Page images
PDF
EPUB

enough as that would be in all circumstances in the time of Pheidias, may still be claimed as artistically appropriate to the occasion of morning twilight.

There are some questions of artistic execution which we must notice. In the figure K the drapery which falls over her left thigh is of extraordinary complexity and beauty, where the folds were intended to be seen. But the moment we look a little further towards the back of the figure we come upon folds which are merely blocked out in the roughest manner. How far this sudden change from utmost beauty of detail to general negligence was due to haste or to a consideration of what would be seen and what not, we cannot of course say. The fact remains that in most cases the backs of the pediment figures have not been finished to the extent usually supposed. No one would for a moment deny that the backs of the group L, M, are a splendid conception, and worthy of the greatest of artists. But the greatest of sculptors may at times be casual in his execution, and we maintain that the backs of this group are to an extent casual in execution.

Returning to the general scheme of the east pediment, we observe that the Selenè in the right angle has of late been called Night. The argument is that Selenè, in the time of Pheidias, had no chariot, but rode on a horse or a mule. On the base of Zeus at Olympia, Pausanias (v. II, 3) speaks of her as having only one horse, and on certain contemporary vases she appears riding on a horse or a mule. The daily splendour of the sun (aliusque et idem) might well be represented by a quadriga, while the fainter light of the moon would be sufficiently indicated by one horse,

But apart

and, in fact, on the Parthenon only one of the horses' heads was practically visible. In later art the moon had her quadriga equal with the sun. For all we know that tradition had gone back to the Parthenon times. But where is there in Greek poetry or art any suggestion that Night ever sets or wanes in a chariot, one of her horses' heads already dipping over the horizon, as on the Parthenon pediment? Euripides (Ion, 1149) may speak of black-robed night as a companion group to Helios, and one poet may call the Fates "fair armed daughters of night,” while another regards them as "daughters of chaos.” In the Parthenon pediment it is a question of sunrise and a waning light which surely can be no other than that of the moon. from the names of the two luminaries, we note that whereas in the west pediment the two chariots of gods are well towards the centre, here in the east the two chariots are little more than visible. Nor is this distinction inappropriate to the different stages of the drama.

We have next to consider the Victory, J, and her proper place in the pediment. First we must reckon with her wings. These, it is true, are now wanting, but we can see from two deep sockets in the back of her shoulders that the wings may have risen above her head, possibly to a very considerable height, in any case as much as to make her present position in the Elgin Room impossible. And there are other reasons why her present position is untenable. First, Victory was intimately associated with Zeus and Athenè; secondly, she was always of small dimensions compared with these two deities; and thirdly, the Madrid puteal shows her between these two. To satisfy

these conditions she must be moved near to the centre of the pediment. At the same time she must still retain her present attitude of moving from right to left. To place her between Zeus and Athenè would involve two things—first, that she would have to be flying in the air, which does not seem consistent with the action of the torso as preserved ; and secondly, that she would thus necessarily be approaching Zeus to crown him rather than Athenè, contrary to the evidence of the Madrid puteal and contrary to our expectations. A more appropriate place, these things considered, would be next to Athenè on the right. There she would still be of small dimensions compared with the central deities.

In those days Victory would have offered to Athenè not a wreath, but a taenia or ribbon, as does the Nikè on the hand of the Athenè Parthenos, but she need not, in a similar manner, have held the ribbon one end in each hand. We can imagine her left hand holding high one end of a bronzegilt ribbon, the other end fastened by the slight iron plug which still remains on her left thigh. Her right arm would then be stretched forward to welcome Athene's arrival. For the rest we cannot leave this torso without expressing the highest admiration of its beauty. The grandeur and simplicity of her bodily forms she possesses in common with every other figure of the Parthenon. But she is peculiar in wearing a very thin and slight costume suggestive of a swift messenger.

In that character her chiton necessarily clings to the body. That purpose it serves and no more. There was no occasion for impressiveness. What was wanted was a robust, swift figure,

H

clad lightly, but ideally, and in keeping with her large wings, which also in those days would have combined long, powerful pinions with small, finely chased feathers. Compare the drapery on her body with that of the Victory of Olympia, and we see at once where the higher ideal comes in. Indeed, on the left side of the Victory of Olympia the dress is treated in a very indifferent manner, which perhaps may be excused by the fact that Paeonios, the sculptor, was obliged, in the circumstances, to produce an impressive and striking figure alone on a lofty pedestal.

With regard to the great gap in the centre of the pediment, we have already said that several of the missing statues can be imagined with reasonable certainty ; in the very centre, Zeus, Athenė, Victory, and Hephaestos (or Prometheus). It is almost beyond doubt that Zeus had been seated facing the right, and that Athenè was before him, while behind him Hephaestos was hurrying away after cleaving the head of Zeus with his axe. There remains room for six more figures, of whom we are told, on the present-day evidence of the bed of the pediment, that two had been seated, one on each side of the centre group, the others having been standing, two on each side. But valuable as this evidence from the actual bed or floor of the pediment may yet become with increased knowledge from other sources, no satisfactory result is to be obtained from discussing it now. That, we think, will be evident from the attempts of Professor Furtwaengler. His scheme may prove to be in some parts right, in others wrong. But we cannot think that his notion of the Athenè in the very centre can be right. Allowing

1 On page 29 of his Intermezzi.

that on her own temple the most conspicuous place of all was her due; yet it was her birth from the brain of her father, Zeus, that was the dominant feature of the composition, not alone her own personality. From Furtwaengler's point of view we can well understand his choosing for the very centre a stately Athenè like the marble statue in the École des Beaux Arts in Paris,' and pushing Zeus to the side. But we think his notion radically wrong, and certainly the Paris statue, dignified as she is, is far beneath the Parthenon sculptures.

While declining to discuss here speculative reconstructions of the east pediment, we, on the other hand, readily welcome them when they are carried out on artistic principles, so as to exhibit the dominating effects of the central deities over the secondary groups in the angles. For example, it may now be said that Cockerell's reconstruction is fantastic in some important respects, yet with the instincts of a true artist he shows this relationship of the several parts of the composition, and that is the first thing we require. He had as his guide the west pediment, which he knew from Carrey's drawings. We have in addition the example of the east pediment of Olympia.

To conclude with a technical matter : at a number of points on the sculptures of both pediments, especially the east, there may be seen patches of a golden colour. These patches are found in places which have been sheltered more

1 Intermezzi, p. 17. This is the marble known as the Torso Medici. Since his theory was announced two more copies of the same original have been recognised in the Court of the

House of Pilate in Seville. They are published with their hideous restorations in the Jahresheften des Oesterr. Arch. Inst., 1899, pls. 2, 3.

2 Museum Marbles, vi. pl. 21.

« PreviousContinue »