Sculpture and Society in Archaic and Classical Athens
Chapter IV: The trades of sculpture
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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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