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What were the issues facing sculptors of metopes? How successfully did the sculptors of the metopes at Olympia address these issues?

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Sophie McKenzie-Howard 29/09/2011 What were the issues facing sculptors of metopes? How successfully did the sculptors of the metopes at Olympia address these issues? The first most important requirement for architectural sculptor was that it should provide handsome decoration. Abstract patterns and floral motifs were made to do this and were used in subordinate positions usually to fill space, but in prominent places the Greeks preferred to represent fierce animals or terrifying monsters (which would protect a temple against evil spirits) or to illustrate myths (which would give pleasure to the gods) or both. These preferences made the design of architectural sculpture no easy task. Metopes, being rectangular or sometimes square presented many problems to their sculptors. If the sculptor wanted to use the space effectively for story telling, like the metopes found within the porches of the temple of Zeus at Olympia - the Labours of Herakles, they had to select a significant and recognisable moment for representation to its ancient viewers. ...read more.


So the sculptors cleverly sculpted the metope showing after the event, and for us to tell that the dog is Cerberus, coming from the Underworld, they used Hermes holding his kerykeion which blatantly suggests they have been on a trip to the underworld. The other issue mentioned above was of course containing the right subject matter in the metopes, sometimes joining relevance with the sanctuary and the temple. This issue for sculptors faced at Olympia was particular successful because the theme of the metopes at Olympia, the labours of Herakles made links with both the temple and its surroundings. Herakles is the son of Zeus, and his labours convey various skills that the Olympic athletes would need to use in their competitions. As Herakles won immortality through suffering and struggle, he is a perfect role model for the athletes who will win brief immortality in victory. ...read more.


This successfully helped the viewer to clarify which labour was being represented, clearly. Another successful technique was that all the metopes were craved in high relief. This deep carving resulted in the figures becoming more rounded and therefore more prominent, allowing the figures to protrude from its background. From the high relief of the sculptures we can tell that the sculptors have thought about the design in three dimensions and this it what makes the metopes from an eye view so successful at Olympia. Overall, I feel that the sculptors of Olympia achieved more successes than failures when they faced the various issues of sculpting a metope. The 12 Labours of Herakles were particularly successful because they were striking to the eye of its ancient viewers with their high relief curvature, which also empathised the strong verticals and horizontals of the restricted three figures in each metope, resulting in all the 12 labours together having a rhythmically linear pattern, enchanting the observers eye. ...read more.

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