« PreviousContinue »
marble. But apart from this, the metope is finely composed in our judgment. We must admire the action of the Lapith, with his left foot raised and planted against the Centaur, his left arm stretched to its utmost to push back the Centaur, who has raised both arms to strike down the Lapith with the greatest force he could command.
It is an even contest. No one can say which of the two is to be victor ultimately. The group is finely spaced, with just enough contact and just enough separation to produce a well-balanced effect in an artistic sense, no less than a well-balanced fight
In 6 the Lapith has a mantle sketched in on the background behind his legs, and falling from his left shoulder. Obviously his legs have been sculptured quite free from the background. There are no traces of them on the folds of the mantle. Otherwise there is not much to be said of this metope except that it represents in an almost friendly manner the first stage of an encounter which was bound to end in excessive violence. In every conflict there must be similar initial stages. It depends on the sculptor to take advantage of them or not, and we have already seen that the sculptor of the Parthenon was inclined to avoid as far as possible the brutalities which his contemporary Ictinos indulged in on the frieze of Phigaleia.
The last three metopes of the series, 30, 31, 32, are remarkable, as we have said, for the accumulation of nude forms. Only in one of them is there a bit of drapery to break the monotony. For some reason the sculptor had chosen to place groups of that nature at the very outer extreme of his composition. What that reason was it is hard to guess.
But let us note each group in passing. In
30 there is drapery behind the Lapith, one end of it still clinging on his right shoulder, while behind the Centaur a panther's skin is faintly sketched in on the background. The Lapith has fallen on one knee, and clutches a stone with his left hand; but there is otherwise not much indication of violence. The Centaur merely touches the Lapith's head, and the Lapith merely touches the ribs of the Centaur. The suggestion of the artist may be that the powers of the combatants are about exhausted. In any case, the group seems finely composed. In 31 the Centaur is trying to choke the Lapith, who in return seizes him by the ear apparently. That again does not seem a deadly encounter ; the action is mild comparatively. The Centaur has caught up one leg of the Lapith between his two fore legs, and between the two combatants there is an intertwining of legs and crossing of arms which occupies the intervening space with a more curious than forcible effect. In 32 the combatants are closer together. The legs of the Centaur and his left arm pass behind the Lapith and make no display. Doubtless the struggle can only end in the death of one or other, but there is no intensity in the action. Possibly, therefore, the artist's intention in these last three metopes was to suggest an enfeebled stage of the fight.
Towards the other end of the series we should notice 3, as hard in execution and ungainly in the composition. The Centaur's head has been lost since Carrey's time. No. 4 is a marked contrast, with its Lapith falling backward and raising his shield to defend himself against the wine vase which the Centaur is about to hurl down. That is one of the finely composed groups, touching in its sentiment, because after all the Centaur may yet withhold the crushing blow. We may here state that the heads of these two figures are now in Copenhagen, whither they had been carried off by a Danish officer in the service of the Venetians, when they bombarded the Parthenon in the seventeenth century. The head of the Centaur is of the mild, purely human type which we find in several other metopes. The other type, which seems to have been equally common, exhibits a human head with the ears of a horse, with long, loose hair and beard and staring eyes. No. 31 is the most marked example.
As regards the Lapiths, the heads that have been preserved, as in 30, 31, indicate a youth with short-cropped hair, which the sculptor has left merely blocked out in the marble. But in 4 the head, equally youthful, has the hair more carefully rendered, and even wears a diadem. In size the Lapiths vary considerably, as, for instance, in 26, 27, where the latter is much bigger than the former. The former is, indeed, exceptionally slight in build, as is also the Lapith in 8. As a rule, the torso is short, with carefully marked bodily forms, and the legs long. In some instances there is, perhaps, excess in the indication of the finer forms of the body. But the excess, if any, is in the number of these minuter forms, not at all in their being more pronounced than they should be. They are rendered in the lowest possible relief, and we suppose could hardly have been visible at the height at which the metopes were placed. Seen closer at hand, as in the Elgin Room, this painstaking exhibition of bodily structure is not without formality and conventionalism, such as prevailed in the age immediately before Pheidias. Hence it has been suggested that some, at least, of the sculptors of the metopes had been older men working under Pheidias, who had not been able to shake off the traditions of minute accuracy in which they had been trained. But Pheidias himself had been brought up in those traditions, and we may well suppose that part of his scheme in these south metopes was to have his central groups of heavily draped figures contrasted on the flanks with Centaur groups strongly and sharply defined in their contours. That was the first consideration; minute accuracy of detail was secondary. Desirable in some of the metopes, it could be exchanged in others with a more generalised rendering of bodily forms, as in fact is the case. Compare, for instance, the Lapith torso, of 31, 32, the former laboriously rendered, with the result that it looks hard and formal; the other generalised, with the result that it looks full of life. The metopes of the other sides, unfortunately in their mostly deplorable condition, appeal less to our artistic sense than to our desire to ascertain the subject of them and the general scheme of the sculptor. To these considerations we now proceed.
THE METOPES OF THE NORTH, EAST, AND
F the thirty-two metopes originally on the north side of
the Parthenon, only eleven are now recognisablenine remain on the building at the two extreme ends, seven on the right and two on the left. With so enormous a gap in the middle it may seem hazardous to offer an opinion as to what had been the subject represented in the whole series. We have no drawings by Carrey from the missing metopes to help us. On the other hand, this poor array of existing metopes is supplemented by certain drawings made in 1686 for D'Ortières by a French artist. These include three metopes of Centaurs careering along, two from the left and one from the right (Pl. XII., Figs. a, b, c, d). If these drawings and the statement appended to them are correct, there can be no question but that there had been a Centauromachia on the north side as well as the south. It does not, of course, follow that the whole series of northern metopes had been included in this subject, and that, therefore, the north were
1 Laborde, Athènes, ii. p. 63, note 43, speaking of the drawings made for D'Ortières in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, says : "Le dessin fixé
au verso du feuillet 126 comprend dix metopes de la face septentrionale du Parthenon.'