ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM, CAPE SOUNION KOUROS ROOM 07

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English / USA Language: English / USA

The huge Cape Sounion Kouros, or boy of Cape Sounion, is one of the most striking pieces in the museum. Over three meters in height, it was sculpted around 600 BC in marble from Naxos, an island in the Aegean Sea. But what was it meant to represent, and where could such a work have come from? It was not found until 1906, in a ditch opposite the magnificent temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, the most southerly headland of the Attic peninsula, looking out to sea atop a steep, rocky slope. It was buried by the Greeks along with other sculptures after the Persians desecrated the temple in 480 BC and broke the statues into pieces.

Prior to this terrible episode, the young kouros stood opposite the temple, facing it with confidence. Statues like this one are based on similar ones made in Ancient Egypt, which the Greeks were very familiar with because they traded with the Egyptians.

The difference is that the Egyptian statues, even those of men walking, always depicted the figures leaning on something, as if they were unable to walk unaided. This statue is representative of a major evolution introduced by the Greeks: the young man walking towards the temple, the dwelling place of the god, is free from all forms of support, is in full possession of the space around him and able to move forward without assistance. This is what sets this statue apart from the Egyptian sculptures that came before it.

While Man was entirely dependent on the Gods in Ancient Egypt, in Ancient Greece he was seen as more independent. By moving away from the supports that held up the statues of Ancient Egypt, the Greeks placed Man’s free will at the center of the universe.

If you look closely at the work, you’ll see that however natural he looks, he is still very rigid: the head is practically cube-shaped, and the eyes, nose, mouth, chest, back and legs are very schematic. Nonetheless, the kouros is representative of an artistic approach that proudly ventured along a road destined to take him far.

 

An interesting fact: in a quarry on the island of Naxos, there is an unfinished, abandoned kouros that is an impressive 10 meters tall!

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