Page images

left hand holds both the edge of the shield and the spear (Pl. XV.). It is a small matter, but not unimportant. Far more interesting is another question which this new gem raises. It shows on the right side of Athenè a cippus or low pillar surmounted by the owl of Athenè. One would have thought that an owl was indispensable, yet Pausanias makes no mention of one in his description of the statue. Equally the marble statuettes take no notice of the owl. But the evidence of our gem is confirmed by the gold medallions of St. Petersburg, which show an owl in the field (Pl. XV.). To judge by the workmanship, these medallions had been executed within half a century at most after the Athenè was finished, and so far we have seen them to be accurate as copies of the helmet. If the Athenè had held a sceptre like the Zeus at Olympia, we could imagine an owl on the top of it corresponding to the eagle on the top of the sceptre of the Zeus, but the end of her spear could not have been so decorated. Besides, the shaft of the spear, shown on the medallions at the side of the neck of Athenè, does not slope as if it had any connection with the owl. The shaft could easily have been made to slope towards the owl had that been the meaning. Obviously the owl had been inserted in the field of the medallions to represent a feature of the statue lower down. Now we know that the owl was associated with Athenè in one of her statues by Pheidias in Athens. It does not follow necessarily that the Athenè Parthenos was meant. On that point opinions were divided till the

· Studniczka, Arch. Zeit., 1884, p. 162, burg medallions may be intended to be notes the absence of an owl on or con- on the cheek-piece of the helmet, but nected with the Varvakeion copy, and we are not persuaded. thinks that the owl on the St. Peters


finding of the Varvakeion copy. There being no owl beside it, the question was allowed to drop. But in the light of the new gem we must reconsider the matter. In the Varvakeion statuette the right hand, which supports the Victory, rests on a cippus or pillar. That pillar has been a stumbling-block. Even the Berlin relief, on which Athenè, holding out a Nikè, appears to support her hand on a pillar, has not reconciled those who think the pillar incongruous with the art of Pheidias. We must remember that almost as inseparable from Athenè in Athens as her owl was the olive tree. The presence of an olive would therefore have been highly appropriate, the more so since it would afford a natural support to her hand holding out the Victory, much as we see on Greek coins.

A copyist would readily simplify an olive tree into a pillar. An alternative is, however, suggested by the new gem. Omit the owl, increase the height of the cippus till it becomes a support for the hand, and we have the Varvakeion statuette. At the same time, it is clear from the gem that the owl and cippus together had not served as an actual support for the hand of the goddess, and if that is so, we must conclude that no support was necessary, notwithstanding that a figure of Victory six feet high must have been of very considerable weight, even if it had been hollow and the gold as thin as was consistent with the figure holding together. Still, the arm and hand of Athenè being of ivory plated on a core of wood, it is conceivable that the inner core may have contained an iron support having its bearings in the body of the statue and sufficient

1 Welcker, Alte Denkmäler, pl. 7. ? Murray, Gr. Sculpt., ii. pl. 11.


to carry the weight. That has often been supposed, and in view of the ingenuity of Greek workmen we cannot call it unreasonable. We must apparently discard the owl and cippus as a possible support for the hand; but equally we must retain them as part of the original design of Pheidias, and as probably being the source of the pillar which the copyist has introduced into the Varvakeion statuette.

Let us pass on to the shield. On the outside, we are told, was sculptured in relief a battle of Greeks and Amazons. We know that the outside was so sculptured from various pieces of evidence, best of all from a marble copy of the shield in the British Museum which came from Athens (Pl. XIV.). In the centre is the Gorgon's mask, and round it are the combatants, rudely enough executed in Roman times. One of the Greeks is figured as a nude, bald-headed old man wielding a battle-axe. Another beside him has his arm raised to strike, concealing his face. Now Plutarch tells us that Pheidias, after the completion of the statue, was accused of having placed on the shield portraits of himself as a bald-headed old man, and of Pericles, with his arm raised so as to conceal his face. For that act of sacrilege, as it was held to be, Pheidias was condemned to prison. There are many references to this incident in ancient writers, and some of them go so far as to say that Pheidias had attached these two portraits so cunningly to the shield that they could not be removed without bringing the whole statue to pieces. Therefore they were left, though he was punished.

We must accept it as a fact that Pheidias had been charged publicly with having placed these two portraits on the shield. The literary evidence is too strong to be ignored. It does not, however, follow that there was any truth in the charge. If the Athenians could find in the supposed Pericles with his arm concealing his face a portrait of the statesman whom so many of them detested, their imagination was equal to a good deal. As regards the supposed Pheidias, we do not remember any bald-headed Greek in the existing representations of the battle of Greeks and Amazons. But there are bearded Greeks in abundance in such scenes, and there is no reason why Pheidias if he chose might not have introduced a bald-headed Greek much like the old man in one of the pediments of Olympia. That would be quite enough for the malignant gossips of Athens. They would say, “Here is old Pheidias himself.” By that time the sculptor was getting old, and may, for all we know to the contrary, have been bald. Accordingly he was charged with the crime of placing these portraits on the shield, and cast into prison. It is said that he died in prison, but that is a point on which there is uncertainty.

Centuries afterwards the story of Pheidias and the portraits was well known, as we see from grave writers like Cicero, and we can easily imagine a late copyist improving the occasion by making the supposed Pheidias look as like a portrait as possible. That seems to be what has happened on our marble shield. The proportions of the Pheidias have been enlarged so as to make him conspicuous, and possibly also to give an opportunity of indicating his features and the shape of his head. But why does he wield a battle-axe, when Plutarch says expressly that both hands were employed

raising a rock? Possibly Plutarch was wrong, and yet on the shield of another of these ancient marble copies of the Parthenos-the one known as the Lenormant statue (Pl. XIV.) -we have a figure raising a large stone aloft with both hands, as if about to hurl it. This discrepancy is the more curious because our shield is not the only one which shows Pheidias wielding the battle-axe. The same occurs also on a fragmentary copy in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Apparently the ancient copyists of the statue alternated between these two types of Pheidias, hurling a huge stone or wielding a battle-axe. Which of the two was the more authentic we cannot say.

We read in the Iliad occasionally of a combatant seizing a piece of rock to hurl at an enemy. But usually when we see in Greek art a man raising a large stone we assume that he belongs to the war of gods and giants, where we are accustomed to see rocks hurled in this manner. Now the war of gods and giants was, we are told, figured on the inside of the shield, and perhaps it is not too rash to conjecture that the copyists of these statuettes had occasionally transposed a figure from the interior to the exterior of the shield.

On the inside of the shield, as we have said, was represented the war of gods and giants. It has been supposed that this subject on the inner side had not been sculptured, but painted, or rather enamelled, and to some extent that view has been lately confirmed by the finding of a rudely painted figure on the inner side of our shield.

It is a figure of an old man stooping and raising a rock with both hands, as Pheidias was occupied in doing according to Plutarch. So that in fact our shield gives us a Pheidias on the inside

« PreviousContinue »