Greek Sculpture – Part 3


THE IONIAN SCHOOL. In the early part of the fifth century the technique of marble sculpture had been so far mastered as to permit much freer expression of individual character and sentiment. The difference in temperament between the Ionian and Doric races was now more fully marked. This difference would have been even greater, but for the uniting influence of fie wars against the Persians and the concentration of artistic interests in Athens. The Ionian schools suffered the severer shock from Persian devastation, while the remoter Dorians rose to their greatest strength. Even the Athenian-sculptors sought instruction in Doric schools.

Apart from the influence exerted by Pheidias, the two sculptors who did most to preserve Ionic traditions in this fifth century were Kalamis and Kresilas. Kalamis (fl. 460–445 B.C.), possibly of Samian origin, was the earlier and more thoroughly Ionian sculptor. He worked with equal ease in bronze, marble, or gold and ivory, and was a popular sculptor of divinities. The Apollo Alexikakos, which he made for Athens, and his Hermes Kriophoros at Tanagra appear to have been distinguished for gracefulness. Lucian praises the bashful demeanor, the unconscious and modest smile, and the well-ordered and becoming drapery of his Sosandra. Thus, in the hands of Kalamis, t h e

Ionian draped female statue reached the stage when expressive feeling was as much the sculptor’s aim as bodily form.

Kresilas (circa 480—410 B.C.), though of Cretan origin and a worker in bronze, is to be classed with the Ionian sculptors, since he also valued the expression of sentiment above that of bodily strength. This would seem to be evident from his success in representing a Wounded Man, and an Amazon made for the temple at Ephesos. His portraits, as exemplified in the bust of Perikles, were also of a character to please the most refined Attic taste.

THE DORIC SCHOOL. Doric sculpture in the fifth century is best represented by the works of Pythagoras of Rhegion (fl. 484—460 B.C.) and of Polykleitos of Argos (fl. 450–42o B.C.). The activity of Pythagoras lay in the first half of this century and that of Polykleitos chiefly in the second. Both were eminent as sculptors of athletes. The nude male type reached, in their hands, a high degree of development. Pythagoras was a Samian by birth, but his work was essentially Doric. He is said by Pliny to have been eminent for the expression of muscles and veins, and for improved methods of representing the hair. Diogenes Laertius quotes him as especially successful in the proportions and rhythmical character of his work. The latter quality apparently meant the flowing lines which were now introduced, in opposition to the stiff parallelism of archaic statuary. Wrestlers, boxers, runners, pancratiasts, were accurately distinguished; bodily pose as well as muscular development was expressed with almost perfect freedom. There was doubtless a touch of Ionic gracefulness in the Doric statues of Pythagoras.

In the mean time the old school of bronze-workers at Argos continued to be a centre of academic training. Myron from Northern Greece and Pheidias from Athens attended the school of Ageladas at Argos. But the old traditions were more thoroughly represented in the work of the native sculptor, Polykleitos. His statue, called the Doryphoros, of a victorious athlete holding a spear over his shoulder, is typical of the highest development of purely Doric sculpture in one of the oldest schools. Strong muscular form, without exaggeration, was here brought to such a stage of perfection as to furnish a canon, or norm, of proportions suitable for all similar works. Polykleitos is said hy Galen to have reduced to writing a canon of the ideal relations of finger to finger, of the fingers to the hand, of the hand to the wrist, of the wrist to the elbow, of the elbow to the arm, and so on throughout the whole body. There is some reason to believe that a scale of proportions, somewhat different in character, was employed also in early Doric and Attic sculpture, but no school is likely to have had as rigid followers of mathematical formulas as the school of Argos. The Diadumenos, or athlete binding the fillet on his head, was probably made by Polykleitos at a later period of his career, as in the copies remaining to us the attitude is less rigid, the forms rounder, and the hair is treated in a more plastic fashion. Other athletic statues by Polykleitos, if we may judge from the bases inscribed with his name at Olympia, did not vary greatly in type. Of statues of the gods he seems to have made few; but one, the ivory and gold statue of Hera for the temple at

Argos, became the standard for subsequent representations of that goddess. Several of the decorative sculptures of that temple, perhaps by the scholars of Polykleitos, have been recently recovered by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

TEMPLE SCULPTURES AT OLYMPIA. The metopes and pedimental sculptures of the Zeus temple at Olympia illustrate the fusion of the Doric and Ionic spirit which especially characterized the Attic school. Doric forms a n d costumes occur in conjunction with Ionic methods of composition. The metopes, representing the twelve labors of Herakles, show considerable ingenuity in the variation of the lines of composition. These are in most cases simple and rigid, and symmetrical enough to be classed as Doric; but occasionally, as in the metope representing Herakles and the Stymphalian birds, the Ionic pictorial frieze-method was adopted. The pediments illustrate still better the fusion of Doric and Ionic elements. In the eastern pediment, the chariot race between Oinomaos and Pelops is Doric in composition. The figures are independent of each other, and the two sides of the pediment balance as rigidly as at AEgina. But the backs of the figures are not finished, and their slight thickness betrays the influence of Ionic methods. The western pediment, representing the contest of Lapiths and Centaurs at the marriage feast of Peirithoos, is Ionic in composition as well as treatment. It involves organic groups, and may be descrihed as a frieze composition applied to the triangular gable. The sculptor or sculptors of these pediments were probably of Peloponnesian origin and trained in the Attic school.

MYRON. The transformation of the Doric by the Athenian spirit is well illustrated by the works of Myron (circa 492–430 B.C.), a native of Boiotia, trained at Argos, who afterward became an Athenian. In his hands strength and energy and bodily form ceased to be ends in themselves; and were no longer subject to schematic regulation. Myron’s aim was essentially naturalistic. He represented the Discus-thrower and the Runner in their most characteristic attitudes. His Cow was considered so life-like as almost to be mistaken for reality. His Athene and Marsyas formed a group impressive, first of all, for its meaning. We no longer think of the nude male and the draped female, nor of Doric and Ionic qualities. His work was broadly Greek, transcending local schools. Myron’s style was more varied and original than that of Polykleitos, and his spirit less academic and traditional. He opened the way for the grand style of Pheidias. The influence of Myron may be recognized in the sculptures of the so-called Theseion. The pediments contained compositions arranged on different principles : the eastern pediment followed the Peloponnesian manner and had a middle figure; in the western pediment this figure was replaced by a group. Of the metopes, eighteen were sculptured with scenes from the struggles of Herakles and of Theseus; the remaining fifty were probably decorated with paintings of similar groups. Whether an attempt was made to unify the compositions on the long sides of the temple, it is now impossible to determine. The style of the sculptured metopes reveals the varied action characteristic of Myron, is more refined than that of the metopes of the Zeus temple at Olympia, and is equal to that of the older metopes of the Parthenon. The frieze shows the same characteristics, a n d foreshadows t h e principles of composition which are brought to such perfection in the Parthenon frieze.


After Myron, it is more difficult to trace the distinctions between Doric and Ionic sculptures. The Attic style, having united the best elements from both sources, superseded all others. This was due not so much to the political eminence of Athens as to the superiority of her artists. The greatest of these was Pheidias (circa 488—432 B.C.). His career reached its highest development under the protection of Perikles, from the year 449 B.C. until his death in 432 B.C. ; but many important works were executed during the rule of Kimon.

If we may accept the testimony of Pliny, Pheidias began his career as a painter, but soon turned his attention to sculpture, at first under Hegias of Athens, then under Ageladas of Argos. Sculptural rather than pictorial considerations determined the character of his work. His early training enabled him to attain success in chryselephantine work and in bronze. To the former class belong an Athene at Pellene, an Aphrodite Ourania for a small temple in Elis, and his later and more celebrated Zeus at Olympia and Athene Parthenos at Athens. Of his bronze works his Athene Promachos and the Lemnian Athene, the former famous for its size and the latter for its beauty, were probably both executed under the rule of Kimon. His marble works belong chiefly to his later period. Of these may be mentioned the Amazon for the temple of Artemis at Ephesos, an Aphrodite, and the decorative sculptures of the Parthenon for Athens.

It is difficult to bring the work of Pheidias into comparison with what had gone before, so marked is the advance in conception, in treatment, and in artistic power. He seems to have torn the veil from Olympos and revealed to us the gods in all their grandeur. His Zeus exercised a lasting influence upon the ancient world, as did also his Athene Parthenos. The majesty, dignity, and elevated beauty of his conceptions gave to his work an ideal, poetic character, even in the few instances in which he dealt with purely athletic subjects. His Peloponnesian training gave him a thorough knowledge of proportions and bodily form. But his treatment was more thoroughly plastic, and made its appeal by the total mass rather than by its details. His figures were naturalistic, not mere anatomical studies; and his drapery was no longer stiff and conventional, but fell in natural folds and revealed rather than obscured the form beneath.

In the metopes, the frieze, and pedimental sculptures of the Parthenon we can best study Pheidias’s ability in plastic composition. The decoration with sculpture in high-relief of ninety-two metopes, thirty-two on each of the longer and fourteen on each of the shorter sides of the building, presented a problem as yet untried. And yet, as well as may be judged from their present condition, he succeeded in giving on each side of the temple a united effect with varied individual parts. The frieze was even more

effective as a triumph in the art of composition. It was a narrow band, about four feet high and five hundred a n d twenty-three feet in length, encircling the temple cella at a height of thirty-nine feet from the stylobate. The Panathenaic procession here represented begins on the western end of the temple, and, with its various elements—horsemen, chariots, musicians, and participants in the sacrifices—proceeds along the northern and southern sides, until at the eastern end is represented the head of the procession, the waiting magistrates, the priest and priestess of Athene in the presence of the gods. On each side the frieze presents a composition complete within itself,composed of minor unities and forming a part of the greater whole. Through it all there is a flow of movement, resembling the crescendo and diminuendo in music, terminating with a final chord.

A similar independence and artistic power was displayed in the two pediments. On the western pediment were represented Athene and Poseidon, with other local divinities and heroes closely associated with the Acropolis ; on the eastern pediment the birth of Athene was shown as a fact of cosmic importance, in the presence of Olympian and other divinities. The lines of the pediments were not allowed to obstruct the freedom of the composition, and sufficient symmetry and balance were preserved without the effect of parallelism. In some cases, heads of figures projected above the gable lines of the tympanon; in others, the imagination was called upon to complete a group below the line of the pediment; in the centre of the composition was placed a group, not a single figure, as at AEgina and Olympia. Pheidias thus rose above the limitations of archaic composition, and produced a freer method for all classes of decorative sculptures.

THE FOLLOWERS OF PHEIDIAS. The grand style of Pheidias was carried on by his pupils and associates, Alkamenes, Agorakritos, Kolotes, and others, whose works now escape identification. In the sculptures of the Erechtheion the Pheidian style survived, especially in the majestic figures of the Porch of the Maidens. A number of funerary reliefs also preserve the style of Pheidias, and closely connected in style with the Erechtheion sculptures is the external frieze of the little temple of Athene Nike on the Acropolis at Athens. The eastern portion of the frieze, with its assembly of the gods, contained more than one motive derived from Pheidias. In the scenes of combat represented on the other sides we find a mannerism which soon degenerated into lifelessness. Of a different character are the balustrade reliefs, with graceful figures of Nike ; these already foreshadow the spirit of fourth-century sculpture. Not far removed in style from the Nike temple frieze is the figure of Nike made by Paionios for the Messenians and erected at Olympia. In style this figure represents the transition from Pheidias to Skopas. The same transitional character may be observed in the frieze of the Temple of Apollo, near Phigaleia.

This frieze repeats the hackneyed contests of Greeks and Centaurs and of Greeks and Amazons, and exhibits groups juxtaposed without organic relation. The mannerism of the Nike temple frieze was here carried by provincial sculptors to an extreme.

EXTANT MONUMENTS. Developed Greek sculpture may be best studied in the museums of Athens, Olympia, Constantinople, Naples, Rome, Berlin, Paris, and London, and through the collections of casts in the Berlin, Dresden, Boston, and New York museums.