter undergarment.
Another example of the progress towards naturalism and decorative effect is the so called Kore 675 (c530 BC). She pulls her chiton to one side with her left hand, drawing the fabric tightly against her leg; her breasts are clearly indicated beneath her drapery. Body and drapery are coming alive. The famous Peplos Kore (540 530 BC) illustrates well the contrasting effect of the heavier peplos. The garment, however, has not suppressed the clear sense of the young body beneath it.
Early Classical sculptors began to break with the rigidity of pose of the korai. The effect of the drapery is rather austere e.g. the simplicity of the drapery of the goddess (Roman copy) from the second quarter of the fifth century. The line of the overfold of her peplos cuts a clear line across her figure, and there is very little elaboration of the overfold itself. A similar effect is seen on the female figures from the east pediment of Olympia e.g. Sterope and Hippodameia. That said, there is rather more of a suggestion of the body beneath than in the earliest korai.
The sculptors of the High Classical period created softer, fuller effects to accentuate the human form beneath. They used modelling lines e.g. the seated group from the Parthenon's east pediment, showing (probably) Hestia, Dione and Aphrodite, where the play of light and shadow explored by the modelling lines emphasises the roundness of their legs in particular. Another effect was explored ky motion lines e.g. Hebe/Artemis, who brings news of Athena's birth: the swirling folds of her peplos suggest motion.
By the late fifth century, the fuller, softer forms explored by the High Classical sculptors have given way to a more elaborate portrayal of drapery. The maidens from the Erechtheion illustrate this. The drapery gathered around the overfold of the peplos sweeps over the stomach and hips and falls in minute folds over her weight bearing right leg. Given the peplos was a heavy woollen garment, the virtually transparent effect of the drapery over the breasts and left leg is remarkable. this 'transparent effect' is typical of late fifth century examples. Further examples of this approach are the figures of Nike from the balustrade of the temple of Athena Nike e.g. Nike untying her sandal.
Very important developments in the portrayal of draped figures has been witnessed in the space of about a century and a half. We have gone from the earliest, rather crude representation of the female form to the opposite extreme the thinly draped figures of the late fifth century, one step away from Praxiteles' revolutionary Aphrodite.
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