Page images

this figure radiantly beautiful. The bare right arm hanging idly over a chiton of fine folds is thus seen to perfection; the bare legs in an easy position, the way in which the shield partially frames in the figure, the contrasts of draped and nude form, these are points which we can all observe and admire. To define what constitutes the loveliness of the whole seems beyond the powers of even those who are most moved by it.

In Carrey's time there were still to be seen six chariots on the north and eight on the south frieze. Since then the damage done to the chariot groups has been so great that we can now hardly form a just conception of the original aspect of the whole. Apparently there had been nine chariots on each side, and from the remains of them we can at best form an opinion only of isolated groups. We can see that on both north and south friezes there had been much variety in the action of the horses, in the costume of the apobatae, and in the attitudes of the guides accompanying each chariot. Specially splendid is the fragment in Athens of the foremost chariot on the north side, to which we have already referred, with the guide in front of the horses, violently checking them at the point where they overtake the pedestrians of the procession (xi.).

We have already mentioned the several sections of pedestrians who preceded the chariots, culminating in the two groups of girls, who, after having woven and embroidered the new peplos on the Acropolis, walked at the head of the procession, carrying wine vessels, oenochoae of notably small size from which to pour, and phialae from which to drink. These girls appear at either end of the east frieze.

[blocks in formation]


True to ordinary habit, they carry the oenochoe in the right hand, the phialè in the left, the consequence being that in the left group the oenochoae are conspicuous, in the right only partially visible, while similarly in the one set the phialae show the interior, in the other the exterior. Therefore even in these apparently trivial matters we find truth at the expense of strict artistic balance between the two groups of girls.

Several of them carry a stand with a bell-shaped foot, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 56, 57. In one instance there is fixed on the top of this stand an object resembling a distaff, which would be peculiarly appropriate. In two instances in the left group of girls, 12–13, and 14-15, this top piece is seen to have been separate from the stand, and apparently to have been made of metal, fitted into a deep socket in the marble in one of these instances, 12, 13. Tempting, however, as is the idea of a distaff, we must revert to the accepted definition of this object as a thymiaterion, or incenseburner. At the head of the girls on the right are two groups of two each, who carry nothing in their hands. At the head of those on the left there is only one such group, with hands falling idly by the sides. Both groups have throughout the air of school-girls.

In point of execution we may note that there is a marked difference between the slab of Ergastinae, now in Paris, from the right end of the east frieze, 50–56, and the slab next following in the Elgin Room, 59-61. In the Paris slab, of which a cast is inserted in its proper place, we observe that the draperies are rendered with the utmost refinement, the folds being kept flat and arranged with scrupulous attention.


On the next following slab they are comparatively rough and rude.

We have already considered one instance of what we called relative truth on the frieze. Others are awaiting us. On the west frieze we see a young horseman riding away, 11. Behind him stands another youth, stooping to fasten his boot, 12. In passing, one hardly observes any difference of age or otherwise between these two youths. But on closer inspection we perceive that the sculptor has enlarged the bodily forms of the stooping youth to the extent of producing a vast disproportion between him and the youth on horseback. Yet both figures are perfectly correct in an absolute sense. It is only relatively to each other that the disproportion becomes apparent. The same stooping figure recurs again further on in the west frieze, 29, and it is interesting to compare the two, if for no other purpose than to see the infinite pains of the sculptor to attain variety of detail as subsidiary to repetition of what was practically the same motive. In a scene of preparation and starting the repetition of so striking a motive was both natural and artistically effective.

On the question of proportions in the human figure we may take also a boy on the west frieze, 6.

His bodily forms are greatly exaggerated, though his head is obviously that of a boy. The effect of his exaggerated proportions is that his head is nearly on a level with that of his master. The reason was this : all through the frieze the heads of the figures are, as far as possible, made to reach about the same level, whether they are standing or seated, on horseback or in chariots. This is described as the

[blocks in formation]

isocephalism of the Parthenon frieze. Apparently this was an artistic law which the sculptor had to obey as best he could. Accordingly wherever chariots, horsemen, pedestrians, and seated figures were collected together, there was no possibility of preserving the strict relative truth of the one to the other, as we see it in actual life. We are here pressing this point of relative as against absolute truth because on the frieze there are exceptionally several instances in which the sculptor has given with almost touching effect the true relative proportions of boy to man.

There is the boy standing behind his master and fastening his girdle (N. 134), the boy handing up the peplos (E. 35), and the boyish figure of Eros leaning against the knees of Aphroditè (E. 42). We can readily understand how on a long, narrow frieze isocephalism was indispensable for the continuity of the movement and the unity of the whole procession. But much the same spirit pervades the contemporary Greek vases.

We may add that on the vases also, as on the frieze, the figures have at first sight an aspect of unreality, arising apparently from the prominence of the contours and the careful toning down of the inner markings, which are, in fact, full of details when looked into close at hand.

Most of the faces are in profile ; only a few are to the front. Among the latter we may notice a rider on the west frieze, 2. He has thrown his body round somewhat violently; his hair, longer than usual, streams out at each side; he has had a metal wreath, as the drill-holes in the marble testify. Altogether he is one of those striking figures which were needed at intervals in the cavalcade to interrupt the uniformity of the movement by the boldness of his action and his brilliant nude form. Almost equally bold and equally noticeable is one of the first youths we meet on turning the angle to the north frieze (xlii.), standing full to the front, and by his attitude requiring the greatest artistic skill to avoid ungainliness and errors of perspective.

The youthful faces in profile present in general an air of solemnity, often with the corners of the mouth turned down. Occasionally there is an eager expression, as in the youth stooping to raise his hydria, as if he were a little belated. On the south frieze some of the faces look like prematurely aged youths. The eyes are mostly in side face, which probably is due to a lingering on of archaic tradition. The ear is very carefully and finely rendered ; the hair avoids equally the conventionalism of archaic and the naturalism of later art.

In the heads of the deities we readily recognise certain known types, such as Zeus and Hera, Athenè and Hephaestos, much damaged as they all are, except on one slab at Athens, which has been singularly well preserved (vi.). So also the head of Iris (E. 28) has fortunately been preserved nearly intact. But it is not easy, as we have already said, to explain the action of her left hand, which is raised to her hair, further than that it must be meant to assist in expressing her surprise at the approach of the procession, as does her mistress Hera. While pulling aside her veil with both hands, Hera reveals on the left side of her head a wreath, the leaves of which have a fine serrated edge, like those of the willow,

« PreviousContinue »