A History of Greek Art eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 155 pages of information about A History of Greek Art.

In regard to the bronze statue shown in Fig. 116 there is more room for doubt, but the weight of opinion is in favor of placing it here.  It is confidently claimed by a high authority that this is an original Greek bronze.  There exist also fragmentary copies of the same in marble and free imitations in marble and in bronze.  The statue represents a boy of perhaps twelve, absorbed in pulling a thorn from his foot.  We do not know the original purpose of the work; perhaps it commemorated a victory won in a foot-race of boys The left leg of the figure is held in a position which gives a somewhat ungraceful outline; Praxiteles would not have placed it so.  But how delightful is the picture of childish innocence and self-forgetfulness!  This statue might be regarded as an epitome of the artistic spirit and capacity of the age—­its simplicity and purity and freshness of feeling, its not quite complete emancipation from the formalism of an earlier day.

CHAPTER VIII

The great age of Greek sculpture first period 450-400 B.C.

The Age of Pericles, which, if we reckon from the first entrance of Pericles, into politics, extended from about 466 to 429, has become proverbial as a period of extraordinary artistic and literary splendor.  The real ascendancy of Pericles began in 447, and the achievements most properly associated with his name belong to the succeeding fifteen years.  Athens at this time possessed ample material resources, derived in great measure from the tribute of subject allies, and wealth was freely spent upon noble monuments of art.  The city was fled with artists of high and low degree.  Above them all in genius towered Phidias, and to him, if we may believe the testimony of Plutarch, [Footnote:  Life of Pericles Section 13] a general superintendence of all the artistic undertakings of the state was intrusted by Pericles.

Great as was the fame of Phidias in after ages, we are left in almost complete ignorance as to the circumstances of his life.  If he was really the author of certain works ascribed to him, he must have been born about 500 B.C.  This would make him as old, perhaps, as Myron.  Another view would put his birth between 490 and 485, still another, as late as 480.  The one undisputed date in his life is the year 438, when the gold and ivory statue of Athena in the Parthenon was completed.  Touching the time and circumstances of his death we have two inconsistent traditions.  According to the one, he was brought to trial in Athens immediately after the completion of the Athena on the charge of misappropriating some of the ivory with which he had been intrusted but made his escape to Elis, where, after executing the gold and ivory Zeus for the temple of that god at Olympia he was put to death for some unspecified reason by the Eleans in 432-1.  According to the other tradition he was accused in Athens, apparently not before 432, of stealing some of the gold destined for the Athena and, when this charge broke down, of having sacrilegiously introduced his own and Pericles’s portraits into the relief on Athena’s shield, being cast into prison he died there of disease, or, as some said, of poison.

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