The discoveries of how to give life and grace to statues came in classical Greece. They had to do with the special Greek way of seeing the world, which was what we have since come to call scientific or objective. In all other ages men were not able to look coldly, call it—unsentimentally– at the world around them—not even at themselves; and this cold, analytical view of reality—reason—was the greatest contribution any culture ever made to man’s development. Unless you consider Ancient Greece’s OTHER one even greater. What was that? The discovery of Beauty. And not only its discovery but its serious investigation. And putting beauty as a priority. Of course, it wasn’t only beauty those first thinkers pursued: they looked for the ideal in all things. But in the visible world that ideal was beauty.
With these new resources—the latest observations on the human body—they could very well have made realistic statues, flesh and bone studies, without making them beautiful. If they had, we would still have taken our hats off to them, just as we do the inventors of a greasy, ugly, contraption that will change the mechanical world for us. But the Greeks—the best of them—used their new knowledge to render better the siren-song beauty they saw in natural things. They investigated grace, pleasing proportion, delicate movement, the mysteriously captivating something in things that triggered a dreamy and yet lucid state of pleasurable reflection in the beholder. They looked for the principles that would unfailingly produce beauty, as if it were not some elusive quality but just another physical phenomenon.