Page images
PDF
EPUB

assume that the great mass of the drapery was left in plain gold. We have, in fact, some evidence on the point. As everyone knows, Pheidias was falsely charged with appropriating part of the gold given him for the statue. His answer was to remove the gold and have it weighed, which of course could not have been done satisfactorily if the gold had already been richly enamelled. Either the charge was made before the inlay was put in place, or there was no inlay

at all.

It used to be a question whether enamelling in our modern sense of a vitreous substance fused on to metal was known to, or practised by, the Greeks, but we think there is proof now that they employed it on jewellery in small quantities earlier than the time of Pheidias. The alternative process, when patterns were to be executed on a large scale, was to sink them into the gold or bronze in pretty deep channels, and then to inlay in these channels pieces of vitreous paste made in imitation of precious stones. In most of the examples which have survived the vitreous inlays have no doubt lost their original brilliancy, yet, making allowance for this loss, we do not suppose that the robe of the Zeus at Olympia had ever shone with anything of the lustre we see in comparatively modern enamels.

Another technical question is the manner in which these colossal chryselephantine statues were made. Speaking of a statue of Zeus at Megara by a pupil of Pheidias, named Theocosmos, Pausanias says: “ The face was of gold and ivory, the rest of the figure of clay and gypsum

.

behind the temple lay half- finished pieces of wood. These Theocosmos intended to adorn with gold and ivory, and so complete the statue.” It would thus appear that the process of executing a colossal statue of this kind was, first, to model and set up the figure in clay or gypsum, then to replace the clay and gypsum bit by bit in wood, on which a surface of gold and ivory was attached, the wood being carved so as to express with more or less accuracy the folds of the drapery and the general form of the statue, and thus reduce the thickness of the overlying gold and ivory. We read also in Lucian (Somn. sive Gall., 24) that however beautiful one of the colossal statues by Pheidias and others might appear in external aspect, all gold and ivory, yet if you look inside them you will find bars, bolts, nails, logs of wood, wedges, pitch, clay, and all sorts of shapeless things. It is said that the amount of gold employed on the Athenè by Pheidias was equal in value to £10,000 or £12,000, and possibly on a statue 40 feet high, with a robe reaching from the neck to the ground, this quantity of gold would have served for a tolerably thick covering. We know from excellent sources that this mass of gold was removable, and we gather from the expression used by an ancient writer that the removing of the gold was like the stripping of the skin from an animal. It would not necessarily leave the statue in a shapeless condition. As a matter of fact, the gold was effectually removed, if we may employ so mild a term, by Lachares, an insurrectionary leader in Athens in the year 297 B.C., after a siege and a long period of distress. The saying was that he had left Athenè nude ; but this was no doubt more rhetorical than accurate. We must rather assume that the folds of the drapery, carved on the wooden core as they had been, would still have been

S

effective in general appearance after the gold had been looted. We hear nothing of the golden robe having been restored subsequently. For all we know positively, the statue may have remained in its stripped condition to the end. On the other hand, the marble copies made long after the spoliation of Lachares show no signs of that spoliation; and, similarly, the writer Pausanias, who records the robbery of Lachares, has shortly before described the statue as of gold and ivory, with no hint as to whether the gold had ever been replaced or not.

Pausanias lived just after the time of the Emperor Hadrian ; and the marble copies of the Athenè now known are usually ascribed to that same date. It is possible that Hadrian had caused the golden drapery to be restored. For we know that he erected at Athens a chryselephantine statue of Zeus, surpassing in size all other statues, says Pausanias, except the “colossi of Rhodes and of the Romans ” (i. 8. 6), “the workmanship being good,” he adds, “considering its size.” It is hardly conceivable that an emperor who loved Athens as did Hadrian, and spent so much on its adornment, would have left the famous Athenè of Pheidias without her golden robe, supposing she had remained in that condition from the date of the spoliation in 297 B.C. to his time.

The process of constructing these colossal gold and ivory statues was a subject that interested Pausanias. When speaking of the statue of Zeus at Olympia, the greatest of the works of Pheidias, he says, “On the floor in front of the statue is a circular basin of black marble, with a rim of white Parian, to contain olive oil, for that oil was necessary to protect the ivory against the damp of the Altis” (which

OV

was the local name of the spot at Olympia where the temple containing the statue was erected). He proceeds: “On the Acropolis of Athens the statue known as the Parthenos requires not olive oil but water, because of the dryness of the Acropolis, arising from its elevation. There the ivory needs water, and dew from the water. In Epidauros, when I asked why they used neither olive oil nor water for the statue of Asclepios, the authorities of the temple told me that the statue of the god, and the throne on which he sat, were placed over a well” (vii. 11, 10). Elsewhere (vii. 27, 1), speaking of a statue of Athenè at Pellenè, in Achaea, he says: “There is a temple of Athenè with a statue of the goddess of ivory and gold. They say it was the work of Pheidias ere yet he had made his statues of Athene on the Acropolis at Athens and at Plataea. The people of Pellenè say that there is a crypt of Athenè which goes deep into the earth, that this crypt is under the base of the statue, and that the air of the crypt is humid, on which account it is good for the ivory.” And again, speaking of the sculptor Damophon (iv. 31, 6), he praises him for the skill he showed in repairing the ivory of the Zeus at Olympia, the joints of which had begun to gape before the statue had been more than a century or so old. So that, if the theory of Pausanias was right, there had been more damp in the atmosphere at Olympia than the large basin of olive oil in front of the statue was capable of counteracting. How the moisture was provided for the Athenè in Athens we have no particle of evidence to show. There is no trace on the floor of the Parthenon of any basin as at Olympia. Were we certain that the Parthenon had been a hypaethral temple, with part of the roof open to the sky, we could understand Pausanias when he speaks of the water and the dew from the water. But that is still a vexed question. We may further assume that the ivory in these colossal statues had been stained, first, because we know that the staining of ivory was a practice of the Greeks as far back as the time of Homer ; and secondly, because the innumerable fine joints of the ivory could hardly have been concealed otherwise.

We may never be able to realise the majesty and splendour of the Athenè; but we can see in a measure what she was like in her pose and attributes from the ancient copies in marble to which we have referred (Pl. XIV.). They are rude, unskilful, and on a small scale, not much above statuettes. As we have said, they are the work of Roman times. Such copies were probably made by the dozen in Athenian workshops. The most complete is the one known as the Varvakeion Athenè, now in Athens (No. I in Plate XIV.). Plainly enough the three crests on the helmet are out of all proportion to the rest of the figure. Yet the face retains something of the grand type of Pheidias. The copyist knew that the triple crest of the helmet was a notable feature, and in trying to get in as much detail as possible he was driven to exaggerate the size of the crests. We assume that he is correct in his details. But here comes in a difficulty. Pausanias says,

1 At present we have the following 3 feet high, whereas No. 3—the Lenorcopies: (1) found near the Varvakeion at mant copy-is much smaller. Athens ; (2) found at Patras ; (3) found Among the marble copies of the head in Athens; (4) now in Madrid Museum. alone, are one in Berlin preserving some The base of the latter has been re- of its ancient colours (Ant. Denkmäler, worked, but in some respects this copy i. pl. 3), and another in the Louvre is good. Like Nos. 1, 2, it is about (Mon. Piot, vii. (1901), pl. 15).

« PreviousContinue »