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Art in Egypt and Mesopotamia.
The history of Egypt, from the time of the earliest extant monuments to the absorption of the country in the Roman Empire, covers a space of some thousands of years. This long period was not one of stagnation. It is only in proportion to our ignorance that life in ancient Egypt seems to have been on one dull, dead level. Dynasties rose and fell. Foreign invaders occupied the land and were expelled again. Customs, costumes, beliefs, institutions, underwent changes. Of course, then, art did not remain stationary. On the contrary, it had marked vicissitudes, now displaying great freshness and vigor, now uninspired and monotonous, now seemingly dead, and now reviving to new activity. In Babylonia we deal with perhaps even remoter periods of time, but the artistic remains at present known from that quarter are comparatively scanty. From Assyria, however, the daughter of Babylonia, materials abound, and the history of that country can be written in detail for a period of several centuries. Naturally, then, even a mere sketch of Egyptian, Babylonian, and Assyrian art would require much more space than is here at disposal. All that can be attempted is to present a few examples and suggest a few general notions. The main purpose will be to make clearer by comparison and contrast the essential qualities of Greek art, to which this volume is devoted.
I begin with Egypt, and offer at the outset a table of the most important periods of Egyptian history. The dates are taken from the sketch prefixed to the catalogue of Egyptian antiquities in the Berlin Museum. In using them the reader must bear in mind that the earlier Egyptian chronology is highly uncertain. Thus the date here suggested for the Old Empire, while it cannot be too early, may be a thousand years too late. As we come down, the margin of possible error grows less and less. The figures assigned to the New Empire are regarded as trustworthy within a century or two. But only when we reach the Saite dynasty do we get a really precise chronology.
Chief Periods of Egyptian History:
Old Empire, with capital at Memphis; Dynasties
4-5 (2800-2500 B.
C. or earlier) and Dynasty 6.
Middle Empire, with capital at Thebes; Dynasties
B. C. or earlier).
New Empire, with capital at Thebes; Dynasties
17-20 (ca. 1600-1100
Saite period; Dynasty 26 (663-525 B. C.).
One of the earliest Egyptian sculptures now existing, though certainly not earlier than the Fourth Dynasty, is the great Sphinx of Gizeh (Fig. 1). The creature crouches in the desert, a few miles to the north of the ancient Memphis, just across the Nile from the modern city of Cairo. With the body of a lion and the head of a man, it represented a solar deity and was an object of worship. It is hewn from the living rock and is of colossal size, the height from the base to the top of the head being about 70 feet and the length of the body about 150 feet. The paws and breast were originally covered with a limestone facing. The present dilapidated condition of the monument is due partly to the tooth of time, but still more to wanton mutilation at the hands of fanatical Mohammedans. The body is now almost shapeless. The nose, the beard, and the lower part of the head dress are gone. The face is seamed with scars. Yet the strange monster still preserves a mysterious dignity, as though it were guardian of all the secrets of ancient Egypt, but disdained to betray them
“The art which conceived and carved this prodigious statue,” says Professor Maspero [Footnote: Manual of Egyptian Archaeology second edition 1895 page 208] “was a finished art, an art which had attained self mastery, and was sure of its effects. How many centuries had it taken to arrive at this degree of maturity and perfection?” It is impossible to guess. The long process of self-schooling in artistic methods which must have preceded this work is hidden from us. We cannot trace the progress of Egyptian art from its timid, awkward beginnings to the days of its conscious power, as we shall find ourselves able to do in the case of Greek art. The evidence is annihilated, or is hidden beneath the sand of the desert, perhaps to be one day revealed. Should that day come, a new first chapter in the history of Egyptian art will have to be written.
There are several groups of pyramids, large and small at Gizeh and elsewhere, almost all of which belong to the Old Empire. The three great pyramids of Gizeh are among the earliest. They were built by three kings of the Fourth Dynisty, Cheops (Chufu), Chephren (Chafre), and Mycerinus (Menkere) They are gigantic sepulchral monuments in which the mummies of the kings who built them were deposited. The pyramid of Cheops (Fig. 1, at the right), the largest of all, was originally 481 feet 4 inches in height, and was thus doubtless the loftiest structure ever reared in pre-Christian times. The side of the square base measured 755 feet 8 inches. The pyramidal mass consists in the main of blocks of limestone, and the exterior was originally cased with fine limestone, so that the surfaces were perfectly smooth. At present the casing is gone, and instead of a sharp point at the top there is a platform about thirty feet square. In the heart of the mass was the granite chamber where the king’s mummy was laid.
While kings erected pyramids to serve as their tombs, officials of high rank were buried in, or rather under, structures of a different type, now commonly known under the Arabic name of mastabas. The mastaba may be described as a block of masonry of limestone or sun-dried brick, oblong in plan, with the sides built “battering,” i.e., sloping inward, and with a flat top. It had no architectural merits to speak of, and therefore need not detain us. It is worth remarking, however, that some of these mastabas contain genuine arches, formed of unbaked bricks. The knowledge and use of the arch in Egypt go back then to at least the period of the Old Empire. But the chief interest of the mastabas lies in the fact that they have preserved to us most of what we possess of early Egyptian sculpture. For in a small, inaccessible chamber (serdab) reserved in the mass of masonry were placed one or more portrait statues of the owner, and often of his wife and other members of his household, while the walls of another and larger chamber, which served as a chapel for the celebration of funeral rites, were often covered with painted bas-reliefs, representing scenes from the owner’s life or whatever in the way of funeral offering and human activity could minister to his happiness.
One of the best of the portrait statues of this period is the famous “Sheikh-el-Beled” (Chief of the Village), attributed to the Fourth or Fifth Dynasty (Fig. 2). The name was given by the Arab workmen, who, when the figure was first brought to light in the cemetery of Sakkarah, thought they saw in it the likeness of their own sheikh. The man’s real name, if he was the owner of the mastaba from whose serdab he was taken, was Ra-em-ka. The figure is less than life-sized, being a little over three and one half feet in height. It is of wood, a common material for sculpture in Egypt. The arms were made separately (the left of two pieces) and attached at the shoulders. The feet, which had decayed, have been restored. Originally the figure was covered with a coating of linen, and this with stucco, painted. “The eyeballs are of opaque white quartz, set in a bronze sheath, which forms the eyelids; in the center of each there is a bit of rock-crystal, and behind this a shining nail” [Footnote: Musee de Gizeh: Notice Sommaire (1892).]—a contrivance which produces a marvelously realistic effect. The same thing, or something like it, is to be seen in other statues of the period. The attitude of Ra-em-ka is the usual one of Egyptian
The cross-legged scribe of the Louvre (Fig. 4) illustrates another and less stereotyped attitude. This figure was found in the tomb of one Sekhem-ka, along with two statues of the owner and a group of the owner, his wife, and son. The scribe was presumably in the employ of Sekhem-ka. The figure is of limestone, the commonest material for these sepulchral statues, and, according to the unvarying practice, was completely covered with color, still in good preservation. The flesh is of a reddish brown, the regular color for men. The eyes are similar to those of the Sheikh-el-Beled. The man is seated with his legs crossed under him; a strip of papyrus, held by his left hand, rests upon his lap; his right hand held a pen.
The head shown in Fig. 5 belongs to a group, if we may give that name to two figures carved from separate blocks of limestone and seated stiffly side by side. Egyptian sculpture in the round never created a genuine, integral group, in which two or more figures are so combined that no one is intelligible without the rest; that achievement was reserved for the Greeks. The lady in this case was a princess; her husband, by whom she sits, a high priest of Heliopolis. She is dressed in a long, white smock, in which there is no indication of folds. On her head is a wig, from under which, in front, her own hair shows. Her flesh is yellow, the conventional tint for women, as brownish red was for men. Her eyes are made of glass.
The specimens given have been selected with the purpose of showing the sculpture of the Old Empire at its best. The all-important fact to notice is the realism of these portraits. We shall see that Greek sculpture throughout its great period tends toward the typical and the ideal in the human face and figure. Not so in Egypt. Here the task of the artist was to make a counterfeit presentment of his subject and he has achieved his task at times with marvelous skill. Especially the heads of the best statues have an individuality and lifelikeness which have hardly been surpassed in any age. But let not our admiration blind us to the limitations of Egyptian art. The sculptor never attains to freedom in the posing of his figures. Whether the subject sits, stands, kneels, or squats, the body and head always face directly forward. And we look in vain for any appreciation on the sculptor’s part of the beauty of the athletic body or of the artistic possibilities of drapery.
There is more variety of pose in the painted bas-reliefs with which the walls of the mastaba chapels are covered. Here are scenes of agriculture, cattle-tending, fishing, bread-making, and so on, represented with admirable vivacity, though with certain fixed conventionalities of style. There are endless entertainment and instruction for us in these pictures of old Egyptian life. Yet no more here than in the portrait statues do we find a feeling for beauty of form or a poetic, idealizing touch.
As from the Old Empire, so from the Middle Empire, almost the only works of man surviving to us are tombs and their contents. These tombs have no longer the simple mastaba form, but are either built up of sun-dried brick in the form of a block capped by a pyramid or are excavated in the rock. The former class offers little interest from the architectural point of view. But some of the rock-cut tombs of Beni-hasan, belonging to the Twelfth Dynasty, exhibit a feature which calls for mention. These tombs have been so made as to leave pillars of the living rock standing, both at the entrance and in the chapel. The simplest of these pillars are square in plan and somewhat tapering. Others, by the chamfering off of their edges, have been made eight-sided. A repetition of the process gave sixteen-sided pillars. The sixteen sides were then hollowed out (channeled). The result is illustrated by Fig. 6. It will be observed that the pillar has a low, round base, with beveled edge; also, at the top, a square abacus, which is simply a piece of the original four-sided pillar, left untouched. Such polygonal pillars as these are commonly called proto-Doric columns. The name was given in the belief that these were the models from which the Greeks derived their Doric columns, and this belief is still held by many authorities.
With the New Empire we begin to have numerous and extensive remains of temples, while those of an earlier date have mostly disappeared. Fig. 7 may afford some notion of what an Egyptian temple was like. This one is at Luxor, on the site of ancient Thebes in Upper Egypt. It is one of the largest of all, being over 800 feet in length. Like many others, it was not originally planned on its present scale, but represents two or three successive periods of construction, Ramses II., of the Nineteenth Dynasty, having given it its final form by adding to an already finished building all that now stands before the second pair of towers. As so extended, the building has three pylons, as they are called, pylon being the name for the pair of sloping-sided towers with gateway between. Behind the first pylon comes an open court surrounded by a cloister with double rows of columns. The second and third pylons are connected with one another by a covered passage—an exceptional feature. Then comes a second open court; then a hypostyle hall, i.e., a hall with flat roof supported by columns; and finally, embedded in the midst of various chambers, the relatively small sanctuary, inaccessible to all save the king and the priests. Notice the double line of sphinxes flanking the avenue of approach, the two granite obelisks at the entrance, and the four colossal seated figures in granite representing Ramses II.—all characteristic features.
Fig. 8 is taken from a neighboring and still more gigantic temple, that of Karnak. Imagine an immense hall, 170 feet deep by 329 feet broad. Down the middle run two rows of six columns each (the nearest ones in the picture have been restored), nearly seventy feet high. They have campaniform (bell-shaped) capitals. On either side are seven rows of shorter columns, somewhat more than forty feet high. These, as may be indistinctly seen at the right of our picture, have capitals of a different type, called, from their origin rather than from their actual appearance, lotiform or lotus-bud capitals. There was a clerestory over the four central rows of columns, with windows in its walls. The general plan, therefore, of this hypostyle hall has some resemblance to that of a Christian basilica, but the columns are much more numerous and closely set. Walls and columns were covered with hieroglyphic texts and sculptured and painted scenes. The total effect of this colossal piece of architecture, even in its ruin, is one of overwhelming majesty. No other work of human hands strikes the beholder with such a sense of awe.
Fig. 9 is a restoration of one of the central columns of this hall. Except for one fault, say Messrs. Perrot and Chipiez,[Footnote: “Histoire de l’Art Egypte,” page 576. The translation given above differs from that in the English edition of Perrot and Chipiez, “Art in Ancient Egypt,” Vol. II., page 123.] “this column would be one of the most admirable creations of art; it would hardly be inferior to the most perfect columns of Greece.” The one fault—a grave one to a critical eye—is the meaningless and inappropriate block inserted between the capital and the horizontal beam which it is the function of the column to support. The type of column used in the side aisles of the hall at Karnak is illustrated by Fig. 10, taken from another temple. It is much less admirable, the contraction of the capital toward the top producing an unpleasant effect.
Other specimens of these two types of column vary widely from those of Karnak, for Egyptian architects did not feel obliged, like Greek architects, to conform, with but slight liberty of deviation, to established canons of form and proportion. Nor are these two by any means the only forms of support used in the temple architecture of the New Empire. The “proto-Doric” column continued in favor under the New Empire, though apparently not later; we find it, for example, in some of the outlying buildings at Karnak. Then there was the column whose capital was adorned with four heads in relief of the goddess Hathor, not to speak of other varieties. Whatever the precise form of the support, it was always used to carry a horizontal beam. Although the Egyptians were familiar from very early times with the principle of the arch, and although examples of its use occur often enough under the New Empire, we do not find columns or piers used, as in Gothic architecture, to carry a vaulting. In fact, the genuine vault is absent from Egyptian temple architecture, although in the Temple of Abydos false or corbelled vaults (cf. page 49) do occur.
Egyptian architects were not gifted with a fine feeling for structural propriety or unity. A few of their small temples are simple and coherent in plan and fairly tasteful in details. But it is significant that a temple could always be enlarged by the addition of parts not contemplated in the original design. The result in such a case was a vast, rambling edifice, whose merits consisted in the imposing character of individual parts, rather than in an organic and symmetrical relation of parts to whole.
Statues of the New Empire are far more numerous than those of any other period, but few of them will compare in excellence with the best of those of the Old Empire. Colossal figures of kings abound, chiseled with infinite patience from granite and other obdurate rocks. All these and others may be passed over in order to make room for a statue in the Louvre (Fig. 11), which is chosen, not because of its artistic merits, but because of its material and its subject. It is of bronze, somewhat over three feet in height, thus being the largest Egyptian bronze statue known. It was cast in a single piece, except for the arms, which were cast separately and attached. The date of it is in dispute, one authority assigning it to the Eighteenth Dynasty and another bringing it down as late as the seventh century B.C. Be that as it may, the art of casting hollow bronze figures is of high antiquity in Egypt. The figure represents a hawk-headed god, Horus, who once held up some object, probably a vase for libations. Egyptian divinities are often represented with the heads of animals— Anubis with the head of a jackal, Hathor with that of a cow, Sebek with that of a crocodile, and so on. This in itself shows a lack of nobility in the popular theology. Moreover it is clear that the best talents of sculptors were engaged upon portraits of kings and queens and other human beings, not upon figures of the gods. The latter exist by the thousand, to be sure, but they are generally small statuettes, a few inches high, in bronze, wood, or faience. And even if sculptors had been encouraged to do their best in bodying forth the forms of gods, they would hardly have achieved high success. The exalted imagination was lacking.
Among the innumerable painted bas-reliefs covering the walls of tombs and temples, those of the great Temple of Abydos in Upper Egypt hold a high place. One enthusiastic art critic has gone so far as to pronounce them “the most perfect, the most noble bas-reliefs ever chiseled.” A specimen of this work, now, alas! more defaced than is here shown, is given in Fig. 12. King Seti I. of the Nineteenth Dynasty stands in an attitude of homage before a seated divinity, of whom almost nothing appears in the illustration. On the palm of his right hand he holds a figure of Maat, goddess of truth. In front of him is a libation-standard, on which rests a bunch of lotus flowers, buds, and leaves. The first remark to be made about this work is that it
Egyptian bas-reliefs were always completely covered with paint, laid on in uniform tints. Paintings on a flat surface differ in no essential respect from these painted bas-reliefs. The conventional and untruthful methods of representing the human form, as well as other objects—buildings, landscapes, etc.—are the same in the former as in the latter. The coloring, too, is of the same sort, there being no attempt to render gradations of color due to the play of light and shade. Fig. 13, a lute-player from a royal tomb of the Eighteenth Dynasty, illustrates some of these points. The reader who would form an idea of the composition of extensive scenes must consult works more especially devoted to Egyptian art. He will be rewarded with many a vivid picture of ancient Egyptian life.
Art was at a low ebb in Egypt during the centuries of Libyan and Ethiopian domination which succeeded the New Empire. There was a revival under the Saite monarchy in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. To this period is assigned a superb head of dark green stone (Fig. 14), recently acquired by the Berlin Museum. It has been broken from a standing or kneeling statue. The form of the closely-shaven skull and the features of the strong face, wrinkled by age, have been reproduced by the sculptor with unsurpassable fidelity. The number of works emanating from the same school as this is very small, but in quality they represent the highest development of Egyptian sculpture. It is fit that we should take our leave of Egyptian art with such a work as this before us, a work which gives us the quintessence of the artistic genius of the race.
Babylonia was the seat of a civilization perhaps more hoary than that of Egypt. The known remains of Babylonian art, however, are at present far fewer than those of Egypt and will probably always be so. There being practically no stone in the country and wood being very scarce, buildings were constructed entirely of bricks, some of them merely sun-dried, others kiln-baked. The natural wells of bitumen supplied a tenacious mortar. [Footnote: Compare Genesis XI 3: “And they had brick for stone and slime had they for mortar.”] The ruins that have been explored at Tello, Nippur, and elsewhere, belong to city walls, houses, and temples. The most peculiar and conspicuous feature of the temple was a lofty rectangular tower of several stages, each stage smaller than the one below it. The arch was known and used in Babylonia from time immemorial. As for the ornamental details of buildings, we know very little about them except that large use was made of enameled bricks.
The only early Babylonian sculptures of any consequence that we possess are a collection of broken reliefs and a dozen sculptures in the round, found in a group of mounds called Tello and now in the Louvre. The reliefs are extremely rude. The statues are much better and are therefore probably of later date, they are commonly assigned by students of Babylonian antiquities to about 3000 B.C. Fig. 15 reproduces one of them. The material, as of the other statues found at the same place, is a dark and excessively hard igneous rock (dolerite). The person represented is one Gudea, the ruler of a small semi-independent principality. On his lap he has a tablet on which is engraved the plan of a fortress, very interesting to the student of military antiquities. The forms of the body are surprisingly well given, even the knuckles of the fingers being indicated. As regards the drapery, it is noteworthy that an attempt has been made to render folds on the right breast and the left arm. The skirt of the dress is covered with an inscription in cuneiform characters.
Fig. 16 belongs to the same group of sculptures as the seated figure just discussed. Although this head gives no such impression of lifelikeness as the best Egyptian portraits, it yet shows careful study. Cheeks, chin, and mouth are well rendered. The eyelids, though too wide open, are still good; notice the inner corners. The eyebrows are less successful. Their general form is that of the half of a figure 8 bisected vertically, and the hairs are indicated by slanting lines arranged in herring-bone fashion. Altogether, the reader will probably feel more respect than enthusiasm for this early Babylonian art and will have no keen regret that the specimens of it are so few.
The Assyrians were by origin one people with the Chaldeans and were therefore a branch of the great Semitic family. It is not until the ninth century B.C. that the great period of Assyrian history begins. Then for two and a half centuries Assyria was the great conquering power of the world. Near the end of the seventh century it was completely annihilated by a coalition of Babylonia and Media.
With an insignificant exception or two the remains of Assyrian buildings and sculptures all belong to the period of Assyrian greatness. The principal sites where explorations have been carried on are Koyunjik (Nineveh), Nimroud, and Khorsabad, and the ruins uncovered are chiefly those of royal palaces. These buildings were of enormous extent. The palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh, for example, covered more than twenty acres. Although the country possessed building stone in plenty, stone was not used except for superficial ornamentation, baked and unbaked bricks being the architect’s sole reliance. This was a mere blind following of the example of Babylonia, from which Assyria derived all its culture. The palaces were probably only one story in height. Their principal splendor was in their interior decoration of painted stucco, enameled bricks, and, above all, painted reliefs in limestone or alabaster.
The great Assyrian bas-reliefs covered the lower portions of the walls of important rooms. Designed to enrich the royal palaces, they drew their principal themes from the occupations of the kings. We see the monarch offering sacrifice before a divinity, or, more often, engaged in his favorite pursuits of war and hunting. These extensive compositions cannot be adequately illustrated by two or three small pictures. The most that can be done is to show the sculptor’s method of treating single figures. Fig. 17 is a slab from the earliest series we possess, that belonging to the palace of Asshur-nazir-pal (884-860 B.C.) at Nimroud. It represents the king facing to right, with a bowl for libation in his right hand and his bow in his left, while a eunuch stands fronting him. The artistic style exhibited here remains with no essential change throughout the whole history of Assyrian art. The figures are in profile, except that the king’s further shoulder is thrown forward in much the fashion which we have found the rule in Egypt, and the eyes appear as in front view. Both king and attendant are enveloped in long robes, in which there is no indication of folds, though fringes and tassels are elaborately rendered. The faces are of a strongly marked Semitic cast, but without any attempt at portraiture. The hair of the head ends in several rows of snail-shell curls, and the king’s beard has rows of these curls alternating with more natural-looking portions. Little is displayed of the body except the fore-arms, whose anatomy, though intelligible, is coarse and false. As for minor matters, such as the too high position of the ears, and the unnatural shape of the king’s right hand, it is needless to dwell upon them. A cuneiform inscription runs right across the relief, interrupted only by the fringes of the robes.
Fig. 18 shows more distinctly the characteristic Assyrian method of representing the human head. Here are the same Semitic features, the eye in front view, and the strangely curled hair and beard. The only novelty is the incised line which marks the iris of the eye. This peculiarity is first observed in work of Sargon’s time (722-705 B. C.).
A constant and striking feature of the Assyrian palaces was afforded by the great, winged, human-headed bulls, which flanked the principal doorways. The one herewith given (Fig. 19) is from Sargon’s palace at Khorsabad. The peculiar methods of Assyrian sculpture are not ill suited to this fantastic creature, an embodiment of force and intelligence. One special peculiarity will not escape the attentive observer. Like all his kind, except in Sennacherib’s palace, this bull has five legs. He was designed to be looked at from directly in front or from the side, not from an intermediate point of view.
Assyrian art was not wholly without capacity for improvement. Under Asshur-bam-pal (668-626), the Sardanapalus of the Greeks, it reached a distinctly higher level than ever before. It is from his palace at Nineveh that the slab partially shown in Fig. 20 was obtained. Two demons, with human bodies, arms, and legs, but with lions’ heads, asses’ ears, and eagles’ talons, confront one another angrily, brandishing daggers in their right hands. Mesopotamian art was fond of such creatures, but we do not know precisely what meaning was attached to the present scene. We need therefore consider only stylistic qualities. As the two demons wear only short skirts reaching from the waist to the knees, their bodies are more exposed than those of men usually are. We note the inaccurate anatomy of breast, abdomen, and back, in dealing with which the sculptor had little experience to guide him. A marked difference is made between the outer and the inner view of the leg, the former being treated in the same style as the arms in Fig. 17. The arms are here better, because less exaggerated. The junction of human shoulders and animal necks is managed with no sort of verisimilitude. But the heads, conventionalized though they are, are full of vigor. One can almost hear the angry snarl and see the lightning flash from the eyes.
It is, in fact, in the rendering of animals that Assyrian art attains to its highest level. In Asshur-bam-pal’s palace extensive hunting scenes give occasion for introducing horses, dogs, wild asses, lions, and lionesses, and these are portrayed with a keen eye for characteristic forms and movements. One of the most famous of these animal figures is the lioness shown in Fig. 21. The creature has been shot through with three great arrows. Blood gushes from her wounds. Her hind legs are paralyzed and drag helplessly behind her. Yet she still moves forward on her fore-feet and howls with rage and agony. Praise of this admirable figure can hardly be too strong. This and others, of equal merit redeem Assyrian art.
As has been already intimated, these bas-reliefs were always colored, though, it would seem, only partially, whereas Egyptian bas-reliefs were completely covered with color.
Of Assyrian stone sculpture in the round nothing has yet been said. A few pieces exist, but their style is so essentially like that of the bas-reliefs that they call for no separate discussion. More interesting is the Assyrian work in bronze. The most important specimens of this are some hammered reliefs, now in the British Museum, which originally adorned a pair of wooden doors in the palace of Shalmaneser III. at Balawat. The art of casting statuettes and statues in bronze was also known and practiced, as it had been much earlier in Babylonia, but the examples preserved to us are few. For the decorative use which the Assyrians made of color, our principal witnesses are then enameled bricks. These are ornamented with various designs—men, genii, animals, and floral patterns—in a few rich colors, chiefly blue and yellow. Of painting, except in the sense of mural decoration, there is no trace.
Egypt and Mesopotamia are, of all the countries around the Mediterranean the only seats of an important, indigenous art, antedating that of Greece. Other countries of Western Asia—Syria, Phrygia, Phenicia, Persia, and so on—seem to have been rather recipients and transmitters than originators of artistic influences. For Egypt, Assyria, and the regions just named did not remain isolated from one another. On the contrary, intercourse both friendly and hostile was active, and artistic products, at least of the small and portable kind, were exchanged. The paths of communication were many, but there is reason for thinking that the Phenicians, the great trading nation of early times, were especially instrumental in disseminating artistic ideas. To these influences Greece was exposed before she had any great art of her own. Among the remains of prehistoric Greece we find, besides some objects of foreign manufacture, others, which, though presumably of native origin, are yet more or less directly inspired by Egyptian or oriental models. But when the true history of Greek art begins, say about 600 B. C., the influences from Egypt and Asia sink into insignificance. It may be that the impulse to represent gods and men in wood or stone was awakened in Greece by the example of older communities. It may be that one or two types of figures were suggested by foreign models. It may be that a hint was taken from Egypt for the form of the Doric column and that the Ionic capital derives from an Assyrian prototype. It is almost certain that the art of casting hollow bronze statues was borrowed from Egypt. And it is indisputable that some ornamental patterns used in architecture and on pottery were rather appropriated than invented by Greece. There is no occasion for disguising or underrating this indebtedness of Greece to her elder neighbors. But, on the other hand, it is important not to exaggerate the debt. Greek art is essentially self-originated, the product of a unique, incommunicable genius. As well might one say that Greek literature is of Asiatic origin, because, forsooth, the Greek alphabet came from Phenicia, as call Greek art the offspring of Egyptian or oriental art because of the impulses received in the days of its beginning. [Footnote: This comparison is perhaps not original with the present writer.]
Prehistoric art in Greece.
Thirty years ago it would have been impossible to write with any considerable knowledge of prehistoric art in Greece. The Iliad and Odyssey, to be sure, tell of numerous artistic objects, but no definite pictures of these were called up by the poet’s words. Of actual remains only a few were known. Some implements of stone, the mighty walls of Tiryns, Mycenae, and many another ancient citadel, four “treasuries,” as they were often called, at Mycenae and one at the Boeotian Orchomenus—these made up pretty nearly the total of the visible relics of that early time. To-day the case is far different. Thanks to the faith, the liberality, and the energy of Heinrich Schliemann, an immense impetus has been given to the study of prehistoric Greek archaeology. His excavations at Troy, Mycenae, Tiryns, and elsewhere aroused the world. He labored, and other men, better trained than he, have entered into his labors. The material for study is constantly accumulating, and constant progress is being made in classifying and interpreting this material. A civilization antedating the Homeric poems stands now dimly revealed to us. Mycenae, the city “rich in gold,” the residence of Agamemnon, whence he ruled over “many islands and all Argos,” [Footnote: Iliad II, 108] is seen to have had no merely legendary preeminence. So conspicuous, in fact, does Mycenae appear in the light as well of archaeology as of epic, that it has become common, somewhat misleading though it is, to call a whole epoch and a whole civilization “Mycenaean.” This “Mycenaean” civilization was widely extended over the Greek islands and the eastern portions of continental Greece in the second millennium before our era. Exact dates are very risky, but it is reasonably safe to say that this civilization was in full development as early as the fifteenth century B.C., and that it was not wholly superseded till considerably later than 1000 B.C.
It is our present business to gain some acquaintance with this epoch on its artistic side. It will be readily understood that our knowledge of the long period in question is still very fragmentary, and that, in the absence of written records, our interpretation of the facts is hardly better than a groping in the dark. Fortunately we can afford, so far as the purposes of this book are concerned, to be content with a slight review. For it seems clear that the “Mycenaean” civilization developed little which can be called artistic in the highest sense of that term. The real history of Greek art—that is to say, of Greek architecture, sculpture, and painting—begins much later. Nevertheless it will repay us to get some notion, however slight, of such prehistoric Greek remains as can be included under the broadest acceptation of the word “art.”
In such a survey it is usual to give a place to early walls of fortification, although these, to be sure, were almost purely utilitarian in their character. The classic example of these constructions is the citadel wall of Tiryns in Argolis. Fig. 22 shows a portion of this fortification on the east side, with the principal approach. Huge blocks of roughly dressed limestone—some of those in the lower courses estimated to weigh thirteen or fourteen tons apiece—are piled one upon another, the interstices having been filled with clay and smaller stones. This wall is of varying thickness, averaging at the bottom about twenty-five feet. At two places, viz., at the south end and on the east side near the southeast corner, the thickness is increased, in order to give room in the wall for a row of store chambers with communicating gallery. Fig. 23 shows one of these galleries in its present condition. It will be seen that the roof has been formed by pushing the successive courses of stones further and further inward from both sides until they meet. The result is in form a vault, but the principle of the arch is not there, inasmuch as the stones are not jointed radially, but lie on approximately horizontal beds. Such a construction is sometimes called a “corbelled” arch or vault.
Similar walls to those of Tiryns are found in many places, though nowhere else are the blocks of such gigantic size. The Greeks of the historical period Viewed these imposing structures with as much astonishment as do we, and attributed them (of at least those in Argohs) to the Cyclopes, a mythical folk, conceived in this connection as masons of superhuman strength. Hence the adjective Cyclopian or Cyclopean, whose meaning varies unfortunately in modern usage, but which is best restricted to walls of the Tirynthian type; that is to say, walls built of large blocks not accurately fitted together, the interstices being filled with small stones. This style of masonry seems to be always of early date
Portions of the citadel wall of Mycenae are Cyclopean. Other portions, quite probably of later date, show a very different character (Fig. 24). Here the blocks on the outer surface of the wall, though irregular in shape. are fitted together with close joints. This style of masonry is called polygonal and is to be carefully distinguished from Cyclopean, as above defined. Finally, still other portions of this same Mycenaean wall show on the outside a near approach to what is called ashlar masonry, in which the blocks are rectangular and laid in even horizontal courses. This is the case near the Lion Gate, the principal entrance to the citadel. (Fig. 25)
Next to the walls of fortification the most numerous early remains of the builder’s art in Greece are the “bee-hive” tombs of which many examples have been discovered in Argolis, Laconia, Attica, Boeotia, Thessaly, and Crete. At Mycenae alone there are eight now known, all of them outside the citadel. The largest and most imposing of these, and indeed of the entire class, is the one commonly referred to by the misleading name of the “Treasury of Atreus.” Fig 26 gives a section through this tomb. A straight passage, A B, flanked by walls of ashlar masonry and open to the sky, leads to a doorway, B. This doorway, once closed with heavy doors, was framed with an elaborate aichitectural composition, of which only small fragments now exist and these widely dispersed in London, Berlin, Carlsruhe, Munich, Athens, and Mycenae itself. In the decoration of this facade rosettes and running spirals played a conspicuous part, and on either side of the doorway stood a column which tapered downwards and was ornamented with spirals arranged in zigzag bands. This downward-tapering column, so unlike the columns of classic times, seems to have been in common use in Mycenaean architecture. Inside the doors comes a short passage, B C, roofed by two huge lintel blocks, the inner one of which is estimated to weigh 132 tons. The principal chamber, D, which is embedded in the hill, is circular in plan, with a lower diameter of about forty-seven feet. Its wall is formed of horizontal courses of stone, each pushed further inward than the one below it, until the opening was small enough to be covered by a single stone. The method of roofing is therefore identical in principle with that used in the galleries and store chambers of Tiryns; but here the blocks have been much more carefully worked and accurately fitted, and the exposed ends have been so beveled as to give to the whole interior a smooth, curved surface. Numerous horizontal rows of small holes exist, only partly indicated in our illustration, beginning in the fourth course from the bottom and continuing at intervals probably to the top. In some of these holes bronze nails still remain. These must have served for the attachment of some sort of bronze decoration. The most careful study of the disposition of the holes has led to the conclusion that the fourth and fifth courses were completely covered with bronze plates, presumably ornamented, and that above this there were rows of single ornaments, possibly rosettes. Fig. 27 will give some idea of the present appearance of this chamber, which is still complete, except for the loss of the bronze decoration and two or three stones at the top. The small doorway which is seen here, as well as in Fig. 26, leads into a rectangular chamber, hewn in the living rock. This is much smaller than the main chamber.
At Orchomenus in Boeotia are the ruins of a tomb scarcely inferior in size to the “Treasury of Atreus” and once scarcely less magnificent. Here too, besides the “bee-hive” construction, there was a lateral, rectangular chamber—a feature which occurs only in these two cases. Excavations conducted here by Schliemann in 1880-81 brought to light the broken fragments of a ceiling of greenish schist with which this lateral chamber was once covered. Fig. 28 shows this ceiling restored. The beautiful sculptured decoration consists of elements which recur in almost the same combination on a fragment of painted stucco from the palace of Tiryns. The pattern is derived from Egypt.
The two structures just described were long ago broken into and despoiled. If they stood alone, we could only guess at their original purpose. But some other examples of the same class have been left unmolested or less completely ransacked, until in recent years they could be studied by scientific investigators. Furthermore we have the evidence of numerous rock-cut chambers of analogous shape, many of which have been recently opened in a virgin condition. Thus it has been put beyond a doubt that these subterranean “beehive” chambers were sepulchral monuments, the bodies having been laid in graves within. The largest and best built of these tombs, if not all, must have belonged to princely families.
Even the dwelling-houses of the chieftains who ruled at Tiryns and Mycenae are known to us by their remains. The palace of Tiryns occupied the entire southern end of the citadel, within the massive walls above described. Its ruins were uncovered in 1884- 85. The plan and the lower portions of the walls of an extensive complex of gateways, open courts, and closed rooms were thus revealed. There are remains of a similar building at Mycenae, but less well preserved, while the citadels of Athens and Troy present still more scanty traces of an analogous kind. The walls of the Tirynthian palace were not built of gigantic blocks of stone, such as were used in the citadel wall. That would have been a reckless waste of labor. On the contrary, they were built partly of small irregular pieces of stone, partly of sun-dried bricks. Clay was used to hold these materials together, and beams of wood ("bond timbers”) were laid lengthwise here and there in the wall to give additional strength. Where columns were needed, they were in every case of wood, and consequently have long since decomposed and disappeared. Considerable remains, however, were found of the decorations of the interior. Thus there are bits of what must once have been a beautiful frieze of alabaster, inlaid with pieces of blue glass. A restored piece of this, sufficient to give the pattern, is seen in Fig. 29. Essentially the same design, somewhat simplified, occurs on objects of stone, ivory, and glass found at Mycenae; and in a “bee-hive” tomb of Attica. Again, there are fragments of painted
At Mycenae also, both in the principal palace which corresponds to that of Tiryns and in a smaller house, remains of wall-frescoes have been found. These, like those of Tiryns, consisted partly of merely ornamental patterns, partly of genuine pictures, with human and animal figures. But nothing has there come to light at once so well preserved and so spirited as the bull-fresco from Tiryns.
Painting in the Mycenaean period seems to have been nearly, if not entirely, confined to the decoration of house-walls and of pottery. Similarly sculpture had no existence as a great, independent art. There is no trace of any statue in the round of life-size or anything approaching that. This agrees with the impression we get from the Homeric poems, where, with possibly one exception, [Footnote: Iliad VI, 273, 303.] there is no allusion to any sculptured image. There are, to be sure, primitive statuettes, one class of which, very rude and early, in fact pre-Mycenaean in character, is illustrated by Fig. 31. Images of this sort have been found principally on the islands of the Greek Archipelago. They are made of marble or limestone, and represent a naked female figure standing stiffly erect, with arms crossed in front below the breasts. The head, is of extraordinary rudeness, the face of a horse-shoe shape, often with no feature except a long triangular nose. What religious ideas were associated with these barbarous little images by their possessors we can hardly guess. We shall see that when a truly Greek art came into being, figures of goddesses and women were decorously clothed.
Excavations on Mycenaean sites have yielded quantities of small figures, chiefly of painted terra-cotta (cf. Fig. 43), but also of bronze or lead. Of sculpture on a larger scale we possess nothing except the gravestones found at Mycenae and the relief which has given a name, albeit an inaccurate one, to the Lion Gate. The gravestones are probably the earlier. They were found within a circular enclosure just inside the Lion Gate, above a group of six graves—the so-called pit-graves or shaft-graves of Mycenae. The best preserved of these gravestones is shown in Fig. 32. The field, bordered by a double fillet, is divided horizontally into two parts. The upper part is filled with an ingeniously contrived system of running spirals. Below is a battle-scene: a man in a chariot is driving at full speed, and in front there is a naked foot soldier (enemy?), with a sword in his uplifted left hand. Spirals, apparently meaningless, fill in the vacant spaces. The technique is very simple. The figures having been outlined, the background has been cut away to a shallow depth; within the outlines there is no modeling, the surfaces being left flat. It is needless to dwell on the shortcomings of this work, but it is worth while to remind the reader that the gravestone commemorates one who must have been an important personage, probably a chieftain, and that the best available talent would have been secured for the purpose.
The famous relief above the Lion Gate of Mycenae (Figs. 25, 33), though probably of somewhat later date than the sculptured gravestones, is still generally believed to go well back into the second millennium before Christ. It represents two lionesses (not lions) facing one another in heraldic fashion, their fore-paws resting on what is probably to be called an altar or pair, of altars; between them is a column, which tapers downward (cf. the columns of the “Treasury of Atreus,” page 53), surmounted by what seems to be a suggestion of an entablature. The heads of the lionesses, originally made of separate pieces and attached, have been lost. Otherwise the work is in good preservation, in spite of its uninterrupted exposure for more than three thousand years. The technique is quite different from that of the gravestones, for all parts of the relief are carefully modeled. The truth to nature is also far greater here, the animals being tolerably life-like. The design is one which recurs with variations on two or three engraved gems of the Mycenaean period (cf Fig. 40), as well as in a series of later Phrygian reliefs in stone. Placed in this conspicuous position above the principal entrance to the citadel, it may perhaps have symbolized the power of the city and its rulers.
If sculpture in stone appears to have been very little practiced in the Mycenaean age, the arts of the goldsmith, silversmith, gem-engraver, and ivory carver were in great requisition. The shaft-graves of Mycenae contained, besides other things, a rich treasure of gold objects—masks, drinking-cups, diadems, ear-rings, finger-rings, and so on, also several silver vases. One of the latter may be seen in Fig. 43. It is a large jar, about two and one half feet in height, decorated below with horizontal flutings and above with continuous spirals in repousse (i.e., hammered) work. Most of the gold objects must be passed over, interesting though many of them are. But we may pause a moment over a group of circular ornaments in thin gold-leaf about two and one half inches in diameter, of which 701 specimens were found, all in a single grave. The patterns on these discs were not executed with a free hand, but by means of a mold. There are fourteen patterns in all, some of them made up of spirals and serpentine curves, others derived from vegetable and animal forms. Two of the latter class are shown in Figs. 34, 35. One is a butterfly, the other a cuttle-fish, both of them skilfully conventionalized. It is interesting to note how the antennae of the butterfly and still more the arms of the cuttle-fish are made to end in the favorite spiral.
The sculptures and gold objects which have been thus far described or referred to were in all probability executed by native, or at any rate by resident, workmen, though some of the patterns clearly betray oriental influence. Other objects must have been, others may have been, actually imported from Egypt or the East. It is impossible to draw the line with certainty between native and imported. Thus the admirable silver head of a cow from one of the shaft-graves (Fig. 36) has been claimed as an Egyptian or a Phenician production, but the evidence adduced is not decisive. Similarly with the fragment of a silver vase shown in Fig. 37. This has a design in relief (repousse) representing the siege of a walled town or citadel. On the walls is a group of women making frantic gestures. The defenders, most of them naked, are armed with bows and arrows and slings. On the ground lie sling-stones and throwing-sticks,[Footnote: So explained by Mr A. J. Evans in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, XIII., page 199. ] which may be supposed to have been hurled by the enemy. In the background there are four nondescript trees, perhaps intended for olive trees.
Another variety of Mycenaean metal-work is of a much higher order of merit than the dramatic but rude relief on this silver vase. I refer to a number of inlaid dagger-blades, which were found in two of the shaft-graves. Fig. 38 reproduces one side of the finest of these. It is about nine inches long. The blade is of bronze, while the rivets by which the handle was attached are of gold. The design was inlaid in a separate thin slip of bronze, which was then inserted into
The greatest triumph of the goldsmith’s art in the “Mycenaean” period does not come from Mycenae. The two gold cups shown in Fig. 39 were found in 1888 in a bee-hive tomb at Vaphio in Laconia. Each cup is double; that is to say, there is an outer cup, which has been hammered into shape from a single disc of gold and which is therefore without a joint, and an inner cup, similarly made, whose upper edge is bent over the outer cup so as to hold the two together. The horizontal parts of the handles are attached by rivets, while the intervening vertical cylinders are soldered. The designs in repousse work are evidently pendants to one another. The first represents a hunt of wild bulls. One bull, whose appearance indicates the highest pitch of fury, has dashed a would-be captor to earth and is now tossing another on his horns. A second bull, entangled in a stout net, writhes and bellows in the vain effort to escape. A third gallops at full speed from the scene of his comrade’s captivity. The other design shows us four tame bulls. The first submits with evident impatience to his master. The next two stand quietly, with an almost comical effect of good nature and contentment. The fourth advances slowly, browsing. In each composition the ground is indicated, not only beneath
Engraved gems were in great demand in the Mycenaean period, being worn as ornamental beads, and the work of the gem-engraver, like that of the goldsmith, exhibits excellent qualities. The usual material was some variety of ornamental stone—agate, jasper, rock-crystal, etc. There are two principal shapes, the one lenticular, the other elongated or glandular (Figs. 40, 41). The designs are engraved in intaglio, but, our illustrations being made, as is usual, from plaster impressions, they appear as cameos. Among the subjects the lion plays an important part, sometimes represented singly, sometimes in pairs, sometimes devouring a bull or stag. Cattle, goats, deer, and fantastic creatures (sphinxes, griffins, etc.) are also common. So are human figures, often engaged in war or the chase. In the best of these gems the work is executed with great care, and the designs, though often inaccurate, are nevertheless vigorous. Very commonly, however, the distortion of the figure is carried beyond all bounds. Fig. 40 was selected for illustration, not because it is a particularly favorable specimen of its class, but because it offers an interesting analogy to the relief above the Lion Gate. It represents two lions rampant, their fore-paws resting on an altar (?), their heads, oddly enough, combined into one. The column which figures in the relief above the gate is absent from the gem, but is found on another specimen from Mycenae, where the animals, however, are winged griffins. Fig. 41 has only a standing man, of the wasp-waisted figure and wearing the girdle with which other representations have now made us familiar.
It remains to glance at the most important early varieties of Greek pottery. We need not stop here to study the rude, unpainted, mostly hand-made vases from the earliest strata at Troy and Tiryns, nor the more developed, yet still primitive, ware of the island of Thera. But the Mycenaean pottery is of too great importance to be passed over. This was the characteristic ware of the Mycenaean civilization. The probability is that it was manufactured at several different places, of which Mycenae may have been one and perhaps the
The Mycenaean pottery was gradually superseded by pottery of an essentially different style, called Geometric, from the character of its painted decorations. It is impossible to say when this style made its first appearance in Greece, but it seems to have flourished for some hundreds of years and to have lasted till as late as the end of the eighth century B. C. It falls into several local varieties, of which the most important is the Athenian. This is commonly called Dipylon pottery, from the fact that the cemetery near the Dipylon, the chief gate of ancient Athens, has supplied the greatest number of specimens. Some of these Dipylon vases are of great size and served as funeral monuments. Fig. 44 gives a good example of this class. It is four feet high. Both the shape and the decoration are very different from those of the Mycenaean style. The surface is almost completely covered by a system of ornament in which zigzags, meanders, and groups of concentric circles play an important part. In this system of Geometric patterns zones or friezes are reserved for designs into which human and animal figures enter. The center of interest is in the middle of the upper frieze, between the handles. Here we see a corpse upon a funeral bier, drawn by a two-horse wagon. To right and left are mourners arranged in two rows, one above the other. The lower frieze, which encircles the vase about at its middle, consists of a line of two-horse chariots and their drivers. The drawing of these designs is illustrated on a larger scale on the right and left of the vase in Fig. 44; it is more childish than anything we have seen from the Mycenaean period. The horses have thin bodies, legs, and necks, and their heads look as much like
Besides the Geometric pottery and its offshoots, several other local varieties were produced in Greece in the eighth and seventh centuries. These are sometimes grouped together under the name of “orientalizing” styles, because, in a greater or less degree, they show in their ornamentation the influence of oriental models, of which the pure Geometric style betrays no trace. It is impossible here to describe all these local wares, but a single plate from Rhodes (Fig. 45) may serve to illustrate the degree of proficiency in the drawing of the human figure which had been attained about the end of the seventh century. Additional interest is lent to this design by the names attached to the three men. The combatants are Menelaus and Hector; the fallen warrior is Euphorbus. Here for the first time we find depicted a scene from the Trojan War. From this time on the epic legends form a large part of the repertory of the vase-painters.
The supreme achievement of Greek architecture was the temple. In imperial Rome, or in any typical city of the Roman Empire, the most extensive and imposing buildings were secular—basilicas, baths, amphitheaters, porticoes, aqueducts. In Athens, on the other hand, or in any typical Greek city, there was little or nothing to vie with the temples and the sacred edifices associated with them. Public secular buildings, of course, there were, but the little we know of them does not suggest that they often ranked among the architectural glories of the country. Private houses were in the best period of small pretensions. It was to the temple and its adjunct buildings that the architectural genius and the material resources of Greece were devoted. It is the temple, then, which we have above all to study.
Before beginning, however, to analyze the artistic features of the temple, it will be useful to consider the building materials which a Greek architect had at his disposal and his methods of putting them together. Greece is richly provided with good building stone. At many points there are inexhaustible stores of white marble. The island of Paros, one of the Cyclades, and Mount Pentelicus in Attica—to name only the two best and most famous quarries—are simply masses of white marble, suitable as well for the builder as the sculptor. There are besides various beautiful colored marbles, but it was left to the Romans to bring these into use. Then there are many commoner sorts of stone ready to the builder’s hand, especially the rather soft, brown limestones which the Greeks called by the general name of poros. [Footnote: The word has no connection with porous] This material was not disdained, even for important buildings. Thus the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, one of the two most important religious centers in the Greek world, was built of local poros. The same was the case with the numerous temples of Acragas (Girgenti) and Selinus in Sicily. An even meaner material, sun-dried brick, was sometimes, perhaps often, employed for cella walls. Where poros or crude brick was used, it was coated over with a very fine, hard stucco, which gave a surface like that of marble.
It is remarkable that no use was made in Greece of baked bricks before the period of Roman domination. Roof-tiles of terra-cotta were in use from an early period, and Greek travelers to Babylonia brought back word of the use of baked bricks in that country. Nevertheless Greek builders showed no disposition to adopt baked bricks for their masonry.
This probably hangs together with another important fact, the absence of lime-mortar from Greek architecture. Lime-stucco was in use from time immemorial. But lime-mortar, i.e., lime mixed with sand and used as a bond for masonry, is all but unknown in Greek work. [Footnote: The solitary exception at present known is an Attic tomb built of crude bricks laid in lime-mortar] Consequently in the walls of temples and other carefully constructed buildings an elaborate system of bonding by means of clamps and dowels was resorted to. Fig. 46 illustrates this and some other points. The blocks of marble are seen to be perfectly rectangular and of uniform length and height. Each end of every block is worked with a slightly raised and well-smoothed border, for the purpose of securing without unnecessary labor a perfectly accurate joint. The shallow holes, III, III, in the upper surfaces are pry-holes, which were of use in prying the blocks into position. The adjustment having been made, contiguous blocks in the same course were bonded to one another by clamps, I, I, embedded horizontally, while the sliding of one course upon another was prevented by upright dowels, II, II. Greek clamps and dowels were usually of iron and they were fixed in their sockets by means of molten lead run in. The form of the clamp differs at different periods. The double-T shape shown in the illustration is characteristic of the best age (cf. also Fig. 48).
Another important fact to be noted at the outset is the absence of the arch from Greek architecture. It is reported by the Roman philosopher, Seneca, that the principle of the arch was “discovered” by the Greek philosopher, Democritus, who lived in the latter half of the fifth century B. C. That he independently discovered the arch as a practical possibility is most unlikely, seeing that it had been used for ages in Egypt and Mesopotamia; but it may be that he discussed, however imperfectly, the mathematical theory of the subject. If so, it would seem likely that he had practical illustrations about him; and this view receives some support from the existence of a few subterranean vaults which perhaps go back to the good Greek period. Be that as it may, the arch plays absolutely no part in the columnar architecture of Greece. In a Greek temple or similar building only the flat ceiling was known. Above the exterior portico and the vestibules of a temple the ceiling was sometimes of stone or marble, sometimes of wood; in the interior it was always of wood. It follows that no very wide space could be ceiled over without extra supports. At Priene in Asia Minor we find a temple (Fig. 49) whose cella, slightly over thirty feet in breadth, has no interior columns. The architect of the Temple of Athena on the island of AEgina (Fig. 52) was less venturesome. Although the cella there is only 21 1/4 feet in breadth, we find, as in large temples, a double row of columns to help support the ceiling. And when a really large room was built, like the Hall of Initiation at Eleusis or the Assembly Hall of the Arcadians at Megalopolis, such a forest of pillars was required as must have seriously interfered with the convenience of congregations. We are now ready to study the plan of a Greek temple. The essential feature is an enclosed chamber, commonly called by the Latin name cella, in which stood, as a rule, the image of the god or goddess to whom the temple was dedicated. Fig. 47 shows a very simple plan. Here the side walls of the cella are prolonged in front and terminate in antae (see below, page 88). Between the antae are two columns. This type of temple is called a templum in antis. Were the vestibule (pronaos) repeated at the other end of the building, it would be called an opisthodomos, and the whole building would be a double templum in antis. In Fig. 48 the vestibules are formed by rows of columns extending across the whole width of the cella, whose side walls are not prolonged. Did a vestibule exist at the front only, the temple would be called prostyle; as it is, it is amphiprostyle. Only small Greek temples have as simple a plan as those just described. Larger temples are peripteral, i.e., are surrounded by a colonnade or peristyle (Figs. 49. 50). In Fig. 49 the cella with its vestibules has the form of a double templum in antis, in Fig 50 it is amphiprostyle. A further difference should be noted. In Fig. 49, which is the plan of an Ionic temple, the antae and columns of the vestibules are in line with columns of the outer row, at both the ends and the sides; in Fig. 50, which is the plan of a Doric temple, the exterior columns are set without regard to the cella wall, and the columns of the vestibules. This is a regular difference between Doric and Ionic temples, though the rule is subject to a few exceptions in the case of the former.
The plan of almost any Greek temple will be found to be referable to one or other of the types just described, although there are great differences in the proportions of the several parts. It remains only to add that in almost every case the principal front was toward the east or nearly so. When Greek temples were converted into Christian churches, as often happened, it was necessary, in order to conform to the Christian ritual, to reverse this arrangement and to place the principal entrance at the western end.
The next thing is to study the principal elements of a Greek temple as seen in elevation. This brings us to the subject of the Greek “orders.” There are two principal orders in Greek architecture, the Doric and the Ionic. Figs. 51 and 61 show a characteristic specimen of each. The term “order,” it should be said, is commonly restricted in architectural parlance to the column and entablature. Our illustrations, however, show all the features of a Doric and an Ionic facade. There are several points of agreement between the two: in each the columns rest on a stepped base, called the crepidoma, the uppermost step of which is the stylobate; in each the shaft of the column tapers from the lower to the upper end, is channeled or fluted vertically, and is surmounted by a projecting member called a capital; in each the entablature consists of three members—architrave, frieze, and cornice. There the important points of agreement end. The differences will best be fixed in mind by a detailed examination of each order separately.
Our typical example of the Doric order (Fig. 51) is taken from the Temple of Aphaia on the island of Aegina—a temple probably erected about 480 B.C. (cf. Fig. 52.) The column consists of two parts, shaft and capital. It is of sturdy proportions, its height being about five and one half times the lower diameter of the shaft. If the shaft tapered upward at a uniform rate, it would have the form of a truncated cone. Instead of that, the shaft has an entasis or swelling. Imagine a vertical section to be made through the middle of the column. If, then, the diminution of the shaft were uniform, the sides of this section would be straight lines. In reality, however, they are slightly curved lines, convex outward. This addition to the form of a truncated cone is the entasis. It is greatest at about one third or one half the height of the shaft, and there amounts, in cases that have been measured, to from 1/80 to 1/140 of the lower diameter of the shaft.[Footnote: Observe that the entasis is so slight that the lowest diameter of the shaft is always the greatest diameter. The illustration is unfortunately not quite correct, since it gives the shaft a uniform diameter for about one third of its height.] In some early Doric temples, as the one at Assos in Asia Minor, there is no entasis. The channels or flutes in our typical column are twenty in number. More rarely we find sixteen; much more
Every other part of the building had likewise its established form, but it will not be possible here to describe or even to mention every detail. The most important member not yet treated of is the anta. An anta may be described as a pilaster forming the termination of a wall. It stands directly opposite a column and is of the same height with it, its function being to receive one end of an architrave block, the other end of which is borne by the column. The breadth of its front face is slightly greater than the thickness of the wall; the breadth of a side face depends upon whether or not the anta supports an architrave on that side (Figs. 47, 48, 49, 50). The Doric anta has a special capital, quite unlike the capital of the column. Fig. 54 shows an example from a building erected in 437-32 B. C. Its most striking feature is the Doric cyma, or hawk’s-beak molding, the characteristic molding of the Doric style (Fig. 55), used also to crown the horizontal cornice and in other situations (Fig. 51 and frontispiece). Below the capital the anta is treated precisely like the wall of which it forms a part; that is to say, its surfaces are plain, except for the simple base-molding, which extends also along the foot of the wall. The method of ceiling the peristyle and vestibules by means of ceiling-beams on which rest slabs decorated with square, recessed panels or coffers may be indistinctly seen in Fig. 56. Within the cella, when columns were used to help support the wooden ceiling, there seem to have been regularly two ranges, one above the other. This is the only case, so far as we know, in which Greek architecture of the best period put one range of columns above another. There were probably no windows of any kind, so that the cella received no daylight, except such as entered by the great front doorway, when the doors were open. [Footnote: This whole matter, however, is in dispute. Some authorities believe that large temples were HYPOETHRAL, i. e., open, or partly open, to the sky, or in some way lighted from above. In Fig. 56 an open grating has been inserted above the doors, but for such an arrangement in a Greek temple there is no evidence, so far as I am aware.] The roof-beams were of wood. The roof was covered with terra-cotta or marble tiles.
Such are the main features of a Doric temple (those last mentioned not being peculiar to the Doric style). Little has been said thus far of variation in these features. Yet variation there was. Not to dwell on local differences, as between Greece proper and the Greek colonies in Sicily, there was a development constantly going on, changing the forms of details and the relative proportions of parts and even introducing new features originally foreign to the style. Thus the column grows slenderer from century to century. In early examples it is from four to five lower diameters in height in the best period (fifth and fourth centuries) about five and one half, in the post classical period, six to seven. The difference in this respect between early and late examples may be seen by comparing the sixth century Temple of Posidon (?) at Paestum in southern Italy (Fig. 57) with the third (?) century Temple of Zeus at Nemea (Fig. 58). Again, the echinus of the capital is in the early period widely flaring, making in some very early examples an angle at the start of not more than fifteen or twenty degrees with the horizontal (Fig. 59); in the best period it rises more steeply, starting at an angle of about fifty degrees with the horizontal and having a profile which closely approaches a straight line, until it curves inward under the abacus (Fig. 51); in the post-classical period it is low and sometimes quite conical (Fig. 60). In general, the degeneracy of post-classical Greek architecture is in nothing more marked than in the loss of those subtle curves which characterize the best Greek work. Other differences must be learned from more extended treatises.
The Ionic order was of a much more luxuriant character than the Doric. Our typical example (Fig. 61) is taken from the Temple of Priene in Asia Minor—a temple erected about 340-30 B. C. The column has a base consisting of a plain square plinth, two TROCHILI with moldings, and a torus fluted horizontally. The Ionic shaft is much slenderer than the Doric, the height of the column (including base and capital) being in different examples from eight to ten times the lower diameter of the shaft. The diminution of the shaft is naturally less than in the Doric, and the entasis, where any has been detected, is exceedingly slight. The flutes, twenty-four in number, are deeper than in the Doric shaft, being in fact nearly or quite semicircular, and they are separated from one another by flat bands or fillets. For the form of the capital it will be better to refer to Fig. 62, taken from an Attic building of the latter half of the fifth century. The principal parts are an ovolo and a spiral roll (the latter name not in general use). The ovolo has a convex profile, and is sometimes called a quarter-round; it is enriched with an egg-and-dart ornament The spiral roll may be conceived as a long cushion, whose ends are rolled under to form the volutes.
In the normal Ionic capital the opposite faces are of identical appearance. If this were the case with the capital at the corner of a building, the result would be that on the side of the building all the capitals would present their bolsters instead of their volutes to the spectator. The only way to prevent this was to distort the corner capital into the form shown by Fig. 64; cf. also Figs. 61 and 70.
The Ionic architrave is divided horizontally into three (or sometimes two) bands, each of the upper ones projecting slightly over the one below it. It is crowned by a sort of cornice enriched with moldings. The frieze is not divided like the Doric frieze, but presents an uninterrupted surface. It may be either plain or covered with relief-sculpture. It is finished off with moldings along the upper edge. The cornice (cf. Fig. 65) consists of two principal parts. First comes a projecting block, into whose face rectangular cuttings have been made at short intervals, thus leaving a succession of cogs or dentels; above these are moldings. Secondly there is a much more widely projecting block, the Corona, whose under surface is hollowed to lighten the weight and whose face is capped with moldings. The raking cornice is like the horizontal cornice except that it has no dentels. The sima or gutter-facing, whose profile is here a cyma recta (concave above and convex below), is enriched with sculptured floral ornament.
In the Ionic buildings of Attica the base of the column consists of two tori separated by a trochilus. The proportions of these parts vary considerably. The base in Fig. 66 (from a building finished about 408 B.C.) is worthy of attentive examination by reason of its harmonious proportions. In the Roman form of this base, too often imitated nowadays, the trochilus has too small a diameter. The Attic-Ionic cornice never has dentels, unless the cornice of the Caryatid portico of the Erechtheum ought to be reckoned as an instance (Fig. 67).
The capital shown in Fig. 66 is a special variety of the Ionic capital, of rather rare occurrence. Its distinguishing features are the insertion between ovolo and spiral roll of a torus ornamented with a braided pattern, called a guilloche; the absence of the palmettes from the corners formed by the spiral roll; and the fact that the channel of the roll is double instead of single, which gives a more elaborate character to that member. Finally, in the Erechtheum the upper part or necking of the shaft is enriched with an exquisitely wrought band of floral ornament, the so-called honeysuckle pattern. This feature is met with in some other examples.
As in the Doric style, so in the Ionic, the anta-capital is quite unlike the column-capital. Fig. 68 shows an anta-capital from the Erechtheum, with an adjacent portion of the wall-band; cf. also Fig. 69. Perhaps it is inaccurate in this case to speak of an anta-capital at all, seeing that the anta simply shares the moldings which crown the wall. The floral frieze under the moldings is, however, somewhat more elaborate on the anta than on the adjacent wall. The Ionic method of ceiling a peristyle or portico may be partly seen in Fig 69. The principal ceiling-beams here rest upon the architrave, instead of upon the frieze, as in a Doric building (cf. Fig. 56). Above were the usual coffered slabs. The same illustration shows a well-preserved and finely proportioned doorway, but unfortunately leaves the details of its ornamentation indistinct.
The Ionic order was much used in the Greek cities of Asia Minor for peripteral temples. The most considerable remains of such buildings, at Ephesus, Priene, etc., belong to the fourth century or later. In Greece proper there is no known instance of a peripteral Ionic temple, but the order was sometimes used for small prostyle and amphiprostyle buildings, such as the Temple of Wingless Victory in Athens (Fig. 70). Furthermore, Ionic columns were sometimes employed in the interior of Doric temples, as at Bassae in Arcadia and (probably) in the temple built by Scopas at Tegea. In the Propylaea or gateway of the Athenian Acropolis we even find the Doric and Ionic orders juxtaposed, the exterior architecture being Doric and the interior Ionic, with no wall to separate them. One more interesting occurrence of the Ionic order in Greece proper may be mentioned, viz., in the Philippeum at Olympia (about 336 B.C.). This is a circular building, surrounded by an Ionic colonnade. Still other types of building afforded opportunity enough for the employment of this style.
After what has been said of the gradual changes in the Doric order, it will be understood that the Ionic order was not the same in the sixth century as in the fifth, nor in the fifth the same as in the third. The most striking change concerns the spiral roll of the capital. In the good period the portion of this member which connects the volutes is bounded below by a depressed curve, graceful and vigorous. With the gradual degradation of taste this curve tended to become a straight line, the result being the unlovely, mechanical form shown in Fig. 71 (from a building of Ptolemy Philadelphus, who reigned from 283 to 246 B.C.). Better formed capitals than this continued for some time to be made in Greek lands; but the type just shown, or rather something resembling it in the disagreeable feature noted, became canonical with Roman architects.
The Corinthian order, as it is commonly called, hardly deserves to be called a distinct order. Its only peculiar feature is the capital; otherwise it agrees with the Ionic order. The Corinthian capital is said to have been invented in the fifth century; and a solitary specimen, of a meager and rudimentary type, found in 1812 in the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, but since lost, was perhaps an original part of that building (about 430 B. C). At present the earliest extant specimens are from the interior of a round building of the fourth century near Epidaurus in Argolis (Fig. 72). [Footnote: For some reason or other the particular capital shown in our illustration was not used in the building, but it is of the same model as those actually used, except that the edge of the abacus is not finished.] It was from such a form as this that the luxuriant type of Corinthian capital so much in favor with Roman architects and their public was derived. On the other hand, the form shown in Fig. 73, from a little building erected in 334 B.C. or soon after, is a variant which seems to have left no lineal successors. In its usual form the Corinthian capital has a cylindrical core, which expands slightly toward the top so as to become bell-shaped; around the lower part of this core are two rows of conventionalized acanthus leaves, eight in each row; from these rise eight principal stalks (each, in fully developed examples, wrapped about its base with an acanthus leaf) which combine, two and two, to form four volutes (helices), one under each corner of the abacus, while smaller stalks, branching from the first, cover the rest of the upper part of the core; there is commonly a floral ornament on the middle of each face at the top; finally the abacus has, in plan, the form of a square whose sides have been hollowed out and whose corners have been truncated. In the form shown in Fig. 73 we find, first, a row of sixteen simple leaves, like those of a reed, with the points of a second row showing between them; then a single row of eight acanthus leaves; then the scroll-work, supporting a palmette on each side; and finally an
Some allusion has been made in the foregoing to other types of columnar buildings besides the temple. The principal ones of which remains exist are Propylaea and stoas. Propylaea is the Greek name for a form of gateway, consisting essentially of a cross wall between side walls, with a portico on each front. Such gateways occur in many places as entrances to sacred precincts. The finest example, and one of the noblest monuments of Greek architecture, is that at the west end of the Athenian Acropolis. The stoa may be defined as a building having an open range of columns on at least one side. Usually its length was much greater than its depth. Stoas were often built in sacred precincts, as at Olympia, and also for secular purposes along public streets, as in Athens. These and other buildings into which the column entered as an integral feature involved no new architectural elements or principles.
One highly important fact about Greek architecture has thus far been only touched upon; that is, the liberal use it made of color. The ruins of Greek temples are to-day monochromatic, either glittering white, as is the temple at Sunium, or of a golden brown, as are the Parthenon and other buildings of Pentelic marble, or of a still warmer brown, as are the limestone temples of Paestum and Girgenti (Acragas). But this uniformity of tint is due only to time. A “White City,” such as made the pride of Chicago in 1893, would have been unimaginable to an ancient Greek. Even to-day the attentive observer may sometimes see upon old Greek buildings, as, for example, upon ceiling-beams of the Parthenon, traces left by patterns from which the color has vanished. In other instances remains of actual color exist. So specks of blue paint may still be seen, or might a few years ago, on blocks belonging to the Athenian Propylaea. But our most abundant evidence for the original use of color comes from architectural fragments recently unearthed. During the excavation of Olympia (1875-81) this matter of the coloring of architecture was constantly in mind and a large body of facts relating to it was accumulated. Every new and important excavation adds to the store. At present our information is much fuller in regard to the polychromy of Doric than of Ionic buildings.
If it be asked what led the Greeks to a use of color so strange to us and, on first acquaintance, so little to our taste, it may be answered that possibly the example of their neighbors had something to do with it. The architecture of Egypt, of Mesopotamia, of Persia, was polychromatic. But probably the practice of the Greeks was in the main an inheritance from the early days of their own civilization. According to a well-supported theory, the Doric temple of the historical period is a translation into stone or marble of a primitive edifice whose walls were of sun-dried bricks and whose columns and entablature were of wood. Now it is natural and appropriate to paint wood; and we may suppose that the taste for a partially colored architecture was thus formed. This theory does not indeed explain everything. It does not, for example, explain why the columns or the architrave should be uncolored. In short, the Greek system of polychromy presents itself to us as a largely arbitrary system.
More interesting than the question of origin is the question of aesthetic effect. Was the Greek use of color in good taste? It is not easy to answer with a simple yes or no. Many of the attempts to represent the facts by restorations on paper have been crude and vulgar enough. On the other hand, some experiments in decorating modern buildings with color, in a fashion, to be sure, much less liberal than that of ancient Greece, have produced pleasing results. At present the question is rather one of faith than of sight; and most students of the subject have faith to believe that the appearance of a Greek temple in all its pomp of color was not only sumptuous, but harmonious and appropriate.
When we compare the architecture of Greece with that of other countries, we must be struck with the remarkable degree in which the former adhered to established usage, both in the general plan of a building and in the forms and proportions of each feature. Some measure of adherence to precedent is indeed implied in the very existence of an architectural style. What is meant is that the Greek measure was unusual, perhaps unparalleled. Yet the following of established canons was not pushed to a slavish extreme. A fine Greek temple could not be built according to a hard and fast rule. While the architect refrained from bold and lawless innovations, he yet had scope to exercise his genius. The differences between the Parthenon and any other contemporary Doric temple would seem slight, when regarded singly; but the preeminent perfection of the Parthenon lay in just those skilfully calculated differences
A Greek columnar building is extremely simple in form.[Footnote: The substance of this paragraph and the following is borrowed from Boutmy, “Philosophie de l’Architecture en Grece” (Paris, 1870)] The outlines of an ordinary temple are those of an oblong rectangular block surmounted by a triangular roof. With a qualification to be explained presently, all the lines of the building, except those of the roof, are either horizontal or perpendicular. The most complicated Greek columnar buildings known, the Erechtheum and the Propylaea of the Athenian Acropolis, are simplicity itself when compared to a Gothic cathedral, with its irregular plan, its towers, its wheel windows, its multitudinous diagonal lines.
The extreme simplicity which characterizes the general form of a Greek building extends also to its sculptured and painted ornaments. In the Doric style these are very sparingly used; and even the Ionic style, though more luxuriant, seems reserved in comparison with the wealth of ornamental detail in a Gothic cathedral. Moreover, the Greek ornaments are simple in character. Examine again the hawk’s-beak, the egg-and-dart, the leaf-and-dart, the astragal, the guilloche, the honeysuckle, the meander or fret. These are almost the only continuous patterns in use in Greek architecture. Each consists of a small number of elements recurring in unvarying order; a short section is enough to give the entire pattern. Contrast this with the string-course in the nave of the Cathedral of Amiens, where the motive of the design undergoes constant variation, no piece exactly duplicating its neighbor, or with the intricate interlacing patterns of Arabic decoration, and you will have a striking illustration of the Greek love for the finite and comprehensible.
When it was said just now that the main lines of a Greek temple are either horizontal or perpendicular, the statement called for qualification. The elevations of the most perfect of Doric buildings, the Parthenon, could not be drawn with a ruler. Some of the apparently straight lines are really curved. The stylobate is not level, but convex, the rise of the curve amounting to 1/450 of the length of the building; the architrave has also a rising curve, but slighter than that of the stylobate. Then again, many of the lines that would commonly be taken for vertical are in reality slightly inclined. The columns slope inward and so do the principal surfaces of the building, while the anta-capitals slope forward. These refinements, or some of them, have been observed in several other buildings. They are commonly regarded as designed to obviate certain optical illusions supposed to arise in their absence. But perhaps, as one writer has suggested, their principal office was to save the building from an appearance of mathematical rigidity, to give it something of the semblance of a living thing.
Be that as it may, these manifold subtle curves and sloping lines testify to the extraordinary nicety of Greek workmanship. A column of the Parthenon, with its inclination, its tapering, its entasis, and its fluting, could not have been constructed without the most conscientious skill. In fact, the capabilities of the workmen kept pace with the demands of the architects. No matter how delicate the adjustment to be made, the task was perfectly achieved. And when it came to the execution of ornamental details, these were wrought with a free hand and, in the best period, with fine artistic feeling. The wall-band of the Erechtheum is one of the most exquisite things which Greece has left us.
Simplicity in general form, harmony of proportion, refinement of line—these are the great features of Greek columnar architecture.
One other type of Greek building, into which the column does not enter, or enters only in a very subordinate way, remains to be mentioned—the theater. Theaters abounded in Greece. Every considerable city and many a smaller place had at least one, and the ruins of these structures rank with temples and walls of fortification among the commonest classes of ruins in Greek lands. But in a sketch of Greek art they may be rapidly dismissed. That part of the theater which was occupied by spectators—the auditorium, as we may call it—was commonly built into a natural slope, helped out by means of artificial embankments and supporting walls. There was no roof. The building, therefore, had no exterior, or none to speak of. Such beauty as it possessed was due mainly to its proportions. The theater at the sanctuary of Asclepius near Epidaurus, the work of the same architect who built the round building with the Corinthian columns referred to on page 103, was distinguished in ancient times for “harmony
Greek sculpture.—General considerations.
In the Mycenaean period, as we have seen, the art of sculpture had little existence, except for the making of small images and the decoration of small objects. We have now to take up the story of the rise of this art to an independent and commanding position, of its perfection and its subsequent decline. The beginner must not expect to find this story told with as much fulness and certainty as is possible in dealing with the art of the Renaissance or any more modern period. The impossibility of equal fulness and certainty here will become apparent when we consider what our materials for constructing a history of Greek sculpture are.
First, we have a quantity of notices, more or less relevant, in ancient Greek and Roman authors, chiefly of the time of the Roman Empire. These notices are of the most miscellaneous description. They come from writers of the most unlike tastes and the most unequal degrees of trustworthiness. They are generally very vague, leaving most that we want to know unsaid. And they have such a haphazard character that, when taken all together, they do not begin to cover the field. Nothing like all the works of the greater sculptors, let alone the lesser ones, are so much as mentioned by name in extant ancient literature.
Secondly, we have several hundreds of original inscriptions belonging to Greek works of sculpture and containing the names of the artists who made them. It was a common practice, in the case especially of independent statues in the round, for the sculptor to attach his signature, generally to the pedestal. Unfortunately, while great numbers of these inscribed pedestals have been preserved for us, it is very rarely that we have the statues which once belonged on them. Moreover, the artists’ names which we meet on the pedestals are in a large proportion of cases names not even mentioned by our literary sources. In fact, there is only one indisputable case where we possess both a statue and the pedestal belonging to it, the latter inscribed with the name of an artist known to us from literary tradition. (See pages 212-3.)
Thirdly, we have the actual remains of Greek sculpture, a constantly accumulating store, yet only an insignificant remnant of what once existed. These works have suffered sad disfigurement. Not one life-sized figure has reached us absolutely intact; but few have escaped serious mutilation. Most of those found before the beginning of this century, and some of those found since, have been subjected to a process known as “restoration.” Missing parts have been supplied, often in the most arbitrary and tasteless manner, and injured surfaces, e. g., of faces, have been polished, with irreparable damage as the result.
Again, it is important to recognize that the creations of Greek sculpture which have been preserved to us are partly original Greek works, partly copies executed in Roman times from Greek originals. Originals, and especially important originals, are scarce. The statues of gold and ivory have left not a vestige behind. Those of bronze, once numbered by thousands, went long ago, with few exceptions, into the melting-pot. Even sculptures in marble, though the material was less valuable, have been thrown into the lime-kiln or used as building stone or wantonly mutilated or ruined by neglect. There does not exist to-day a single certified original work by any one of the six greatest sculptors of Greece, except the Hermes of Praxiteles (see page 221). Copies are more plentiful. As nowadays many museums and private houses have on their walls copies of paintings by the “old masters,” so, and far more usually, the public and private buildings of imperial Rome and of many of the cities under her sway were adorned with copies of famous works by the sculptors of ancient Greece. Any piece of sculpture might thus be multiplied indefinitely; and so it happens that we often possess several copies, or even some dozens of copies, of one and the same original. Most of the masterpieces of Greek sculpture which are known to us at all are known only in this way.
The question therefore arises, How far are these copies to be trusted? It is impossible to answer in general terms. The instances are very few where we possess at once the original and a copy. The best case of the kind is afforded by Fig. 75, compared with Fig. 132. Here the head, fore-arms, and feet of the copy are modern and consequently do not enter into consideration. Limiting one’s attention to the antique parts of the figure, one sees that it is a tolerably close, and yet a hard and lifeless, imitation of the original. This gives us some measure of the degree of fidelity we may expect in favorable cases. Generally speaking, we have to form our estimate of the faithfulness of a copy by the quality of its workmanship and by a comparison of it with other copies, where such exist. Often we find two or more copies agreeing with one another as closely as possible. This shows—and the conclusion is confirmed by other evidence—that means existed in Roman times of reproducing statues
Any history of Greek sculpture attempts to piece together the several classes of evidence above described. It classifies the actual remains, seeking to assign to each piece its place and date of production and to infer from direct examination and comparison the progress of artistic methods and ideas. And this it does with constant reference to what literature and inscriptions have to tell us. But in the fragmentary state of our materials, it is evident that the whole subject must be beset with doubt. Great and steady progress has indeed been made since Winckelmann, the founder of the science of classical archaeology, produced the first “History of Ancient Art” (published in 1763); but twilight still reigns over many an important question. This general warning should be borne in mind in reading this or any other hand-book of the subject.
We may next take up the materials and the technical processes of Greek sculpture. These may be classified as follows:
(1) Wood. Wood was often, if not exclusively, used for the earliest Greek temple-images, those rude xoana, of which many survived into the historical period, to be regarded with peculiar veneration. We even hear of wooden statues made in the developed period of Greek art. But this was certainly exceptional. Wood plays no part worth mentioning in the fully developed sculpture of Greece, except as it entered into the making of gold and ivory statues or of the cheaper substitutes for these.
(2) Stone and marble. Various uncrystallized limestones were frequently used in the archaic period and here and there even in the fifth century. But white marble, in which Greece abounds, came also early into use, and its immense superiority to limestone for statuary purposes led to the abandonment of the latter. The choicest varieties of marble were the Parian and Pentelic (cf. page 77). Both of these were exported to every part of the Greek world.
A Greek marble statue or group is often not made of a single piece. Thus the Aphrodite of Melos (page 249) was made of two principal pieces, the junction coming just above the drapery, while several smaller parts, including the left arm, were made separately and attached. The Laocoon group (page 265), which Pliny expressly alleges to have been made of a single block, is in reality made of six. Often the head was made separately from the body, sometimes of a finer quality of marble, and then inserted into a socket prepared for it in the neck of the figure. And very often, when the statue was mainly of a single block, small pieces were attached, sometimes in considerable numbers. Of course the joining was done with extreme nicety, and would have escaped ordinary observation.
In the production of a modern piece of marble sculpture, the artist first makes a clay model and then a mere workman produces from this a marble copy. In the best period of Greek art, on the other hand, there seems to have been no mechanical copying of finished models. Preliminary drawings or even clay models, perhaps small, there must often have been to guide the eye; but the sculptor, instead of copying with the help of exact measurements, struck out freely, as genius and training inspired him. If he made a mistake, the result was not fatal, for he could repair his error by attaching a fresh piece of marble. Yet even so, the ability to work in this way implies marvelous precision of eye and hand. To this ability and this method we may ascribe something of the freedom, the vitality, and the impulsiveness of Greek marble sculpture—qualities which the mechanical method of production tends to destroy. Observe too that, while pediment-groups, metopes, friezes, and reliefs upon pedestals would often be executed by subordinates following the design of the principal artist, any important single statue or group in marble was in all probability chiseled by the very hand of the master.
Another fact of importance, a fact which few are able to keep constantly enough in their thoughts, is that Greek marble sculpture was always more or less painted. This is proved both by statements in ancient authors and by the fuller and more explicit evidence of numberless actual remains. (See especially pages 148, 247.) From these sources we learn that eyes, eyebrows, hair, and perhaps lips were regularly painted, and that draperies and other accessories were often painted in whole or in part. As regards the treatment of flesh the evidence is conflicting. Some instances are reported where the flesh of men was colored a reddish brown, as in the sculpture of Egypt. But the evidence seems to me to warrant the inference that this was unusual in marble sculpture. On the “Alexander” sarcophagus the nude flesh has been by some process toned down to an ivory tint, and this treatment may have been the rule, although most sculptures which retain remains of color show no trace of this. Observe that wherever color was applied, it was laid on in “flat” tints, i.e., not graded or shaded.
This polychromatic character of Greek marble sculpture is at variance with what we moderns have been accustomed to since the Renaissance. By practice and theory we have been taught that sculpture and painting are entirely distinct arts. And in the austere renunciation by sculpture of all color there has even been seen a special distinction, a claim to precedence in the hierarchy of the arts. The Greeks had no such idea. The sculpture of the older nations about them was polychromatic; their own early sculpture in wood and coarse stone was almost necessarily so; their architecture, with which sculpture was often associated, was so likewise. The coloring of marble sculpture, then, was a natural result of the influences by which that sculpture was molded. And, of course, the Greek eye took pleasure in the combination of form and color, and presumably would have found pure white figures like ours dull and cold. We are better circumstanced for judging Greek taste in this matter than in the matter of colored architecture, for we possess Greek sculptures which have kept their coloring almost intact. A sight of the “Alexander” sarcophagus, if it does not revolutionize our own taste, will at least dispel any fear that a Greek artist was capable of outraging beautiful form by a vulgarizing addition.
(3) Bronze. This material (an alloy of copper with tin and sometimes lead), always more expensive than marble, was the favorite material of some of the most eminent sculptors (Myron, Polyclitus, Lysippus) and for certain purposes was always preferred. The art of casting small, solid bronze images goes far back into the prehistoric period in Greece. At an early date, too (we cannot say how early), large bronze statues could be made of a number of separate pieces, shaped by the hammer and riveted together. Such a work was seen at Sparta by the traveler Pausanias, and was regarded by him as the most ancient existing statue in bronze. A great impulse must have been given to bronze sculpture by the introduction of the process of hollow-casting. Pausanias repeatedly attributes the invention of this process to Rhoecus and Theodorus, two Samian artists, who flourished apparently early in the sixth century. This may be substantially correct, but the process is much more likely to have been borrowed from Egypt than invented independently.
In producing a bronze statue it is necessary first to make an exact clay model. This done, the usual Greek practice seems to have been to dismember the model and take a casting of each part separately. The several bronze pieces were then carefully united by rivets or solder, and small defects were repaired by the insertion of quadrangular patches of bronze. The eye-sockets were always left hollow in the casting, and eyeballs of glass, metal, or other materials, imitating cornea and iris, were inserted. [Footnote: Marble statues also sometimes had inserted eyes] Finally, the whole was gone over with appropriate tools, the hair, for example, being furrowed with a sharp graver and thus receiving a peculiar, metallic definiteness of texture.
A hollow bronze statue being much lighter than one in marble and much less brittle, a sculptor could be much bolder in posing a figure of the former material than one of the latter. Hence when a Greek bronze statue was copied in marble in Roman times, a disfiguring support, not present in the original, had often to be added (cf. Figs, 101, 104, etc.). The existence of such a support in a marble work is, then, one reason among others for assuming a bronze original. Other indications pointing the same way are afforded by a peculiar sharpness of edge, e.g., of the eyelids and the eyebrows, and by the metallic treatment of the hair. These points are well illustrated by Fig. 76. Notice especially the curls, which in the original would have been made of separate strips of bronze, twisted and attached after the casting of the figure.
Bronze reliefs were not cast, but produced by hammering. This is what is called repousse work. These bronze reliefs were of small size, and were used for ornamenting helmets, cuirasses, mirrors, and so on.
(4) Gold and ivory. Chryselephantine statues, i.e., statues of gold and ivory, must, from the costliness of the materials, have been always comparatively rare. Most of them, though not all, were temple-images, and the most famous ones were of colossal size. We are very imperfectly informed as to how these figures were made. The colossal ones contained a strong framework of timbers and metal bars, over which was built a figure of wood. To this the gold and ivory were attached, ivory being used for flesh and gold for all other parts. The gold on the Athena of the Parthenon (cf. page 186) weighed a good deal over a ton. But costly as these works were, the admiration felt for them seems to have been untainted by any thought of that fact.
(5) Terra-cotta. This was used at all periods for small figures, a few inches high, immense numbers of which have been preserved to us. But large terra-cotta figures, such as were common in Etruria, were probably quite exceptional in Greece.
Greek sculpture may be classified, according to the purposes which it served, under the following heads:
(1) Architectural sculpture. A temple could hardly be considered complete unless it was adorned with more or less of sculpture. The chief place for such sculpture was in the pediments and especially in the principal or eastern pediment. Relief-sculpture might be applied to Doric metopes or an Ionic frieze. And finally, single statues or groups might be placed, as acroteria, upon the apex and lower corners of a pediment. Other sacred buildings besides temples might be similarly adorned. But we hear very little of sculpture on secular buildings.
(2) Cult-images. As a rule, every temple or shrine contained at least one statue of the divinity, or of each divinity, worshiped there.
(3) Votive sculptures. It was the habit of the Greeks to present to their divinities all sorts of objects in recognition of past favors or in hope of favors to come. Among these votive objects or ANATHEMETA works of sculpture occupied a large and important place. The subjects of such sculptures were various. Statues of the god or goddess to whom the dedication was made were common; but perhaps still commoner were figures representing human persons, either the dedicators themselves or others in whom they were nearly interested. Under this latter head fall most of the many statues of victors in the athletic games. These were set up in temple precincts, like that of Zeus at Olympia, that of Apollo at Delphi, or that of Athena on the Acropolis of Athens, and were, in theory at least, intended rather as thank-offerings than as means of glorifying the victors themselves.
(4) Sepulchral sculpture. Sculptured grave monuments were common in Greece at least as early as the sixth century. The most usual monument was a slab of marble—the form varying according to place and time—sculptured with an idealized representation in relief of the deceased person, often with members of his family.
(5) Honorary statues. Statues representing distinguished men, contemporary or otherwise, could be set up by state authority in secular places or in sanctuaries. The earliest known case of this kind is that of Harmodius and Aristogiton, shortly after 510 B.C. (cf. pages 160-4). The practice gradually became common, reaching an extravagant development in the period after Alexander.
(6) Sculpture used merely as ornament, and having no sacred or public character. This class belongs mainly, if not wholly, to the latest period of Greek art. It would be going beyond our evidence to say that never, in the great age of Greek sculpture, was a statue or a relief produced merely as an ornament for a private house or the interior of a secular building. But certain it is that the demand for such things before the time of Alexander, if it existed at all, was inconsiderable. It may be neglected in a broad survey of the conditions of artistic production in the great age.
The foregoing list, while not quite exhaustive, is sufficiently so for present purposes. It will be seen how inspiring and elevating was the role assigned to the sculptor in Greece. His work destined to be seen by intelligent and sympathetic multitudes, appealed, not to the coarser elements of their nature, but to the most serious and exalted. Hence Greek sculpture of the best period is always pure and noble. The grosser aspects of Greek life, which flaunt themselves shamelessly in Attic comedy, as in some of the designs upon Attic vases, do not invade the province of this art.
It may be proper here to say a word in explanation of that frank and innocent nudity which is so characteristic a trait of the best Greek art. The Greek admiration for the masculine body and the willingness to display it were closely bound up with the extraordinary importance in Greece of gymnastic exercises and contests and with the habits which these engendered. As early as the seventh century, if not earlier, the competitors in the foot-race at Olympia dispensed with the loin-cloth, which had previously been the sole covering worn. In other Olympic contests the example thus set was not followed till some time later, but in the gymnastic exercises of every-day life the same custom must have early prevailed. Thus in contrast to primitive Greek feeling and to the feeling of “barbarians” generally, the exhibition by men among men of the naked body came to be regarded as something altogether honorable. There could not be better evidence of this than the fact that the archer-god, Apollo, the purest god in the Greek pantheon, does not deign in Greek art to veil the glory of his form.
Greek sculpture had a strongly idealizing bent. Gods and goddesses were conceived in the likeness of human beings, but human beings freed from eery blemish, made august and beautiful by the artistic imagination. The subjects of architectural sculpture were mainly mythological, historical scenes being very rare in purely Greek work; and these legendary themes offered little temptation to a literal copying of every-day life. But what is most noteworthy is that even in the representation of actual human persons, e.g., in athlete statues and upon grave monuments, Greek sculpture in the best period seems not to have even aimed at exact portraiture. The development of realistic portraiture belongs mainly to the age of Alexander and his successors.
Mr. Ruskin goes so far as to say that a Greek “never expresses personal character,” and “never expresses momentary passion.” [Footnote: “Aratra Pentelici,” Lecture VI, Section 191, 193.] These are reckless verdicts, needing much qualification. For the art of the fourth century they will not do at all, much less for the later period. But they may be of use if they lead us to note the preference for the typical and permanent with which Greek sculpture begins, and the very gradual way in which it progresses toward the expression of the individual and transient. However, even in the best period the most that we have any right to speak of is a prevailing tendency. Greek art was at all times very much alive, and the student must be prepared to find exceptions to any formula that can be laid down.
The archaic period of Greek sculpture. First half: 625 (?)-550 B.C.
The date above suggested for the beginning of the period with which we have first to deal must not be regarded as making any pretense to exactitude. We have no means of assigning a definite date to any of the most primitive-looking pieces of Greek sculpture. All that can be said is that works which can be confidently dated about the middle of the sixth century show such a degree of advancement as implies more than half a century of development since the first rude beginnings.
Tradition and the more copious evidence of actual remains teach us that these early attempts at sculpture in stone or marble were not confined to any one spot or narrow region. On the contrary, the centers of artistic activity were numerous and widely diffused— the islands of Crete, Paros, and Naxos; the Ionic cities of Asia Minor and the adjacent islands of Chios and Samos; in Greece proper, Boeotia, Attica, Argolis, Arcadia, Laconia; in Sicily, the Greek colony Selinus; and doubtless many others. It is very difficult to make out how far these different spots were independent of one another; how far, in other words, we have a right to speak of local “schools” of sculpture. Certainly there was from the first a good deal of action and reaction between some of these places, and one chief problem of the subject is to discover the really originative centers of artistic impulse, and to trace the spread of artistic types and styles and methods from place to place. Instead of attempting here to discuss or decide this difficult question, it will be better simply to pass in review a few typical works of the early archaic period from various sites.
The first place may be given to a marble image (Fig. 77) found in 1878 on the island of Delos, that ancient center of Apolline worship for the Ionians. On the left side of the figure is engraved in early Greek characters a metrical inscription, recording that the statue was dedicated to Artemis by one Nicandra of Naxos. Whether it was intended to represent the goddess Artemis or the woman Nicandra, we cannot tell; nor is the question of much importance to us. We have here an extremely rude attempt to represent a draped female form. The figure stands stiffly erect, the feet close together, the arms hanging straight down, the face looking directly forward. The garment envelops the body like a close-fitting sheath, without a suggestion of folds. The trunk of the body is flat or nearly so at the back, while in front the prominence of the breasts is suggested by the simple device of two planes, an upper and a lower, meeting at an angle. The shapeless arms were not detached from the sides, except just at the waist. Below the girdle the body is bounded by parallel planes in front and behind and is rounded off at the sides. A short projection at the bottom, slightly rounded and partly divided, does duty for the feet. The features of the face are too much battered to be commented upon. The most of the hair falls in a rough mass upon the back, but on either side a bunch, divided by grooves into four locks, detaches itself and is brought forward upon the breast. This primitive image is not an isolated specimen of its type. Several similar figures or fragments of figures have been found on the island of Delos, in Boeotia, and elsewhere. A small statuette of this type, found at Olympia, but probably produced at Sparta, has its ugly face tolerably preserved.
Another series of figures, much more numerously represented, gives us the corresponding type of male figure. One of the earliest examples of this series is shown in Fig. 78, a life-sized statue of Naxian marble, found on the island of Thera in 1836. The figure is completely nude. The attitude is like that of the female type just described, except that the left foot is advanced. Other statues, agreeing with this one in attitude, but showing various stages of development, have been found in many places, from Samos on the east to Actium on the west. Several features of this class of figures have been thought to betray Egyptian influence. [Footnote: See Wolters’s edition of Friederichs’s “Gipsabgusse antiker Bildwerke,” pages 11 12.] The rigid position might be adopted independently by primitive sculpture anywhere. But the fact that the left leg is invariably advanced, the narrowness of the hips, and the too high position frequently given to the ears— did this group of coincidences with the stereotyped Egyptian standing figures come about without imitation? There is no historical difficulty in the way of assuming Egyptian influence, for as early as the seventh century Greeks certainly visited Egypt and it was perhaps in this century that the Greek colony of Naucratis was founded in the delta of the Nile. Here was a chance for Greeks to see Egyptian statues; and besides, Egyptian statuettes may have reached Greek shores in the way of commerce. But be the truth about this question what it may, the early Greek sculptors were as far as possible from slavishly imitating a fixed prototype. They used their own eyes and strove, each in his own way, to render what they saw. This is evident, when the different examples of the class of figures now under discussion are passed in review.
Our figure from Thera is hardly more than a first attempt. There is very little of anatomical detail, and what there is is not correct; especially the form and the muscles of the abdomen are not understood. The head presents a number of characteristics which were destined long to persist in Greek sculpture. Such are the protuberant eyeballs, the prominent cheek-bones, the square, protruding chin. Such, too, is the formation of the mouth, with its slightly upturned corners—a feature almost, though not quite, universal in Greek faces for more than a century. This is the sculptor’s childlike way of imparting a look of cheerfulness to the countenance, and with it often goes an upward slant of the eyes from the inner to the outer corners. In representing this youth as wearing long hair, the sculptor followed the actual fashion of the times, a fashion not abandoned till the fifth century and in Sparta not till later. The appearance of the hair over the forehead and temples should be noticed. It is arranged symmetrically in flat spiral curls, five curls on each side. Symmetry in the disposition of the front hair is constant in early Greek sculpture, and some scheme or other of spiral curls is extremely common.
It was at one time thought that these nude standing figures all represented Apollo. It is now certain that Apollo was sometimes intended, but equally certain that the same type was used for men. Greek sculpture had not yet learned to differentiate divine from human beings The so-called “Apollo” of Tenea (Fig. 79), probably in reality a grave-statue representing the deceased, was found on the site of the ancient Tenea, a village in the territory of Corinth. It is unusually well preserved, there being nothing missing except the middle portion of the right arm, which has been restored. This figure shows great improvement over his fellow from Thera. The rigid attitude, to be sure, is preserved unchanged, save for a slight bending of the arms at the elbows; and we meet again the prominent eyes, cheek-bones, and chin, and the smiling mouth. But the arms are much more detached from the sides and the modeling of the figure generally is much more detailed. There are still faults in plenty, but some parts are rendered very well, particularly the lower legs and feet, and the figure seems alive. The position of the feet, flat upon the ground and parallel to one another, shows us how to complete in imagination the “Apollo” of Thera and other mutilated members of the series. Greek sculpture even in its earliest period could not limit itself to single standing figures. The desire to adorn the pediments of temples and temple-like buildings gave use to more complex compositions. The earliest pediment sculptures known were found on the Acropolis of Athens in the excavations of 1885-90 (see page 147) The most primitive of these is a low relief of soft poros (see page 78), representing Heracles slaying the many-headed hydra. Somewhat later, but still very rude, is the group shown in Fig. 80, which once occupied the right-hand half of a pediment. The material here is a harder sort of poros, and the figures are practically in the round, though on account of the connection with the background the work has to be classed as high relief. We see a triple monster, or rather three monsters, with human heads and trunks and arms the human bodies passing into long snaky bodies coiled together. A single pair of wings was divided between the two outermost of the three beings, while snakes’ heads, growing out of the human bodies, rendered the aspect of the group still more portentous. The center of the pediment was probably occupied by a figure of Zeus, hurling his thunderbolt at this strange enemy. We have therefore here a scene from one of the favorite subjects of Greek art at all periods—the gigantomachy, or battle of gods and giants. Fig. 81 gives a better idea of the nearest of the three heads. [Footnote: It is doubtful whether this head belongs where it is placed in Fig 80, or in another pediment-group, of which fragments have been found.] It was completely covered with a crust of paint, still pretty well preserved. The flesh was red; the hair, moustache, and beard, blue; the irises of the eyes, green; the eyebrows, edges of the eyelids, and pupils, black. A considerable quantity of early poros sculptures was found on the Athenian Acropolis. These were all liberally painted. The poor quality of the material was thus largely or wholly concealed.
Fig. 82 shows another Athenian work, found on the Acropolis in 1864-65. It is of marble and is obviously of later date than the poros sculptures. In 1887 the pedestal of this statue was found, with a part of the right foot. An inscription on the pedestal shows that the statue was dedicated to some divinity, doubtless Athena, whose precinct the Acropolis was. The figure then probably represents the dedicator, bringing a calf for sacrifice. The position of the body and legs is here the same as in the “Apollo” figures, but the subject has compelled the sculptor to vary the position of the arms. Another difference from the “Apollo” figures lies in the fact that this statue is not wholly naked. The garment, however, is hard to make out, for it clings closely to the person of the wearer and betrays its existence only along the edges. The sculptor had not yet learned to represent the folds of drapery
The British Museum possesses a series of ten seated figures of Parian marble, which were once ranged along the approach to an important temple of Apollo near Miletus. Fig. 83 shows three of these. They are placed in their assumed chronological order, the earliest furthest off. Only the first two belong in the period now under review. The figures are heavy and lumpish, and are enveloped, men and women alike, in draperies, which leave only the heads, the fore-arms, and the toes exposed. It is interesting to see the successive sculptors attacking the problem of rendering the folds of loose garments. Not until we reach the latest of the three statues do we find any depth given to the folds, and that figure belongs distinctly in the latter half of the archaic period.
Transporting ourselves now from the eastern to the western confines of Greek civilization, we may take a look at a sculptured metope from Selinus in Sicily (Fig. 84). That city was founded, according to our best ancient authority, about the year 629 B.C., and the temple from which our metope is taken is certainly one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of the many temples of the place. The material of the metope, as of the whole temple, is a local poros, and the work is executed in high relief. The subject is Perseus cutting off the head of Medusa. The Gorgon is trying to run away—the position given to her legs is used in early Greek sculpture and vase-painting to signify rapid motion—but is overtaken by her pursuer. From the blood of Medusa sprang, according to the legend, the winged horse, Pegasus; and the artist, wishing to tell as much of the story as possible, has introduced Pegasus into his composition, but has been forced to reduce him to miniature size. The goddess Athena, the protectress of Perseus, occupies what remains of the field. There is no need of dwelling in words on the ugliness of this relief, an ugliness only in part accounted for by the subject. The student should note that the body of each of the three figures is seen from the front, while the legs
Fig. 85 takes us back again to the island of Delos, where the statue came to light in 1877. It is of Parian marble, and is considerably less than life-sized. A female figure is here represented, the body unnaturally twisted at the hips, as in the Selinus metopes, the legs bent in the attitude of rapid motion. At the back there were wings, of which only the stumps now remain. A comparison of this statue with similar figures from the Athenian Acropolis has shown that the feet did not touch the pedestal, the drapery serving as a support. The intention of the artist, then, was to represent a flying figure, probably a Victory. The goddess is dressed in a chiton (shift), which shows no trace of folds above the girdle, while below the girdle, between the legs, there is a series of flat, shallow ridges. The face shows the usual archaic features—the prominent eyeballs, cheeks, and chin, and the smiling mouth. The hair is represented as fastened by a sort of hoop, into which metallic ornaments, now lost, were inserted. As usual, the main mass of the hair falls straight behind, and several locks, the same number on each side, are brought forward upon the breast. As usual, too, the front hair is disposed symmetrically; in this case, a smaller and a larger flat curl on each side of the middle of the forehead are succeeded by a continuous tress of hair arranged in five scallops.
If, as has been generally thought, this statue belongs on an inscribed pedestal which was found near it, then we have before us the work of one Archermus of Chios, known to us from literary tradition as the first sculptor to represent Victory with wings. At all events, this, if a Victory, is the earliest that we know. She awakens our interest, less for what she is in herself than because she is the forerunner of the magnificent Victories of developed Greek art.
Thus far we have not met a single work to which it is possible to assign a precise date. We have now the satisfaction of finding a chronological landmark in our path. This is afforded by some fragments of sculpture belonging to the old Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. The date of this temple is approximately fixed by the statement of Herodotus (I, 92) that most of its columns were picsented by Croesus, king of
The archaic period of Greek sculpture second half 550-480 B.C.
Greek sculpture now enters upon a stage of development which possesses for the modern student a singular and potent charm True, many traces still remain of the sculptor’s imperfect mastery. He cannot pose his figures in perfectly easy attitudes not even in reliefs, where the problem is easier than in sculpture in the round. His knowledge of human anatomy—that is to say, of the outward appearance of the human body, which is all the artistic anatomy that any one attempted to know during the rise and the great age of Greek sculpture—is still defective, and his means of expression are still imperfect. For example, in the nude male figure the hips continue to be too narrow for the shoulders, and the abdomen too flat. The facial peculiarities mentioned in the preceding chapter—prominent eyeballs, cheeks, and chin, and smiling mouth—are only very gradually modified. As from the first, the upper eyelid does not overlap the lower eyelid at the outer corner, as truth, or rather appearance, requires, and in relief sculpture the eye of a face in profile is rendered as in front view. The texture and arrangement of hair are expressed in various ways but always with a marked love of symmetry and
But whatever shortcomings in technical perfection may be laid to their charge, the works of this period are full of the indefinable fascination of promise. They are marked, moreover, by a simplicity and sincerity of purpose, an absence of all ostentation, a conscientious and loving devotion on the part of those who made them. And in many of them we are touched by great refinement and tenderness of feeling, and a peculiarly Greek grace of line.
To illustrate these remarks we may turn first to Lycia, in southwestern Asia Minor. The so called “Harpy” tomb was a huge, four sided pillar of stone, in the upper part of which a square burial-chamber was hollowed out. Marble bas-reliefs adorned the exterior of this chamber The best of the four slabs is seen in Fig 87 [Footnote: Our illustration is not quite complete on the right] At the right is a seated female figure, divinity or deceased woman, who holds in her right hand a pomegranate flower and in her left a pomegranate fruit To her approach three women, the first raising the lower part of her chiton with her right hand and drawing forward her outer garment with her left, the second bringing a fruit and a flower the third holding an egg in her right hand and raising her chiton with her left. Then comes the opening into the burial-chamber, surmounted by a diminutive cow suckling her calf. At the left is another seated female figure, holding a bowl for libation. The exact significance of this scene is unknown, and we may limit our attention to its artistic qualities. We have here our first opportunity of observing the principle of isocephaly in Greek relief-sculpture; i.e., the convention whereby the heads of figures in an extended composition are ranged on nearly the same level, no matter whether the figures are seated, standing, mounted on horseback, or placed in any other position. The main purpose of this convention doubtless was to avoid the unpleasing blank spaces which would result if the figures were all of the same proportions. In the present instance there may be the further desire to suggest by the greater size of the seated figures their greater dignity as goddesses or divinized human beings. Note, again,
Under the tyrant Pisistratus and his sons Athens attained to an importance in the world of art which it had not enjoyed before. A fine Attic work, which we may probably attribute to the time of Pisistratus, is the grave-monument of Aristion (Fig. 88). The material is Pentelic marble. The form of the monument, a tall, narrow, slightly tapering slab or stele, is the usual one in Attica in this period. The man represented in low relief is, of course, Aristion himself. He had probably fallen in battle, and so is put before us armed. Over a short chiton he wears a leather cuirass with a double row of flaps below, on his head is a small helmet, which leaves his face entirely exposed, on his legs are greaves; and in his left hand he holds a spear There is some constraint in the position of the left arm and hand, due to the limitations of space In general, the anatomy, so far as exhibited is creditable, though fault might be found with the shape of the thighs The hair, much shorter than is usual in the archaic period, is arranged in careful curls The beard, trimmed to a point in front, is rendered by parallel grooves The chiton, where it shows from under the cuirass, is arranged in symmetrical plaits There are considerable traces of color on the relief, as well as on the background Some of these may be seen in our illustration on the cuirass.
Our knowledge of early Attic sculpture has been immensely increased by the thorough exploration of the summit of the Athenian Acropolis in 1885-90 In regard to these important excavations it must be remembered that in 480 and again in 479 the Acropolis was occupied by Persians belonging to Xerxes’ invading army, who reduced the buildings and sculptures on that site to a heap of fire-blackened ruins This debris was used by the Athenians in the generation immediately following toward raising the general level of the summit of the Acropolis. All this material, after having been buried for some twenty three and a half centuries, has now been recovered. In the light of the newly found remains, which include numerous inscribed pedestals, it is seen that under the rule of Pisistratus and his sons Athens attracted to itself talented sculptors from other Greek communities, notably from Chios and Ionia generally. It is to Ionian sculptors and to Athenian sculptors brought under Ionian influences that we must attribute almost all those standing female figures which form the chief part of the new treasures of the Acropolis Museum.
The figures of this type stand with the left foot, as a rule, a little advanced, the body and head facing directly forward with primitive stiffness. But the arms no longer hang straight at the sides, one of them, regularly the right, being extended from the elbow, while the other holds up the voluminous drapery. Many of the statues retain copious traces of color on hair, eyebrows, eyes, draperies, and ornaments; in no case does the flesh give any evidence of having been painted (cf. page 119). Fig. 89 is taken from an illustration which gives the color as it was when the statue was first found, before it had suffered from exposure. Fig. 90 is not in itself one of the most pleasing of the series, but it has a special interest, not merely on account of its exceptionally large size—it is over six and a half feet high—but because we probably know the name and something more of its sculptor. If, as seems altogether likely, the statue belongs upon the inscribed pedestal upon which it is placed in the illustration, then we have before us an original work of that Antenor who was commissioned by the Athenian people, soon after the expulsion of the tyrant Hippias and his family in 510, to make a group in bronze of Harmodius and Aristogiton (cf. pages 160-4) This statue might, of course, be one of his earlier productions.
At first sight these figures strike many untrained observers as simply grotesque. Some of them are indeed odd; Fig. 91 reproduces one which is especially so. But they soon become absorbingly interesting and then delightful. The strange-looking, puzzling garments, [Footnote: Fig 91 wears only one garment the Ionic chiton, a long; linen shift, girded at the waist and pulled up so as to fall over conceal the girdle. Figs 89, 90, 92 93 wear over this a second garment which goes over the right shoulder and under the left This over-garment reaches to the feet, so as to conceal the lower portion of the chiton At the top it is folded over, or perhaps rather another piece of cloth is sewed on. This over-fold, if it may be so called, appears as if cut with two or more long points below] which cling to the figure behind and fall in formal folds in front, the elaborately, often impossibly, arranged hair, the gracious countenances, a certain quaintness and refinement and unconsciousness of self—these things exercise over us an endless fascination.
Who are these mysterious beings? We do not know. There are those who would see in them, or in some of them, representations of Athena, who was not only a martial goddess, but also patroness of spinning and weaving and all cunning handiwork. To others, including the writer, they seem, in their manifold variety, to be daughters of Athens. But, if so, what especial claim these women had to be set up in effigy upon Athena’s holy hill is an unsolved riddle.
Before parting from their company we must not fail to look at two fragmentary figures (Figs. 94, 95), the most advanced in style of the whole series and doubtless executed shortly before 480. In the former, presumably the earlier of the two, the marvelous arrangement of the hair over the forehead survives and the eyeballs still protrude unpleasantly. But the mouth has lost the conventional smile and the modeling of the face is of great beauty. In the other, alone of the series, the hair presents a fairly natural appearance, the eyeballs lie at their proper depth, and the beautiful curve of the neck is not masked by the locks that fall upon the breasts. In this head, too, the mouth actually droops at the corners, giving a perhaps unintended look of seriousness to the face. The ear, though set rather high, is exquisitely shaped.
Still more lovely than this lady is the youth’s head shown in Fig. 96. Fate has robbed us of the body to which it belonged, but the head itself is in an excellent state of preservation. The face is one of singular purity and sweetness. The hair, once of a golden tint, is long behind and is gathered into two braids, which start from just behind the ears, cross one another, and are fastened together in front; the short front hair is combed forward and conceals the ends of the braids; and there is a mysterious puff in front of each ear. In the whole work, so far at least as appears in a profile view, there is nothing to mar our pleasure. The sculptor’s hand has responded cunningly to his beautiful thought.
It is a pity not to be able to illustrate another group of Attic sculptures of the late archaic period, the most recent addition to our store. The metopes of the Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi, discovered during the excavations now in progress, are of extraordinary interest and importance; but only two or three of them have yet been published, and these in a form not suited for reproduction. The same is the case with another of the recent finds at Delphi, the sculptured frieze of the Treasury of the Cnidians, already famous among professional students and destined to be known and admired by a wider public. Here, however, it is possible to submit a single fragment, which was found years ago (Fig. 97). It represents a four-horse chariot approaching an altar. The newly found pieces of this frieze have abundant remains of color. The work probably belongs in the last quarter of the sixth century.
The pediment-figures from Aegina, the chief treasure of the Munich collection of ancient sculpture, were found in 1811 by a party of scientific explorers and were restored in Italy under the superintendence of the Danish sculptor, Thorwaldsen. Until lately these AEginetan figures were our only important group of late archaic Greek sculptures; and, though that is no longer the case, they still retain, and will always retain, an especial interest and significance. They once filled the pediments of a Doric temple of
The group in the eastern pediment corresponds closely in subject and composition to that in the western, but is of a distinctly more advanced style. Only five figures of this group were sufficiently preserved to be restored. Of these perhaps the most admirable is the dying warrior from the southern corner of the pediment (Fig. 99), in which the only considerable modern part is the right leg, from the middle of the thigh. The superiority of this and its companion figures to those of the western pediment lies, as the Munich catalogue points out, in the juster proportions of body, arms, and legs, the greater fulness of the muscles, the more careful attention to the veins and to the qualities of the skin, the more natural position of eyes and mouth. This dying man does not smile meaninglessly. His lips are parted, and there is a suggestion of death-agony on his countenance. In both pediments the figures are carefully finished all round; there is no neglect, or none worth mentioning, of those parts which were destined to be invisible so long as the figures were in position.
The Strangford “Apollo” (Fig. 100) is of uncertain provenience, but is nearly related in style to the marbles of Aegina. This statue, by the position of body, legs, and head, belongs to the series of “Apollo” figures discussed above (pages 129-32); but the arms were no longer attached to the sides, and were probably bent at the elbows. The most obvious traces of a lingering archaism, besides the rigidity of the attitude, are the narrowness of the hips and the formal arrangement of the hair, with its double row of snail-shell curls. The statue has been spoken of by a high authority [Footnote: Newton, “Essays on Art and Archaeology” page 81.] as showing only “a meager and painful rendering of nature.” That is one way of looking at it. But there is another way, which has been finely expressed by Pater, in an essay on “The Marbles of Aegina”: “As art which has passed its prime has sometimes the charm of an absolute refinement in taste and workmanship, so immature art also, as we now see, has its own attractiveness in the naivete, the freshness of spirit, which finds power and interest in simple motives of feeling, and in the freshness of hand, which has a sense of enjoyment in mechanical processes still performed unmechanically, in the spending of care and intelligence on every touch. ... The workman is at work in dry earnestness, with a sort of hard strength of detail, a scrupulousness verging on stiffness, like that of an early Flemish painter; he communicates to us his still youthful sense of pleasure in the experience of the first rudimentary difficulties of his art overcome.” [Footnote: Pater, “Greek Studies” page 285]
The transitional period of Greek sculpture. 480-450 B. C.
The term “Transitional period” is rather meaningless in itself, but has acquired considerable currency as denoting that stage in the history of Greek art in which the last steps were taken toward perfect freedom of style. It is convenient to reckon this period as extending from the year of the Persian invasion of Greece under Xerxes to the middle of the century. In the artistic as in the political history of this generation Athens held a position of commanding importance, while Sparta, the political rival of Athens, was as barren of art as of literature. The other principal artistic center was Argos, whose school of sculpture had been and was destined long to be widely influential. As for other local schools, the question of their centers and mutual relations is too perplexing and uncertain to be here discussed.
In the two preceding chapters we studied only original works, but from this time on we shall have to pay a good deal of attention to copies (cf. pages 114-16). We begin with two statues in Naples (Fig. 101). The story of this group—for the two statues were designed as a group—is interesting. The two friends, Harmodius and Aristogiton, who in 514 had formed a conspiracy to rid Athens of her tyrants, but who had succeeded only in killing one of them, came to be regarded after the expulsion of the remaining tyrant and his family in 510 as the liberators of the city. Their statues in bronze, the work of Antenor, were set up on a terrace above the market-place (cf. pages 124, 149). In 480 this group was carried off to Persia by Xerxes and there it remained for a hundred and fifty years or more when it was restored to Athens by Alexander the Great or one of his successors. Athens however had as promptly as possible repaired her loss. Critius and Nesiotes, two sculptors who worked habitually in partnership, were commissioned to make a second group, and this was set up in 477-6 on the same terrace where the first had been After the restoration of Antenor’s statues toward the end of the fourth century the two groups stood side by side.
It was argued by a German archaeologist more than a generation ago that the two marble statues shown in Fig. 101 are copied from one of these bronze groups, and this identification has been all but universally accepted. The proof may be stated briefly, as follows. First several Athenian objects of various dates, from the fifth century B.C. onward, bear a design to which the Naples statues clearly correspond One of these is a relief on a marble throne formerly in Athens. Our illustration of this (Fig. 102) is taken from a “squeeze,” or wet paper impression. This must then, have been an important group in Athens. Secondly, the style of the Naples statues points to a bronze original of the early fifth century. Thirdly, the attitudes of the figures are suitable for Harmodius and Aristogiton, and we do not know of any other group of that period for which they are suitable. This proof, though not quite as complete as we should like, is as good as we generally get in these matters. The only question that remains in serious doubt is whether our copies go back to the work of Antenor or to that of Critius and Nesiotes. Opinions have been much divided on this point but the prevailing tendency now is to connect them with the later artists. That is the view here adopted
In studying the two statues it is important to recognize the work of the modern “restorer.” The figure of Aristogiton (the one on your left as you face the group) having been found in a headless condition, the restorer provided it with a head, which is antique, to be sure, but which is outrageously out of keeping, being of the style of a century later. The chief modern portions are the left hand of Aristogiton and the arms, right leg, and lower part of the left
When these changes are made, the group cannot fail to command our admiration. It would be a mistake to fix our attention exclusively on the head of Harmodius. Seen in front view, the face, with its low forehead and heavy chin, looks dull, if not ignoble. But the bodies! In complete disregard of historic truth, the two men are represented in a state of ideal nudity, like the Aeginetan figures. The anatomy is carefully studied, the attitudes lifelike and vigorous. Finally, the composition is fairly successful. This is the earliest example preserved to us of a group of sculpture other than a pediment-group. The interlocking of the figures is not yet so close as it was destined to be in many a more advanced piece of Greek statuary. But already the figures are not merely juxtaposed; they share in a common action, and each is needed to complete the other.
Of about the same date, it would seem, or not much later, must have been a lost bronze statue, whose fame is attested by the existence of several marble copies. The best of these was found in 1862, in the course of excavating the great theater on the southern slope of the Athenian Acropolis (Fig. 103). The naming of this figure is doubtful. It has been commonly taken for Apollo, while another view sees in it a pugilist. Recently the suggestion has been thrown out that it is Heracles. Be that as it may, the figure is a fine example of youthful strength and beauty. In pose it shows a decided advance upon the Strangford “Apollo” (Fig. 100). The left leg is still slightly advanced, and both feet were planted flat on the ground; but more than half the weight of the body is thrown upon the right leg, with the result of giving a slight curve to the trunk, and the head is turned to one side. The upper part of the body is very powerful, the shoulders broad and held well back, the chest prominently developed. The face, in spite of its injuries, is one of singular refinement and sweetness. The long hair is arranged in two braids, as in Fig. 96, the only difference being that here the braids pass over instead of under the fringe of front hair. The rendering of the hair is in a freer style than in the case just cited, but of this difference a part may be chargeable to the copyist. Altogether we see here the stamp of an artistic manner very different from that of Critius and Nesiotes. Possibly, as some have conjectured, it is the manner of Calamis, an Attic sculptor of this period, whose eminence at any rate entitles him to a passing mention. But even the Attic origin of this statue is in dispute.
We now reach a name of commanding importance, and one with which we are fortunately able to associate some definite ideas. It is the name of Myron of Athens, who ranks among the six most illustrious sculptors of Greece. It is worth remarking, as an illustration of the scantiness of our knowledge regarding the lives of Greek artists, that Myron’s name is not so much as mentioned in extant literature before the third century B.C. Except for a precise, but certainly false, notice in Pliny, who represents him as flourishing in 420-416, our literary sources yield only vague indications as to his date. These indications, such as they are, point to the “Transitional period.” This inference is strengthened by the recent discovery on the Athenian Acropolis of a pair of pedestals inscribed with the name of Myron’s son and probably datable about 446. Finally, the argument is clinched by the style of Myron’s most certainly identifiable work.
Pliny makes Myron the pupil of an influential Argive master, Ageladas, who belongs in the late archaic period. Whether or not such a relation actually existed, the statement is useful as a reminder of the probability that Argos and Athens were artistically in touch with one another. Beyond this, we get no direct testimony as to the circumstances of Myron’s life. We can only infer that his genius was widely recognized in his lifetime, seeing that commissions came to him, not from Athens only, but also from other cities of Greece proper, as well as from distant Samos and Ephesus. His chief material was bronze, and colossal figures of gold and ivory are also ascribed to him. So far as we know, he did not work in marble at all. His range of subjects included divinities, heroes, men, and animals. Of no work of his do we hear so often or in terms of such high praise as of a certain figure of a cow, which stood on or near the Athenian Acropolis. A large number of athlete statues from his hand were to be seen at Olympia, Delphi, and perhaps elsewhere, and this side of his activity was certainly an important one. Perhaps it is a mere accident that we hear less of his statues of divinities and heroes.
The starting point in any study of Myron must be his Discobolus (Discus-thrower). Fig. 104 reproduces the best copy. This statue was found in Rome in 1781, and is in an unusually good state of preservation. The head has never been broken from the body; the right arm has been broken off, but is substantially antique; and the only considerable restoration is the right leg from the knee to the ankle. The two other most important copies were found together in 1791 on the site of Hadrian’s villa at Tibur (Tivoli). One of these is now in the British Museum, the other in the Vatican; neither has its original head. A fourth copy of the body, a good deal disguised by “restoration,” exists in the Museum of the Capitol in Rome. There are also other copies of the head besides the one on the Lancellotti statue.
The proof that these statues and parts of statues were copied from Myron’s Discobolus depends principally upon a passage in Lucian (about 160 A. D.). [Footnote: Philopseudes, Section 18.] He gives a circumstantial description of the attitude of that work, or rather of a copy of it, and his description agrees point for point with the statues in question. This agreement is the more decisive because the attitude is a very remarkable one, no other known figure showing anything in the least resembling it. Moreover, the style of the Lancellotti statue points to a bronze original of the “Transitional period,” to which on historical grounds Myron is assigned.
Myron’s statue represented a young Greek who had been victorious in the pentathlon, or group of five contests (running, leaping, wrestling, throwing the spear, and hurling the discus), but we have no clue as to where in the Greek world it was set up. The attitude of the figure seems a strange one at first sight, but other ancient representations, as well as modern experiments, leave little room for doubt that the sculptor has truthfully caught one of the rapidly changing positions which the exercise involved. Having passed the discus from his left hand to his right, the athlete has swung the missile as far back as possible. In the next instant he will hurl it forward, at the same time, of course, advancing his left foot and recovering his erect position. Thus Myron has preferred to the comparatively easy task of representing the athlete at rest, bearing some symbol of victory, the far more difficult problem of exhibiting him in action. It would seem that he delighted in the expression of movement. So his Ladas, known to us only from two epigrams in the Anthology, represented a runner panting toward the goal; and others of his athlete statues may have been similarly conceived. His temple-images, on the other hand, must have been as composed in attitude as the Discobolus is energetic.
The face of the Discobolus is rather typical than individual. If this is not immediately obvious to the reader, the comparison of a closely allied head may make it clear. Of the numerous works which have been brought into relation with Myron by reason of their likeness to the Discobolus, none is so unmistakable as a fine bust in Florence (Fig. 105). The general form of the head, the rendering of the hair, the anatomy of the forehead, the form of the nose and the angle it makes with the forehead—these and other features noted by Professor Furtwangler are alike in the Discobolus and the Riccardi head. These detailed resemblances cannot be verified without the help of casts or at least of good photographs taken from different points of view; but the general impression of likeness will be felt convincing, even without analysis. Now these two works represent different persons, the Riccardi head being probably copied from the statue of some ideal hero. And the point to be especially illustrated is that in the
Another work of Myron has been plausibly recognized in a statue of a satyr in the Lateran Museum (Fig. 106). The evidence for this is too complex to be stated here. If the identification is correct, the Lateran statue is copied from the figure of Marsyas in a bronze group of Athena and Marsyas which stood on the Athenian Acropolis The goddess was represented s having just flung down in disdain a pair of flutes; the satyr, advancing on tiptoe, hesitates between cupidity and the fear of Athena’s displeasure. Marsyas has a lean and sinewy figure, coarse stiff hair and beard, a wrinkled forehead, a broad flat nose which makes a marked angle with the forehead, pointed ears (modern, but guaranteed by another copy of the head), and a short tail sprouting from the small of the back The arms, which were missing, have been incorrectly restored with castanets. The right should be held up, the left down, in a gesture of astonishment. In this work we see again Myron’s skill in suggesting movement. We get a lively impression of an advance suddenly checked and changed to a recoil.
Thus far in this chapter we have been dealing with copies Our stock of original works of this period, however, is not small; it consists, as usual, largely of architectural sculpture. Fig. 107 shows four metopes from a temple at Selinus. They represent (beginning at the left) Heracles in combat with an Amazon, Hera unveiling herself before Zeus, Actaeon torn by his dogs in the presence of Artemis, and Athena overcoming the giant Enceladus. These reliefs would repay the most careful study, but the sculptures of another temple have still stronger claims to attention.
Olympia was one of the two most important religious centers of the Greek world, the other being Delphi. Olympia was sacred to Zeus, and the great Doric temple of Zeus was thus the chief among the group of religious buildings there assembled. The erection of this temple probably falls in the years just preceding and following 460 B.C. A slight exploration carried on by the French in 1829 and the thorough excavation of the site by the Germans in 1875-81 brought to light extensive remains of its sculptured decoration. This consisted of two pediment groups and twelve sculptured metopes, besides the acroteria. In the eastern pediment the subject is the preparation for the chariot-race of Pelops and Oenomaus. The legend ran that Oenomaus,
Our illustrations, which give a few representative specimens of these sculptures, suggest some comments. To begin with, the workmanship here displayed is rapid and far from faultless. Unlike the Aeginetan pediment-figures and those of the Parthenon, these figures are left rough at the back. Moreover, even in the visible portions there are surprising evidences of carelessness, as in the portentously long left thigh of the Lapith in Fig. 112. It is, again, evidence of rapid, though not exactly of faulty, execution, that the hair is in a good many cases only blocked out, the form of the mass being given, but its texture not indicated (e.g., Fig. 111). In the pose of the standing figures (e.g., Fig. 108), with the weight borne about equally by both legs, we see a modified survival of the usual archaic attitude. A lingering archaism may be seen in other features too; very plainly, for example, in the arrangement of Apollo’s hair (Fig 110). The garments represent a thick woolen stuff, whose folds show very little pliancy. The drapery of Sterope (Fig. 108) should be especially noted, as it is a characteristic
Another interesting fact about these sculptures is a certain tendency toward realism. The figures and faces and attitudes of the Greeks, not to speak of the Centaurs, are not all entirely beautiful and noble. This is illustrated by Fig. 109, a bald-headed man, rather fat. Here is realism of a very mild type, to be sure, in comparison with what we are accustomed to nowadays; but the old men of the Parthenon frieze bear no disfiguring marks of age. Again, in the face of the young Lapith whose arm is being bitten by a Centaur (Fig. 112), there is a marked attempt to express physical pain; the features are more distorted than in any other fifth century sculpture, except representations of Centaurs or other inferior creatures. In the other heads of imperiled men and women in this pediment, e.g., in that of the bride (Fig. 111), the ideal calm of the features is overspread with only a faint shadow of distress.
Lest what has been said should suggest that the sculptors of the Olympia pediment-figures were indifferent to beauty, attention may be drawn again to the superb head of the Lapith bride. Apollo, too (Fig. 110), though not that radiant god whom a later age conceived and bodied forth, has an austere beauty which only a dull eye can fail to appreciate.
The twelve sculptured metopes of the temple do not belong to the exterior frieze, whose metopes were plain, but to a second frieze, placed above the columns and antae of pronaos and opisthodomos. Their subjects are the twelve labors of Heracles, beginning with the slaying of the Nemean lion and ending with the cleansing of the Augean stables. The one selected for illustration is one of the two or three best preserved members of the series (Fig. 113). Its subject is the winning of the golden apples which grew in the garden of the Hesperides, near the spot where Atlas stood, evermore supporting on his shoulders the weight of the heavens. Heracles prevailed upon Atlas to go and fetch the coveted treasure, himself meanwhile assuming the burden. The moment chosen by the sculptor is that of the return of Atlas with the apples. In the middle stands Heracles, with a cushion, folded double, upon his shoulders, the sphere of the heavens being barely suggested at the top of the relief. Behind him is his companion and protectress, Athena, once recognizable by a lance in her right hand. [Footnote: Such at least seems to be the view adopted in the latest official publication
Fig. 114 is added as a last example of the severe beauty to be found in these sculptures. It will be observed that the hair of this head is not worked out in detail, except at the front. This summary treatment of the hair is, in fact, more general in the metopes than in the pediment-figures. The upper eyelid does not yet overlap the under eyelid at the outer corner (cf. Fig. 110).
The two pediment-groups and the metopes of this temple show such close resemblances of style among themselves that they must all be regarded as products of a single school of sculpture, if not as designed by a single man. Pausanias says nothing of the authorship of the metopes; but he tells us that the sculptures of the eastern pediment were the work of Paeonius of Mende, an indisputable statue by whom is known (cf. page 213), and those of the western by Alcamenes, who appears elsewhere in literary tradition as a pupil of Phidias. On various grounds it seems almost certain that Pausanias was misinformed on this point. Thus we are left without trustworthy testimony as to the affiliations of the artist or artists to whom the sculptured decoration of this temple was intrusted.
The so-called Hestia (Vesta) which formerly belonged to the Giustiniani family (Fig. 115), has of late years been inaccessible even to professional students. It must be one of the very best preserved of ancient statues in marble, as it is not reported to have anything modern about it except the index finger of the left hand. This hand originally held a scepter. The statue represents some goddess, it is uncertain what one. In view of the likeness in the drapery to some of the Olympia figures, no one can doubt that this is a product of the same period.
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.
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.
The most famous works of Phidias were the two chryselephantine statues to which reference has just been made, and two or three other statues of the same materials were ascribed to him. He worked also in bronze and in marble. From a reference in Aristotle’s “Ethics” it might seem as if he were best known as a sculptor in marble, but only three statues by him are expressly recorded to have been of marble, against a larger number of bronze His subjects were chiefly divinities, we hear of only one or two figures of human beings from his hands.
Of the colossal Zeus at Olympia, the most august creation of Greek artistic imagination, we can form only an indistinct idea. The god was seated upon a throne, holding a figure of Victory upon one hand and a scepter in the other. The figure is represented on three Elean coins of the time of Hadrian (117-138 A.D.) but on too small a scale to help us much. Another coin of the same period gives a fine head of Zeus in profile (Fig. 117),[Footnote: A more truthful representation of this coin may be found in Gardner’s “Types of Greek Coins,” Pi XV 19] which is plausibly supposed to preserve some likeness to the head of Phidias’s statue.
In regard to the Athena of the Parthenon we are considerably better off, for we possess a number of marble statues which, with the aid of Pausanias’s description and by comparison with one another, can be proved to be copies of that work. But a warning is necessary here. The Athena, like the Zeus, was of colossal size. Its height, with the pedestal, was about thirty-eight feet. Now it is not likely that a really exact copy on a small scale could possibly have been made from such a statue, nor, if one had been made, would it have given the effect of the original. With this warning laid well to heart the reader may venture to examine that one among our copies which makes the greatest attempt at exactitude (Fig. 118). It is a statuette, not quite 3 1/2 feet high with the basis, found in Athens in 1880. The goddess stands with her left leg bent a little and pushed to one side. She is dressed in a heavy Doric chiton, open at the side. The girdle, whose ends take the form of snakes’ heads, is worn outside the doubled-over portion of the garment. Above it the folds are carefully adjusted, drawn in symmetrically from both sides toward the middle; in the lower part of the figure there is the common vertical division into two parts, owing to the bending of one leg. Over the chiton is the aegis, much less long behind than in earlier art (cf. Fig. 98), fringed with snakes’ heads and having a Gorgon’s mask in front. The helmet is an elaborate affair with three crests, the central one supported by a sphinx, the others by winged horses; the hinged cheek-pieces are turned up. At the left of the goddess is her shield, within which coils a serpent. On her extended right hand stands a Victory. The face of Athena is the most disappointing part of it all, but it is just there that the copyist must have failed most completely. Only the eye of faith, or better, the eye trained by much study of allied works, can divine in this poor little figure the majesty which awed the beholder of Phidias’s work.
Speculation has been busy in attempting to connect other statues that have been preserved to us with the name of Phidias. The most probable case that has yet been made out concerns two closely similar marble figures in Dresden, one of which is shown in Fig. 119. The head of this statue is missing, but its place has been supplied by a cast of a head in Bologna (Fig. 120), which has been proved to be another copy from the same original. This proof, about which there seems to be no room for question, is due to Professor Furtwangler, [Footnote: “Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture” pages 4 ff.] who argues further that the statue as thus restored is a faithful copy of the Lemnian Athena of Phidias, a bronze work which stood on the Athenian Acropolis. The proof of this depends upon (1) the resemblance in the standing position and in the drapery of this figure to the Athena of the Parthenon, and (2) the fact that Phidias is known to have made a statue of Athena (thought to be the Lemnian Athena) without a helmet on the head— an exceptional, though not wholly unique, representation in sculpture in the round.
If this demonstration be thought insufficient, there cannot, at all events, be much doubt that we have here the copy of an original of about the middle of the fifth century. The style is severely simple, as we ought to expect of a religious work of that period. The virginal face, conceived and wrought with ineffable refinement, is as far removed from sensual charm as from the ecstasy of a Madonna. The goddess does not reveal herself as one who can be “touched with a feeling of our infirmities”; but by the power of her pure, passionless beauty she sways our minds and hearts.
The supreme architectural achievement of the Periclean age was the Parthenon, which crowned the Athenian Acropolis. It appears to have been begun in 447, and was roofed over and perhaps substantially finished by 438. Its sculptures were more extensive than those of any other Greek temple, comprising two pediment-groups, the whole set of metopes of the exterior frieze, ninety-two in number, and a continuous frieze of bas-relief, 522 feet 10 inches in total length, surrounding the cella and its vestibules (cf. Fig. 56). After serving its original purpose for nearly a thousand years, the building was converted into a Christian church and then, in the fifteenth century, into a Mohammedan mosque. In 1687 Athens was besieged by the forces of Venice. The Parthenon was used by the Turks as a powder-magazine, and was consequently made the target for the enemy’s shells. The result was an explosion, which converted the building into a ruin. Of the sculptures which escaped from this catastrophe, many small pieces were carried off at the time or subsequently, while other pieces were used as building stone or thrown into the lime-kiln. Most of those which remained down to the beginning of this century were acquired by Lord Elgin, acting under a permission from the Turkish government (1801-3), and in 1816 were bought for the British Museum. The rest are in Athens, either in their original positions on the building, or in the Acropolis Museum.
The best preserved metopes of the Parthenon belong to the south side and represent scenes from the contest between Lapiths and Centaurs (cf. page 174). These metopes differ markedly in style from one another, and must have been not only executed, but designed, by different hands. One or two of them are spiritless and uninteresting. Others, while fine in their way, show little vehemence of action. Fig. 121 gives one of this class. Fig. 122 is very different. In this “the Lapith presses forward, advancing his left hand to seize the rearing Centaur by the throat, and forcing him on his haunches; the right arm of the Lapith is drawn back, as if to strike; his right hand, now wanting, probably held a sword. .... The Centaur, rearing up, against his antagonist, tries in vain to pull away the left hand of the Lapith, which, in Carrey’s drawing [made in 1674] he grasps.” [Footnote: A. H. Smith, “Catalogue of Sculpture in the British Museum,” page 136.] Observe how skilfully the design is adapted to the square field, so as to leave no unpleasant blank spaces, how flowing and free from monotony are the lines of the composition, how effective (in contrast with Fig. 121) is the management of the drapery, and, above all, what vigor is displayed in the attitudes. Fig. 123 is of kindred character. These two metopes and two others, one representing a victorious Centaur prancing in savage glee over the body of his prostrate foe, the other showing a Lapith about to strike a Centaur already wounded in the back, are among the very best works of Greek sculpture preserved to us.
The Parthenon frieze presents an idealized picture of the procession which wound its way upward from the market-place to the Acropolis on the occasion of Athena’s chief festival. Fully to illustrate this extensive and varied composition is out of the question here. All that is possible is to give three or four representative pieces and a few comments. Fig. 124 shows the best preserved piece of the entire frieze. It belongs to a company of divinities, seated to right and left of the central group of the east front, and conceived as spectators of the scene. The figure at the left of the illustration is almost certainly Posidon, and the others are perhaps Apollo and Artemis. In Fig. 125 three youths advance with measured step, carrying jars filled with wine, while a fourth youth stoops to lift his jar; at the extreme right may be seen part of a flute-player, whose figure was completed on the next slab. The attitudes and draperies of the three advancing youths, though similar, are subtly varied. So everywhere monotony is absent from the frieze. Fig. 126 is taken from the most animated and crowded part of the design. Here Athenian youths, in a great variety of dress and undress, dash forward on small, mettlesome horses. Owing to the principle of isocephaly (cf. page 145), the mounted men are of smaller dimensions than those on foot, but the difference does not offend the eye. In Fig. 127 we have, on a somewhat larger scale, the heads of four chariot-horses instinct with fiery life. Fig. 132 may also be consulted. An endless variety in attitude and spirit, from the calm of the ever-blessed gods to the most impetuous movement; grace and harmony of line; an almost faultless execution—such are some of the qualities which make the Parthenon frieze the source of inexhaustible delight.
The composition of the group in the western pediment is fairly well known, thanks to a French artist, Jacques Carrey, who made a drawing of it in 1674, when it was still in tolerable preservation. The subject was, in the words of Pausanias, “the strife of Posidon with Athena for the land” of Attica. In the eastern pediment the subject was the birth of Athena. The central figures, eleven in number, had disappeared long before Carrey’s time, having probably been removed when the temple was converted into a church. On the other hand, the figures near the angles have been better preserved than any of those from the western pediment, with one exception. The names of these eastern figures have been the subject of endless guess-work. All that is really certain is that at the southern corner Helios (the Sun-god) was emerging from the sea in a chariot drawn by four horses, and at the northern corner Selene (the Moon-goddess) or perhaps Nyx (Night) was descending in a similar chariot. Fig. 128 is the figure that was placed next to the horses of Helios. The young god or hero reclines in an easy attitude on a rock; under him are spread his mantle and the skin of a panther or some such animal. In Fig. 129 we have, beginning on the right, the head of one of Selene’s horses and the torso of the goddess herself, then a group of three closely connected female figures, known as the “Three Fates,” seated or reclining on uneven, rocky ground, and last the body and thighs of a winged goddess, Victory or Iris, perhaps belonging in the western pediment. Fig. 130, from the northern corner of the western pediment, is commonly taken for a river-god.
We possess but the broken remnants of these two pediment-groups, and the key to the interpretation of much that we do possess is lost. We cannot then fully appreciate the intention of the great artist who conceived these works. Yet even in their ruin and their isolation the pediment-figures of the Parthenon are the sublimest creations of Greek art that have escaped annihilation.
We have no ancient testimony as to the authorship of the Parthenon sculptures, beyond the statement of Plutarch, quoted above, that Phidias was the general superintendent of all artistic works undertaken during Pericles’s administration. If this statement be true, it still leaves open a wide range of conjecture as to the nature and extent of his responsibility in this particular case. Appealing to the sculptures themselves for information, we find among the metopes such differences of style as exclude the notion of single authorship. With the frieze and the pediment-groups, however, the case is different. Each of these three compositions must, of course, have been designed by one master-artist and executed by or with the help of subordinate artists or workmen. Now the pediment-groups, so far as preserved, strongly suggest a single presiding genius for both, and there is no difficulty in ascribing the design of the frieze to the same artist. Was
The great statesman under whose administration these immortal sculptures were produced was commemorated by a portrait statue or head, set up during his lifetime on the Athenian Acropolis; it was from the hand of Cresilas, of Cydonia in Crete. It is perhaps this portrait of which copies have come down to us. The best of these is given in Fig 131. The features are, we may believe, the authentic features of Pericles, somewhat idealized, according to the custom of portraiture in this age. The helmet characterizes the wearer as general.
The artistic activity in Athens did not cease with the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431. The city was full of sculptors, many of whom had come directly under the influence of Phidias, and they were not left idle. The demand from private individuals for votive sculptures and funeral reliefs must indeed have been abated, but was not extinguished; and in the intervals of the protracted war the state undertook important enterprises with an undaunted spirit. It is to this period that the Erechtheum probably belongs (420?-408), though all that we certainly know is that the building was nearly finished some time before 409 and that the work was resumed in that year. The temple had a sculptured frieze of which fragments are extant, but these are far surpassed in interest by the Caryatides of the southern porch (Fig. 67). The name Caryatides, by the way, meets us first in the pages of Vitruvius, a Roman architect of the time of Augustus; a contemporary Athenian inscription, to which we are indebted for many details concerning the building, calls them simply “maidens.” As you face the front of the porch, the three maidens on your right support themselves chiefly on the left leg, the three on your left on the right leg (Fig. 132), so that the leg in action is the one nearer to the end of the porch. The arms hung straight at the sides, one of them grasping a corner of the small mantle. The pose and drapery show what Attic sculpture had made of the old Peloponnesian type of standing female figure in the Doric chiton (cf. page 177). The fall of the garment preserves the same general features, but the stuff has become much more pliable. It is interesting to note that, in spite of a close general similarity, no two maidens are exactly alike, as they would have been if they had been reproduced mechanically from a finished model. These subtle variations are among the secrets of the beauty of this porch, as they are of the Parthenon frieze. One may be permitted to object altogether to the use of human figures as architectural supports, but if the thing was to be done at all, it could not have been better done. The weight that the maidens bear is comparatively small, and their figures are as strong as they are graceful.
To the period of the Peloponnesian War may also be assigned a sculptured balustrade which inclosed and protected the precinct of the little Temple of Wingless Victory on the Acropolis (Fig. 70). One slab of this balustrade is shown in Fig. 133. It represents a winged Victory stooping to tie (or, as some will have it, to untie) her sandal. The soft Ionic chiton, clinging to the form, reminds one of the drapery of the reclining goddess from the eastern pediment of the Parthenon (Fig. 129), but it finds its closest analogy, among datable sculptures, in a fragment of relief recently found at Rhamnus in Attica. This belonged to the pedestal of a statue by Agoracritus, one of the most famous pupils of Phidias.
The Attic grave-relief given in Fig. 134 seems to belong somewhere near the end of the fifth century. The subject is a common one on this class of monuments, but is nowhere else so exquisitely treated. There is no allusion to the fact of death. Hegeso, the deceased lady, is seated and is holding up a necklace or some such object (originally, it may be supposed, indicated by color), which she has just taken from the jewel-box held out by the standing slave-woman. Another fine grave-relief (Fig. 135) may be introduced here, though it perhaps belongs to the beginning of the fourth century rather than to the end of the fifth. It must commemorate some young Athenian cavalryman. It is characteristic that the relief ignores his death and represents him in a moment of victory. Observe that on both these monuments there is no attempt at realistic portraiture and that on both we may trace the influence of the style of the Parthenon frieze.
Among the other bas-reliefs which show that influence there is no difficulty in choosing one of exceptional beauty, the so-called Orpheus relief (Fig. 136). This is known to us in three copies, unless indeed the Naples example be the original. The story here set forth is one of the most touching in Greek mythology. Orpheus, the Thracian singer, has descended into Hades in quest of his dead wife, Eurydice, and has so charmed by his music the stern Persephone that she has suffered him to lead back his wife to the upper air, provided only he will not look upon her on the way. But love has overcome him. He has turned and looked, and the doom of an irrevocable parting is sealed. In no unseemly paroxysm of grief, but tenderly, sadly, they look their last at one another, while Hermes, guide of departed spirits, makes gentle signal for the wife’s return. In the chastened pathos of this scene we have the quintessence of the temper of Greek art in dealing with the fact of death.
Turning now from Athens to Argos, which, though politically weak, was artistically the rival of Athens in importance, we find Polyclitus the dominant master there, as Phidias was in the other city. Polyclitus survived Phidias and may have been the younger of the two. The only certain thing is that he was in the plenitude of his powers as late as 420, for his gold and ivory statue of Hera was made for a temple built to replace an earlier temple destroyed by fire in 423. His principal material was bronze. As regards subjects, his great specialty was the representation of youthful athletes. His reputation in his own day and afterwards was of the highest; there were those who ranked him above Phidias. Thus Xenophon represents [Footnote: Memorabilia I., 4, 3 (written about 390 B. C).] an Athenian as assigning to Polyclitus a preeminence in sculpture like that of Homer in epic poetry and that of Sophocles in tragedy; and Strabo[Footnote: VIII., page 372 (written about 18 A. D.).] pronounced his gold and ivory statues in the Temple of Hera near Argos the finest in artistic merit among all such works, though inferior to those of Phidias in size and costliness. But probably the more usual verdict was that reported by Quintilian, [Footnote: De Institutione Oratoria XII, 10, 7 (written about 90 A. D.).] which, applauding as unrivaled his rendering of the human form, found his divinities lacking in majesty.
In view of the exalted rank assigned to Polyclitus by Greek and Roman judgment, his identifiable works are a little disappointing. His Doryphorus, a bronze figure of a young athlete holding a spear such as was used in the pentathlon (cf. page 168), exists in numerous copies. The Naples copy (Fig. 137), found in Pompeii in 1797, is the best preserved, being substantially antique throughout, but is of indifferent workmanship. The young man, of massive build, stands supporting his weight on the right leg; the left is bent backward from the knee, the foot touching the ground only in front. Thus the body is a good deal curved. This attitude is an advance upon any standing motive attained in the “Transitional period” (cf. page 165). It was much used by Polyclitus, and is one of the marks by which statues of his may be recognized. The head of the Doryphorus, as seen from the side, is more nearly rectangular than the usual Attic heads of the period, e.g., in the Parthenon frieze. For the characteristic face our best guide is a bronze copy of the head from Herculaneum (Fig. 138), to which our illustration does less than justice.
A strong likeness to the Doryphorus exists in a whole series of youthful athletes, which are therefore with probability traced to Polyclitus as their author or inspirer. Such is a statue of a boy in Dresden, of which the head is shown in Fig. 139. One of these obviously allied works can be identified with a statue by Polyclitus known to us from our literary sources. It is the so-called Diadumenos, a youth binding the fillet of victory about his head. This exists in several copies, the best of which has been recently found on the island of Delos and is not yet published.
An interesting statue of a different order, very often attributed to Polyclitus, may with less of confidence be accepted as his. Our illustration (Fig. 140) is taken from the Berlin copy of this statue, in which the arms, pillar, nose, and feet are modern, but are guaranteed by other existing copies. It is the figure of an Amazon, who has been wounded in the right breast. She leans upon a support at her left side and raises her right hand to her head in an attitude perhaps intended to suggest exhaustion, yet hardly suitable to the position of the wound. The attitude of the figure, especially the legs, is very like that of the Doryphorus, and the face is thought by many to show a family likeness to his. There are three other types of Amazon which seem to be connected with this one, but the mutual relations of the four types are too perplexing to be here discussed.
It is a welcome change to turn from copies to originals. The American School of Classical Studies at Athens has carried on excavations (1890-95) on the site of the famous sanctuary of Hera near Argos, and has uncovered the foundations both of the earlier temple, burned in 423, and of the later temple, in which stood the gold and ivory image by Polyclitus, as well as of adjacent buildings. Besides many other objects of interest, there have been brought to light several fragments of the metopes of the second temple, which, together with a few fragments from the same source found earlier, form a precious collection of materials for the study of the Argive school of sculpture of about 420. Still more interesting, at least to such as are not specialists, is a head which was found on the same site (Fig. 141), and which, to judge by its style, must date from the same period. It is a good illustration of the uncertainty which besets the attempt to classify extant Greek sculptures into local schools that this head has been claimed with equal confidence as Argive [Footnote: So by Professor Charles Waldstein, who directed the excavations.] and as Attic in style. In truth, Argive and Attic art had so acted and reacted upon one another that it is small wonder if their productions are in some cases indistinguishable by us.
The last remark applies also to the bronze statue shown in Fig. 142, which is believed by high authorities to be an original Greek work and which has been claimed both for Athens and for Argos. The standing position, while not identical with that of the Doryphorus, the Diadumenos, and the wounded Amazon, is strikingly similar, as is also the form of the head. At all events, the statue is a fine example of apparently unstudied ease, of that consummate art which conceals itself.
The only sculptor of the fifth century who is at once known to us from literary tradition and represented by an authenticated and original work is Paeonius of Mende in Thrace. He was an artist of secondary rank, if we may judge from the fact that his name occurs only in Pausanias; but in the brilliant period of Greek history even secondary artists were capable of work which less fortunate ages could not rival. Pausanias mentions a Victory by Paeonius at Olympia, a votive offering of the Messenians for successes gained in war. Portions of the pedestal of this statue with the dedicatory inscription and the artist’s signature were found on December 20, 1875, at the beginning of the German excavations, and the mutilated statue itself on the following day (Fig. 143). A restoration of the figure by a German sculptor (Fig. 144) may be trusted for nearly everything but the face. The goddess is represented in descending flight. Poised upon a triangular pedestal about thirty feet high, she seems all but independent of support. Her draperies, blown by the wind, form a background for her figure. An eagle at her feet suggests the element through which she moves. Never was a more audacious design executed in marble. Yet it does not impress us chiefly as a tour de force. The beholder forgets the triumph over material difficulties in the sense of buoyancy, speed, and grace which the figure inspires. Pausanias records that the Messenians of his day believed the statue to commemorate an event which happened in 425, while he himself preferred to connect it with an event of 453. The inscription on the pedestal is indecisive on this point. It runs in these terms: “The Messenians and Naupactians dedicated [this statue] to the Olympian Zeus, as a tithe [of the spoils] from their enemies. Paeonius of Mende made it; and he was victorious [over his competitors] in making the acroteria for the temple.” The later of the two dates mentioned by Pausanias has been generally accepted, though not without recent protest. This would give about the year 423 for the completion and erection of this statue.
The great age of Greek sculpture. Second period: 400-323 B. C.
In the fourth century art became even more cosmopolitan than before. The distinctions between local schools were nearly effaced and the question of an artist’s birthplace or residence ceases to have much importance Athens, however, maintained her artistic preeminence through the first half or more of the century. Several of the most eminent sculptors of the period were certainly or probably Athenians, and others appear to have made Athens their home for a longer or shorter time. It is therefore common to speak of a “younger Attic school,” whose members would include most of the notable sculptors of this period. What the tendencies of the times were will best be seen by studying the most eminent representatives of this group or school.
The first great name to meet us is that of Scopas of Paros. His artistic career seems to have begun early in the fourth century, for he was the architect of a temple of Athena at Tegea in Arcadia which was built to replace one destroyed by fire in 395-4. He as active as late as the middle of the century, being one of four sculptors engaged on the reliefs of the Mausoleum or funeral monument of Maussollus, satrap of Caria, who died in 351-0, or perhaps two years earlier. That is about all we know of his life, for it is hardly more than a conjecture that he took up his abode in Athens for a term of years. The works of his hands were widely distributed in Greece proper and on the coast of Asia Minor.
Until lately nothing very definite was known of the style of Scopas. While numerous statues by him, all representing divinities or other imaginary beings, are mentioned in our literary sources, only one of these is described in such a way as to give any notion of its artistic character. This was a Maenad, or female attendant of the god Bacchus, who was represented in a frenzy of religious excitement. The theme suggests a strong tendency on the part of Scopas toward emotional expression, but this inference does not carry us very far. The study of Scopas has entered upon a new stage since some fragments of sculpture belonging to the Temple of Athena at Tegea have become known. The presumption is that, as Scopas was the architect of the building, he also designed, if he did not execute, the pediment-sculptures. If this be true, then we have at last authentic, though scanty, evidence of his style. The fragments thus far discovered consist of little more than two human heads and a boar’s head. One of the human heads is here reproduced (Fig. 145). Sadly mutilated as it is, is has become possible by its help and that of its fellow to recognize with great probability the authorship of Scopas in a whole group of allied works. Not to dwell on anatomical details, which need casts for their proper illustration, the obvious characteristic mark of Scopadean heads is a tragic intensity of expression unknown to earlier Greek art. It is this which makes the Tegea heads so impressive in spite of the “rude wasting of old Time.”
The magnificent head of Meleager in the garden of the Villa Medici in Rome (Fig. 146) shows this same quality. A fiery eagerness of temper animates the marble, and a certain pathos, as if born of a consciousness of approaching doom. So masterly is the workmanship here, so utterly removed from the mechanical, uninspired manner of Roman copyists, that this head has been claimed as an original from the hand of Scopas, and so it may well be. Something of the same character belongs to a head of a goddess in Athens, shown in Fig. 147.
Fig. 148 introduces us to another tendency of fourth century art. The group represents Eirene and Plutus (Peace and Plenty). It is in all probability a copy of a bronze work by Cephisodotus, which stood in Athens and was set up, it is conjectured, soon after 375, the year in which the worship of Eirene was officially established in Athens. The head of the child is antique, but does not belong to the figure; copies of the child with the true head exist in Athens and Dresden. The principal modern parts are: the right arm of the goddess (which should hold a scepter), her left hand with the vase, and both arms of the child; in place of the vase there should be a small horn of plenty, resting on the child’s left arm. The sentiment of this group is such as we have not met before. The tenderness expressed by Eirene’s posture is as characteristic of the new era as the intensity of look in the head from Tegea.
Cephisodotus was probably a near relative of a much greater sculptor, Praxiteles, perhaps his father. Praxiteles is better known to us than any other Greek artist. For we have, to begin with, one authenticated original statue from his hand, besides three fourths of a bas-relief probably executed under his direction. In the second place, we can gather from our literary sources a catalogue of toward fifty of his works, a larger list than can be made out for any other sculptor. Moreover, of several pieces we get really enlightening descriptions, and there are in addition one or two valuable general comments on his style. Finally two of his statues that are mentioned in literature can be identified with sufficient certainty in copies. The basis of judgment is thus wide enough to warrant us in bringing numerous other works into relation with him.
About his life, however, we know, as in other cases, next to nothing. He was an Athenian and must have been somewhere near the age of Scopas, though seemingly rather younger. Pliny gives the hundred and fourth Olympiad (370-66) as the date at which he flourished, but this was probably about the beginning of his artistic career. Only one anecdote is told of him which is worth repeating here. When asked what ones among his marble statues he rated highest he answered that those which Nicias had tinted were the best. Nicias was an eminent painter of the period (see page 282, foot note).
The place of honor in any treatment of Praxiteles must be given to the Hermes with the infant Dionysus on his arm (Figs. 149, 150). This statue was found on May 8, 1877, in the Temple of Hera at Olympia, lying in front of its pedestal. Here it had stood when Pausanias saw it and recorded that it was the work of Praxiteles. The legs of Hermes below the knees have been restored in plaster (only the right foot being antique), and so have the arms of Dionysus. Except for the loss of the right arm and the lower legs, the figure of Hermes is in admirable preservation, the surface being uninjured. Some notion of the luminosity of the Parian marble may be gained from Fig. 150.
Hermes is taking the new-born Dionysus to the Nymphs to be reared by them. Pausing on his way, he has thrown his mantle over a convenient tree-trunk and leans upon it with the arm that holds the child. In his closed left hand he doubtless carried his herald’s wand; the lost right hand must have held up some object— bunch of grapes or what-not—for the entertainment of the little god. The latter is not truthfully proportioned; in common with almost all sculptors before the time of Alexander, Praxiteles seems to have paid very little attention to the characteristic forms of infancy. But the Hermes is of unapproachable perfection. His symmetrical figure, which looks slender in comparison with the Doryphorus of Polyclitus, is athletic without exaggeration, and is modeled with faultless skill. The attitude, with the weight supported chiefly by the right leg and left arm, gives to the body a graceful curve which Praxiteles loved. It is the last stage in the long development of an easy standing pose. The head is of the round Attic form, contrasting with the squarer Peloponnesian type; the face a fine oval. The lower part of the forehead between the temples is prominent; the nose not quite straight, but slightly arched at the middle. The whole expression is one of indescribable refinement and radiance. The hair, short and curly, illustrates the possibilities of marble in the treatment of that feature; in place of the wiry appearance of hair in bronze we find here a slight roughness of surface, suggestive of the soft texture of actual hair (cf. Fig. 146 and contrast Fig. 138). The drapery that falls over the tree-trunk is treated with a degree of elaboration and richness which does not occur in fifth century work; but beautiful as it is, it is kept subordinate and does not unduly attract our attention.
For us the Hermes stands alone and without a rival. The statue, however, did not in antiquity enjoy any extraordinary celebrity, and is in fact not even mentioned in extant literature except by Pausanias. The most famous work of Praxiteles was the Aphrodite of Cnidus in southwestern Asia Minor. This was a temple-statue; yet the sculptor, departing from the practice of earlier times, did not scruple to represent the goddess as nude. With the help of certain imperial coins of Cnidus this Aphrodite has been identified in a great number of copies. She is in the act of dropping her garment from her left hand in preparation for a bath; she supports herself chiefly by the right leg, and the body has a curve approaching that of the Hermes, though here no part of the weight is thrown upon the arm. The subject is treated with consummate delicacy, far removed from the sensuality too usual in a later age; and yet, when this embodiment of Aphrodite is compared with fifth century ideals, it must be recognized as illustrating a growing fondness on the part of sculptor and public for the representation of physical charm. Not being able to offer a satisfactory illustration of the whole statue, I have chosen for reproduction a copy of the head alone (Fig. 151). It will help the reader to divine the simple loveliness of the original.
Pliny mentions among the works in bronze by Praxiteies a youthful Apollo, called “Sauroctonos” (Lizard-slayer). Fig. 152 is a marble copy of this, considerably restored. The god, conceived in the likeness of a beautiful boy, leans against a tree, preparing to stab a lizard with an arrow, which should be in the right hand. The graceful, leaning pose and the soft beauty of the youthful face and flesh are characteristically Praxitelean.
Two or three satyrs by Praxiteles are mentioned by Greek and Roman writers, and an anecdote is told by Pausanias which implies that one of them enjoyed an exceptional fame. Unfortunately they are not described; but among the many satyrs to be found in museums of ancient sculpture there are two types in which the style of Praxiteles, as we have now learned to know it, is so strongly marked that we can hardly go wrong in ascribing them both to him. Both exist in numerous copies. Our illustration of the first (Fig. 153) is taken from the copy of which Hawthorne wrote so subtle a description in “The Marble Faun.” The statue is somewhat restored, but the restoration is not open to doubt, except as regards the single pipe held in the right hand. No animal characteristic is to be found here save the pointed ears; the face, however, retains a suggestion of the traditional satyr-type. “The whole statue, unlike anything else that ever was wrought in that severe material of marble, conveys the idea of an amiable and sensual creature— easy, mirthful, apt for jollity, yet not incapable of being touched by pathos.” [Footnote: Hawthorne, “The Marble Faun,” Vol I, Chapter I.]
In the Palermo copy of the other Praxitelean satyr (Fig. 154) the right arm is modern, but the restoration is substantially correct. The face of this statue has purely Greek features, and only the pointed ears remain to betray the mixture of animal nature with the human form. The original was probably of bronze.
With Fig. 155 we revert from copies to an original work. This is one of three slabs which probably decorated the pedestal of a group by Praxiteles representing Apollo, Leto, and Artemis; a fourth slab, needed to complete the series, has not been found The presumption is strong that these reliefs were executed under the direction of Praxiteles, perhaps from his design. The subject of one slab is the musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas, while the other two bear figures of Muses. The latter are posed and draped with that delightful grace of which Praxiteles was master, and with which he seems to have inspired his pupils The execution, however, is not quite faultless, as witness the distortion in the right lower leg of the seated Muse in Fig. l55—otherwise an exquisite figure.
Among the many other works that have been claimed for Praxiteles on grounds of style, I venture to single out one (Fig. 156). The illustration is taken from one of several copies of a lost original, which, if it was not by Praxiteles himself, was by some one who had marvelously caught his spirit. That it represents the goddess Artemis we may probably infer from the short chiton, an appropriate garment often worn by the divine huntress, but not by human maidens. Otherwise the goddess has no conventional attribute to mark her divinity. She is just a beautiful girl, engaged in fastening her mantle together with a brooch. In this way of conceiving a goddess, we see the same spirit that created the Apollo Sauroctonos.
The genius of Praxiteles, as thus far revealed to us, was preeminently sunny, drawn toward what is fair and graceful and untroubled, and ignoring what is tragic in human existence. This view of him is confirmed by what is known from literature of his subjects. The list includes five figures of Aphrodite, three or four of Eros, two of Apollo, two of Artemis, two of Dionysus, two or three of satyrs, two of the courtesan Phryne, and one of a beautiful human youth binding a fillet about his hair, but no work whose theme is suffering or death is definitely ascribed to him. It is strange therefore to find Pliny saying that it was a matter of doubt in his time whether a group of the dying children of Niobe which stood in a temple of Apollo in Rome was by Scopas or Praxiteles. It is commonly supposed, though without decisive proof, that certain statues of Niobe and her children which exist in Florence and elsewhere are copied from the group of which Pliny speaks. The story was that Niobe vaunted herself before Leto because she had seven sons and seven daughters, while Leto had borne only Apollo and Artemis. For her presumption all her children were stricken down by the arrows of Apollo and Artemis. This punishment is the subject of the group. Fig. 157 gives the central figures; they are Niobe herself and her youngest daughter, who has fled to her for protection. The Niobe has long been famous as an embodiment of haughtiness, maternal love, and sharp distress. But much finer in composition, to my thinking, is Fig. 158. In this son of Niobe the end of the right arm and the entire left arm are modern. Originally this youth was grouped with a sister who has been wounded unto death. She has sunk upon the ground and her right arm hangs limply over his left knee, thus preventing his garment from falling. His left arm clasps her and he seeks ineffectually to protect her. That this is the true restoration is known from a copy in the Vatican of the wounded girl with a part of the brother. Except for this son of Niobe the Florentine figures are not worthy of their old-time reputation. As for their authorship, Praxiteles seems out of the question. The subject is in keeping—with the genius of Scopas, but it is safer not to associate the group with any individual name.
This reserve is the more advisable because Scopas and Praxiteles are but two stars, by far the brightest, to be sure, in a brilliant constellation of contemporary artists. For the others it is impossible to do much more here than to mention the most important names: Leochares and Timotheus, whose civic ties are unknown, Bryaxis and Silanion of Athens, and Euphranor of Corinth, the last equally famous as painter and sculptor. These artists seem to be emerging a little from the darkness that has enveloped them, and it may be hoped that discoveries of new material and further study of already existing material will reveal them to us with some degree of clearness and certainty. A good illustration of how new acquisitions may help us is afforded by a group of fragmentary sculptures found in the sanctuary of Asclepius near Epidauros in the years 1882-84 and belonging to the pediments of the principal temple. An inscription was found on the same site which records the expenses incurred in building this temple, and one item in it makes it probable that Timotheus, the sculptor above mentioned, furnished the models after which the pediment-sculptures were executed. The largest and finest fragment of these sculptures that has been found is given in Fig. 159. It belongs to the western pediment, which seems to have contained a battle of Greeks and Amazons. The Amazon of our illustration, mounted upon a rearing horse, is about to bring down her lance upon a fallen foe. The action is rendered with splendid vigor. The date of this temple and its sculptures may be put somewhere about 375.
Reference was made above (page 215) to the Mausoleum. The artists engaged on the sculptures which adorned that magnificent monument were, according to Pliny, Scopas, Leochares, Bryaxis, and Timotheus. [Footnote: The tradition on this point was not quite uniform Vitruvius names Praxiteles as the fourth artist, but adds that some believed that Timotheus also was engaged] There seem to have been at least three sculptured friezes, but of only one have considerable remains been preserved (cf. Fig. 65). This has for its subject a battle of Greeks and Amazons, a theme which Greek sculptors and painters never wearied of reproducing. The preserved portions of this frieze amount in all to about eighty feet, but the slabs are not consecutive. Figs. 160 and 161 give two of the best pieces. The design falls into groups of two or three combatants, and these groups are varied with inexhaustible fertility and liveliness of imagination. Among the points which distinguish this from a work of the fifth century may be noted the slenderer forms of men and women and the more expressive faces. The existing slabs, moreover, differ among themselves in style and merit, and an earnest attempt has been made to distribute them among the four artists named by Pliny, but without conclusive results.
Since the Hermes of Praxiteles was brought to light at Olympia there has been no discovery of Greek sculpture so dazzling in its splendor as that made in 1887 on the site of the necropolis of Sidon in Phenicia. There, in a group of communicating subterranean chambers, were found, along with an Egyptian sarcophagus, sixteen others of Greek workmanship, four of them adorned with reliefs of extraordinary beauty. They are all now in the recently created Museum of Constantinople, which has thus become one of the places of foremost consequence to every student and lover of Greek art. The sixteen sarcophagi are of various dates, from early in the fifth to late in the fourth century. The one shown in Fig. 162 may be assigned to about the middle of the fourth century. Its form is adapted from that of an Ionic temple. Between the columns are standing or seated women, their faces and attitudes expressing varying degrees of grief. Our illustration is on too small a scale to convey any but the dimmest impression of the dignity and beauty of this company of mourners. Above, on a sort of balustrade, may be been a funeral procession.
The old Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (cf page 140) was set on fire and reduced to ruins by an incendiary in 356 B.C., on the very night, it is said, in which Alexander the Great was born. The Ephesians rebuilt the temple on a much more magnificent scale, making of it the most extensive and sumptuous columnar edifice ever erected by a Greek architect. How promptly the work was begun we do not know, but it lasted into the reign of Alexander, so that its date may be given approximately as 350-30. Through the indefatigable perseverance of Mr J. T. Wood, who conducted excavations at Ephesus for the British Museum in 1863-74, the site of this temple, long unknown, was at last discovered and its remains unearthed. Following the example of the sixth century temple, it had the lowest drums of a number of its columns covered with relief sculpture. Of the half dozen recovered specimens Fig. 163 shows the finest. The subject is an unsolved riddle. The most prominent figure in the illustration is the god Hermes, as the herald’s staff in his right hand shows. The female figures to right and left of him are good examples of that grace in pose and drapery which was characteristic of Greek sculpture in the age of Scopas and Praxiteles.
The most beautiful Greek portrait statue that we possess is the Lateran Sophocles (Fig 164). The figure has numerous small restorations, including the feet and the box of manuscript rolls. That Sophocles, the tragic poet, is represented, is known from the likeness of the head to a bust inscribed with his name. He died in 406 B.C. The style of our statue, however, points to an original (if it be not itself the original) of about the middle of the fourth century. There were probably in existence at this time authentic likenesses of the poet, on which the sculptor based his work. The attitude of the figure is the perfection
The colossal head of Zeus shown in Fig. 165 was found a hundred years or more ago at Otricoli, a small village to the north of Rome. The antique part is a mere mask; the back of the head and the bust are modern. The material is Carrara marble, a fact which alone would prove that the work was executed in Italy and in the imperial period. At first this used to be regarded as copied from the Olympian Zeus of Phidias (page 185), but in the light of increased acquaintance with the style of Phidias and his age, this attribution has long been seen to be impossible. The original belongs about at the end of the period now under review, or possibly still later. Although only a copy, the Otricoli Zeus is the finest representation we have of the father of gods and men. The predominant expression is one of gentleness and benevolence, but the lofty brow, transversely furrowed, tells of thought and will, and the leonine hair of strength.
With Lysippus of Sicyon we reach the last name of first-rate importance in the history of Greek sculpture. There is the usual uncertainty about the dates of his life, but it is certain that he was in his prime during the reign of Alexander (336-23). Thus he belongs essentially to the generation succeeding that of Scopas and Praxiteles. He appears to have worked exclusively in bronze; at least we hear of no work in marble from his hands. He must have had a long life. Pliny credits him with fifteen hundred statues, but this is scarcely credible. His subjects suggest that his genius was of a very different bent from that of Praxiteles. No statue of Aphrodite or indeed of any goddess (except the Muses) is ascribed to him; on the other hand, he made at least four statues of Zeus, one of them nearly sixty feet high, and at least four figures of Heracles, of which one was colossal, while one was less than a foot high, besides groups representing the labors of Heracles. In short, the list of his statues of superhuman beings, though it does include an Eros and a Dionysus, looks as if he had no especial predilection for the soft loveliness of youth, but rather for mature and vigorous forms. He was famous as a portrait-sculptor and made numerous statues of Alexander, from whom he received conspicuous recognition. Naturally, too,
It is Pliny who puts us in the way of a more direct acquaintance with this artist than the above facts can give. He makes the general statement that Lysippus departed from the canon of proportions previously followed (i.e., probably, by Polyclitus and his immediate followers), making the head smaller and the body slenderer and “dryer,” and he mentions a statue by him in Rome called an Apoxyomenos, i.e., an athlete scraping himself with a strigil. A copy of such a statue was found in Rome in 1849 (Fig. 166). The fingers of the right hand with the inappropriate die are modern, as are also some additional bits here and there. Now the coincidence in subject between this statue and that mentioned by Pliny would not alone be decisive. Polyclitus also made an Apoxyomenos, and, for all we know, other sculptors may have used the same motive. But the statue in question is certainly later than Polyclitus, and its agreement with what Pliny tells us of the proportions adopted by Lysippus is as close as could be desired (contrast Fig. 137). We therefore need not scruple to accept it as Lysippian.
Our young athlete, before beginning his exercise, had rubbed his body with oil and, if he was to wrestle, had sprinkled himself with sand. Now, his exercise over, he is removing oil and sweat and dirt with the instrument regularly used for that purpose. His slender figure suggests elasticity and agility rather than brute strength. The face (Fig. 167) has not the radiant charm which Praxiteles would have given it, but it is both fine and alert. The eyes are deeply set; the division of the upper from the lower forehead is marked by a groove; the hair lies in expressive disorder. In the bronze original the tree-trunk behind the left leg was doubtless absent, as also the disagreeable support (now broken) which extended from the right leg to the right fore-arm.
The best authenticated likeness of Alexander the Great is a bust in the Louvre (Fig. 168) inscribed with his name: “Alexander of Macedon, son of Philip.” The surface has been badly corroded and the nose is restored. The work, which is only a copy, may go back to an original by Lysippus, though the evidence for that belief, a certain resemblance to the head of the Apoxyomenos, is hardly as convincing as one could desire. The king is here represented, one would guess, at the age of thirty or thereabouts. Now as he was absent from Europe from the age of twenty-two until his death at Babylon at the age of thirty-three
The Hellenistic period of Greek sculpture. 323-146 B.C.
The reign of Alexander began a new era in Greek history, an era in which the great fact was the dissemination of Greek culture over wide regions to which it had been alien. This period, in which Egypt and western Asia were ruled by men of Greek or Macedonian blood and gradually took on more or less of Greek civilization, is often called the Hellenistic period.
Under the new political and social order new artistic conditions were developed. For one thing, Athens and the other old centers of artistic activity lost their pre-eminence, while new centers were created in the East, The only places which our literary sources mention as seats of important schools of sculpture in the two centuries following the death of Alexander are Rhodes and Pergamum.
Then again a demand now grew up for works of sculpture to be used as mere ornaments in the interiors of palaces and private houses, as well as in public buildings and places. This of course threw open the door for subjects which had been excluded when sculpture was dominated by a sacred purpose. Sculptors were now free to appeal to the lower tastes of their patrons. The practice of “art for art’s sake” had its day, and trivial, comical, ugly, harrowing, or sensual themes were treated with all the resources of technical skill. In short, the position and purposes of the art of sculpture became very like what they are to-day. Hence the untrained modern student feels much more at home in a collection of Hellenistic sculpture than in the presence of the severer, sublimer creations of the age of Phidias.
It is by no means meant to pass a sweeping condemnation upon the productions of the post-classical period. Realistic portraiture was now practiced with great frequency and high success. Many of the genre statues and decorative reliefs of the time are admirable and delightful. Moreover, the old uses of sculpture were not abandoned, and though the tendency toward sensationalism was strong, a dignified and exalted work was sometimes achieved. But, broadly speaking, we must admit the loss of that “noble simplicity and quiet grandeur”—the phrase is Winckelmann’s—which stamped the creations of the age of Phidias. Greek sculpture gained immensely in variety, but at the expense of its elevation of spirit.
Although this sketch is devoted principally to bronze and marble sculpture, I cannot resist the temptation to illustrate by a few examples the charming little terra-cotta figurines which have been found in such great numbers in graves at Tanagra and elsewhere in Boeotia (Figs. 169, 170). It is a question whether the best of them were not produced before the end of the period covered by the last chapter. At all events, they are post-Praxitelean. The commonest subjects are standing or seated women; young men, lads, and children are also often met with. Fig. 170 shows another favorite figure, the winged Eros, represented as a chubby boy of four or five—a conception of the god of Love which makes its first appearance in the Hellenistic period. The men who modeled these statuettes were doubtless regarded in their own day as very humble craftsmen, but the best of them had caught the secret of graceful poses and draperies, and the execution of their work is as delicate as its conception is refined.
Returning now to our proper subject, we may begin with the latest and most magnificent of the sarcophagi found at Sidon (Fig. 171; cf. page 234). This belongs somewhere near the end of the fourth century. It is decorated with relief-sculpture on all four sides and in the gables of the cover. On the long side shown in our illustration the subject is a battle between Greeks and Persians, perhaps the battle of Issus, fought in 333. Alexander the Great, recognizable by the skin of a lion’s head which he wears like Heracles, instead of a helmet, is to be seen at the extreme left. The design, which looks crowded and confused when reduced to a small scale, is in reality well arranged and extremely spirited, besides being exquisitely wrought. But the crowning interest of the work lies in the unparalleled freshness with which it has kept its color. Garments, saddle-cloths, pieces of armor, and so on, are tinted in delicate colors, and the finest details, such as bow-strings, are perfectly distinct. The nude flesh, though not covered with opaque paint, has received some application which differentiates it from the glittering white background, and gives it a sort of ivory hue. The effect of all this color is thoroughly refined, and the work is a revelation of the beauty of polychromatic sculpture.
The Victory of Samothrace (Fig. 172) can also be dated at about the end of the fourth century. The figure is considerably above life-size. It was found in 1863, broken into a multitude of fragments, which have been carefully united. There are no modern pieces, except in the wings. The statue stood on a pedestal having the form of a ship’s prow, the principal parts of which were found by an Austrian expedition to Samothrace in 1875. These fragments were subsequently conveyed to the Louvre, and the Victory now stands on her original pedestal. For determining the date and the proper restoration of this work we have the fortunate help of numismatics.
From this point on no attempt will be made to preserve a chronological order, but the principal classes of sculpture belonging to the Hellenistic period will be illustrated, each by two or three examples. Religious sculpture may be put first. Here the chief place belongs to the Aphrodite of Melos, called the Venus of Milo (Fig. 173). This statue was found by accident in 1820 on the island of Melos (Milo) near the site of the ancient city. According to the best evidence available, it was lying in the neighborhood of its original pedestal, in a niche of some building. Near it were found a piece of an upper left arm and a left hand holding an apple; of these two fragments the former certainly and perhaps the latter belong to the statue. The prize was bought by M. de Riviere, French ambassador at Constantinople, and presented by him to the French king, Louis XVIII. The same vessel which conveyed it to France brought some other marble fragments from Melos, including a piece of an inscribed statue-base with an artist’s inscription, in characters of the second century B.C. or later. A drawing exists of this fragment, but the object itself has disappeared, and in spite of much acute argumentation it remains uncertain whether it did or did not form a part of the basis of the Aphrodite.
Still greater uncertainty prevails as to the proper restoration of the statue, and no one of the many suggestions that have been made is free from difficulties. It seems probable, as has recently been set forth with great force and clearness by Professor Furtwangler, [Footnote: “Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture,” pages 384 ff.] that the figure is an adaptation from an Aphrodite of the fourth century, who rests her left foot upon a helmet and, holding a shield on her left thigh, looks at her own reflection. On this view the difficulty of explaining the attitude of the Aphrodite of Melos arises from the fact that the motive was created for an entirely different purpose and is not altogether appropriate to the present one, whatever precisely that may be.
It has seemed necessary, in the case of a statue of so much importance, to touch upon these learned perplexities; but let them not greatly trouble the reader or turn him aside from enjoying the superb qualities of the work. One of the Aphrodites of Scopas or Praxiteles, if we had it in the original, would perhaps reveal to us a still diviner beauty. As it is, this is the worthiest existing embodiment of the goddess of Love. The ideal is chaste and noble, echoing the sentiment of the fourth century at its best; and the execution is worthy of a work which is in some sense a Greek original.
The Apollo of the Belvedere (Fig. 174), on the other hand, is only a copy of a bronze original. The principal restorations are the left hand and the right fore-arm and hand. The most natural explanation of the god’s attitude is that he held a bow in his left hand and has just let fly an arrow against some foe. His figure is slender, according to the fashion which prevailed from the middle of the fourth century onward, and he moves over the ground with marvelous lightness. His appearance has an effect of almost dandified elegance, and critics to-day cannot feel the reverent raptures which this statue used to evoke. Yet still the Apollo of the Belvedere remains a radiant apparition. An attempt has recently been made to promote the figure, or rather its original, to the middle of the fourth century.
As a specimen of the portrait-sculpture of the Hellenistic period I have selected the seated statue of Posidippus (Fig. 175), an Athenian dramatist of the so-called New Comedy, who flourished in the early part of the third century. The preservation of the statue is extraordinary; there is nothing modern about it except the thumb of the left hand. It produces strongly the impression of being an original work and also of being a speaking likeness. It may have been modeled in the actual presence of the subject, but in that case the name on the front of the plinth was doubtless inscribed later, when the figure was removed from its pedestal and taken to Rome. Posidippus is clean-shaven, according to the fashion that came in about the time of Alexander. There is a companion statue of equal merit, which commonly goes by the name of Menander. The two men are strongly contrasted with one another by the sculptor in features, expression, and bodily carriage. Both statues show, as do many others of the period, how mistaken it would be to form our idea of the actual appearance of the Greeks from the purely ideal creations of Greek sculpture.
Besides real portraits, imaginary portraits of great excellence were produced in the Hellenistic period. Fig. 176 is a good specimen of these. Only the head is antique, and there are some restorations, including the nose. This is one of a considerable number of heads which reproduce an ideal portrait of Homer, conceived as a blind old man. The marks of age and blindness are rendered with great fidelity. There is a variant type of this head which is much more suggestive of poetical inspiration.
Portraiture, of course, did not confine itself to men of refinement and intellect. As an extreme example of what was possible in the opposite direction nothing could be better than the original bronze statue shown in Fig. 177. It was found in Rome in 1885, and is essentially complete, except for the missing eyeballs; the seat is new. The statue represents a naked boxer of herculean frame, his hands armed with the aestus or boxing-gloves made of leather. The man is evidently a professional “bruiser” of the lowest type. He is just resting after an encounter, and no detail is spared to bring out the nature of his occupation. Swollen ears were the conventional mark of the boxer at all periods, but here the effect is still further enhanced by scratches and drops of blood. Moreover, the nose and cheeks bear evidence of having been badly “punished,” and the moustache is clotted with blood. From top to toe the statue exhibits the highest grade of technical skill. One would like very much to know what was the original purpose of the work. It may have been a votive statue, dedicated by a victorious boxer at Olympia or elsewhere. A bronze head of similar brutality found at Olympia bears witness that the refined statues of athletes produced in the best period of Greek art and set up in that precinct were forced at a later day to accept such low companionship. Or it may be that this boxer is not an actual person at all, and that the statue belongs to the domain of genre. In either case it testifies to the coarse taste of the age.
By genre sculpture is meant sculpture which deals with incidents or situations illustrative of every-day life. The conditions of the great age, although they permitted a genre-like treatment in votive sculptures and in grave-reliefs (cf. Fig. 134), offered few or no occasions for works of pure genre, whose sole purpose is to gratify the spectator. In the Hellenistic period, however, such works became plentiful. Fig. 178 gives a good specimen. A boy of four or five is struggling in play with a goose and is triumphant. The composition of the group is admirable, and the zest of the sport is delightfully brought out. Observe too that the characteristic forms of infancy—the large head, short legs, plump body and limbs—are truthfully rendered (cf. page 222). There is a large number of representations in ancient sculpture of boys with geese or other aquatic birds; among them are at least three other copies of this, same group. The original is thought to have been of bronze.
Fig. 179 is genre again, and is as repulsive as the last example is charming. It is a drunken old woman, lean and wrinkled, seated on the ground and clasping her wine-jar between her knees, in a state of maudlin ecstasy. The head is modern, but another copy of the statue has the original head, which is of the same character as this. Ignobility of subject could go no further than in this work.
It is a pleasure to turn to Fig. 180, which in purity of spirit is worthy of the best time. The arms are modern, and their direction may not be quite correct, though it must be nearly so. This original bronze figure represents a boy in an attitude of prayer. It is impossible to decide whether the statue was votive or is simply a genre piece.
Hellenistic art struck out a new path in a class of reliefs of which Figs. 181 and 182 are examples. There are some restorations. A gulf separates these works from the friezes of the Parthenon and the Mausoleum. Whereas relief-sculpture in the classical period abjured backgrounds and picturesque accessories, we find here a highly pictorial treatment. The subjects moreover are, in the instances chosen, of a character to which Greek sculpture before Alexander’s time hardly offers a parallel (yet cf. Fig. 87). In Fig. 181 we see a ewe giving suck to her lamb. Above, at the right, is a hut or stall, from whose open door a dog is just coming out; at the left is an oak tree. In Fig. 182 a lioness crouches with her two cubs. Above is a sycamore tree, and to the right of it a group of objects which tell of the rustic worship of Bacchus. Each of the two reliefs decorated a fountain or something of the sort. In the one the overturned milk-jar served as a water-spout; in the other the open mouth of one of the cubs answered the same purpose. Generally speaking, the pictorial reliefs seem to have been used for the interior decoration of private and public buildings. By their subjects many of them bear witness to that love of country life and that feeling for the charms of landscape which are the most attractive traits of the Hellenistic period.
The kingdom of Pergamum in western Asia Minor was one of the smaller states formed out of Alexander’s dominions. The city of Pergamum became a center of Greek learning second only to Alexandria in importance. Moreover, under Attalus I. (241-197 B.C.) and Eumenes II. (197-159 B.C.) it developed an independent and powerful school of sculpture, of whose productions we fortunately possess numerous examples. The most famous of these is the Dying Gaul or Galatian (Fig. 183), once erroneously called the Dying Gladiator. Hordes of Gauls had invaded Asia Minor as early as 278 B.C., and, making their headquarters in the interior, in the district afterwards known from them as Galatia, had become the terror and the scourge of the whole region. Attalus I. early in his reign gained an important victory over these fierce tribes, and this victory was commemorated by extensive groups of sculpture both at Pergamum and at Athens. The figure of the Dying Gaul belongs to this series. The statue was in the possession of Cardinal Ludovisi as early as 1633, along with a group closely allied in style, representing a Gaul and his wife, but nothing is certainly known as to the time and place of its discovery. The restorations are said to be: the tip of the nose, the left knee-pan, the toes, and the part of the plinth on which the right arm rests,[Footnote: Helbig, “Guide to the Public Collections of Classical Antiquities in Rome,” Vol I, No 533.] together with the objects on it. That the man represented is not a Greek is evident from the large hands and feet, the coarse skin, the un-Greek character of the head (Fig. 184). That
Our knowledge of Pergamene art has recently received a great extension, in consequence of excavations carried on in 1878-86 upon the acropolis of Pergamum in the interest of the Royal Museum of Berlin. Here were found the remains of numerous buildings, including an immense altar, or rather altar-platform, which was perhaps the structure referred to in Revelation II. 13, as “Satan’s throne.” This platform, a work of great architectural magnificence, was built under Eumenes II. Its exterior was decorated with a sculptured frieze, 7 1/2 feet in height and something like 400 feet in total length. The fragments of this great frieze which were found in the course of the German excavations have been pieced together with infinite patience and ingenuity and amount to by far the greater part of the whole. The subject is the gigantomachy, i.e., the battle between the gods and the rebellious sons of earth (cf. page 134).
Fig. 185 shows the most important group of the whole composition. Here Zeus recognizable by the thunderbolt in his outstretched right hand and the aegis upon his left arm, is pitted against three antagonists. Two of the three are already disabled. The one at the left, a youthful giant of human form, has sunk to earth, pierced through the left thigh with a huge, flaming thunderbolt. The second, also youthful and human, has fallen upon his knees in front of Zeus and presses his left hand convulsively to a wound (?) in his right shoulder. The third still fights desperately. This is a bearded giant, with animal ears and with legs that pass into long snaky bodies. Around his left arm is wrapped the skin of some animal; with his right hand (now missing) he is about to hurl some missile; the left snake, whose head may be seen just above the giant’s left shoulder, is contending, but in vain, with an eagle, the bird of Zeus.
Fig. 186 adjoins Fig 185 on the right of the latter. [Footnote: Fig 186 is more reduced in scale, so that the slabs incorrectly appear to be of unequal height.] Here we have a group in which Athena is the central figure. The goddess, grasping her antagonist by the hair, sweeps to right. The youthful giant has great wings, but is otherwise purely human in form. A serpent, attendant of Athena, strikes its fangs into the giant’s right breast. In front of Athena, the Earth-goddess, mother of the giants, half emerging from the ground, pleads for mercy. Above, Victory wings her way to the scene to place a crown upon Athena’s head.
If we compare the Pergamene altar-frieze with scenes of combat from the best period of Greek art, say with the metopes of the Parthenon or the best preserved frieze of the Mausoleum, we see how much more complicated and confused in composition and how much more violent in spirit is this later work. Yet, though we miss the “noble simplicity” of the great age, we cannot fail to be impressed with the Titanic energy which surges through this stupendous composition. The “decline” of Greek art, if we are to use that term, cannot be taken to imply the exhaustion of artistic vitality.
The existence of a flourishing school of sculpture at Rhodes during the Hellenistic period is attested by our literary sources, as well as by artists’ inscriptions found on the spot. Of the actual productions of that school we possess only the group of Laocoon and his sons (Fig. 187). This was found in Rome in 1506, on the site of the palace of Titus. The principal modern parts are: the right arm of Laocoon with the adjacent parts of the snake, the right arm of the younger son with the coil of the snake around it, and the right hand and wrist of the older son. These restorations are bad. The right arm of Laocoon should be bent so as to bring the hand behind the head, and the right hand of the younger son should fall limply backward.
Laocoon was a Trojan priest who, having committed grievous sin, was visited with a fearful punishment. On a certain occasion when he was engaged with his two sons in performing sacrifice, they were attacked by a pair of huge serpents, miraculously sent, and died a miserable death. The sculptors—for the group, according to Pliny, was the joint work of three Rhodian artists—have put before us the moving spectacle of this doom. Laocoon, his body convulsed and his face distorted by the torture of poison, his mouth open for a groan or a cry, has sunk upon the altar and struggles in the agony of death. The younger son is already past resistance; his left hand lies feebly on the head of the snake that bites him and the last breath escapes his lips. The older son, not yet bitten, but probably not destined to escape, strives to free himself from the coil about his ankle and at the same time looks with sympathetic horror upon his father’s sufferings.
No work of sculpture of ancient or modern times has given rise to such an extensive literature as the Laocoon. None has been more lauded and more blamed. Hawthorne “felt the Laocoon very powerfully, though very quietly; an immortal agony, with a strange calmness diffused through it, so that it resembles the vast rage of the sea, calm on account of its immensity.” [Footnote: “Italian Note-books,” under date of March 10,1858.] Ruskin, on the other hand, thinks “that no group has exercised so pernicious an influence on art as this; a subject ill chosen, meanly conceived, and unnaturally treated, recommended to imitation by subtleties of execution and accumulation of technical knowledge,” [Footnote:
Macedonia and Greece became a Roman province in 146 B.C.; the kingdom of Pergamum in 133 B.C. These political changes, it is true, made no immediate difference to the cause of art. Greek sculpture went on, presently transferring its chief seat to Rome, as the most favorable place of patronage. What is called Roman sculpture is, for the most part, simply Greek sculpture under Roman rule. But in the Roman period we find no great, creative epoch of art history; moreover, the tendencies of the times have already received considerable illustration. At this point, therefore, we may break off this sketch.
The art of painting was in as high esteem in Greece as the art of sculpture and, if we may believe the testimony of Greek and Roman writers, achieved results as important and admirable. But the works of the great Greek painters have utterly perished, and imagination, though guided by ancient descriptions and by such painted designs as have come down to us, can restore them but dimly and doubtfully. The subject may therefore here be dismissed with comparative brevity.
In default of pictures by the great Greek masters, an especial interest attaches to the work of humbler craftsmen of the brush. One class of such work exists in abundance—the painted decorations upon earthenware vases. Tens of thousands of these vases have been brought to light from tombs and sanctuaries on Greek and Italian sites and the number is constantly increasing. Thanks to the indestructible character of pottery, the designs are often intact. Now the materials and methods employed by the vase-painters and the spaces at their disposal were very different from those of mural or easel paintings. Consequently inferences must not be hastily drawn from designs upon vases as to the composition and coloring of the great masterpieces. But the best of the vase-painters, especially in the early fifth century, were men of remarkable talent, and all of them were influenced by the general artistic tendencies of their respective periods. Their work, therefore, contributes an important element to our knowledge of Greek art history.
Having touched in Chapter II. upon the earlier styles of Greek pottery, I begin here with a vase of Attic manufacture, decorated, as an inscription on it shows, by Clitias, but commonly called from its finder the Francois vase (Fig. 188). It may be assigned to the first half of the sixth century, and probably to somewhere near the beginning of that period. It is an early specimen of the class of black-figured vases, as they are called. The propriety of the name is obvious from the illustration. The objects represented were painted in black varnish upon the reddish clay, and the vase was then fired. Subsequently anatomical details, patterns of garments, and so on were indicated by means of lines cut through the varnish with a sharp instrument. Moreover, the exposed parts of the female figures—faces, hands, arms, and feet—were covered with white paint, this being the regular method in the black-figured style of distinguishing the flesh of female from that of male figures.
The decoration of the Francois vase is arranged in horizontal bands or zones. The subjects are almost wholly legendary and the vase is therefore a perfect mine of information for the student of Greek mythology. Our present interest, however, is rather in the character of the drawing. This may be better judged from Fig. 189, which is taken from the zone encircling the middle of the vase. The subject is the wedding of the mortal, Peleus, to the sea-goddess, Thetis, the wedding whose issue was Achilles, the great hero of the Iliad. To this ceremony came gods and goddesses and other supernatural beings. Our illustration shows Dionysus (Bacchus), god of wine, with a wine-jar on his shoulder and what is meant for a vine-branch above him. Behind him walk three female figures, who are the personified Seasons. Last comes a group consisting of two Muses and a four-horse chariot bearing Zeus, the chief of the gods, and Hera, his wife. The principle of isocephaly is observed on the vase as in a frieze of relief-sculpture (page 145). The figures are almost all drawn in profile, though the body is often shown more nearly from the front, e.g., in the case of the Seasons, and the eyes are always drawn as in front view. Out of the great multitude of figures on the vase there are only four in which the artist has shown the full face. Two of these are intentionally ugly Gorgons on the handles; the two others come within the limits of our specimen illustration. If Dionysus here appears almost like a caricature, that is only because the decorator is so little accustomed to drawing the face in front view. There are other interesting analogies between the designs on the vase and contemporary reliefs. For example, the bodies, when not disguised by garments, show an unnatural smallness at the waist, the feet of walking figures are planted flat on the ground, and there are cases in which the body and neck are so twisted that the face is turned in exactly the opposite direction to the feet. On the whole, Clitias shows rather more skill than a contemporary sculptor, probably because of the two arts that of the vase-painter had been the longer cultivated.
The black-figured ware continued to be produced in Attica through the sixth century and on into the fifth. Fig. 190 gives a specimen of the work of an interesting vase-painter in this style, Execias by name, who probably belongs about the middle of the sixth century. The subject is Achilles slaying in battle the Amazon queen, Penthesilea. The drawing of Execias is distinguished by an altogether unusual care and minuteness of detail, and if the whole body of his work, as known to us from several signed vases, could be here presented, it would be easily seen that his proficiency was well in advance of that of Clitias. Obvious archaisms, however, remain. Especially noticeable is the unnatural twisting of the bodies. A minor point of interest is afforded by the Amazon’s shield, which the artist has not succeeded in rendering truthfully in side view. That is a rather difficult problem in perspective, which was not solved until after many experiments.
Some time before the end of the sixth century, perhaps as early as 540, a new method of decorating pottery was invented in Attica. The principal coloring matter used continued to be the lustrous black varnish; but instead of filling in the outlines of the figures with black, the decorator, after outlining the figures by means of a broad stroke of the brush, covered with black the spaces between the figures, leaving the figures themselves in the color of the clay. Vases thus decorated are called “red-figured.” In this style incised lines ceased to be used, and details were rendered chiefly by means of the black varnish or, for certain purposes, of the same material diluted till it became of a reddish hue. The red-figured and black-figured styles coexisted for perhaps half a century, but the new style ultimately drove the old one out of the market.
The development of the new style was achieved by men of talent, several of whom fairly deserve to be called artists. Such an one was Euphronius, whose long career as a potter covered some fifty years, beginning at the beginning of the fifth century or a little earlier. Fig. 191 gives the design upon the outside of a cylix (a broad, shallow cup, shaped like a large saucer, with two handles and a foot), which bears his signature. Its date is about 480, and it is thus approximately contemporary with the latest of the archaic statues of the Athenian Acropolis (pages 151 f.). On one side we have one of the old stock subjects of the vase-painters, treated with unapproached vivacity and humor. Among the labors of Heracles, imposed upon him by his taskmaster, Eurystheus, was the capturing of a certain destructive wild boar of Arcadia and the bringing of the creature alive to Mycenae. In the picture, Heracles is returning with the squealing boar on his shoulder. The cowardly Eurystheus has taken refuge in a huge earthenware jar sunk in the ground, but Heracles, pretending to be unaware of this fact, makes as though he would deposit his burden in the jar. The agitated man
The cylix shown in Fig. 192 is somewhat later, dating from about 460. The technique is here different from that just described, inasmuch as the design is painted in reddish brown upon a white ground. The subject is the goddess Aphrodite, riding upon a goose. The painter, some unnamed younger contemporary of Euphronius, has learned a freer manner of drawing. He gives to the eye in profile its proper form, and to the drapery a simple and natural fall. The subject does not call, like the last, for dramatic vigor, and the preeminent quality of the work is an exquisite purity and refinement of spirit.
If we turn now from the humble art of vase-decoration to painting in the higher sense of the term, the first eminent name to meet us is that of Polygnotus, who was born on the island of Thasos near the Thracian coast. His artistic career, or at least the later part of it, fell in the “Transitional period” (480-450 B.C.), so that he was a contemporary of the great sculptor Myron. He came to Athens at some unknown date after the Persian invasion of Greece (480 B.C.) and there executed a number of important paintings. In fact, he is said to have received Athenian citizenship. He worked also at Delphi and at other places, after the ordinary manner of artists.
Painting in this period, as practiced by Polygnotus and other great artists, was chiefly mural; the painting of easel pictures seems to have been of quite secondary consequence. Thus the most famous works of Polygnotus adorned the inner faces of the walls of temples and stoas. The subjects of these great mural paintings were chiefly mythological. For example, the two compositions of Polygnotus at Delphi, of which we possess an extremely detailed account in the pages of Pausanias, depicted the sack of Troy and the descent of Odysseus into Hades. But it is worth remarking, in view of the extreme rarity of historical subjects in Greek relief-sculpture, that in the Stoa Poicile (Painted Portico) of Athens, alongside of a Sack of Troy by Polygnotus and a Battle of Greeks and Amazons by his contemporary, Micon, there were two historical scenes, a Battle of Marathon and a Battle of OEnoe. In fact, historical battle-pieces were not rare among the Greeks at any period.
As regards the style of Polygnotus we can glean a few interesting facts from our ancient authorities. His figures were not ranged on a single line, as in contemporary bas-reliefs, but were placed at varying heights, so as to produce a somewhat complex composition. His palette contained only four colors, black, white, yellow, and red, but by mixing these he was enabled to secure a somewhat greater variety. He laid his colors on in “flat” tints, just as the Egyptian decorators did, making no attempt to render the gradations of color due to varying light and shade. His pictures were therefore rather colored drawings than genuine paintings, in our sense of the term. He often inscribed beside his figures their names, according to a common practice of the time. Yet this must not be taken as implying that he was unable to characterize his figures by purely artistic means. On the contrary, Polygnotus was preeminently skilled in expressing character, and it is recorded that he drew the face with a freedom which archaic art had not attained. In all probability his pictures are not to be thought of as having any depth of perspective; that is to say, although he did not fail to suggest the nature of the ground on which his figures stood and the objects adjacent to them, it is not likely that he represented his figures at varying distances from the spectator or gave them a regular background.
It is clear that Polygnotus was gifted with artistic genius of the first rank and that he exercised a powerful influence upon contemporaries and successors. Yet, alas! in spite of all research and speculation, our knowledge of his work remains very shadowy. A single drawing from his hand would be worth more than all that has ever been written about him. But if one would like to dream what his art was like, one may imagine it as combining with the dramatic power of Euphronius and the exquisite loveliness of the Aphrodite cup, Giotto’s elevation of feeling and Michael Angelo’s profundity of thought.
Another branch of painting which began to attain importance in the time of Polygnotus was scene-painting for theatrical performances. It may be, as has been conjectured, that the impulse toward a style of work in which a greater degree of illusion was aimed at and secured came from this branch of the art. We read, at any rate, that one Agatharchus, a scene-painter who flourished about the middle of the fifth century, wrote a treatise which stimulated two philosophers to an investigation of the laws of perspective.
The most important technical advance, however, is attributed to Apollodorus of Athens, a painter of easel pictures. He departed from the old method of coloring in flat tints and introduced the practice of grading colors according to the play of light and shade. How successfully he managed this innovation we have no means of knowing; probably very imperfectly. But the step was of the utmost significance. It meant the abandonment of mere colored drawing and the creation of the genuine art of painting.
Two artists of the highest distinction now appear upon the scene. They are Zeuxis and Parrhasius. The rather vague remark of a Roman writer, that they both lived “about the time of the Peloponnesian War” (431-404 B.C.) is as definite a statement as can safely be made about their date. Parrhasius was born at Ephesus, Zeuxis at some one or other of the numerous cities named Heraclea. Both traveled freely from place to place, after the usual fashion of Greek artists, and both naturally made their home for a time in Athens. Zeuxis availed himself of the innovation of Apollodorus and probably carried it farther. Indeed, he is credited by one Roman writer with being the founder of the new method. The strength of Parrhasius is said to have lain in subtlety of line, which would suggest that with him, as with Polygnotus, painting was essentially outline drawing. Yet he too can hardly have remained unaffected by the new chiaroscuro.
Easel pictures now assumed a relative importance which they had not had a generation earlier. Some of these were placed in temples and such conformed in their subjects to the requirements of religious art, as understood in Greece. But many of the easel pictures by Zeuxis and his contemporaries can hardly have had any other destination than the private houses of wealthy connoisseurs. Moreover, we hear first in this period of mural painting as applied to domestic interiors. Alcibiades is said to have imprisoned a reluctant painter, Agatharchus (cf. page 278), in his house and to have forced him to decorate the walls. The result of this sort of private demand was what we have seen taking place a hundred years later in the case of sculpture, viz.: that artists became free to employ their talents on any subjects which would gratify the taste of patrons. For example, a painting by Zeuxis of which Lucian has left us a description illustrates what may be called mythological genre. It represented a female Centaur giving suck to two offspring, with the father of the family in the background, amusing himself by swinging a lion’s whelp above his head to scare his young. This was, no doubt, admirable in its way, and it would be narrow-minded to disparage it because it did not stand on the ethical level of Polygnotus’s work. But painters did not always keep within the limits of what is innocent. No longer restrained by the conditions of monumental and religious art, they began to pander not merely to what is frivolous, but to what is vile in human nature. The great Parrhasius is reported by Pliny to have painted licentious little pictures, “refreshing himself” (says the writer) by this means after more serious labors. Thus at the same time that painting was making great technical advances, its nobility of purpose was on the average declining.
Timanthes seems to have been a younger contemporary of Zeuxis and Parrhasius. Perhaps his career fell chiefly after 400 B. C. The painting of his of which we hear the most represented the sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulis, The one point about the picture to which all our accounts refer is the grief exhibited in varying degrees by the bystanders. The countenance of Calchas was sorrowful; that of Ulysses still more so; that of Menelaus displayed an intensity of distress which the painter could not outdo; Agamemnon, therefore, was represented with his face covered by his mantle, his attitude alone suggesting the father’s poignant anguish. The description is interesting as illustrating the attention paid in this period to the expression of emotion. Timanthes was in spirit akin to Scopas. There is a Pompeian wall-painting of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, which represents Agamemnon with veiled head and which may be regarded, in that particular at least, as a remote echo of Timanthes’s famous picture.
Sicyon, in the northeastern part of Peloponnesus—a city already referred to as the home of the sculptor Lysippus—was the seat of an important school of painting in the fourth century. Toward the middle of the century the leading teacher of the art in that place was one Pamphilus. He secured the introduction of drawing into the elementary schools of Sicyon, and this new branch of education was gradually adopted in other Greek communities. A pupil of his, Pausias by name, is credited with raising the process of encaustic painting to a prominence which it had not enjoyed before. In this process the colors, mixed with wax, were applied to a wooden panel and then burned in by means of a hot iron held near.
Thebes also, which attained to a short-lived importance in the political world after the battle of Leuctra (371 B.C.), developed a school of painting, which seems to have been in close touch with that of Athens. There were painters besides, who seem to have had no connection with any one of these centers of activity. The fourth century was the Golden Age of Greek painting, and the list of eminent names is as long and as distinguished for painting as for sculpture.
The most famous of all was Apelles. He was a Greek of Asia Minor and received his early training at Ephesus. He then betook himself to Sicyon, in order to profit by the instruction of Pamphilus and by association with the other painters gathered there. It seems likely that his next move was to Pella, the capital of Macedon, then ruled over by Philip, the father of Alexander. At any rate, he entered into intimate relations with the young prince and painted numerous portraits of both father and son. Indeed, according to an often repeated story, Alexander, probably after his accession to the throne, conferred upon Apelles the exclusive privilege of painting his portrait, as upon Lysippus the exclusive privilege of representing him in bronze. Later, presumably when Alexander started on his eastern campaigns (334 B.C.), Apelles returned to Asia Minor, but of course not even then to lead a settled life. He outlived Alexander, but we do not know by how much.
Of his many portraits of the great conqueror four are specifically mentioned by our authorities. One of these represented the king as holding a thunderbolt, i.e., in the guise of Zeus—a fine piece of flattery. For this picture, which was placed in the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, he is reported, though not on very good authority, to have received twenty talents in gold coin. It is impossible to make exact comparisons between ancient and modern prices, but the sum named would perhaps be in purchasing power as large as any modern painter ever received for a work of similar size. [Footnote: Nicias, an Athenian painter and a contemporary of Apelles, is reported to have been offered by Ptolemy, the ruler of Egypt, sixty talents for a picture and to have refused the offer.] It has been mentioned above that Apelles made a number of portraits of King Philip. He had also many sitters among the generals and associates of Alexander; and he left at least one picture of himself. His portraits were famous for their truth of likeness, as we should expect of a great painter in this age.
An allegorical painting by Apelles of Slander and Her Crew is interesting as an example of a class of works to which Lysippus’s statue of Opportunity belonged (page 239). This picture contained ten figures, whereas most of his others of which we have any description contained only one figure each.
His most famous work was an Aphrodite, originally placed in the Temple of Asclepius on the island of Cos. The goddess was represented, according to the Greek myth of her birth, as rising from the sea, the upper part of her person being alone distinctly visible. The picture, from all that we can learn of it, seems to have been imbued with the same spirit of refinement and grace as Praxiteles’s statue of Aphrodite in the neighboring city of Cnidus. The Coans, after cherishing it for three hundred years, were forced to surrender it to the emperor Augustus for a price of a hundred talents, and it was removed to the Temple of Julius Caesar in Rome. By the time of Nero it had become so much injured that it had to be replaced by a copy.
Protogenes was another painter whom even the slightest sketch cannot afford to pass over in silence. He was born at Caunus in southwestern Asia Minor and flourished about the same time as Apelles. We read of his conversing with the philosopher Aristotle (died 322 B.C.), of whose mother he painted a portrait, and of his being engaged on his most famous work, a picture of a Rhodian hero, at the time of the siege of Rhodes by Demetrius (304 B.C.). He was an extremely painstaking artist, inclined to excessive elaboration in his work. Apelles, who is always represented as of amiable and generous character, is reported as saying that Protogenes was his equal or superior in every point but one, the one inferiority of Protogenes being that he did not know when to stop. According to another anecdote Apelles, while profoundly
There being nothing extant which would properly illustrate the methods and the styles of the great artists in color, the best substitute that we have from about their period is an Etruscan sarcophagus, found near Corneto in 1869. The material is “alabaster or a marble closely resembling alabaster.” It is ornamented on all four sides by paintings executed in tempera representing a battle of Greeks and Amazons. “In the flesh tints the difference of the sexes is strongly marked, the flesh of the fighting Greeks being a tawny red, while that of the Amazons is very fair. For each sex two tints only are used in the shading and modeling of the flesh. ... Hair and eyes are for the most part a purplish brown; garments mainly reddish brown, whitish grey, or pale lilac and light blue. Horses are uniformly a greyish white, shaded with a fuller tint of grey; their eyes always blue. There are two colors of metal, light blue for swords, spear-heads, and the inner faces of shields, golden yellow for helmets, greaves, reins, and handles of shields, girdles, and chain ornaments.”
Our illustration (Fig. 193) is taken from the middle of one of the long sides of the sarcophagus. It represents a mounted Amazon in front of a fully armed foot-soldier, upon whom she turns to deliver a blow with her sword. “Every reader will be struck by the beauty and spirit of the Amazon, alike in her action and her facial expression. The type of head, broad, bold, and powerful, and at the same time young and blooming, with the pathetic-indignant expression, is preserved with little falling off from the best age of Greek art. ... In spirit and expression almost equal to the Amazon is the horse she bestrides.” [Footnote: The quotations are from an article by Mr. Sidney Colvin in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. IV., pages 354 ff] The Greek warrior is also admirable in attitude and expression, full of energy and determination.
Although the paintings of this sarcophagus were doubtless executed in Etruria, and probably by an Etruscan hand, they are in their style almost purely Greek. The work is assigned to the earlier half of the third century B.C. If an unknown craftsman was stimulated by Greek models to the production of paintings of such beauty and power, how magnificent must have been the achievements of the great masters of the brush!
For examples of Greek portrait painting we are indebted to Egypt, that country whose climate has preserved so much that elsewhere would have perished. It will be remembered that Egypt, having been conquered by Alexander, fell after his death to the lot of his general, Ptolemy, and continued to be ruled by Ptolemy’s descendants until, in 30 B.C., it became a Roman province. During the period of Macedonian rule Alexandria was the chief center of Greek culture in the world, and Greeks and Greek civilization became established also in the interior of the country; nor did these Hellenizing influences abate under Roman domination. To this late period, when Greek and Egyptian customs ere largely amalgamated, belongs a class of portrait heads which have been found in the Fayyurn, chiefly within the last ten years. They are painted on panels of wood (or rarely on canvas), and were originally attached to mummies. The embalmed body was carefully wrapped in linen bandages and the portrait placed over the face and secured in position. These pictures are executed principally by the encaustic process, though some use was made also of tempera. The persons represented appear to be of various races— Greek, Egyptian, Hebrew, negro, and mixed; perhaps the Greek type predominates in the specimens now known. At any rate, the artistic methods of the portraits seem to be purely Greek. As for their date, it is the prevailing opinion that they belong to the second century after Christ and later, though an attempt has been made to carry the best of them back to the second century B.C.
The finest collection of these portraits is one acquired by a Viennese merchant, Herr Theodor Graf. They differ widely in artistic merit; our illustrations show three of the best. Fig. 194 is a man in middle life, with irregular features, abundant, waving hair, and thin, straggling beard. One who has seen Watts’s picture of “The Prodigal Son” may remark in the lower part of this face a likeness to that. Fig. 195 is a charming girl, wearing a golden wreath of ivy-leaves about her hair and a string of great pearls about her neck. Her dark eyes look strangely large, as do those of all the women of the series; probably the effect of eyes naturally large was heightened, as nowadays in Egypt, by the practice of blackening the edges of the eyelids. Fig. 196 is the most fascinating face of all, and it is artistically unsurpassed in the whole series. This and a portrait of an elderly man, not given here, are the masterpieces of the Graf collection. It is much too little to say of these two heads that they are the best examples of Greek painting that have come down to us. In spite of the great inferiority of the encaustic technique to that of oil painting, these pictures are not unworthy of comparison with the great portraits of modern times.
The ancient wall-paintings found in and near Rome. but more especially in Pompeii, are also mostly Greek in character, so far as their best qualities are concerned. The best of them, while betraying deficient skill in perspective, show such merits in coloring, such power of expression and such talent for composition, as to afford to the student a lively enjoyment and to intensify tenfold his regret that Zeuxis and Parrhasius, Apelles and Protogenes, are and will remain to us nothing but names.