Mathematics in Ancient Greek Art
E Block History
Ancient Greek art is usually considered to be a great influence to many aspects of modern art today. Art historians generally classify ancient Greek art to be the art produced in the Greek-speaking world from about 900 BCE to 100 BCE. It is usually classified into four periods, the Geometric, Archaic, Classical, and the Hellenistic, although there was really no sharp transition from one period to another. The Ancient Greeks were one of the first to integrate mathematics into their art, used in their pottery, sculpture, and architecture. The use of mathematics in Ancient Greek art was the most helpful and influential to art all throughout the world, and is still seen in the modern art we create today.
The Geometric period (around 900 BCE to 700 BCE) was distinguished by its reliance on using geometric shapes on items such as pottery and sometimes small figures of humans and other animals. We are able to see the use of mathematics in many of the works made in this period. There was often a strong emphasis on pattern and symmetry in the designs and shapes on pottery, and many of the vases found were often made according to a strict system of proportions. For example, the amphora (made in around 750 BCE) in the Athens National Museum, in which the height is exactly twice the width, and the neck is exactly half the height. In addition, the choice of which decorative patterns go where was also carefully conceived, as certain designs help emphasize specific portions of the vessel and articulate its shape.[endnoteRef:1] However, as Greece started to trade with the east, their style of pottery and small figurines began to change. Influenced by the more advanced civilizations, Greek artists began to experiment with more pictorial images on their pottery instead of geometric ones. Thus, the Geometric period started to fade as the Archaic period began. As the ancient Greeks continued with their pictorial decorations, their skills improved, human figures as decorations for their pottery became more and more common. [1: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/antiquity/greek-pottery.htm ]
As the Greek artists continued to be influenced by the east, they also began to make more human figures along with their pottery, though the style of their figurines changed. What used to be small scale figurines of humans using geometric shapes that had triangular torsos, cylindrical arms, round heads with triangular noses and chins[endnoteRef:2] became life sized statues inspired by the Egyptians. These sculptures called the kouros (a standing nude male), or kore (a standing clothed female). With the Greeks being a society that revered the human form, they began to strive to make their sculptures are accurate as possible. Some early kouros used the Egyptian technique of dividing the figure into a grid, which divided the human figure into 21 equal squares from the eyes to the feet with one-half to two more squares from the...