Kritios Boy is one of the most important works in Greek art. Its importance stems from it being one of the first works in which the artist cared about how human beings actually stand, as opposed to a stone image.*
The statue is named Kritios Boy because scholars once thought that the sculptor who carved it was Kritios. Kritios Boy was the first to capture the human body in motion naturalistically. Although, Greek marble statues were looking more and more life-like, no one actually stands in the stiff position that is characteristic of the kouroi and korai (humans in Egyptian statues stood even much stiffer). (For the blog post on kouroi, click here. For the blog post on korai, click here or here. For the blog post on Egyptian statues, click here.) When the human body moves, the body’s complex skeletal and muscular system ensure a smooth, harmonious, and flowing movement of all the body parts involved. The significance of Kritios Boy can not be overstated because its sculptor was one of the first to grasp this fact and reflect that in his artwork. According to the description given by Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, the youth has a slight dip to the right hip, indicating the shift of weight onto his left leg. His right leg is bent, at ease and at rest. His head is also slightly turned to the right and tilted, breaking the strict frontality of the kouroi and korai of Greek Archaic art, Egyptian statues, as well as nearly all the statues that preceded it.
This weight shift, whose technical term is contrapposto is the change that marks the end of the Archaic Period and the beginning of the Classical Period. Many early Classical Greek statues exhibit the contrapposto pose. In such a way, Kritios Boy paved the way for Greek art to develop into a more naturalistic and realistic style, peaking during the Classical Period and the Hellenistic Period.
*The statue is actually much smaller than life-size, standing at about three feet ten inches tall.