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Greek Sculpture

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“What are..?”

“Ssssh!” Delphi’s dad glared at her and raised his finger to his lips.  She sighed.

Delphi was sitting on a workbench, swinging her legs.  Her dad was tapping away and concentrating fiercely on the slab of marble, from which was slowly emerging a woman. Delphi idly wondered how he knew she was in there.

There were statues everywhere in central Athens.  Delphi had always quite liked them.  At least, the ones where the men kept their clothes on, anyway.

There were many famous statues to the gods, which she supposed was fair.  These were made by the finest craftsmen, much better craftsmen than her dad, she guessed, and were dressed in ivory and gold.  The gods probably liked that sort of thing.

Then, there were the statues of heroes – like Heracles or Theseus.  Delphi thought that heroes probably deserved a statue or two as well.

Most of the rest of them, and which occupied most of her father’s time, were the statues for funerals and monuments.  Usually, families would have very specific instructions and want it as soon as possible, and he had to keep the important families happy because they had the money, so he would frequently be working all night to complete his work.  He once said that one day he’d like to make one of someone smiling.  They were usually just of people standing around looking sad.

Her favourite ones showed more of the family’s life – maybe their children, servants or pets.  She liked the animals best.  Sometimes her dad would sculpt little ones out of the left-over bits of marble and bring them home for Delphi.  When he had time to make them.

Her father had once told her that people live on in statues after they died.  Delphi wasn’t sure about this.  She wasn’t sure she’d like to live forever as a statue.

What she really wanted was a toy duck, but it didn’t seem the right time to ask.

Workshop: Fact box

  • Sculpture was a very important part of the city of Athens.  In places like the Agora, the Kerameikos or on the Acropolis, there were many sculptures.  When we think of Greek sculpture we often think of them all being plain and white marble – but don’t be fooled!  The Greeks loved bright colours so many of their sculptures would have been brightly painted.


  • Greeks really did think that someone’s life carried on in their statue after they died.  That meant sculptures were carefully looked after, usually by the women in the family.  Imagine how upsetting it must have been if they got broken by an invading army!


  • Greek sculpture is enormously popular.  When the Romans invaded Greece, they took many Greek statues back to Rome, and started to copy their style.  Even 2000 year later, during the Renaissance, European artists were still copying the style of Greek sculpture!  A great example is Michelangelo’s statue of David that now stands in Florence in Italy.

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