Book Series Eye and Art

Eye and Art in Ancient Greece

A Study in Archaeoaesthetics

Christopher Witcombe

  • Pages: 256 p.
  • Size:220 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:4 b/w, 61 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2018

  • ISBN: 978-1-909400-03-0
  • Hardback
  • Available


“(...) Witcombe offers an interesting and insightful collation of ancient aesthetic values in visual art, poetry, music, and dance that will be of interest to anyone working on the overlap of any of these media.” (Ross Brendle, in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2019.10.55)


Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe, a British citizen born in Oxford, studied painting at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, Italy, before moving to the United States to undertake undergraduate and graduate studies in art history. He subsequently received a Ph.D. in art history from Bryn Mawr College and is currently the Eleanor Barton and Aileen “Ninie” Laing ’57 Endowed Professor in Art History at Sweet Briar College. He has held visiting scholar positions at Oxford University in England and the American Academy in Rome. He lives in Virginia.


Eye and Art in Ancient Greece examines the art of ancient Greece through reconstructions of how the Greeks saw and understood the products of their own visual culture. The material is approached using a newly developed methodology of archaeoaesthetics by which past modes of vision and perception are examined in conjunction with prevailing notions of pleasure and judgement with the purpose of identifying the visual and psychological contexts within which the aesthetics of a culture emerge. Through a wide-ranging examination of ideas found in early written sources, the book examines various key aspects of Greek visual culture, such as continuity and change, nudity, identity, lifelikeness, mimesis, personation and enactment, symmetria, dance, harmony, and the modal representation of emotions, with the aim of comprehending how and why choices were made in the conception and making of artifacts. Special attention is given to factors contributing to the formation of taste and the emergence and transmission over time of concepts of art and beauty and the means by which they were identified and judged. The approach facilitates encounters with the material in ways that give rise to new insights into how the ancient Greeks experienced their own visual culture and how Greek art may be understood by us today.


Chapter 1: Introduction
1. Pliny and Pausanias
2. Pleasure and Judgment
3. Vision and Pleasure
4. Perception and Judgment

Chapter 2: Vision and Perception in the Ancient World
5. Vision in the Ancient World
6. Stimulus and Response
7. The Vagaries of Vision
8. Perception and Sensation
9. Impressions
10. Associations
11. Knowledge and Memory
12. Misperception

Chapter 3: Continuity and Change in Ancient Greece
13. Change in Greek Sculpture
14. Unwrought Stones
15. Wooden Statues and Xoana
16. Divine Taste and Pleasure
17. Xoana and the Gods
18. Replacements, Replicas, and Reproductions
19. Hera of Samos
20. Artemis of Ephesus
21. Athena Polias
22. The Palladion
23. Athena Parthenos
24. Dressed and Equipped for the Occasion
25. Athenas Korai
26. Three Votive Statues of Athenaby Phidias
27. Celebrating Athenas Xoana on the Acropolis
28. Artemis of Brauron
29. Apollo of Delos

Chapter 4: Nudity in Greek Art and Culture
30. Clothing and Identity
31. Shame and Honor
32. Bathing and Dressing Statues
33. Nudity
34. Gods and Mortals
35. Nude Gods and Athletes
36. Kouroi
37. Mortals in the Likeness of Gods
38. Women and Nudity
39. The Perception of Nudity

Chapter 5: Imitation and Lifelikeness
40. Statues in the Greek Visual Landscape
41. Daedalus and the NewArt
42. Sight, Seeing, and Gaze
43. Statues that Walk
44. Lifelikeness
45. Imitation (Mimesis)
46. The Visual Arts
47. Speaking Statues and Other Objects
48. Change in the Visual Arts
49. Lifelikeness in the Fifth Century

Chapter 6: Classical Greek Aesthetics
50. Symmetria and Proportions
51. Dance and Song
52. Modes and Emotions
53. Rhythm and Harmony
54. Changes in the Fourth Century
54. Epilogue

List of Illustrations