1902 Encyclopedia > Archaeology > Classical Archaeology - Third Period: Calamis, Myron, Phidias, Alcamenes, Polycletus, Polygnotus

(Part 11)


Third Period: Calamis, Myron, Phidias, Alcamenes, Polycletus, Polygnotus

The splendid victories of Salamis, Plataeae, and Mycale, gave an immediate and powerful impulse towards public undertakings, and especially, so far as we are at the present concerned, towards the erection of temples and monuments worthy of the just pride of the nation. A sense of freedom and relief from long and tedious fears must have been the ruling spirit of the time; and of the efforts, both intellectual and artistic, which such new-born feelings engender, history has its examples. Of all the Greeks, the Athenians had in that crisis earned the best title to patriotic emotions, and in Athens above all Greece besides, the aspirations were highest. Nor were means wanting tp second the boldest designs. The Peloponneseans had loitered in the conflict with the Persians, and in sharing the new impulse they loitered also. The Persian invasion had not, however, been hurled back by a stroke of fortune, but, on the contrary, by the united action which discipline and
severe habits of life gave to the Greek forces; and in the same way the men who thereafter achieved the first triumphs in art, who diffused freedom throughout its realm, were men who had bent rained in severe schools, where close study, no less than respect for popular feeling, restrained the exercise of the imagination. Accordingly, before we can appreciate the artistic freedom established by Phidias, we must see how far his early training prepared him to fight the battle. This can only be done by examining the works of other sculptors, either pupils of the same master, as were Myron and Polycletus, or probably contemporary, though more hardened in the traditions of their school, as was Calamis the Athenian, with whom we begin, remarking that the only known approximate date in his lifetime is from 468 to 464 B.C. The works of Calamis extended over a tolerably wide field of subject, and were executed partly in marble, and partly in bronze; but with the exception of two copies of his statue of Hermes Criophorus at Tanagra, on the coins of that town, and in a marble figure in Wilton House, none of our remains of ancient sculpture have as yet been identified with his style. Cicero (Brut. 18, 70) and Quintilian (xii, 10,7) speak of him as less rigid and hard in his rendering of the human form than Callon and Canachus; but the real advance with which his name is associated was in the rendering of expression in the female face, and in the treatment of draperies. A figure of Alcmene by him was highly praised (Pliny, N. H. xxxiv. 19,71), while his statue of Sosandra, on the Acropolis of Athens, is spoken of in the highest terms by Lucian (Imag., 4,6; Dial. Merets., 3,2) for its chaste and tender expression, for its taste in dress, and for the noble bearing of the whole figure. His horses were always incomparable. The have attained the power of expressing modesty and mobile character in a figure was to have laid the foundation for idealism in its true sense; and Calamis was therefore on the same path with Phidias.

We come now to Myron, a native of Eleutherae in Attica, and a pupil of Ageladas of Argus. With rare exceptions, he worked in bronze, and that of the Aeginetan kind, while Polycletus employed the bronze of Delus. His works, which were numerous, and scattered from Asia Minor to Sicilym may be deivided into the four classes of deities , heroes, athletes, and animals, with a considerable variety ranging within each of the classes. He avoided female figures almost throughout; and though he was the author of statues of Diosysus and Apollo, it should be remembered that these deities had not become soft of form till Praxiteles made them so. He preferred the well-knit figure of athletes, or of Perseus or Hercules. His animals were marvels to the ancients; and the human figures in which he succeeded best were those in which purely physical qualities were pronounced. "Corporum tenus curiosus, animisensus non expressit," says Pliny of him. But, according to the same authority, he was careless in rendering the hair, from which it is to be inferred that his study of the human form did not lead him, as it did Pythagoras, to an anxious reproduction of all its details. Then we have the further statement of Pliny-"Primus hic multiplicasse veritatem videtur, numerosior in arte quam Polycletus, et in symmetria diligentior." As we understand "multiplicasse veritattem," it would mean that he exaggerated the truth of nature to give effect to the momentary attitude of his figures. "Symmetria" we take to refer to the manner in which every member and part of the body was made to work together for the expression of one moment of action. Such a style at least presents a very obvious contrast to that of Polycletus, and would answer our expectations when we read that Myron's statue of Ladas seemed about to leap from its base to seize the victor's wreath, the last breadth leaving his lips. (For a different interpretation see Brunn, Gesch. D. Griech. Kunstler, sub Pythagoras.) Among his figures of animals, that of a bronze cow which stood on the Acropolis of Athens, and was afterwards removed to the temple of Peace in Rome, was celebrated by numerous epigrams. Of his other works, some have been preserved in copies down to our own time. A copy of the figure of Marsyas (from his group of Athene and Marsyas) has been recognized in a marble statue in the Lateran Museum (Mon. d. Inst., vi. Pl. 232; Annali xxx. P. 374). Of his bronze statue of a Discobolus, famous in antiquity (Quintilian, ii. 13, 10; Lucian, Philops. 18) for the boldness of its movement and the carefulness of its execution, we have several copies, of which the best is the marble statue in the palace Massimi at Rome (Müller, Denkmäler, I pl. 32, No. 139 b). Another marble copy in the British Museum has not only had its head (if original) placed on the shoulders the wrong way, but has been made smooth on the surface by a vigorous rubbing down, which has destroyed the original lines. A third copy of bronze, about a foot high, is in Munich. (For a list of his other works, known only by name, see Overbeck, Ant. Schriftquellen - Myron.) From the few copies of his statues which we possess, and the few ancient remarks as to his style, it seems impossible to frame a conception of his work which would justify the extraordinary reputation he enjoyed. We can picture the action of his figures, but we cannot estimate the equivalents for actual life and organism which he must have employed to have almost completely satisfied eyes accustomed to the work of Phidias. This, however, we gather from the remarks on his statue of Ladas and the Discobolus, that he seized for his representation the moment when the whole breath was held back for a final effort of strength-that moment, in fact, when the human figure is most truly statuesque. For an instant the body is then lifeless, so to speak, like the statue itself; the spectator suspends breathing, in sympathy.

We have reached the time of Phidias, and have now done with imperfections in sculpture, so far at least as they originated in want of knowledge either of the human form of technical means. Phidias, the son of Charmides, was an Athenian, and must have been born about 500 B.C., or a little before, if we can trust the statement (Plutarch, Perid. 31) that in the portraits of himself and Pericles, which he place on the shield of Athene Parthenos, he appeared a bald-headed old man, while Pericles appeared handsome and full of vigour (K. O. Müller, De Phidiae Vita et Operibus Commentationes Tres, Gotting. 1827; Brunn, Gesch. d. Griech. Künstler, i. p. 157). A fragment of a marble shied in the British Museum, found on the Acropolis of Athens, and representing a combat of Greeks and Amazons, in which a bald-headed old man appears, has been recognized as a rough copy of the shield in question. Phidias began his career as a painter; then turning to sculpture, studied first under his townsman Hegias, and afterwards under the Argive master Ageladas. It may have been due to his training in this school that his first two important works were executed in bronze. The first was a large group, commissioned by the Athenians to be paid for out of their booty from the Persian war, and to be dedicated at Delphi. The second was a colossal statue of Athene, the Promachos, also commissioned by the Athenians out of the Persian booty, and when finished erected to the Acropolis, between the Propylaea and Erechtheum, the top of the spear which she held, and the crest of her helmet being visible at sea from Cape Sunium (Pausanias, i. 28, 2). On certain coins on which the Acropolis is figured occurs a statue which seems to correspond with the description, except that the goddess there stands placidly, an attitude that does not suit the idea of a Promachos. This idea is finely embodied in a small bronze statuette (fig. 5), found on the Acropolis and now in the British Museum, representing the goddess striding forward. Otherwise it has little of Phidias in it. Possibly the Promachos statue was wrongly ascribed to Phidias in ancient times. Again profiting by the Persian spoils, he was employed by the Plataeans to execute a figure of Athene Areia for their new temple (Pausanias, ix 4, 1). The figure was of wood, covered with gold; the face, hands, and feet, of Pentelic marble; the whole being of colossal proportions. He had previously made a figure of Athene in gold and ivory for a temple at Pallene in Achaea, and this must be regarded as the first of his works executed in the material in which he afterwards achieved his greatest triumph (Pausanias, vii. 27, 2).

We must suppose that his faculties were now at their best, that he was fully aware of the peculiarities of treatment required by the different materials in which sculptors then worked, and had found the best scope for his own talent in chryselephantine sculptors. The two works with which his fame was chiefly associated were in gold and ivory, - the colossal statues of Athene for the Parthenon at Athens, and of Zeus for the temple at Olympia. After the completion of the former statue, Phidias accepted the invitation of the people of Elis to exert his highest power in fashioning for their temple of Zeus at Olympia a statue worthy of the majesty and grandeur of the supreme god of Greece. His workshop was near the Altis or sacred grove, where through successive centuries down to the 2d A.D. it was preserved and pointed out with feelings of reverence. The finished work was over 40 feet high, and represented the god seated on his throne, his right hand holding forward a figure of Victory, and his left resting on a sceptre on which the eagle was perched. On his head was a wreath of olive. The drapery was of gold, richly worked with flowers and figures in enamel, in the execution of which he was assisted by his brother or cousin Panaenus. On the footstool was inscribed the verse-

Pheidias Charmidou uios Athenaios m' epoiese [Gk.]

(Pausanias, v. 10, 2). The throne was mostly of ebony and ivory, inlaid with precious stones, and richly sculptured with reliefs, and in parts painted. Of this, the greatest work of Phidias, nothing but the description now remains (Pausanias v. 15). The figure of Zeus seated on a throne, which occurs on coins of Elis struck in Roman times, may have been intended as a reminiscence of it. On the other hand, there is in the British Museum a silver coin of Elis, struck in the best period of Greek art, on which is a head of the god so singularly powerful in type that we are tempted to believe it to be a copy from the head of the statue of the statue of Phidias, appealing to the analogy of the coins of Argus with what is accepted as a copy of the head of the figure of Hera by Polycletus. Among the existing examples of Greek sculpture there is only one which claims to be a direct work of Phidias, and that is one of the two colossal marble statues on the Monte Cavallo at Rome, inscribed respectively "opus Phidiae" and "opus Praxitelis" (Clarac, Musée de Sculpture, pl. 812 A. No. 2043). Grand as both are, the marking of the pupils of the eyes and the treatment of the armour prove them to have been executed in roman times, probably as copies of celebrated statues. The originals must clearly have been the work of one master, and the inscriptions being thus wrong in ascribing them to two, must be held as worthless. On the other hand, we possess in the sculptures of the Parthenon a large series of works in marble at least designed or modeled by Phidias, and executed under his immediate care, if not in many cases finished by his own hands. These sculptures consist of figures in the round from the pediments, the metopes in high relief, and the frieze in low flat relief. The statues of the pediments have suffered most, and that mainly from two causes-the antipathies or necessities of the early Christians, who converted the temple into a church; and the fatal explosion produced by the falling of a shell among the powder stored kin it during the Venetian bombardment under Morosini, 1687. The extent of the mischief on this occasion is known from the drawings previously made of the temple as it stood, 1674, by Carrey, an artist in the employment of the French ambassador at the Porte. In 1805, Lord Elgin, then British ambassador at the Porte, removed all the sculptures that could be removed with safety to the building shipped them to London, where, after a long dispute as to their merits, they at last, in 1815, found a permanent resting-place in the British Museum. (For a narrative of these proceedings, but especially for an exhaustive work on the Parthenon, see Michaelis, Der Parthenon, Leipsic, 1871; the sculptures are best engraved in Museum Marbles, vol. vi; the fragments in Athens, in Laborde, Le Parthénon, pls. 26-28) The subject of the eastern pediment was the birth of Athene; of the western, her contest with Poseidon for supremacy over Attica; but beyond the simple statement of Pausanias to this effect, we have no ancient record to enable us to identify the personages before whom these events took place. Hence the many different names which have been proposed from time to time for the surviving figures, especially for those of the eastern pediment, from which all the principal statues had disappeared before Carrye's time. Assuming, however, with the most recent authority (E. Petersen, Die Kunst des Pheidias, 1874), that the birth of Athene took place in Olympus, and that deities assembled at the birth of Aphrodite, as represented by Phidias on the base of the statue at Olympia, were the recognized Olympians of his time, we obtain, beginning from Helios on the left, Dionysus, Demeter, and Core, Iris [Apollo, Artemis, Hephaestus, Athene, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon], Nike [Ares, Hermes], Hestia, Peitho, Aphrodite, and Selene, those in brackets being missing. The western pediment has suffered a much harder fate, though the difficulty of recalling the lines of the original composition is less, owing to the preservation of drawings made by Carrey before the bombardment which destroyed it. The metopes were ninety-two in number; those of the east and west only remain on the building, but have suffered severely from malicious destruction. Those of the north side, which survived the explosion, remain in Athens in bad condition; those of the south were removed by Lord Elgin, with the exception of one now in the Louvre and some fragments in Copenhagen. The subject - a favourite one in the decoration of Greek architecture - was a combat between Centaurs and Lapithae. Traces of red colour were found on the ground of the relief and of green on the draperies. The armour had been attached in meta as is proved by the existing holes for that purpose. Differences in style as well as in execution prove the variety of hands employed in the work, though everywhere is apparent the oneness of design which bespeaks the overseeing master. The variety of hands is equally manifest in the frieze, but here it takes the form of insufficiency of execution, which no doubt arose from the difficulty of supervising work which had to be done up on the building. The subject of the frieze is a long festal procession, in which, though every variety of movement of horse and foot, of young and old, of men and women, perhaps of gods and goddesses, is introduced, the calm dignity of national pride and the knowledge of national worth reign supreme. Its entire length is 524 feet, its height from the ground 40 feet, its relief very low and flat. About two thirds of it is preserved, nearly the half being in the British Museum. As to the procession itself, there are two opinions either it is the procession with which it was usual to accompany annually the newly-made robe for Athene Polias or it is the procession in which the victors at the Panathenaic games advanced to the Parthenon to receive their prizes and to attend a sacrifice in honour of Victory.

The mantle of Phidias fell on his pupil Alcamenes (Pausanias, v. 10, 8), an Athenian, or, as others said, a Lemnian, the lofty conception in his figures of deities being highly praised (Quintilian, xii. 10, 8), while in point of gracefulness in womanly forms he appears to have excelled his master. His most celebrated work was a statue of phrodite for the temple, en kepois [Gk.] of which however, the merit of the last touch was ascribed to Phidias (Pliny, xxxvi. 5, 16). Her cheeks, hands, and fingers were specially admired; but as to the attitude and general effect we have no information, and are not justified in accepting the Aphrodite of Melus in the Louvre as a copy of it, much less the original work. How far he may have been possessed of the power of creating new ideas types is not expressly recorded, except in the instance of his statue of a triple Hecate, probably such as we know her in later works. On the other hand, there was doubt less scope for extending the new influence of Phidias in such types as those of Aesculapius, Hephaestus, and Ares, and it has been conjectured that in his statues of these deities he succeeded in infusing the spirit of his master.

Scarcely less famous was another pupil of Phidias, Agoracritus of Parus, who so far identified himself with the master's style that two marble statues of deities by him were sometimes ascribed to Phidias. The one was a figure of Nemesis in Rhamnus; the other, a status of Rhea in the Metroon at Athens (Pausanias, i. 3, 5). From his hand were also the bronze statues of Athene Itonia and of Zeus, in the temple of that goddess between Alal-comenae and Coronea (Pausanias, ix. 34, 1). Next we have Colotes and Thrasymedes of Parus, both of whom occasionally aspired to retain the chryselephantine technique of the master; and finally, Theocosmus of Megara.

How far the immediate successors of Phidias remained whatever their peculiarities or eccentricities, still faithful to the general sentiment and manner of the master merely varying but always preserving essentially the theme struck of the temple of Athene Nike at Athens, or of the Erechtheum, as typical examples of their work. And indeed they are well calculated to produce the impression of having been executed during the lull which must have followed his great impulse. (For the relief on the frieze and balustrade of the temple of Nike, compare Friederichs, Bausteine, i. pp. 187-193; Ross, Der Niketempel; Kekule, Die Balustrade des Niketempels.) The treatment of the draperies has entirely lost the stiffness and formality of an early period, and become flowing, as in the style of the best times, but with the addition of a studied grace which seems due to a desire to elaborate more and more the simplicity of the draped figures of the Parthenon. The most probable date as yet suggested for this temple is 407 B.C. As to the Erechtheum, we have 406 B.C., on the authority of an inscription, as a year in which a report was made concerning the amount of work that remained to be done upon it. Of its sculptures the chief remains are the statues of the caryatides, and certain fragments of the frieze, which had this peculiarity, that the reliefs were executed in Pentelic marble, and then attached to a ground of black Eleusinian stone. Of the original six caryatides which supported the portico, five were in position in the time of Stuart and Revett in the first half of last century; the sixth, having been broken to pieces, was recovered in 1837. one of the five was removed by Lord Elgin, and is now in the British Museum. In the arrangement of the draperies vertical lines prevail; but only enough to show the architectural purpose of the figures, not to destroy their character as robes, or to affect their gracefulness. It is usual to compare with the sculptures of these two temples another series of reliefs which, though not found in Attica, are stated to have been the work of Ictinus, the architect of the Parthenon. We refer to the frieze from the temple of Apollo at Phigalia which was discovered in 1812, and is now in the British Museum. The subjects represented are combats between Greeks and Amazons and between Centraurs and Lapithae. In the composition the old ethos has given way to pathos; but the figures are still large in conception, and obviously suited with a view to truth as well as effect, though in the execution probably by provincial hands, many minor details have been overlooked. The energy of action throughout is not equaled in any other ancient sculpture now in existence, while the sense of pain in the wounded, or of fright in the helpless women who run with their infants in their arms, makes the spectator shudder. From the fact that such vigour of action and intensity of pathetic expression have not been found in the metopes of the Parthenon or the frieze of the Theseum which are devoted to the same subject, but recur in a less degree in the frieze of the Mausoleum, there is an inclination to place the Phigalian reliefs by Ictinus in as later a period as possible after the erection of the Parthenon. (Engraved, Museum Marbles, vol. v.; Stackelberg, Der Apollotempel zu Bassae, 1828; see Friederichs, Bausteine, i. pp. 178-181).

The difference of temperament between the Athenians and Peloponnesians to each. Political rivalry had its exact counterpart in artistic rivalry, in which Phidais represented Athens, and Polycletus the Peloponnesus. The works of the latter appear to have been always chastened with an hereditary severity, to have been attractive by the purity of their style and the finish of execution, but not commanding in aspect. "Non explevisse deorum auctoritatem vedetur," the judgment of Quintilian (xii. 10, 7) is endorsed by the statement, that his great work, the chryselephantine statue of Hera at Argus, yielded to the statue of Zeus at Olympia by Phidias in grandeur and imposing aspect, but outrivaled it in finish (Strabo, viii p. 372). Copies of the head of this statue have been identified on coins of Argus, and in three marble heads of colossal size. The first, in Naples, is severe in style, and may have been executed about the time of Polycletus; the second, in the British Museum, has more freedom, but is still chastened by a severe expression; the third, in the Villa Ludovisi, bears the marks of having been executed at a still later period. It was not, however, in producing statues of deities that Polycletus delighted most; and if surpassed by Phidieas in that instance, he was quite without a rival in his own province, the rendering of the form of ideal athletes. Of this class were his Diadumenus, his Doryphorus, and a third figure (unless the Doryphorus was meant by Pliny) known as the Canon. Of the first, several presumed copies in marble exist, two of them in the British Museum (fig. 7), but in no case furnishing an adequate illustration of his style. The same may be said of the copies of the Doryphorus. More in the nature of genre work was his bronze group of boys playing with knuckle-bones (astragalizontes [Gk.]), which afterwards stood in the palace of Titus in Rome, and was by some regarded as the most perfect work of the master. This motive occurs in several existing sculptures, in no case characterized by a trace of the hand of Polycletus. Among them are, in the British Museum, a small group in terra-cotta of two women playing at this game, and a marble figure of a boy, part of a group, biting his companion's hand. Coupled with his statue of Hera, that of an Amazon, executed by him for Ephesus, in competition with the foremost of his contemporaries, and adjudged the prize, will prove that the range of his talent was by no means confined to figures of athletes; and this is made further apparent by his bronze statues of maidens carrying sacred vessels on their heads, afterwards in the possession of Heius the Mamertine, from whom they were taken by Verees (Cicero, In Verr., iv. 3 3, 5), as also by his statue of the Samian, Artemon, nicknamed ho periphoretos [Gk.].

None of the pupils of Polycletus arrived at distinction. On the other hand, his style appears to have been closely followed by his younger contemporary. Naucydes of Argus, who executed a chrys-elephantine statue of Hebe, to a ccompany that, of the same material, by the master already described (Pausanias, ii. 17, 5, Kekulé, Hebe). A pupil of Naucydes was Polycletus the younger, of Argus, who is known as the author of several statues of victors at Olympia, and of a statue of Zeus Philius (Pausanias, viii. 31, 4), in which the expression resembled that of Dionysus.

In addition to the existing sculptures already mentioned in connection with one or other of the ancient masters, there are others which, though their authorship has not been ascertained, undoubtedly belong to the period now before us. from these we select - (1.) a marble relief in Athens, found at Eleusis in 1859, and representing Demeter, Cora, and boy, for whom the name either of triptolemus or Jacchus would be applicable (Monumenti, vi. Pl. 45). With the exception of a marked severity both in the composition and in the details, which may be due either to archaims or to a studied solemnity, this relief compares admirably with the frieze of the Parthenon. (2.) From Eleusis also comes the upper part of a female figure supporting a basket on her head (Calathephorus), now in Cambridge, in a large fine style (Wieseler, Denkmäler, ii. pl. 8, No. 92). (3.) Marble relief of Orpheus and Eurydice, in the Villa Albani, with its two replicas in Naples and Paris. (4.) Fragments of the metopes from the temple of Zeus at Olympia, found in 1829, and now in Paris. Doubtless these reliefs were executed at the time when Phidias was at Olympia engaged in the statue for this temple, and when his pupil Alcamenes was at work on the figures for the western pediment of it. In style, however, they differ considerably from that of the Attic sculptors; nor are there any means of identifying them with the style of Paeonius of Mende, who executed the statues for the eastern pediment (Expedit. Scientifique de la Morée, i. pls. 74. 78). (5.) The metopes and inner frieze of the temple of Theseus at Athern are still in their original place, the style being compared with that of the metopes of the Parthenon, though the temple itself is usually believed to have been built by Cimon (Stuart's Antiquities of Athens, 2d ed. Ii. pl. 19).

Examples of what may be called a lower branch of sculpture (gem-engraving) are exceedingly rare in this period. So far, as Athens is concerned, this will appear less remarkable if we suppose that gem-engraving and die-sinking were one profession, and remember that at least the latter must have been, with few exceptions, unpractised there in the best period, the coins being allowed, probably for commercial reasons, to retain the old stamp with which people were familiar. Possibly also the high ideal of the times was above the grasp of such artists, though it was seized pretty generally by the sculptors of steale, who cold hardly have been men of note. In the British Museum is a carnelian (fig. 8) representing a youthful figure, seated, and playing on sharp-shaped instrument, which, with a little severity, admirably reflects the style of the Parthenon frieze. Of the coins of Sicily, the large piece known as the Demaretion, and struck in the year 479 B.C., furnishes an example of the rendering of horses, which compares finely, it more advanced, with the archaic frieze from Xanthus. Similarly worthy of study are the coins of Gelon, which are probably as early as 470 B.C. , and certainly are anterior to 410 B.C.

In the records of painting during the previous period it was noticeable that painters even then, in what appeared to be one of the earliest stages of the art, were accustomed to execute large compositions, such as battle scenes. The essentially decorative character of the art required that it should be so, just as in early sculpture in which also the decorative element prevailed, our principal records are those of large compositions, such as the chest of Cypselus or the shield of Achilles. While the epos flourished, and the country was full of heroic legends, there can be little doubt but that the principal pleasure derived from works of art lay in the variety of the subject and the manner in which it was presented, that is, in the composition, and not in the truthful rendering of individual forms. To heighten the interest of the spectator, it was usual to write the name beside each of the persons that appeared in a picture, as we see it done on the early vases. The same was the case with the sculptured reliefs on the chest of Cypselus, which on this account presents a remarkable contrast to the shield of Achilles, on which, as in Assyrian sculptures, there is no prominence of individuals, and therefore no accurat study of the human form. It is not to be supposed that in the early stage of Greek painting individual forms were studied with any other view than that of rendering the characters more intelligible; but with this a beginning was made to lift the art into a higher sphere. At this stage appeared Polygnotus, a native of Thasus, and a son of the painter Aglaophon, of whose probable connection with the early Samian school mention has already been made. Attracted to Athens by the opportunity presented by the new building which were then being erected, Polygnotus, either owing to some family tie or through the recommendation of his own ability, found favour with Cimon, to whose zeal and taste the new impulse for the improvement of the city was due. In company with, or perhaps rather with the assistance of, the Athenian painters Micon and Panaenus (the brother or cousin of Phidias), he was employed to execute wall paintings for the Stoa Poecile, the Theseum, and the Anaceum, or temple of the Dioscuri at the northern foot of the Acropolis. For his services, and especially for the disinterestedness of his character. Polygnotus received what was then regarded ads the highest distinction- the freedom of the city of Athens. His friendship with Cimon was intimate, and led, it was said (Plutarch, Cimon 4) to an affectionate acquaintance with cimon's half-sister, the beautiful Elpinice. From Athens he was called to Delphi to execute a series of paintings for the two long walls of the Lesche, a building erected there by the people of Cnidus. The paintings, however, appear to have been commissioned by the Amphictyonic council if it is right to be guided to that conclusion by the statement hat the painter was rewarded with the rights of hospitality throughout the states included in the Amphictyonic league. On the wall to the right after entering the Lesche were painted scenes illustrative of the old epos of the taking of Troy (Iliou persis [Gk.]). On the left was the visit of Ulysses to the lower world, as described in Book xi. Of the Odyssey. The names of most of the persons were written by the side of the figures. The various groups and incidents depicted we know from the description of Pausanias (x. 25-31); and with the help of existing works of art in which the same subject recurs, we can form an idea of the composition (O. Jahn, Die Gemälde des Polygnotus in der Lesche zu Delphi, 1841; Welcker on the same subject in the Abhandlungen of the Berlin Academy, 1847; Watkiss Lloyd, in the Museum of Classical Antiquities, i. p. 44). Heydemann (Iliupersis, Berlin, 1866) republishes, for the illustration of his other figures, the famous Vivenzio vase in Naples (Mus. Borb., xiv. pls. 41, 43), which pregnant with pathos as no other vase in existence, cannot well be identified with the style of Polygnotus, unless perhaps as regards the composition. He was employed at Thespiae on a stoa or temple, but from some defect his work had perished so far within a century after it was finished that it had to be restored by Pausias of Sicyon. At Plataeae he painted for one of the walls of the pronaos of a temple the scene in which Ulysses appeared with the dead suitors at his feet. The companion picture was by an otherwise unknown artist, Onasias, the subject of it being the Expedition of the Seven against Thebes (Pausanias, ix. 4, 2). Lastly, Pausanias (i. 22, 6) ascribes to Polygnotus a series of paintings in the so-called Pinakotheke on the Acropolis of Athens. If he is right, the painter must then have been full seventy years of age. The subjects were 0 (1.) Ulysses carrying off the bow of Philoctetes; (2.) Diomede carrying off the Palladium of troy; (3.) Orestes and Pylades slaying Aegisthus and the sons of Nauplius, who had come to his aid; (4.) Polyxena about the be sacrificed to the manes of Achilles; (5.) Achilles in Scurys; and (6.) Ulysses meeting Nausicaa and her maids. The other pictures had become unrecognizable through the effects of time. This second mention of the decay of his works reminds us of the fleeting nature of the material with which the fame of the great painter was bound up. It was well that high honours were paid him in his lifetime. The enduring marble in which Phidias, worked has preserved his fame to our times, to mock the indignities which he suffered in life. As regards the style of Polygnotus, we have the distinction drawn by Aristotle (Poet., 2, 6; Polit., viii. 5) between it and that of Zeuxis - a distinction which he expressed by the words ethos and pathos. By ethos, as applied to the paintings of Polygnotus, we understand a dignified bearing in his figures, and a measured movement throughout his compositions, such as the Parthenon frieze presents, compared with the pathetic rendering of scenes in the frieze from the temple of Apollo at Phigalia, or in the frieze of the Mauspleum at Halicarnassus. It was also said (Pliny, N. H., xxxv. 35 58) that in place of the old severity and rigidity of the features he introduced a great variety of expression and was the first to paint figures with the lips open; and further, he was accredited (Lucian, Imag., 7) with great improvements in the rendering of drapery, so as to show the forms underneath. He painted in monochrome on a white ground; so that, in fact, the principal charm of his work must have been in the drawing. His brother Aristophon appears to have also inherited an elevated conception and a power of carrying out large compositions. Among the younger contemporaries of Polygnotus were Dionysius of Colophon, laboriously accurate, and Pauson, the butt of Aristophanes (Thesmoph., v. 949, and elsewhere), remarkable for his talent of caricature and animal painting.

The works of these painters have entirely perished, nor in what remains of the work of their humble imitators, the vase painters, in there much that can be justly regarded as reflecting their style. Besides the Athenian lecythi, which give some sort of an idea of the effect of colours as employed by Polygotus, there is a class of vases, with red figures on a black ground, which, by the treatment of the drapery as a transparent substance, recall the statement to the same effect made in respect of the great painter. In many cases, also, the figures are large in conception and measured in their movement.

The history of architecture during this period is an unexampled record of great undertakings throughout Greece, but more especially in Athens, which, if it had suffered most from the Persian invasion, had also in the end acquired the most ample means of repairing its ruins and adding fresh luster to its aspect. Themistocles having been banished, the administration and the carrying out of works begun by him - such, for example, as the long walls connecting the city with the harbour - fell to Cimon. The city walls on the south side of the Acropolis were rebuilt, and a tower erected to command the entrance, which, however, being afterwards rendered useless by the erection of the Propylaea, was removed to make way for the temple of Athene Nike. Among the new temples the first to be mentioned is the Theseum, which is not only well preserved still, but is also the oldest existing example of the Attic-Doric order (Stuart and Rivett, Antiquities of Athens, iii. pl. 7). The other temples, the erection of which may with great probability be traced to Cimon, are the Anaceum, r temple of the Dioscuri, at the foot of the Acropolis, on the north side; and a small temple, now quite destroyed, on the left bank of the Ilissus, which existed in Stuart's time, and, from his drawing (Antiquities of Athens, i. pl. 7), is seen to have been of the Ionic order, differing from the Attic-Ionic in wanting the dentils of the cornice, in having the base of its columns composed of a trochilus between two spirals, and in having its architrave quite plain. Cimon was succeeded by Pericles, under whose administration the resources of the city, not only in means, but in the talent of using the existing means, were applied with the greatest judgment and energy, foremost among his advisers being Phidias. According to Plutarch (Pericl., 133), Phidias exercised a general supervision over all the public works then going on. Apparently at this time was erected the Odeum, a building intended for musical performances, circular in form, and, as appears from the records of it (Vitruv., v. 9; Pausanias, i. 20, 4), brilliantly decorated with numerous columns in the interior, and with a ten-shaped roof of wood. It was the Acropolis, however, that was reserved for the crowning effort of architecture in this period. Within the space of probably not more than five or six years there rose on the site of an old temple of Athene, which had been destroyed by the Persians, the Parthenon, a model for all time of the Doric order, pure and perfect in its architectural forms and proportions. The architect was Ictinus, who was assisted by Callicratidas (Stuart, Antiquities of Athens, ii. pl. 7; Penrose, An Investigation of the Principles of Athenian Architecture, 1851; Beule, L'Acropole d'Athenes; Bötticher, Bericht über die Untersuchungen auf der Akropolis von Athen, 1862; Michaelis, Der Parthenon, 1871). The next undertaking was the so-called Propylaea, a building which, though practically serving as an entrance to the Acropolis, aspired to a highly decorative character (Stuart, Antiquities of Athens, ii. pl. 42). The architect was Mnesicles. Contemporary with the building of the Propylae, it appears, was that of the small temple of Athene Nike, on the Acropolis, which, on the removal of a Turkish structure in 1835, was recovered in almost all its parts, except some slabs of the frieze, brought by Lord Elgin to England, and now in the British Museum (Beule, L'Acropole, p. 124; Kekulé, Die Balustrade des Niketempels). Outside of Athens the example of the Periclean activity was flet at Eleusis, where a great temple for the Mysteries was commenced, from designs by Ictinus, and carried to completion by the three successive architects, Coroebus, Metagenes, and Xenocles. The small temple, in antis, of Artemis Propylaea at Eleusis probably belongs to this period, as does also the temple of Nemesis at Rhamnus, of which we have still important remains. There is yet to be mentioned the Erechtheum, or temple of Athene Polias, on the Acropolis of Athens, which, though the only date we possess of it falls after the death of Pericles, bears the strongest impress, both in its architectural and sculptured forms, of the great age. The date referred to is the twenty-third year of the Peloponnesian war, and occurs in an inscription found on the Acropolis in several pieces, in which is given the report drawn up by a commission appointed to inspect the progress of the works (Inwood, The Erechtheum of Athens, 1827; Rangabé, Ant. Hell., Nos 56-60; Corpus Inscript. Graec. No. 160). In the British Museum, besides part of this inscription, are several specimens of the architectural decoration, and one of the Caryatides (or draped female figures who supported the portico), on which the simplicity of the drapery and the dignity of the pose are quite in the spirit of the Parthenon sculptures. The temple of Apollo Epicurius at Phigalia, in Aracdia, the work of Ictinus, the architect of the Parthenon, necessarily belongs also to this period (Cockerell, Temples of Jupiter at Aegina and Apollo at Phigalia). The great temples at Olympia and Delphi, though begun earlier, may also be reckoned among the works of this period, to which also belongs a large series of Doric temples in the Greek towns of Sicily and Magna Graecia, particularly those of Syracuse, Agrigentum, Selinus, Egesta, and Metapontum. Of these the most remarkable are the southern temple in the lower town of Selinus, and the somewhat more recent temple of Zeus at Agrigentum.

Read the rest of this article:
Archaeology - Table of Contents

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-21 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries