The Classical Greece of Johann Joachim Winckelmann was a utopian society where, through exercise, men acquired the same grand and manly contours, free of fat and flabbiness, that Greek sculptors gave their images, and citizens lived in political freedom in a temperate climate that encouraged an art of “noble simplicity and quiet grandeur.” The harmony and beauty of Classical Greek sculpture was not just an aesthetic ideal for Winckelmann but the expression of a lost ethos, which artists of his day, he said, would do well to emulate if they aspired to produce works of true beauty.

The publication in 1764 of Winckelmann’s history of ancient art, Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums, dispelled forever the Latin tradition of humanism in Germany and established a new concept. The high point of this new, true Hellenism was the period of Greek art between Periclean Athens and the death of Alexander the Great. After that,...

Introduce yourself to The New Criterion for the lowest price ever—and a receive an extra issue as thanks.
Popular Right Now