Style and "Substance"

Praxiteles' Aphrodite

Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Kindos captures the “ontology” of the Late Classical by way of its expression of the form of beauty. As Plato describes in the Phaedo, it is the relationship to the transcendent, ideal form of the Beautiful which makes something beautiful. The sculpture maintains the more curved, S-shaped posture one may see, intimating that there is something beyond and above the body. The sculpture captures becoming as described in Plato’s Timaeus, in so far as it is the realization of the image or form into a sensible object, which is defined out of the “space” (chora) and thus can exist. Aphrodite of Knidos then conveys a sense of passed time, which is something distinct about the Late Classical worldview as embodied in art. The simultaneous covering and uncovering of the so-called “modest Venus” generates a sense that their was a time where the figure was covered, and thus extends beyond a lived moment—the robe draped over the vase similarly supports this. This interstitial quality of the sculpture affirms the apparent deficiency between the real (forms) and what is perceived, the transcendent beauty cannot ever be fully represented, but comes through in this single definite figure as the perceptible simultaneously allows for the form to be in something else: the Beautiful is in the becoming of this sculpture. Thus there is a return to transcendence in the Late Classical made clear in this artistic example of the “ontology.”


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