ON SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF GREEK SCULPTURE.
history of Greek sculpture covers a period of some eight or nine
hundred years, and falls into five divisions.
first is the period of development, extending from 600 to 480 B. C.
The second is the period of greatest achievement, under Phidias and
his followers, in the Age of Pericles, 480-430 B. C. The third is
period of Praxiteles and Scopas, in the fourth century. The fourth
the period of decline, characterized as the Hellenistic Age, and
included between the years 320 and 100 B. C. The fifth is the
Græco-Roman period, which includes the work produced to meet the
demand of the Roman market for Greek sculpture, and which extends
300 A. D.
Handbook of Greek Sculpture,
criticism differentiates sharply the characteristics of the several
periods and even of the individual artists, but such subtleties are
beyond the grasp of the unlearned. The majority of people continue
regard Greek sculpture in its entirety, as if it were the
product of a single age. To the popular imagination it is as if
gigantic machine turned out the Apollo Belvedere, the Venus of
the Elgin Marbles, and all the rest, in a single day. Nor is it
ago since even eminent writers had but vague ideas as to the
distinctive periods of these very works. Certain it is that all
of Greek sculpture have a particular character which marks them as
such. Authorities have taught us to distinguish some few of their
most striking characteristic of Greek art is perhaps its closeness
nature. The sculptor showed an intimate knowledge of the human
acquired by constant observation of the splendid specimens of
produced in the palæstra. It is because the artist "clung to
nature as a kind mother," says Waldstein, that the influence of
his work persists through the ages.Again,
Greek art is distinctly an art of generalization, dealing with
rather than with individuals. This characteristic is of varying
degrees in different periods and with different sculptors. It is
in its perfection in the Elgin Marbles, in exaggeration in the
Belvedere, and at the minimum in the work of Praxiteles. Yet it is
everywhere sufficiently marked to be indissolubly connected with
quality of repose, so constantly associated with Greek sculpture,
another characteristic which varies with the period and the
individual sculptor. Between the calm dignity of the portrait
of Sophocles and the intense muscular concentration of Myron's
Discobolus, a long range of degrees may be included. Yet on the
whole, repose is an essential characteristic of the best Greek
sculpture, provided we do not let our notion of repose exclude the
spirited element. Fine as is the effect of repose in the Parthenon
frieze, the composition is likewise full of spirit and life.A
distinguishing characteristic of the best Greek sculpture is its
simplicity. Compared with the Gothic sculptors, the Greeks appear
us, in Ruskin's phrase, as the "masters of all that was grand,
simple, wise and tenderly human, opposed to the pettiness of the
of the rest of mankind." Their work is free from that "vain
and mean decoration"—the "weak and monstrous error"—which
disfigures the art of other peoples.As
we turn from one Greek marble to another in the great sculpture
galleries of the world, the best features of the art impress
themselves deeply even upon the untutored eye. The Greek instinct
pose is unfailing and unsurpassable. Standing or seated, the
is always graceful, the lines are always fine. The best statues are
equally well composed, viewed from any standpoint. The camera may
describe a circumference about a marble as a centre, and a
made at any point in the circle will show lines of rhythm and
faultless regularity of the Greek profile has passed into history
the accepted standard of human beauty. The straight continuous line
of brow and nose, the well moulded chin, the full lip, the small
satisfy perfectly our æsthetic ideals.The
art of sculpture was an essential outgrowth of the Greek spirit,
perfectly suited the requirements of Greek thought. In the words of
recent writer, "it was the consummate expression in art of the
genius of a nation which worshiped physical perfection as the gift
the immortals, which honored the gods by athletic games and choral
dances, and whose deities wore the flesh and shared the nature of
It was moreover a national art, entering into every phase of public
life, and embodying the Greek sense of national greatness.
From Italian Cities,
by E. H. and E. W. Blashfield.Greek
sculpture can be sympathetically understood only by catching
something of the spirit which produced it. One must shake off the
centuries and regard life with the childlike simplicity of the
world: one must give imagination free rein. The same attitude of
which can enjoy Greek mythology and Greek literature is the proper
attitude for the enjoyment of Greek sculpture. The best interpreter
of a nation's art is the nation's poetry.
ON BOOKS OF REFERENCE.Many
learned works on the subject of Greek Sculpture have been written
various languages. Three standard authorities are the English work
A. S. Murray, "History of Greek Sculpture," second edition,
London, 1890; the French work by Collignon, "Histoire de la
Sculpture Grecque," Paris, 1892; and the German work by
Furtwängler, translated into English by E. Sellers, "The
Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture," London, 1895. Naturally these
three writers are not always of one opinion, and the student must
turn from one to another to learn all the arguments concerning a
the practical every-day use of the reader who has no time to sift
evidences on difficult questions of archæology, Gardner's "Handbook
of Greek Sculpture" is an excellent outline summary of the
history of the subject.Charles
Waldstein's "Essays on the Art of Pheidias," New York,
1885, is an exceedingly valuable and suggestive volume.Two
small books, written in a somewhat popular vein, make very pleasant
reading for those pursuing these studies: "Studies in Greek
Art," by J. E. Harrison, London, 1885, and "Greek Art on
Greek Soil," by J. M. Hoppin, Boston, 1897.Besides
the works devoted exclusively to the subject of Greek sculpture,
subject receives due attention in various general histories of art,
of which may be mentioned, Lucy Mitchell's "History of Ancient
Sculpture," Lübke's "History of Sculpture," and Von
Reber's "History of Ancient Art."A
valuable bibliography is given in Gardner's "Handbook."III.
HISTORICAL DIRECTORY OF THE MARBLES REPRODUCED IN THIS
Terminal bust of Pericles, after an original by Cresilas.
date, 440-430 B. C. In the British Museum, London.1.
Bust of Zeus Otricoli.
Considered by Brunn and others a copy from a head of the statue by
Phidias. Later critics do not agree with this opinion, and
Furtwängler calls the head a Praxitelean development of the type of
Zeus created in the time of Myron. Now in the Vatican Gallery,
Considered by Furtwängler a copy, after Euphranor, of a statue
dedicated below the Capitol, called Minerva Catuliana, set up by A.
Lutatius Catulus. The ægis and sphinx are copyist's additions.
in the gardens of the convent of S. Maria sopra Minerva, Rome. Both
arms are restored. Now in the Vatican Gallery, Rome.3.
Horsemen from the Parthenon Frieze.
The frieze of the Parthenon is part of the decorative scheme of the
marble temple of Athena, built during the age of Pericles (480-430
C.) on the Acropolis, Athens, and decorated under the direction of
Phidias. The frieze consisted of a series of panels or slabs, about
ft. 4 in. in height, and was set on the outer wall of the cella.
Being lighted from below, the lower portion is cut in low relief
in.) and the upper parts in high relief (2¼ in.). The panel of the
Horsemen is one of the Elgin Marbles, removed by Lord Elgin from
Parthenon in 1801-1802, and now in the British Museum,
Bust of Hera.
Considered by Murray a copy after Polyclitus. Regarded by
as a "Roman creation based on a Praxitelean model."
Catalogued in Hare's "Walks in Rome" as a probable copy
after Alcamenes. In the Ludovisi Villa, Rome.5.
The Apoxyomenos.. A
marble copy of the original bronze statue by Lysippus, who
in the 4th century B. C. According to Pliny the original was
from Greece to Rome by Agrippa to adorn the public baths. This copy
was found in 1849 in the Trastevere, Rome, and is now in the
Head of the Apollo Belvedere.