Hellenistic

323 BC - 100 BC

A new Greek world sprang up in the wake of Alexander the Great’s conquests, expanded and prosperous, new in its political constitution and social structure. The kingdoms of the Hellenistic world were certainly nominally Greek, ruled by the descendants of Alexander’s generals--the Antigonids in Macedon and Greece, the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Seleucids in Syria and Mesopotamia, and the Attalids in Anatolia. However, each region quickly developed its own unique culture, a blend of local traditions with the ideals, beliefs and art of the Greeks. Ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian creative traditions influenced the Classical conventions, producing the Hellenistic synthesis.

Besides the reiteration of Greek public patronage, a considerable and growing number of the citizens of the Hellenistic world became clients and patrons of artists. They no longer regularly erected monuments to gods or rulers, but were more interested in art that was secular in nature, neither religious nor regal--art to adorn private homes as well as public space.

Hellenistic art can be defined by its intense emotional appeal and growing emphasis on individual character. Freestanding sculpture and reliefs continued to be admired, and artists pushed the detailing of anatomy, pose, clothing, and expression ever further. Sculpture became “hyperrealistic,” a term referring to the nigh-impossible exaggeration of twists, turns, and musculature apparent in the greatest works of Hellenistic art.