Greek Sculpture – Part 4


FOURTH-CENTURY SCULPTURE. Perikles’s dream of a political Greece under Athenian rule could not be realized. Political supremacy, after the Peloponnesian war (431–405 B.C.) went to Sparta, then to Thebes, and finally to Macedon; but Athens still remained the centre of literary and artistic accomplishment. The fourth century witnessed the decline of state power and the rise of that of the individual; the weakening of supernatural conceptions in religion and a strengthening of naturalistic beliefs; and, finally, a general development in the direction of cosmopolitanism.

The most distinguished sculptors of this century were Skopas, Praxiteles, and Lysippos, whose styles may be taken roughly as representative of the early, middle, and late portions of the century.

SKOPAS (fl. 360 B.C.) in his early works resembled Paionios and the sculptor of the Nike temple frieze, who represented accentuated movement. He decorated both pediments of the temple of Athena Alea, at Tegea (395 B.C.), with excited comositions, one being the hunt of the Kalydonian boar, the other the combat between Telephos and Achilles. The heads of heroes, which have been recovered in the excavations at this temple, show that this quality extended to facial expression as well as to bodily form. A stronger example of the same tendency is to be looked for in his Bacchante, where he is said to have breathed divine frenzy into the marble. Something of the violence of the Bacchante is preserved to us in the Amazon frieze from the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos (350 B.C.), upon which Skopas was employed. According to Pliny, Skopas wrought the sculptures on the eastern side of this mausoleum, Bryaxis (fl. 350—312 B.C.) on the north, Timotheos on the south, and Leochares (circa 372—324 B.C.) on the west. It is interesting to find that the sculptures excavated on the eastern side of the mausoleum are of finer quality than the others. The composition is at once simpler and more expressive ; the figures are fewer in number, but massed against each other with great effectiveness. There is also in the figures attributed to Skopas a vigorous, living quality, and a preponderance of nude forms.

In other portions of the frieze we find juxtaposed groups and mannered drapery hardly superior in style to the frieze from the Apollo Temple, near Phigaleia. The difference in date between the Tegean sculptures and those of the Mausoleum indicate a long period of activity for Skopas, which may be divided into a Peloponnesian period, in which he seems to have perpetuated the traditions of Polykleitos ; an Athenian period, in which were developed refinements of his style; and an Asia Minor period, in which, as in the productions of a virtuoso, there is already evident something of a struggle for effect.

PRAXITELES (fl. 350 B.C.) is the central figure in Greek sculpture of the fourth century. Somewhat younger than Skopas, he represented more fully the ideals of graceful, domestic beauty, which had replaced the more heroic conceptions of the preceding century. While Skopas perpetuated the traditions of action and movement, Praxiteles was the sculptor of rest. He was varied in conception, inventive of new forms, accomplished in technique. Nearly fifty of his works are mentioned by ancient authors. These involve a number of groups of two or three divinities, many single figures of divinities, and a few of human subjects. Though not exclusively occupied with marble, he was, like Skopas, eminently a marble sculptor. Delicate modulations of surface and a massive treatment of form replaced the sharper contrasts necessitated by the use of bronze. His preference for nude and youthful forms suggests the probability that his early works followed the line of Polykleitan traditions. But he frecd the standing figure from the somewhat constrained attitude of the Doryphoros, and gave it an easy, graceful pose; often placing it against a tree-trunk in such a manner as to give to the chief line of the body a rhythmical curve. The proportions of the figure became in his hands more refined and slender, and an oval replaced the square face of Polykleitos. His figure of Hermes carrying the youthful Dionysos, found at Olympia in 1877, enables us to judge of his style by means of an undoubted original. In this group we see a graceful but dignified composition, marvellous technical excellence, and a masterful expression of individual character. The Hermes was probably not a very early nor yet a late work, but one which represented the sculptor in his prime. The reliefs from the base of his group of divinities at Mantineia, made probably from his designs, may be taken as representing his earlier style. They resemble the work of Kephisodotos and of Silanion. The divinities represented in the works of Praxiteles are chiefly those of the second order. Praxiteles may be said to have established the type for Eros and the Satyr, conceiving them anew in forms of youth and beauty. He also gave new beauty to Aphrodite in his statues of that goddess (undraped) at Knidos and (draped) at Kos. The weakness of the art of Praxiteles lay in its tendency to exaggerate the quality of refinement and grace. In the Sauroktonos and similar statues Apollo lost his manly quality and appeared as a boyish, effeminate divinity.

LYSIPPOS (fl. 330 B.C.) was the most prolific sculptor of the fourth century. His aim appears to have been to produce an effect. This he accomplished sometimes by emphatic size, as in the colossal statues of Zeus and of Herakles for Tarentum, and the diminutive statue of Herakles Epitrapezios; sometimes by individual characterization, as in the striking portraits he made of Alexander and his generals. Again, he appears to have resorted to picturesque modes of composition, as in the battle-group of Alexander at Granikos or in the hunting scene set up at Delphi. A native of Sikyon, he represented the fourth-century bloom of Peloponnesian sculpture. His departure from the Polykleitan canon, which he is said to have taken as his guide, is strongly marked; his statue, the Apoxyomenos, or athlete scraping himself, embodied a new scheme of proportions. Other sculptors—Praxiteles, Silanion, and Euphranor—had contributed to the formation of slenderer proportions; but Lysippos pushed this tendency further, and made a small round head and long limbs emphatic elements of style. Thus Lysippos represented the ebbing glory of fourth-century sculpture.

DOMESTIC AND CIVIC SCULPTURE. The fourth century extended the field of sculpture to the civic and domestic spheres of life. Evidence of this is found in the frieze of the choragic monument of Lysikrates (335 B.C.), with its legendary, lyric theme of Tyrrhenian robbers cast into the sea; also in the statues of philosophers and poets which decorated the theatres and public places. The tombstones of Athens, with their scenes of every-day life or of tender farewells, also experienced a rapid development in this century; as well as the terracotta figurines of domestic subjects, whether made in Tanagra, Asia Minor, or Sicily. The influence of the best Athenian sculpture was felt over a wide region. From Southern Italy have been recovered the Siris bronzes, showing extraordinarily skilful workmanship. From Melos came a majestic head of Asklepios, and that archetype of graceful beauty, the Aphrodite of Melos, which some recent writers would have us assign to the second century B.C. From Knidos came a Demeter of dignified beauty and pathos; from Ephesos a sculptured column-drum, recording the sad story of Alkestis. Far-away Armenia has given us a fourth-century bronze head, which pre-serves the qualities for which the Aphrodites of Praxiteles were celebrated. And, finally, Sidon has yielded magnificent sarcophagi with sculptured reliefs of the best fourth-century type. Four of these, in the Constantinople Museum, are of special interest. The oldest sarcophagus is in style somewhat suggestive of the pediments of Olympia, and may perhaps be referred to the late fifth century. The so-called Lykian Sarcophagus is finer than anything Lykia had produced. Its very spirited composition has analogies with the Theseion frieze and other Athenian sculptures. The figures on the Sarcophagus of the Mourners resemble the Muses on the base of the group of statues by Praxiteles at Mantineia. The reliefs on the Large Sarcophagus represent a lion-hunt, and one of Alexander’s battles, possibly that of Issos. The fine proportions, delicate moulding, vigorous reliefs, and original coloring of this sarcophagus make it one of the most important monuments in the history of Greek sculpture. It was at first de-scribed as the sarcophagus of Alexander, but is now with greater probability thought to be the sarcophagus of Laomedon, satrap of Babylonia, Syria, and Phoenicia.

HELLENISTIC SCULPTURE (323—133 B.C.). The death of Alexander in 323 B.C. left the Greeks in possession of the civilized world, without the centralized power to maintain a kingdom of such wide extent. It was inevitable that separate kingdoms should be founded, as by the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Attalidae at Pergamon, the Seleukidae in Syria and Mesopotamia. It was inevitable, also, that Greek art should become modified in different localities by contact with the older civilizations. The monuments of this period, viewed as a whole, should fall into large classes, such as Graeco-Egyptian, Graeco-Asiatic, and Graeco-Persian.

GRAECO-EGYPTIAN art is characterized by the intermingling of Egyptian and Greek motives, as also by the development of the pictorial form of relief. Jupiter Ammon, the Greek Isis, the Hermaphrodite, the personification of the Nile, the Negro, the more frequent use of the Sphinx, may be traced to this source. Relief sculpture, as used in Alexandria, and which found its way to Pompeii and Herculaneum, now made use of landscape backgrounds and other picturesque details which were foreign to earlier and more exclusively Greek methods.

GRECO-ASIATIC art, as represented at Pergamon, Rhodes, and Tralles, showed a change in spirit rather than in form. A new vigor, excited possibly by conflict with the Gauls and a preference for showy, striking themes, characterized the art of this period. The sculptures from Pergamon bear witness that Greek artists still retained the highest technical excellence. These sculptures fall into two classes : (I) Those referable to the time of Attalos I. (241—197 B.C.) and (2) those of Eumenes II. (197—159 B.C.). To the former class belong a series of statues representing fallen Gauls, Persians, Amazons, and Giants, probably copies of a bronze group sent by Attalos to Athens. A marble original, the famous Dying Gaul, formerly known as the Dying Gladiator, is a fine example of this class. The sculptures of Eumenes are represented by extensive remains of two friezes from the great altar of Zeus at Pergamon. The larger frieze portrayed the Gigantomachy, and the smaller the history of Telephos, the legendary founder of Pergamon. These friezes exhibit advanced anatomical knowledge, originality and variety in design, and extremely vigorous action. Several famous statues of this period—the Apollo Belvidere, the Diana of Versailles, the torso of the Belvidere, and the Laocoon—show such strong analogies to certain groups in these friezes as to enable us to associate them in the same general class. The names of several sculptors who worked at Pergamon are known. They are Isigonos, Pyromachos, Stratonikos, Antiochos, Praxiteles, Xenokrates, Athenaios, and Epigonos.

The group of the Laocoon, a typical example of emotional sculpture, was executed by three Rhodian sculptors, Agesandros, Polydoros, and Athenodoros. It can be assigned to the same general class as the Pergamene sculptures, and does not differ from them sufficiently to be made the basis for a distinct Rhodian school.

Somewhat further removed in type is the group known as the Farnese Bull, by Apollonios and Tauriskos of Tralles. Here an elaborate story is told in a complex group. A dramatic moment is selected in which Zethos and Amphion are about to fasten to a wild bull Queen Dirke, the oppressor of their mother Antiope. The group was probably designed for an open park, and was intended to be seen from all points of view. .This involved principles of composition for which Greek sculpture had furnished few examples. But, aside from this, the group is overcrowded with incident and displays pictorial methods in sculpture. Emotional, dramatic sculpture, a straining for effect, seemed to be demanded by the spirit of the times.

GRAECO-PERSIAN sculpture may be looked for where Persian influences had previously prevailed. We recognize this mixed art in many of the objects from the Cimmerian Bosphoros and from Northern Russia. In the relief sculptures of Hellenistic temples or tomb facades in Asia Minor we frequently see Persian motives, such as the Lion attacking the Bull, the Chimaera with sharply curved wings, the Horned Lion. In Delos we find columns with bull-headed capitals; and in the Propylaia, at Eleusis, reliefs and goat-headed capitals which may be described as Graeco-Persian. In Antioch in Syria has been discovered a beautiful sarcophagus, with reliefs of Graeco-Persian lions attacking bulls.

EXTANT MONUMENTS. Originals by Skopas are in Athens and the British Museum ; the Hermes of Praxiteles is at Olympia, the Aphrodite of Melos in the Louvre ; the Sidon sarcophagi are in Constantinople, the Pergamene sculptures at Berlin. Hellenistic sculpture abounds in the museums of Italy.