Sketch of the History of Greek Sculpture
We have seen throughout the course of this book how the Greek and Norse myths have furnished material for the poets, not only of Greece and Scandinavia, but also of modern times. In the same way these stories have been found capable of artistic treatment by painters, sculptors, and even by musicians. The story of Cupid and Psyche has not only been retold by poets from Apuleius to William Morris, but also drawn out in a series of frescoes by Raphael, and sculptured in marble by Canova. Even to enumerate the works of art of the modern and ancient world which depend for their subject-matter upon mythology would be a task for a book by itself. As we have been able to give only a few illustrations of the poetic treatment of some of the principal myths, so we shall have to content ourselves with a similarly limited view of the part played by them in other fields of art.
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Of the statues made by the ancients themselves to represent their greater deities, a few have been already commented on. But it must not be thought that these splendid examples of plastic art, the Olympian Jupiter and the Athene of the Parthenon, represent the earliest attempts of the Greeks to give form to their myths in sculpture. Our most primitive sources of knowledge of much of Greek mythology are the Homeric poems, where the stories of Achilles and Ulysses have already taken on a poetic form, almost the highest conceivable. But in the other arts, Greek genius lagged behind. At the time when the Homeric poems were written, we find no traces of columned temples or magnificent statues. Scarcely were the domestic arts sufficiently advanced to allow the poet to describe dwellings glorious enough for his heroes to live in, or articles of common utility fit for their use. Of the two most famous works of art mentioned in the Iliad we must think of the statue of Athene at Troy (the Palladium) as a rude carving perhaps of wood, the arms of the goddess separated from the body only enough to allow her to hold the lance and spindle, which were the signs of her divinity. The splendor of the shield of Achilles must be attributed largely to the rich imagination of the poet.
Other works of art of this primitive age we know from descriptions in later classical writers. They attributed the rude statues which had come down to them to Daedalus and his pupils, and beheld them with wonder at their uncouth ugliness. It was long thought that these beginnings of Greek sculpture were to be traced to Egypt, but now-a-days scholars are inclined to take a different view. Egyptian sculpture was closely allied to architecture; the statues were frequently used for the columns of temples. Thus sculpture was subordinated to purely mechanical principles, and human figures were represented altogether in accordance with established conventions. Greek sculpture, on the contrary, even in its primitive forms was eminently natural, capable of developing a high degree of realism. From the first it was decorative in character, and this left the artist free to execute in his own way, provided only that the result should be in accordance with the highest type of beauty which he could conceive. An example of this early decorative art was the chest of Kypselos, on which stories from Homer were depicted in successive bands, the reliefs being partly inlaid with gold and ivory.
From the sixth century before Christ date three processes of great importance in the development of sculpture; the art of casting in bronze, the chiselling of marble, and the inlaying of gold and ivory on wood (chryselephantine work). As early Greek literature developed first among the island Greeks, so the invention of these three methods of art must br attributed to the colonists away from the original Hellas. To the Samians is probably due the invention of bronze casting, to the Chians the beginning of sculpture in marble. This latter development opened to Greek sculpture its great future. Marble work was carried on by a race of artists beginning with Melas in the seventh century and coming down to Boupalos and Athenis, the sons of Achermos, whose works survived to the time of Augustus. Chryselephantine sculpture began in Crete.
Among the earliest of the Greek sculptors whose names have come down to us was Canachos, the Sicyonian. His masterpiece was the Apollo Philesios, in bronze, made for the temple of Didymas. The statue no longer exists, but there are a number of ancient monuments which may be taken as fairly close copies of it, or at least as strongly suggestive of the style of Canachos, among which are the Payne-Knight Apollo at the British Museum, and the Piombino Apollo at the Louvre. In this latter statue the god stands erect with the left foot slightly advanced, and the hands outstretched. The socket of the eye is hollow and was probably filled with some bright substance. Canachos was undoubtedly an innovator, and in the stronger modelling of the head and neck, the more vigorous posture of the body of his statue, he shows an advance on the more conventional and limited art of his generation.
As Greek sculpture progressed, schools of artists arose in various cities, dependent usually for their fame on the ability of some individual sculptor. "Among these schools, those of Aegina and Athens are the most important. Of the former school the works of Onatus are by far the most notable.
Onatus was a contemporary of Canachos, and reached the height of his fame in the middle of the fifth century before Christ. His most famous work was the scene where the Greek heroes draw lots for an opponent to Hector. It is not certain whether Onatus sculptured the groups which adorned the pediments of the temple of Athena at Aegina, groups now in the Glyptothek at Munich, but certainly these famous statues are decidedly in his style. Both pediments represent the battle over the body of Patroclus. The east pediment shows the struggle between Heracles and Laomedon. In each group a fallen warrior lies at the feet of the goddess, over whom she extends her protection. The Aeginetan marbles show the traces of dying archaism. The figures of the warriors are strongly moulded, muscular, but without grace. The same type is reproduced again and again among them. Even the wounded scarcely depart from it. The statues of the eastern pediment are probably later in date than those of the western, and in the former the dying warrior exhibits actual weakness and pain. In the western pediment the statue of the goddess is thoroughly archaic, stiff, uncompromisingly harsh, the features frozen into a conventional smile.
In the eastern group the goddess, though still ungraceful, is more distinctly in action, and seems about to take part in the struggle. The Heracles of the eastern pediment, a warrior supported on one knee and drawing his bow, is, for the time, wonderfully vivid and strong. All of these statues are evidence of the rapid progress which Greek sculpture was making in the fifth century against the demands of hieratic conventionality.
The contemporary Athenian school boasted the names of Hegias, Critios, and Nesiotes. Their works have all perished, but a copy of one of the most famous works of Critios and Nesiotes, the statue of the Tyrannicides, is to be found in the Museum of Naples. Harmodius and Aristogeiton killed, in 514 B.C., the tyrant-ruler of Athens, Hipparchus. In consequence of this Athens soon became a republic, and the names of the first rebels were held in great honor.
Their statues were set up on the Acropolis, first a group by Antenor, then the group in question by Critios and Nesiotes after the first had been carried away by Xerxes. The heroes, as we learn from the copies in Naples, were represented as rushing forward, one with a naked sword flashing above his head, the other with a mantle for defence thrown over his left arm. They differ in every detail of action and pose, yet they exemplify the same emotion, a common impulse to perform the same deed.
At Argus, contemporary with these early schools of Athens and Aegina, was a school of artists depending on the fame of the great sculptor Ageladas. He was distinguished for his statues in bronze of Zeus and Heracles, but his great distinction is not through works of his own, but is due to the fact that he was the teacher of Myron, Polycleitos, and Pheidias. These names with those of Pythagoras and Calamis bring us to the glorious flowering time of Greek sculpture.
Calamis, somewhat older than the others, was an Athenian, at least by residence. He carried on the measure of perfection which Athenian sculpture had already attained, and added grace and charm to the already powerful model which earlier workers had left him. None of his works survive, but from notices of critics we know that he excelled especially in modelling horses and other animals.
His two race-horses in memory of the victory of Hiero of Syracuse at Olympia in 468 were considered unsurpassable. However, it is related that Praxiteles removed the charioteer from one of the groups of Calamis and replaced it by one of his own statues "that the men of Calamis might not be inferior to his horses." Thus it would appear that Calamis was less successful in dealing with the human body, though a statue of Aphrodite from his hand was proverbial, under the name Sosandra, for its grace and grave beauty.
Pythagoras of Rhegium carried on the realism, truth to nature, which was beginning to appear as an ideal of artistic representation. He is said to have been the first sculptor to mark the veins and sinews on the body.
In this vivid naturalness Pythagoras was himself far surpassed by Myron. Pythagoras had seen the importance of showing the effect of action in every portion of the body. Myron carried the minuteness of representation so far that his Statue of Ladas, the runner, was spoken of not as a runner, but as a BREATHER.
This statue represented the victor of the foot-race falling, overstrained and dying, at the goal, the last breath from the tired lungs yet hovering upon the lips. More famous than the Ladas is the Discobolos , or disc-thrower, of which copies exist at Rome, one being at the Vatican, the other at the Palazzo Massimi alle Colonne. These, though doubtless far behind the original, serve to show the marvellous power of portraying intense action which the sculptor possessed. The athlete is represented at the precise instant when he has brought the greatest possible bodily strength into play in order to give to the disc its highest force.
The body is bent forward, the toes of one foot cling to the ground, the muscles of the torso are strained, the whole body is in an attitude of violent tension which can endure only for an instant. Yet the face is free from contortion, free from any trace of effort, calm and beautiful. This shows that Myron, intent as he was upon reproducing nature, could yet depart from his realistic formulae when the requirements of beautiful art demanded it.
The same delight in rapid momentary action which characterized the two statues of Myron already mentioned appears in a third, the statue of Marsyas astonished at the flute which Athene had thrown away, and which was to lead its finder into his fatal contest with Apollo. A copy of this work at the Lateran Museum represents the satyr starting back in a rapid mingling of desire and fear, which is stamped on his heavy face, as well as indicated in the movement of his body.
Myron's realism again found expression in the bronze cow, celebrated by the epigrams of contemporary poets for its striking naturalness. "Shepherd, pasture thy flock at a little distance, lest thinking thou seest the cow of Myron breathe, thou shouldst wish to lead it away with thine oxen," was one of them.
The value and originality of Myron's contributions to the progress of Greek sculpture were so great that he left behind him a considerable number of artists devoted to his methods. His son Lykios followed his father closely. In statues on the Acropolis representing two boys, one bearing a basin, one blowing the coals in a censer into a flame, he reminds one of the Ladas, especially in the second, where the action of breathing is exemplified in every movement of the body. Another famous work by a follower of Myron was the boy plucking a thorn from his foot, a copy of which is in the Rothschild collection.
The frieze of the Temple of Apollo at Phigales has also been attributed to the school of Myron. The remnants of this frieze, now in the British Museum, show the battle of the Centaurs and Amazons. The figures have not the calm stateliness of bearing which characterizes those of the Parthenon frieze, but instead exhibit a wild vehemence of action which is, perhaps, directly due to the influence of Myron.
Another pupil of Ageladas, a somewhat younger contemporary of Pheidias, was Polycleitos. He excelled in representations of human, bodily beauty. Perfection of form was his aim, and so nearly did he seem to the ancients to have attained this object that his Doryphoros was taken by them as a model of the human figure. A copy of this statue exists in the Museum of Naples and represents a youth in the attitude of bearing a lance, quiet and reserved. The figure is rather heavily built, firm, powerful, and yet graceful, though hardly light enough to justify the praise of perfection which has been lavished upon it.
A companion statue to the Doryphorus of Polycleitos was his statue of the Diadumenos, or boy binding his head with a fillet. A supposed copy of this exists in the British Museum. It presents the same general characteristics as the Doryphorus, a well-modelled but thick-set figure standing in an attitude of repose.
What Polycleitos did for the male form in these two statues he did for the female form in his Amazon, which, according to a doubtful story, was adjudged in competition superior to a work by Pheidias. A statue supposed to be a copy of this masterpiece of Polycleitos is now in the Berlin Museum. It represents a woman standing in a graceful attitude beside a pillar, her left arm thrown above her head to free her wounded breast. The sculptor has succeeded admirably in catching the muscular force and firm hard flesh beneath the graceful curves of the woman warrior.
Polycleitos won his chief successes in portraying human figures. His statues of divinities are not numerous: a Zeus at Argos, an Aphrodite at Amyclae, and, more famous than either, the chryselephantine Hera for a temple between Argos and Mycenae. The goddess was represented as seated on a throne of gold, with bare head and arms. In her right hand was the sceptre crowned with the cuckoo, symbol of conjugal fidelity; in her left, the pomegranate. There exists no certain copy of the Hera of Polycleitos. The head of Hera in Naples may, perhaps, give us some idea of the type of divine beauty preferred by the sculptor who was preeminent for his devotion to human beauty.
Polycleitos was much praised by the Romans Quintilian and Cicero, who nevertheless, held that though he surpassed the beauty of man in nature, yet he did not approach the beauty of the gods. It was reserved for Pheidias to portray the highest conceptions of divinity of which the Greek mind was capable in his statues of Athene in the Parthenon at Athens, and the Zeus of Olympus.
Pheidias lived in the golden age of Athenian art. The victory of Greece against Persia had been due in large measure to Athens, and the results of the political success fell largely to her. It is true the Persians had held the ground of Athens for weeks, and when, after the victory of Salamis, the people returned to their city, they found it in ruins. But the spirit of the Athenians had been stirred, and in spite of the hostility of Persia, the jealousy of neighboring states, and the ruin of the city, the people felt new confidence in themselves and their divinity, and were more than ever ready to strive for the leadership of Greece. Religious feeling, gratitude to the gods who had preserved them, and civic pride in the glory of their own victorious city, all inspired the Athenians. After the winter in which the Persians were finally beaten at Plataea, the Athenians began to rebuild. For a while their efforts were confined to rendering the city habitable and defensible, since the activity of the little state was largely political. But when th leadership of Athens in Greece had become firmly established under Theistocles and Cimon, the third president of the democracy, Pericles, found leisure to turn to the artistic development of the city. The time was ripe, for the artistic progress of the people had been no less marked than their political. The same long training in valor and temperance which gave Athens her statesmen, Aristides and Pericles, gave her her artists and poets also. Pericles became president of the city in 444 B.C., just at the time when the decorative arts were approaching perfection under Pheidias.
Pheidias was an Athenian by birth, the son of Charmides. He studied first under Hegias, then under Ageladas the Argive. He became the most famous sculptor of his time, and when Pericles wanted a director for his great monumental works at Athens, he summoned Pheidias. Artists from all over Hellas put themselves at his disposal, and under his direction the Parthenon was built and adorned with the most splendid statuary the world has ever known.
The Parthenon was fashioned in honor of Athene or Minerva, the guardian deity of Athens, the preserver of Hellas, whom the Athenians in their gratitude sought to make the sovereign goddess of the land which she had saved. The eastern gable of the temple was adorned with a group representing the appearance of Minerva before the gods of Olympus. In the left angle of the gable appeared Helios, the dawn, rising from the sea. In the right angle Selene, evening, sank from sight. Next to Helios was a figure representing either Dionysus or Olympus, and beside were seated two figures, perhaps Persephone and Demeter, perhaps two Horae. Approaching these as a messenger was Iris. Balancing these figures on the side next Selene were two figures, representing Aphrodite in the arms of Peitho, or perhaps Thalassa, goddess of the sea, leaning against Gaia, the earth. Nearer the centre on this side was Hestia, to whom Hermes brought the tidings. The central group is totally lost, but must have been made up of Zeus, Athene, and Vulcan, with, perhaps, others of the greater divinities.
The group of the western pediment represented Athene and Poseidon, contesting for the supremacy of Athens. Athene's chariot is driven by Victory, Poseidon's by Amphitrite. Although the greater part of the attendant deities have disappeared, we know the gods of the rivers of Athens, Eridanas and Ilissos, in reclining postures filled the corners of the pediment. One of these has survived, and remains in its perfection of grace and immortal beauty to attest the wonderful skill that directed the chiselling of the whole group.
Although the gable groups have suffered terribly in the historic vicissitudes of the Parthenon, still enough remains of them to show the dignity of their conception, the rhythm of composition, and the splendid freedom of their workmanship. The fragments were purchased by Lord Elgin early in this century and are now in the British Museum.
The frieze of the Parthenon, executed under the supervision of Pheidias, represented one of the most glorious religious ceremonies of the Greek, the Pan-Athenaic procession. The deities surround Zeus as spectators of the scene, and toward them winds the long line of virgins bearing incense, herds of animals for sacrifice, players upon the lute and lyre, chariots and riders. On the western front the movement has not yet begun, and the youths and men stand in disorder, some binding their mantles, some mounting their horses. The frieze is noteworthy for its expression of physical and intellectual beauty which marked the highest conceptions of Greek art, and for the studied mingling of forcible action and gracious repose. The larger part of this frieze has been preserved and is to be seen at the British Museum.
The third group of Parthenon sculptures, the ornaments of the metope, represents the contest between centaurs and the Lapithae with some scenes interspersed of which the subjects cannot now be determined. The frieze is in low relief, the figures scarcely starting from the background. The sculptures of the metope, on the contrary, are in high relief, frequently giving the impression of marbles detached from the background altogether. They were, moreover, colored. Or course, Pheidias himself cannot have had more than the share of general director in the sculptures of the metope; many of them are manifestly executed by inferior hands. Nevertheless, the mind of a great designer is evident in the wonderful variety of posture and action which the figures show. Indeed, when we consider the immense number of figures employed, it becomes evident that not even all the sculptures of the pediments can have been executed entirely by Pheidias, who was already probably well advanced in life when he began the Parthenon decorations; yet all the sculptures were the work of Pheidias or of pupils working under him, and although traces may be found of the influence of other artists, of Myron, for example, in the freedom and naturalness of the action in the figures of the frieze, yet all the decorations of the Parthenon may fairly be said to belong to the Pheidian school of sculpture.
The fame of Pheidias himself, however, rested very largely on three great pieces of art work: The Athene Promachos, the Athene Parthenos, and the Olympian Zeus. The first of these was a work of Pheidias's youth. It represented the goddess standing gazing toward Athens lovingly and protectingly. She held a spear in one hand, the other supported a buckler. The statue was nine feet high. It was dignified and noble, but at the time of its conception Pheidias had not freed himself from the convention and traditions of the earlier school, and the stiff folds of the tunic, the cold demeanor of the goddess, recall the masters whom Pheidias was destined to supersede. No copy of this statue survives, and hence a description of it must be largely conjectural, made up from hints gleaned from Athenian coins.
Pheidias sculptured other statues of Athene, but none so wonderful as the Athene Parthenos, which, with the Olympian Zeus, was the wonder and admiration of the Greek world. The Athene Parthenos was designed to stand as an outward symbol of the divinity in whose protecting might the city had conquered and grown strong, in whose honor the temple had been built in which this statue was to shine as queen.
The Olympian Zeus was the representative of that greater divinity which all Hellas united in honoring. We may gain from the words of Pausanias some idea of the magnificence of this statue, but of its unutterable majesty we can only form faint images in the mind, remembering the strength and grace of the figures of the pediments of the temple at Athens. "Zeus," says Pausanias, "is seated on a throne of ivory and gold; upon his head is laced a garland made in imitation of olive leaves. He bears a Victory in his right hand, also crowned and made in gold and ivory, and holding in her right hand a little fillet. In his left hand the god holds a sceptre, made of all kinds of metals; the bird perched on the tip of the sceptre is an eagle. The shoes of Zeus are also of gold, and of gold his mantle, and underneath this mantle are figures and lilies inlaid."
Both the Olympian Zeus and the Athene were of chryselephantine work offering enormous technical difficulties, but in spite of this both showed almost absolute perfection of form united with beauty of intellectual character to represent the godhead incarnate in human substance. These two statues may be taken as the noblest creations of the Greek imagination when directed to the highest objects of its contemplation. The beauty of the Olympian Zeus, according to Quintilian, "added a new element to religion."
In the works of art just mentioned the creative force of the Greeks attained its highest success. After the death of Pheidias his methods were carried on in a way by the sculptors who had worked under him and become subject to his influence; but as years went on, with less and less to remind us of the supreme perfection of the master. Among these pupils of Pheidias were Agoracritos and Colotes in Athens, Paionios, and Alcamenes. Of Paionios fortunately one statue survives in regard to which there can be no doubt.
The Victory erected to the Olympian Zeus shows a tall goddess, strongly yet gracefully carved, posed forward with her drapery flattened closely against her body in front as if by the wind, and streaming freely behind. The masterpiece of Alcamenes, an Aphrodite, is known only by descriptions. The pediments of the temple at Olympia have been assigned, by tradition, one to Alcamenes, one to Paionios. They are, however, so thoroughly archaic in style that it seems impossible to reconcile them with what we know of the work of the men to whom they are attributed. The group of the eastern front represented the chariot races of Oinomaos and Pelops; that of the western, the struggle of the Centaurs and Lapithae. In the latter the action is extremely violent, only the Apollo in the midst is calm and commanding. In both pediments there are decided approaches to realism.
In Athens, after Pheidias, the greatest sculptures were those used to adorn the Erechtheion. The group of Caryatids, maidens who stand erect and firm, bearing upon their heads the weight of the porch, is justly celebrated as an architectural device. At the same time, the maidens, though thus performing the work of columns, do not lose the grace and charm which naturally belongs to them.
Another post-Pheidian work at Athens was the temple of Nike Apteros, the wingless Victory. The bas-reliefs from this temple, now in the Acropolis Museum at Athens, one representing the Victory stooping to tie her sandal, another, the Victory crowning a trophy, recall the consummate grace of the art of Pheidias, the greatest Greek art.
Agoracritos left behind him works at Athens which in their perfection could scarcely be distinguished from the works of Pheidias himself, none of which have come down to us. But from the time of the Peloponnesian war, the seeds of decay were in the art of Hellas, and they ripened fast. In one direction Callimachus carried refined delicacy and formal perfection to excess; and in the other Demetrios, the portrait sculptor, put by ideal beauty for the striking characteristics of realism. Thus the strict reserve, the earnest simplicity of Pheidias and his contemporaries, were sacrificed sacrificed partly, it is true, to the requirements of a fuller spiritual life, partly to the demands of a wider knowledge and deeper passion. The legitimate effects of sculpture are strictly limited. Sculpture is fitted to express not temporary, accidental feeling, but permanent character; not violent action, but repose. In the great work of the golden age the thought of the artist was happily limited so that the form was adequate to its expression. One single motive was all that he tried to express a motive uncomplicated by details of specific situation, a type of general beauty unmixed with the peculiar suggestions of special and individual emotion. When the onward impulse led the artist to pass over the severe limits which bounded the thought of the earlier school, he found his medium becoming less adequate to the demands of his more detailed and circumstantial mental conception. The later sculpture, therefore, lacks in some measure the repose and entire assurance of the earlier. The earlier sculpture confines itself to broad, central lines of heroic and divine character, as in the two masterpieces of Pheidias. The latter dealt in great elaboration with the details and elements of the stories and characters that formed its subjects, as in the Niobe group, or the Laocoon, to be mentioned later.
These modern tendencies produced as the greatest artists of the later Greek type Scopas and Praxiteles.
Between these, however, and the earlier school which they superseded came the Athenian Kephisodotos, the father, it may be supposed of Praxiteles. His fame rests upon a single work, a copy of which has been discovered, the Eirene and Ploutos. In this, while the simplicity and strictness of the Pheidian ideal have been largely preserved, it has been used as the vehicle of deeper feeling and more spiritual life.
Scopas was born at Paros, and lived during the fist half of the fourth century. He did much decorative work including the pediments of the temple of Athena at Tegea. He participated also in the decoration of the Mausoleum erected by Artemisia to the memory of her husband. In this latter, the battle of the Amazons, though probably not the work of Scopas himself, shows in the violence of its attitudes and the pathos of its action the new elements of interest in Greek art with the introduction of which Scopas is connected. The fame of Scopas rests principally on the Niobe group which is attributed to him. The sculpture represents the wife of Amphion at the moment when the curse of Apollo and Diana falls upon her, and her children are slain before her eyes. The children, already feeling the arrows of the gods, are flying to her for protection. She tries in vain to shield her youngest born beneath her mantle, and turns as if to hide her face with its motherly pride just giving place to despair and agony. The whole group is free from contortion and grandly tragic. The original exists no longer, but copies of parts of the group are found in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence.
The Niobe group shows the distinction between Scopas and Praxiteles and the earlier artists in choice of subject and mode of treatment. The same distinction is shown by the Raging Bacchante of Scopas. The head is thrown back, the hair loosened, the garments floating in the wind, an ecstacy of wild, torrent- like action.
Of the work of Praxiteles we know more directly than of the work of any other Greek sculptor of the same remoteness, for one statue has come down to us actually from the master's own hand, and we possess good copies of several others. His statues of Aphrodite, of which there were at least five, are known to us by the figures on coins and by two works in the same style, the Aphrodite in the Glyptothek, and that of the Vatican. The most famous of all was the Aphrodite of Cnidos, which was ranked with the Olympian Zeus and was called one of the wonders of te world. King Nicomedes of Bithynia offered vainly to the people of Cnidos the entire amount of their state debt for its possession. Lucian described the goddess as having a smile somewhat proud and disdainful; yet the eyes, moist and kindly, glowed with tenderness and passion, and the graceful lines of the shoulders, the voluptuous curves of the thighs, are full of sensuous feeling. The goddess, as represented in coins, stood beside a vase, over which her drapery is falling, while with her right hand she shields herself modestly. The head of Aphrodite in the British Museum, with its pure brows, its delicate, voluptuous lips, and sweet, soft skin, is, perhaps, the nearest approach which we possess to the glorious beauty of the original.
Other Aphrodites, the draped statue of Cos among them, and several statues of Eros, representing tender, effeminate youths, illustrate further the departure which Praxiteles marks from the restraint of Pheidias. Another of his masculine figures is the graceful Apollo with the Lizard. The god, strong in his youthful suppleness, is leaning against a tree threatening with his darts a small lizard which is seeking to climb up. Still another type of masculine grace left us by Praxiteles is his statue of the Satyr, of which a copy exists in the Capitoline Museum. The Satyr, in the hands of Praxiteles, lost all his ancient uncouthness, and became a strong, graceful youth, with soft, full form. In the Capitoline representation the boy is leaning easily against a tree, throwing his body into the most indolent posture, which brings out the soft, feminine curves of hips and legs. In fact, so thoroughly is the feminine principle worked into the statues of the Apollo, the Eros, and the Satyr, that this characteristic became considered typical of Praxiteles, and when, in 1877, was discovered the one authentic work which we possess of this artist, the great Hermes of Olympia, critics were at a loss to reconcile this figure with what was already known of the sculptor's work, some holding that it must be a work of his youth, when, through his father, Kephisodotos, he felt the force of the Pheidian tradition, others that there must have been two sculptors bearing the great name of Praxiteles.
The Hermes was found lacking the right arm and both legs below the knees, but the marvellous head and torso are perfectly preserved. The god is without the traditional symbols of his divinity. He is merely a beautiful man. He stands leaning easily against a tree, supporting on one arm the child Dionysus, to whom he turns his gracious head with the devotion and love of a protector. The face, in its expression of sweet majesty, is distinctly a personal conception. The low forehead, the eyes far apart, the small, playful mouth, the round, dimpled chin, all bear evidence to the individual quality which Praxiteles infused into the ideal thought of the god. The body, though at rest, is instinct with life and activity, in spite of its grace. In short, the form of the god has the superb perfection, as the face has the dignity, which was attributed to Pheidias. Nevertheless, the Hermes illustrates sensual loveliness of the later school. The freedom with which the god is conceived belongs to an age when the chains of religious belief sat lightly upon the artist. The gds of Praxiteles are the gods of human experience, and in his treatment of them he does not always escape the tendency of the age of decline to put pathos and passion in the place of eternal majesty.
The influence of Scopas and Praxiteles continued to be felt through a number of artists who worked in sufficient harmony with them to be properly called of their school. To one of these followers of Praxiteles, some say as a copy of a work of the master himself, we must attribute the Demeter now in the British Museum. This is a pathetic illustration of suffering motherhood. There is no exaggeration in the grief, only the calm dignity of a sorrow which in spite of hope refuses to be comforted.
Another work of an unknown artist, probably a follower of Scopas, is the splendid Victory of Samothrace, now in the Louvre. The goddess, with her great wings outspread behind her, is being carried forward, her firm rounded limbs striking through the draperies which flutter behind her, and fall about her in soft folds. Vigorous and stately, the goddess poises herself on the prow of the ship, swaying with the impulse of conquering daring and strength.
Another statue which belongs, so far as artistic reasoning may carry us, to the period and school of Praxiteles, is the so- called Venus of Milo. The proper title to be given to this statue is doubtful, for the drapery corresponds to that of the Roman type of Victory, and if we could be sure that the goddess once held the shield of conquest in her now broken arms we should be forced to call the figure a Victory and place its date no earlier than the second century B.C. However this may be, the statue is justly one of the most famous in the world. It represents an ideal of purity and sweetness. There is not a trace of coarseness or immodesty in the half-naked woman who stands perfect in the maidenly dignity of her own conquering fairness. Her serious yet smiling face, her graceful form, the delicacy of feeling in attitude and gaze, the tender moulding of breast and limbs, make it a worthy companion of the Hermes or Praxiteles. It seems scarcely possible that it should not have sprung from the inspiration of his example.
The last of the great sculptors of Greece was Lysippos of Sikyou. He differed from Pheidias on the one hand and from Polycleitos on the other. Pheidias strove to make his gods all god-like; Lysippos was content to represent them merely as exaggerated human beings; but therein he differed also from Polycleitos, who aimed to model the human body with the beauty only which actually existed in it. Lysippos felt that he must set the standard of human perfection higher than it appears in the average of human examples. Hence we have from him the statues of Heracles, in which the ideal of manly strength was carried far beyond the range of human possibility. A reminiscence of this conception of Lysippos may be found in the Farnese Heracles of Glycon, now in the Museum of Naples. Lysippos also sculptured four statues of Zeus, which depended for their interest largely on their heroic size.
Lysippos won much fame by his statues of Alexander the Great, but he is chiefly known to us by his statue of the athlete scraping himself with a strigil, of which an authentic copy is in the Vatican. The figure differs decidedly from the thick-set, rather heavy figures of Polycleitos, being tall, and slender in spite of its robustness. The head is small, the torso is small at the waist, but strong, and the whole body is splendidly active.
The changes in the models of earlier sculptors made by Lysippos were of sufficient importance to give rise to a school which was carried on by his sons and others, producing among many famous works the Barberini Faun, now at the Glyptothek, Munich. The enormous Colossus of Rhodes was also the work of a disciple of Lysippos.
But from this time the downward tendency in Greek art is only too apparent, and very rapid. The spread of Greek influence over Asia, and later, in consequence of the conquest of Greece by Rome, over Europe, had the effect of widening the market for Greek production, but of drying up the sources of what was vital in that production. Athens and Sikyou became mere provincial cities, and were shorn thenceforth of all artistic significance; and Greek art, thus deprived of the roots of its life, continued to grow for a while with a rank luxuriance of production, but soon became normal and conventional. The artists who followed Lysippos contented themselves chiefly with seeking a merely technical perfection in reproducing the creations of the earlier and more original age.
At Pergamon under Attalus, in the last years of the third century, there was something of an artistic revival. This Attalus successfully defended his country against an overwhelming attack of the Gauls from the north. To celebrate this victory, an altar was erected to Zeus on the Acropolis of Pergamon, of which the frieze represented the contest between Zeus and the giants. These sculptures are now to be found in Berlin. They are carved in high relief; the giants with muscles strained and distended, their bodies writhing in the contortions of effort and suffering; the gods, no longer calm and restrained, but themselves overcome with the ardor of battle. Zeus stretches his arms over the battle-field hurling destruction everywhere. Athene turns from the field, dragging at her heels a young giant whom she has conquered, and reaches forward to the crown of victory. The wild, passionate action of the whole work remove it far from the firm, orderly work of Pheidias, and carry it almost to the extreme of pathetic representation in sculpture shown by the Laocoon.
The contests with the Gauls, the fear inspired by the huge forms of the barbarians, seem to have influenced powerfully the imaginative conceptions of the sculptors of the school of Pergamon. One of the most famous works which they have left is the figure long known as the Dying Gladiator, of which a copy exists in the Capitoline Museum. This represents a Gaul sinking wounded to the ground, supporting himself on his right arm. It is remarkable for its stern realism. The pain and sense of defeat comes out in every feature. Moreover, the nationality of the fallen warrior is clearly expressed in the deep indentation between the heavy brow and the prominent nose, in the face, shaven, except the upper lip, in the uncouth, fleshy body, in the rough hands and feet. Usually the artist preferred to hint at the race by some peculiarities of costume. Here nothing but uncompromising realism of feature will satisfy the sculptor. A companion piece to the Wounded Gaul, though less famous, is the group of the Villa Ludovisi, which represents a Gaul, who has slain his wife, in the act of stabbing himself in the neck.
In addition to inspiring the sculptures at Pergamon, Attalus dedicated to the gods of Athens a votive offering in return for the help which they had given him. This was placed on the Acropolis at Athens. It consisted of four groups, representing the gigantomachia or giant combat, the battle of the Amazons, the battle of Marathon, and the victory of Attalus. Figures from these survive, a dead Amazon at Naples and a kneeling Persian at the Vatican being the best known.
Another state which became famous in the declining days of Greek art was the republic of Rhodes. The Rhodian sculptors learned their anatomy from Lysippos, and caught their dramatic instinct from the artists of Pergamon. Two of the most famous sculpture groups in the world were produced at Rhodes, the Laocoon, now at the Vatican, and the Farnese Bull, now at Naples. The former was the work of three artists, given by Pliny as Agesandros, Athanodorus, and Polydorus. It has been accepted as one of the masterpieces of the world, but as we shall see, it is manifestly a work of a time of decadence.
The Laocoon illustrates excellently the extreme results of the pathetic tendency. The priest Laocoon is represented at the moment when the serpents of Apollo surround him and his two sons, born through their father's sin, and bear them all three down to destruction. The younger son, fatally bitten, falls back in death agony. The father yields slowly, his desperation giving way before the merciless strength of the serpents. The elder son shrinks away in horror though bound fast by the inevitable coils.
The Laocoon shows the pathetic tendency at its utmost. The technical difficulties have been overcome with astonishing success, and though the combination of figures is impossible in life, it is marvellously effective in art. But the group depends for its interest purely on the accidental horror of the situation. There is no hint in the sculpture of the motive of the tragedy, no suggestion of ethical significance in the suffering portrayed. It does not connect itself with any principle of life. In this way the work became a superb piece of display, a TOUR DE FORCE of surprising composition but with little serious meaning.
The same judgment may be extended to the Farnese Bull, the work of Apollonius and Tauriscos, artists from Tralles who lived at Rhodes. This group represents the punishment of the cruel Dirke at the hands of the sons of Antiope. The beautiful queen clasps the knee of one of the sons praying for grace, while the other boy is about to throw over her the noose which is to bind her to the bull. Antiope stands in the background, a mere lay figure, and scattered about are numerous small symbolical figures. Like the Laocoon the Farnese Bull exhibits surprising mastery of technical obstacles, but, like the Laocoon, it falls short of true tragic grandeur. In a greater degree than the Laocoon it trenches upon the province of painting. It is more complicated in its subject-matter; and the appearance in the group of many small subsidiary figures, which in a painting might have been given their proper value, being in the marble of the same relief and distinction as the major characters, give a somewhat absurd effect. The little goddess who sits in the foreground, for instance, is smaller than the dog. Again, there is less of the motive shown than in the Laocoon. The group is seized at the moment preceding the frightful catastrophe, but that moment is as full of agony as the succeeding ones, and in addition there is the feeling of suspense and oppression that comes from the unfinished tragedy. Altogether, the group, in spite of the marvellous technical skill shown in details, is a failure when judged on general lines. Its interest lies in momentary and apparently ummotived suffering, not in any truly serious conception of life.
With the conquest of Greece by Rome, the final stage of Greek art begins. But the vigor and originality had departed. The sculptors aimed at and attained technical correctness, academic beauty of form, sensuous feeling, perfection of details, but they lost all imaginative power. A good example of the work of this period is found in the Apollo Belvidere now in the Vatican. This famous statue is an early Roman copy of a Greek original. It represents the god advancing easily, full of vigor and grace. It is marvellously correct in drawing, but quite without feeling of any kind.
Another work of this period is the sleeping Ariadne of the Vatican. This represents a woman reclining in a studied sentimental attitude, her arms thrown about her head, her body swathed in its protecting drapery. To the same period also belongs almost the last notable work of Greek art, the degenerate and sensuous conception of the Venus de Medici. In this statue the goddess stands as if rising from the sea, her attitude reserved, yet coquettish and self-conscious. The form is technically perfect, graceful, and soft in its refinement, but compared with the earlier Aphrodites it is an unworthy successor.
Still another famous statue is the Borghese Gladiator, of Agasius of Ephesus, now in the Louvre. The statue is merely a bit of display, an effort to parade technical skill and anatomical knowledge. The gladiator throws his weight strongly on his right leg, and holds one arm high above his head, giving to his whole body an effect of straining. The figure is strong and wiry. Agasius was distinctly an imitator, as were most of the artists of this age, among whom must be reckoned the skilful sculptor of the crouching Venus, also in the Louvre. The goddess is shown as bending down in graceful curves until her body is supported on the right leg, which is bent double. The form is strong and healthy, graceful and easy in its somewhat constrained posture.
During all of this final period Greek art was very largely influenced by the relations which existed between Greece and Rome. About the year 200 B.C. the Roman conquest of Greece led to an important traffic in works of art between Rome and the Greek cities. For a time, indeed, statues formed a recognized part of the booty which graced every Roman triumph. M. Fulvius Nobilior carried away not less than five hundred and fifteen. After the period of conquest the importation of Greek statues continued at Rome, and in time Greek artists also began to remove thither, so that Rome became not only the centre for the collection of Greek works of art, but the chief seat of their production. At this time the Roman religious conceptions were identified with those of Greece, and the Greek gods received the Latin names by which we now know them. The influence of the Greeks upon Rome was very marked, but the reflex influence of the material civilization of Italy upon Greek art was altogether bad, and thus the splendor of classical art went out in dilletantism and weakness.
The destruction of the Roman Empire by the barbarians makes a break in the artistic history of the world. Not for many centuries was there a vestige of artistic production. Even when in Italy and France the monks began to make crude attempts to reach out for and represent in painting and sculpture imaginative conceptions of things beautiful, they took their material exclusively from Christian sources. The tradition of classical stories had nearly vanished from the mind of Europe. Not until the Renaissance restored the knowledge of classical culture to Europe do we find artists making any use of the wealth of imaginative material stored up in the myths of Greece. Then, indeed, by the discovery and circulation of the poets of mythology, the Greek stories and conceptions of characters, divine and human, became known once more and were used freely, remaining until the present day one chief source of material and subject-matter for the use of the painter and sculptor.