« PreviousContinue »
or less from the weather, and may therefore be regarded as preserving the original surface of the marble, which elsewhere has been eaten away. One of the most noticeable of these occurs under the left leg of Theseus (or Cephalos). It appears that the sculptures had been covered originally with a thin wash or size of lime, so thin and transparent that in places we can see the finest tool-marks through it. Probably that was what the ancients called circumlitio. A surface of this kind would be far more suitable than the marble itself for the addition of colours on the borders of the draperies and other details, and there is no question now that bright colours were freely employed on archaic Greek sculptures, as on the friezes of Delphi and the archaic pediments and statues of the Acropolis of Athens. Remains of bright colouring were found on the pediment sculptures of Olympia, and to take a much later example, on the sculptures of the Mausoleum. We do not, however, suppose that the golden tint now visible on the Parthenon sculptures represents the original colour. More probably the original colour was an ivory white, intended at once to tone down the harsh surface of the marble, and to be a facile medium for details painted in bright hues.
THE SOUTH METOPES
N a Doric temple there were square spaces immediately
above the architrave which were called metopes. These square metopes might or might not be sculptured. On the Theseum at Athens, for instance, only the metopes on the two fronts are sculptured; those along the sides are left blank. But on the Parthenon, such was the splendour of the temple, every one of the ninety-two metopes was sculptured in high-relief. Many of them remain in their place in Athens, but are now, for the most part, so much disfigured by weather as to be barely recognisable even as regards the subjects they were intended to represent. The south was the sunny side of the Parthenon, and there the metopes had suffered comparatively little when Carrey drew them in 1674. Unfortunately he had only time to draw those of the south side. A few years after came the Venetian bombardment (1687), when the Parthenon was blown up, producing a great gap across the middle, and destroying amid much else the centre group of metopes on the south side which Carrey had drawn. So that now the only record existing of those missing metopes of the south
side are the drawings of Carrey (Pl. X.). Of the metopes that remained on the building at either side of the great gap,
fifteen were subsequently removed by Lord Elgin about the year 1800, and ultimately placed in the British Museum ; his colleague, the French ambassador, sent one to Paris, where it may be seen in the Louvre; two are still in Athens. Thus there exist now only eighteen of the south metopes, which originally were thirty-two in number. As we have said, the remaining fourteen are known only from Carrey's drawings, except for a fragment here and there found on the Acropolis.
With these materials at hand it is possible to understand the general scheme of the south metopes, and in a great measure also to enjoy their beauty. The deplorable condition of the others we must consider later on. Accordingly at each end of the south series we find Lapiths and Centaurs engaged in the struggle that ensued at the marriage feast of Peirithöos. Each of these metopes consists of a group of two figures, a Centaur fighting with a Lapith or carrying off a Lapith woman. Each metope is charged to the utmost with animation, and the general effect is that of nude forms, relieved only here and there by a little drapery or by the dress of a Lapith woman who is being carried away forcibly. But in the middle of the series we have nine metopes (13-21), in which most of the figures are stately, dressed women. We recognise at once the effect of repose, which is obtained by introducing in the middle of the series these imposing figures, so differently characterised from the turbulent groups at the two ends. For this reason alone they must have formed an integral part