Page images
PDF
EPUB

and south) practically the same subjects were represented, only with this alteration, that greater elaboration was bestowed now on the one side, now on the other, the intention could only have been to convey to the spectator of either side the idea of the whole, and thus spare him the necessity of going round to the other side. The same intention is as clear as possible in the arrangement of the frieze.”

We are bound to notice here a difficulty presented by 29 (Pl. XII.) of the north side, with a horse stumbling forward apparently the rider turned right round on his back, like one of the Amazons on the Mausoleum frieze. We confess our inability to reconcile that subject with the battle of Centaurs and Lapiths. So also in 25 (Pl. XII.), otherwise perfectly consistent with a Centauromachia, as we have pointed out, we cannot explain the presence of a diminutive winged figure above the shoulder of the woman on the left. So minute a figure can hardly be Eros, as Michaelis? confidently supposed. It is more like a Shade or eidolon, such as we see on Athenian funeral lekythi, suggestive of death. Possibly that is its meaning here also.

The last of the series of north metopes 32 is the only one which has been well preserved. But we have already described it in some detail (Pl. XI. p. 60), and will now

1

1 This small figure had been overlooked till Laborde had a cast made of it and drew it in the Revue Archéologique, 1845, pp. 16, 17.

? Parthenon, p. 139. He claims that metopes 24 and 25 represent a consecutive scene from the Iliupersis, the xoanon being the image of Athenè,

the two women beside it Helena and Aphrodite, accompanied by Eros, the warrior in the preceding metope 24 Menelaos. The Greek vase which he reproduces seems to him to confirm his view. But there are too many women about in these north metopes for us to admit scenes from the Trojan war.

merely add that the position of the woman seated high on a rock would be quite consistent with an early stage of the marriage scene, just when the Centaurs had begun their violence. The younger woman has just run up to her with the news.

EAST METOPES

(PLATE VI.]

It is agreed that the fourteen metopes on the east or principal front of the Parthenon represent the Gigantomachia, and even now, in the present desperate condition of these sculptures, we can see, or fancy we see, a fulness and wealth of imagination in the designing of the several groups appropriate to their primary position on the temple. The metopes on the west end are empty in comparison. We would gladly linger over certain of the east metopes, where even in ruin the artistic conception may still be recognised as beautiful; for example, in the chariot of winged horses 7, or the vigorous action in 6 and 9, but the present state of the sculptures hardly justifies more than a passing notice. Still less are we entitled to enter on the vexed question of identifying the several deities in their combats with the giants. There is not sufficient material to judge by. It will be enough to give the names that seem most likely. One question, however, we must stop to consider, because it involves a principle of an artistic nature. In four of the metopes we find a chariot group of two "horses and a charioteer, but in each case there is no combatant as we expect. He must be somewhere near.

On all analogy he should be in front. We therefore look for him in the next metope in front. In effect we find him so in each case. Accordingly we have four instances in which two contiguous metopes form one group as regards subject, i.e. 5 and 6, 7 and 8, 9 and 10, 13 and 14. Two of the bigae move from left to right, and two in the opposite direction, so that there is a certain amount of balance or response in the action of the whole series, though not anything approaching the formality of older Greek art.

The horses are always beautifully conceived, and form a most attractive contrast to the semi-equine Centaurs on the long sides.

We give here the names of the deities which seem the most likely to be correct :' i Hermes and giant, 2 Dionysos and giant, 3 Ares and giant, 4 Hera and giant, 5 chariot of Zeus, 6 Zeus slaying giant, 7 chariot of Athenė, 8 Athenè slaying giant, 9 Heracles attacking giant, 10 chariot of Heracles, ni Apollo and giant, 12 Artemis and giant, 13 Poseidon attacking giant, 14 chariot of Poseidon.

WEST METOPES

(PLATE III.)

We may accept without question that the fourteen metopes on the west or secondary front of the Parthenon represent the Amazonomachia. It was a subject always dear to Greek sculptors. As a subject, it had no beginning nor end, and no definite number of figures. The series of combatants could be multiplied or curtailed at pleasure. The battle of Greeks and Amazons was therefore peculiarly suitable for

i Prof. C. Robert, Arch. Zeit., 1884, p. 47.

M

a frieze or for a series of metopes. It had a special attraction for the Athenians, because of the part their hero Theseus had taken in that singular enterprise against warlike women. The sculptor was free to introduce as many Amazons on horseback as he chose, and in the Parthenon metopes he has made ample use of that freedom. There were at least six mounted Amazons, possibly more. A favourite artistic motive was an Amazon riding over a fallen Greek, and in the act of striking down at him. The body of the Greek admirably fills the space under the horse, and at the same time the action of the group becomes pathetic, for the Greek is still able to raise himself somewhat for defence. Thus art and nature go hand in hand. Whether or not that particular motive had been the creation of Pheidias, he certainly makes the most of it in these metopes. It recurs at least five times. We find this motive once in the Phigaleian frieze, which is contemporary with the Parthenon, and once in the Mausoleum frieze, which is later. In metope i there is no Greek combatant, but only a mounted Amazon, who looks as if she had been the last to arrive on the scene. So far as we can judge, the metopes of the west front alternate between combats on foot and combats on horseback in regular order, the effect of the whole being decidedly more formal than we expect on the Parthenon. Among the combatants on foot we may notice 14, where a Greek assails an Amazon who has fallen on her knees before him, much in the manner of a group at the left end of the Phigaleian frieze.

CHAPTER VI

THE FRIEZE

[PLATE XIII.)

F

ROM the metopes of the Parthenon, which, as we

have seen, were sculptured in the highest possible relief, we must be prepared for an abrupt but interesting change to the frieze, which, being placed within the outer colonnade of the temple, and therefore illumined only by diffused, indirect light, was necessarily sculptured in the lowest possible relief. The subject also changes from fierce conflict and alarm in the metopes to peaceful and grave demeanour in the frieze. In the matter of artistic composition we pass from the isolated groups of the metopes to the uninterrupted procession of the frieze. A poetic narrative which carries us along by its charms of style and by the skilful distribution of its parts, is what the frieze may be compared to.

The metopes on any one side of the Parthenon could be seen from a distance and all at once. The connection between the separate groups could be recognised like the recurring measures in a lyric poem of Pindar’s. The sculptures of the two pediments were dramatic in their intensity and centralisation. But the frieze could only be seen slowly from the colonnade itself. The subject which it represented

« PreviousContinue »