« PreviousContinue »
he had the services of craftsmen whose names are not given. Among these latter may well have been his favourite pupils, Alcamenes and Agoracritos. In time it may be possible to trace the handiwork of these two pupils on the Parthenon sculptures. But at present our information is too vague, first, as regards the distinctive styles of Alcamenes and Agoracritos, and secondly, as regards the limitations of a man of commanding genius as Pheidias undoubtedly was. All we know of Alcamenes points to his excellence in single statues of deities. Pheidias, on the other hand, was renowned for the wealth and splendour of his imagination. The combination of such a master and such a pupil was everything that could be desired, and, indeed, we are not surprised that comparisons have been made between the socalled Fates of the Parthenon and a presumed copy of the “Aphroditè in the Gardens” by Alcamenes, so far as concerns the treatment of the drapery. Yet who knows but Pheidias himself had advanced on the same lines as his pupil, bestowing on individual figures or groups charms of detail which were not really required by their function in a great composition ? We are told of a competition between Pheidias and Alcamenes for a statue of Athenè which was to be placed on a height; that Pheidias had made due allowance for the height, but that Alcamenes, not understanding rightly the effect of distance, had finished his statue with elaborate care. According to the tale, the statue by Pheidias was a source of ridicule until it was raised to its proper height. Thereupon the ridicule was turned against Alcamenes. The story may be silly in some respects, but there was probably good authority for it so far as concerned the essential difference between the two sculptors.?
1 Tzetzes, Chil. viii. 353.
In the erection of public buildings in Greece it appears to have been usual to have an official Board charged to supervise the progress of the works, and to arrange contracts with sculptors, architects, and craftsmen. In several instances the records of the Boards have survived, inscribed on marble stelae. One of the most interesting gives us the contracts for the temple of Asclepios at Epidauros. And that there had been a Board of this kind for the Parthenon appears from a fragment of papyrus in Strassburg. But whether any such Board would have had the power of choosing the subjects to be represented is doubtful. We know that Pheidias had much influence with Pericles, and presumably these two had selected the general scheme of the sculptures.
How long the Parthenon had lasted in its original entirety and splendour we know not. Down to the second century of our era we read of it as still intact, with the one exception that the gold of the colossal Athenè had been made off with during a revolt in Athens. But after the second century there was apparently no thought of preserving the Parthenon against the effects of negligence and weather, to say nothing of possible earthquakes. The early Christians, who made it a church, had no interest in its sculptures, still less the Turks, who subsequently used it as a mosque, and in the end, when bombarded by the Venetians in 1687, had a store of powder in it. A too well aimed shell from the Venetians caused a terrific explosion. The result was a great gap across the middle of the Parthenon, involving the destruction of the centre metopes and much of the frieze. To add to this calamity, the Venetian general, Morosini, attempted to
Bruno Keil, Anonymus Argentinensis, p. 75.
lower and carry off the chariot group of Athenè in the west pediment. But his tackle gave way, and the group was broken into fragments.
Some years previous to the Venetian bombardment it happened, fortunately, that a French Ambassador to the Porte, famous in his day—the Marquis de Nointel-had employed an artist to make drawings for him of the Parthenon sculptures. These drawings exist now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris," and are, in fact, the only evidence we possess as to large sections of the sculptures which have disappeared. They are therefore invaluable. In their way they are masterly and truthful-very different from the fanciful sketches of Cyriac of Ancona or San Gallo in the fifteenth century, or such wild compositions as that of D'Ortières in 1687.
In the first years of the nineteenth century Lord Elgin removed those of the sculptures now in the British Museum, while his colleague, the French Ambassador to the Porte, M. Choiseul - Gouffier, appropriated a slab of the frieze and two metopes. The slab of frieze and one of these metopes are now in the Louvre. The other metope was recovered for the British Museum. Nearly the whole of the west frieze, the metopes of the east and west fronts remain on the building, as do also such of the north metopes as were spared by the explosion in 1687. Several figures of the west pediment are still in situ, badly damaged, like all the rest of the sculptures
1 Reproduced by photography in folio form by M. Omont, Dessins des Sculp. tures du Parthenon, 1898. For an ac
count of the Marquis de Nointel, see M. le Comte Albert Vandal, L'Odyssée d'un Ambassadeur (1673-1675).
now on the building. In the Elgin Room of the British Museum may be seen two sets of plaster casts from the west frieze, the one set made for Lord Elgin, the other after an interval of about seventy years. How the marbles had suffered during that period is only too obvious. Apparently there is no means of stopping the decay of the marble when it has once got so far; but it is sad to think how short the time may be before the sculptures yet on the Parthenon become quite unrecognisable. It is the Elgin casts that are given in our plate of the frieze.
D ROM its very nature, the triangular shape of a pediT ment had presented difficulties to Greek sculptors in the earliest times, if we may judge from the archaic remains now to be seen on the Acropolis of Athens. Apparently the first successful solution of the problemhow to utilise such a space for a sculptured composition with figures in the round—was the pediments of Aegina, particularly the west pediment, where the incidents of a battlefield are ingeniously adapted to the given triangular space. In the acute angles are wounded men lying with their feet towards the narrowest part, and raising themselves on their elbows so far as space would allow; next come bowmen in their proper attitude of kneeling; then a warrior hurrying to the front half bent; and finally, towards the centre, the protagonists, men of larger mould than the others, like Homeric heroes; and lastly, in the very centre, an invisible goddess interfering to stay the combat. What we see is by no means a realistic battle. Such incidents only are chosen as are best suited to the space; nor is that the sole justification of the sculptor in this instance.