The Classical Ideal

Classical: 1. a. The art of ancient Greece and Rome. More specifically, Classical refers to the style of Greek art that flourished during the fifth century BCE. b. Any art based on a clear, rational, and regular structure, emphasizing horizontal and vertical directions, and organizing its parts with special emphasis on balance and proportion. c. The term classic is also used to indicate recognized excellence. From:, May 2007.

2. a. Referring specifically to the art of ancient Greece of the 5th and 4th centuries BC More generally, the term refers to Greek and Roman art created from 600 BC until the fall of Rome. b. It may also describe any art thought to be inspired or influenced by ancient Greek or Roman examples. c. Classical is also used to describe perfection of form, with an emphasis on harmony, unity, and restraint of emotion. From:, May 2007.

Additional Links & Resources:

Classical Art, by Mary Beard and John Henderson
"The Democratic Experiment" by Prof. Paul Cartledge
Not the Classical Ideal, edited by Beth Cohen
The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
The Metropolitan Museum's Timeline of Art History
Songs on Bronze: The Greek Myths Made Real, by Nigel Spivey

Spiderman, from Spiderman 2, Sony Pictures, 2004.

Captain America - the expression of (meta)human potential.

Wonder Woman, DC Comics, #72, June 1993.
"As beautiful as Aphrodite, wiser than Athena, stronger than Hercules and swifter than Hermes." Source:

Woman of Willendorf, c. 24,000-22,000 BCE, Limestone, Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna

King Menkaure (also known as Mycerinus) and Female Figure possibly Kha-merer- nebty II).
c. 2548-2530 BCE, Slate, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Panathenaic Prize Amphora, c. 530 BCE, Terracotta, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

This vessel was a prize for games dedicated to Athena (she's on the other side), and would have been filled with oil from the goddess' sacred olive groves in Attica, and would have been awarded as a prize to some worthy victor in one of the Panathenaic games held in Athens also every four years.
The Olympics began in Greece in 776 BCE, and they were religious rites to the god Zeus, king of the gods.

Statuette of Herakles, c. 6th Century, BCE, Bronze, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Kouros (Youth), c. 590-580 BCE, Marble, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Kore, c. 500 BCE, Marble, Acropolis Museum, Athens

What do these two objects have in common? What's a significance difference?

Kritios (or Kritian) Boy, c. 480 BCE, Marble, Acropolis Museum, Athens.

The Kritios or Kritian boy was named so, because it is believed to be the creation of Krito from around 480 BCE.
The statue is considerably smaller than life-size at 3' 10".

Diskobolos (Discus Thrower), c. 460-450 BCE, Marble, Museo delle Terme, Rome. Original bronze attributed to Myron. This is a Roman copy.

The Doryphoros (Spear Bearer), by Polykleitos, c. 450-40 BCE, Marble, Museo Archaeologico, Naples.
This sculpture is one of the best known of the ancient classical era and celebrated as an early example of Greek classical contrapposto (Italian for counterpoise).

Bell-krater, Draped man with spear and warrior, c., attributed to The Achilles Painter, 460-450 BCE.

Detail of above.

Apollo Belvedere
Roman copy of a lost bronze original made between 350-325 BCE by the Greek sculptor Leochares. Vatican Museums, Vatican City.

Perseus with the Head of Medusa, by Antonio Canova, c. 180406, Marble, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

One of the Riace Bronzes, (of the pair), c. 460 BC - 430 BCE, Bronze, Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia, Calabria.

These life-sized sculptures were found in 1972 by Stefano Mariottini, a Roman chemist on a scuba diving vacation at Monasterace on August 16, 1972, perhaps at the site of a shipwreck, off the coast of Riace, near Reggio Calabria.

Detail of above

Detail of above

Augustus of Prima Porta, c. 20-15 CE, Marble, Vatican Museums, Vatican City.

Augustus was the adopted son of Julius Caesar and Rome's first emperor, ruling from 27 BCE-14 CE, the longest reign for any of Rome's emperors.

David, by Michelangelo, between 1501 to 1504, Marble, Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence.

Winged Victory (Nike) of Samothrace, c. 220-190 BCE, Marble, Louvre, Paris.

Victoria's Secret Runway Model, 2002.

Mr. Olympia, 1970-1975.

Tony Stark (scene from Iron Man, 2008) maximizing human potential.

Tonyt Stark, as Vulcan, in the cave, as prisoner in Iron Man, exceeding human expectations.

The Forge of Vulcan, Diego Velazquez, 1630.

Superman, by Jim Lee for DC Comics, First appearance Action Comics #1, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

He even shows up in Andy Warhol's Myths series along with other American icons such as The Wicked Witch of the West, Santa Claus, and even Micky Mouse.