« PreviousContinue »
of the whole composition of the south side; not only that, but the central and most essential part. We therefore take them to represent an isolated scene at the marriage of Peirithöos, more or less indoors, or at all events at the central place of the marriage feast. The prevalence of womanly figures accords with this view, and the concentration of them suggests alarm occasioned by the turbulence of the Centaurs at the extremes of the scene. The combats of Centaurs and Lapiths could not have been separated as they are into so many metopes on the left and so many on the right, yet all expressing the same sentiment, without something in the centre to account for all the fighting, either as cause or as effect, or possibly both cause and effect combined. In one of these metopes, 18, two women, obviously in dread, move hurriedly away. In another, 21, we see two women beside a sacred image, or xoanon, instantly recalling a group in the battle of Centaurs and Lapiths on the frieze of Phigaleia, where a Lapith woman clings to a similar xoanon. But the metope 15 containing a chariot group is curiously unique amid the others, unless the charioteer may be the goddess Artemis coming to the rescue of the Lapith women, as she does in a chariot of deer on the Phigaleian frieze. The next metope, 16, appears to be even more disconcerting at first sight. It represents one man standing over another who has been struck down mortally. Yet if both men are Lapiths, as they presum. ably are, the one would assuredly not have struck down the other. Nor indeed does it follow from the sculpture itself that the one has slain the other. On the contrary, the stricken Lapith may be a victim of the Centaurs
left behind, over whom the other Lapith expresses his horror.
For the rest the central metopes adapt themselves reasonably enough to the theory of their being for the most part the women of the wedding feast who so far had escaped the Centaurs.' In that portion of the composition we expect a preponderance of women, because most of the men would have already gone out to fight the Centaurs or to rescue the women who are being carried off. In that case we expect indications of a wedding ceremony, such as music and sacrifice; we expect signs of alarm; we may find both. Let us see slowly.
In the first of these central metopes, 13, are a young woman and a young man, turning away from each other, the woman having one arm raised. These two figures are not characterised as other than ordinary persons, but their attitude towards each other is clearly that of alarm. The youth is gathering his dress as if to run. In the next metope, 14, we have again a young man and a young woman. But here the youth is in great alarm. The young woman still holds in her hands objects connected with a feast or a sacrifice. Carrey's drawing is not sufficiently clear to decide what exactly they are. We have already spoken of metopes 15, 16, and now pass on to 17. Here we have again a youth and a maiden—he turning away from her instead of listening, she holding a lyre in her hands, which perhaps she has ceased to play. Carrey's drawing does not show quite distinctly that it is a lyre she holds, but fortunately there has survived from this metope just the fragment which was required to prove that it is a lyre, with belt round it to enable the player to hold it in its place. It was not necessary in ordinary circumstances for the maiden to clutch the lyre with her right hand as she does; her doing so can only signify astonishment or alarm. Next, 18, we see two women rushing away in excitement, leaving behind a young girl, who in her youthful ignorance stands looking back to see what is the matter. In Carrey's drawing she appears to hold a dish in her left hand, in which case she was doubtless a girl attendant at the wedding. Then follows 19, a group of two women, of whom one is a stately figure wearing a veil like a bride. In her pose, with the left hand raised to her face and her right hand supporting the left elbow, she recalls the bride Hippodameia in the east pediment of Olympia, except that the intensity of her attitude is even stronger. In this respect she may be compared with the striking figure of Medea in the Lateran relief in Rome, than which there is probably no more grandly conceived female figure among existing Greek reliefs. A bride plunged in profound meditation would be the natural description of this metope.
1 M. Perrot thinks that these central metopes were occupied with the birth of Erichthonios and legends of the
foundation of the cult of Athenè (Mé. langes Weil, p. 378).
In the sculptures of the west pediment of Olympia the bride was the first person seized on by the Centaurs, and was necessarily placed in the centre of the composition. But in a long series of detached metopes with no gradation of scale possible, the problem was different. There was no other way of suggesting the greater importance of one figure over another than by dignity of pose and demeanour. Instead of allowing the bride to be carried away, it was open to the sculptor to make her an imposing figure in the central group of metopes, as we think he has done.
Next, 20, we have two women, standing back to back. One of them, as drawn by Carrey, holds a scroll over what seems to be a table. He may have drawn accurately what he saw, and for all we know to the contrary a woman holding out a scroll over a table may be consistent with a marriage ceremony. But he has drawn the other woman turning her back to her companion, and holding in her hand what appears to be a knife, as if she were preparing for an emergency. Finally, 21, we have two women gathered round an image or xoanon, towards which, as we have already said, they had gone for protection, as in the Phigaleian frieze.
Long ago it was proposed to interpret these central metopes as representing the marriage scene of Peirithöos, interrupted by the inroad of the Centaurs. Since then this view has been generally rejected, but without, as we think, due consideration. The only alternative which has been suggested is that the central metopes represent a congeries of legends having no direct connection with the Lapiths and Centaurs; but this seems absurd, since we must as a consequence assume that Pheidias, great artist as he wasgreatest of all, perhaps, in his masterly gift of composition on a grand scale—had abandoned this gift in the south metopes.
On the analogy of the frieze of the Parthenon, as we shall see afterwards, the metopes of the north side of the temple should correspond in subject to those of the south, of which we have been speaking so far. That is to say, the north