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Networks of Stone

Sculpture and Society in Archaic and Classical Athens


Helle Hochscheid

Networks of Stone explores the social and creative processes of sculpture production in Athens in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. Using the concept of art worlds, it analyses the contributions and interactions of all those who were in some way part of creating the sculpture set up in the sanctuaries and cemeteries of Athens. The choices that were made not only by patrons and sculptors but also by traders in various materials and a range of craftsmen all influenced the final appearance of these works of art. By looking beyond the sculptor to the network of craftsmen and patrons that constituted the art world, this study offers new insights into well-known archaeological evidence and some of the highlights of classical art history.
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Chapter IV: The trades of sculpture


← 156 | 157 →CHAPTER IV

The trades of sculpture

IV.1 Professional status and specialisation in sculpture

The image of ancient sculptors ranges from individualists comparable to artists of modern times, such as Pheidias, to anonymous craftsmen of lowly status with no professional awareness. As a tool of study, this dichotomy – Art vs craft – is flawed, since there is no evidence for such notions in ancient thinking about sculpture or about art in general: the Athenian art world of the sixth and fifth centuries shows no signs of any debate along these lines. Most likely, inhabitants of Athens were aware of differences in workmanship (and in prices) among the sculptors in their city, and their observations were unbiased by any distinction of Art or craft. Perhaps they spotted stylistic variations and developments in sculpture over time; it is likely that they noticed varying quality and changing iconography. Another aspect of this awareness is the scale and organisation of manufacture in the sixth and fifth centuries. It is to be expected that statues and stelai on burial grounds and in sanctuaries influenced Athenian perceptions of sculpture. Moreover, publicly visible developments in the production process, such as the rapid expansion of the supply of Pentelic marble in the fifth century, must have been conspicuous, since they involved the construction of specialised infrastructure.

Variations in technical quality of, and innovative trends in the sculpture of a given period, together with the operational details of its production, might...

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