Art of the Ancient World, C. 5000 B.c.e.–400 C.E.

Ancient Greek Art

What was so revolutionary about Kritios Boy?

Kritios Boy (about 470 B.C.E.) is damaged. His arms appear lopped off at the elbow and his legs, with no feet, end in stumps. His hair is like a stylized bowl with a rim of curls. And yet, this dusty relic represents one of the most important and exciting innovations in the history of art. Kritios Boy is not a mere Archaic sculpture; he does not stare straight ahead with a vacant look in his eyes. Kritios Boy shifts his body weight to one side, with hips tilted. One leg is slightly bent. This position is called the contrapposto style. Contrapposto literally means “counter-pose.” With this small shift, Kritios Boy appears much more alive than his previous counterparts. There is a small curve in his spine, and his head is turned slightly to one side. This is a freestanding sculpture in the round, and the gently curving movements of Kritios Boy invite the viewer to make a 360-degree tour around him. Gone is the playful Archaic smile. Instead, Kritios Boy is solemn, and serious. A youthful athlete, Kritios Boy represents Greek ideals of youth, manhood, and physical and mental strength.


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