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A History of Greek Art By F. B. Tarbell Characters: 27968

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

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 Praxit

eles. 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 of apparent ease, but in reality of skilful contrivance to secure a due balance of parts and anety and grace of line. The one garment, drawn closely about the person, illustrates the inestimable good fortune enjoyed by the Greek sculptor, in contrast with the sculptor of to-day, in having to represent a costume so simple, so pliant, so capable of graceful adjustment. The head, however much it may contain of the actual look of Sophocles, must be idealized. To appreciate it properly one must remember that this poet, though he dealt with tragic themes, was not wont to brood over the sin and sorrow and unfathomable mystery of the world, but was serene in his temper and prosperous in his life.

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, he accepted commissions for athlete statues; five such are mentioned by Pausanias as existing at Olympia. An allegorical figure by him of Cairos (Opportunity) receives lavish praise from a late rhetorician. Finally, he is credited with a statue of a tipsy female flute-player. This deserves especial notice as the first well-assured example of a work of Greek sculpture ignoble in its subject and obviously unfit for any of the purposes for which sculpture had chiefly existed (cf. page 124).

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 (323 B.C.), it would seem likely that Lysippus, or whoever the sculptor was, based his portrait upon likenesses taken some years earlier. Consequently, although portraiture in the age of Alexander had become prevailingly realistic, it would be unsafe to regard this head as a conspicuous example of the new tendency. The artist probably aimed to present a recognizable likeness and at the same time to give a worthy expression to the great conqueror's qualities of character. If the latter object does not seem to have been attained, one is free to lay the blame upon the copyist and time.

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