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Styles and Periods

Photo of Cast of part of frieze from Parthenon
  • Plaster cast of part of the frieze from the West end of the Parthenon.

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The sculpture of the Greeks and Romans represents one of the major art traditions of antiquity. It was diverse in its function, decorating temples and public buildings, commemorating the dead, the famous, a victory, or as an offering to the gods. Once it was rediscovered by the Renaissance its styles of idealized realism became the standard for most western art down to the 19th century, and it is therefore highly relevant to our understanding and enjoyment of much that we see around us.

These pages are based on the Cast Collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, which represents an excellent selection of the most important works in the museums of the world.

What follows is a discursive description of the various main periods of Classical sculpture, giving something of the historical background to each main period and style:

These are followed by separate essays on some of the more important classes of sculpture:

Throughout, reference is made to individual pieces in the Oxford collection, which can be recovered by clicking on their Cast numbers. Links are also available to other useful pages by clicking on highlighted words.

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