1902 Encyclopedia > Archaeology > Classical Archaeology - Fifth Period: Schools of Athens, Sicyon, Rhodes, Pergamus; New Attic School; Arcesilaus

(Part 13)


Fifth Period: Schools of Athens, Sicyon, Rhodes, Pergamus; New Attic School; Arcesilaus

The conquests of Alexander had opened to the Greek gaze the east, gorgeous in its personal attire and equipments, and unlimited in its resources for the encouragement of personal vanity. Alexander appeared in Asiatic costume, and what became the monarch was shortly found becoming to the subject. Under his successors, in what is called the Macedonian, or, better, the Hellenistic period, the opulence and taste for luxury of the times led artists to aim at producing works conspicuous for picturesqueness; not, however, that picturesquemess which is born of a fine fancy, but that which originates in a studied effort to throw a glean of romance over a plain historical incident. The creation of ideal types of deities ceased, and the production of allegorical figures, which had found acceptance in the preceding age, took it place. These figures were simply studies of character, and implied a faculty of observation which the existing portraits of this period on coins and in marble warrants us in estimating highly. To this, no doubt, was added a power of generalization which enabled the artist to deduce a type from a number of individuals, as, for example, in the type of Gauls introduced by the school of Pergamus. In figures of deities or heroes the old types were retained. It was in portraiture that the essential characteristic of the time consisted. With art in this condition Graecia Capta enthralled her Roman captors, and the further development of this phase of art was transferred to Rome. For this reason we shall here follow the unusual plan of classing the Hellenistic and Roman art under one period.

The two principal schools of sculpture of the last period are represented in this by the sons of the two great masters of each, - the Athenian school by the sons of Praxiteles, Cephisodotus and Timarchus, who worked together. The former appears to have been the more gifted of the two, if we may judge from the pains bestowed on certain statues of deities by him alone. Of their contemporaries little is known beyond that their chief occupation was in portrait sculpture. The traditions of the Sicyonian school were left in the hands of the sons and pupils of Lysippus, of whom the ablest was Euthycrates, who preserved the severity of the older schools in opposition to the tastes of his times. The effect of this upon his pupil Tisicrates led to so close a reproduction of the manner of Lysippus, that in many cases it was difficult to distinguished his work from that of the old master. In the same spirit, and with greater success, worked Eutychodes of Sicyon, and Chares of Lindus us Rhodes. From the hands of Eutychides we know of a bronze statue of the river Eurotas, in which the mobility of water was finely suggested in the human form (Pliny, N. H. xxxiv. 8, 78), and a highly-praised statue of Tyche (Pasanias, vi. 2, 7) for the town of Antioch, of which several copies exist, including a small one in silver in the British Museum. Chares is known mainly as the author the bronze Colossus of Helius at Rhodes, a statue 105 feet high, which after standing a marvel to all for fifty-six or sixty-six years, was broken across the knees and thrown to the ground by an earthquake. The rising importance of Rhodes encouraged the foundation of a school of sculpture which adopted the manner of Chares, and aimed at effect by colossal proportions and picturesque situations. To this school belonged Apollonius and Tauriacus, the authors of a colossal marble group which has been identified with that in the museum of Naples, known as the "Farnese Bull," and representing Amphion and Zethus in the act of bidning Dirce to the horns of a bull in presence of their mother Antiope, and whether copy or original, an admirable illustration of the Rhodian school. The moment seized by the artists is one of profound pathos; but, justly deserved as the punishment of Dirce may have been, it is impossible to look upon it without pain. The same feeling, it may be imagined, was awakened in the spectator by the bronze group of Athamas seized with insanity after slaying his son Learchus, by Aristonidas, another artist of the Rhodian school. From the instances of subjects in which cruelty and deep emotion were combined, it has been argued that the group of Laocoon, which was the work of three Rhodian artists-Agesander, Athenodorus, and Polydrus-may properly be assigned to the Thodian school of this period. On the other hand, it is argued by critics of seemingly equal competence, that the subject of the Laocoon is too harrowing for the Greek taste even then, and must have been executed under the influence of the favourite cruelties practiced in the Roman circus. The decision between these two opinions is left entirely to taste, owing to the ambiguity of the words of Pliny. From Rhodes we pass to Pergamus, where, under the courtly influence of Attalus I. (241-197 B.C.) and Eumenes II. (197-159 B.C.), was formed a school of sculpture which derived a vigorous impulse as of a new life from the strange class of subjects it was called upon to undertake. It was called upon to glorify the decisive victory of Attalus over the Gauls (239 B.C.) by groups and large compositions of battle scenes, in which the first difficulty was to produce the type of thee barbarians, and to carry it out consistently in the various attitudes and incidents of a battle; as, for example, in their dogged submission under captivity, or their grim expression under pain; or, again, the abject misery of their wives when a battle had been lost. Nor was Attalus content to adorn his own capital with artistic productions. To Athens he made a present of four groups representing battles between gods and giants, between Athenians and Amazons, between the Greeks and Persians at Marathon, and between his own army and the Gauls in Mysiua, showing in each case the defeat of a barbarous race. The height of the figures was 3 1/2 feet, and that there must have been a consirable number of them is clear from this, that the occurrence of Bacchus in the group of the Gigantomachia presupposes the existence of the other superior deities. Of the entire series nine figures have been identified in various museums (Engraved, Monumenti dell' Inst. Arch., ix. Pls. 19-21; Brunn, Annali dell' Inst. Arch. 1870, pp. 292-323; and Bulletino, 1871, pp. 28-31; Clarac, pl. 280, No. 2151); while to the same school belong the dying Gaul in the Capitoline Museum, known as the "Dying Gladiator," and the group of a Gaul and his wife in the Villa Ludovisi (Muller, Denkmäler, i. pl. 48, No. 218).

After the loss of national independence little remained for the Greeks to do but to profit by the liberal patronage of their Roman masters, whose cupidity in matters of art was by no means satisfied with carrying off as many as possible of the existing sculptures. The increased demand led to a new energy, of which Athens was at first naturally the centre, whence the term "New Attic" is applied to the sculpture of this period. As, however, this new energy was chiefly directed to the reproduction of the favourite types of the old masters, the result was not, as under other circumstance it might have been, the formation of a new school properly so called. At this time the principal sculptors were Polycles of Athens, his son Timarchides, his grandson Dionysius, and another Dionysius, all of whom, after earning a reputation by their work in various parts of Greece, appear to have followed Metellus to Rome, which now became the artistic centre of the world. Towards the end of the republic there lived in Rome a sculptor, Pasiteles, who, if not superior to the artists of the new Attic period of creative power, was certainly more gifted than they with skill and carefulness in the execution of his work, which ranged over statuaria, sculptura, and celatura, including chryselephantine figures, for which a taste had revived. As, however, none of his works exist now, we can only judge of his manner by that of his pupil Stephanus, from whose hands, we have the statue of Orestes in the Villa Albani (Annali dell Inst, 1865, pl. D; Friedrichs, Bausteine, I p. 112). It is called Orestes from its resemblance to the male figure in the group of Orestes and Electra in Naples, with which, as an imitation of the archaic style, it may be compared. In both, however, it has been observed that the archaism is limited to the proportions, attitude, and general aspect, but that the details of anatomy have been worked in from the living model. This, which constituted the peculiarity of Stepahnus, is assumed to have characterized the school of Pasiteles, first, because Stephanus, in an unusual manner, describes himself on the base of the statue as a pupil of Pasiteles, first, because Stephanus, in an unusual manner, describes himself on the base of the statue as a pupil of Pasteles; and secondly, because the same peculairty to some extent is found in the group of Orestes and Electra in the Villa Ludovisis by the sculptor Menelaus, who again describes himself as a pupil of Staphenus (Friederichs, Bausteine , I p. 427 ). Doubtless this affectation of archaism was to meet the taste of the time, for which also archaic works were collected from Greece. By the extreme elaboration of his work, Arcesilaus, who lived in Rome in Caesar's time, obtained considerable fame, but, on the other hand, limited greatly his productivity . Of his two principal statues, the Venus Genetric and the Felicitas, the latter was never finished. Copies of both exist, but they are of too mean a kind to suggest a proper estimate of the sculptor's merit. While in ideal sculpture the artists of this time were content to copy, with trifling varieties of detail, the works of the old masters, they appear to have disclosed considerable original talent in realistic sculpture, that is, in portraiture and in the historical representations with which triumphal arches and other like buildings were decorated, though here again they had models ready to hand in portraits, battle scenes, and triumphs of the Hellenistic period. A sculptor who had to celebrate a Roman victory over barbarians had his model in works of the same class by the school of Pergamus. When he introduced an ideal figure, as that of Victory writing on a shield, he adopted an old type. In the grouping of his figures there is this peculiarity, that they are frequently arranged on the principles of painting rather than of sculpture, and it is supposed that this originated in the earlier Roman custom of celebrating victories by paintings hung up in public places, which paintings appear to have been based on those of the Alexandrian period, and, at any rate, were sometimes executed by Greek artists. (For a thorough investigation of this subject see Helbig, Campanische Wandmalerei, Leipzig, 1873).

When public encouragement of art takes the form of a desire for reproduction from ancient masterpieces, it is natural that such minor arts as those of caelatura and gemengraving should flourish. The production of silver vases adorned with subjects in relief had become a profitable occupation in the wealthy times of Hellenism. It was not, however, till the latter half of this period that truly fabulous sums came to be paid for work of this kind, in which Pasiteles and Arcesilaus, already mentioned as sculptors, achieved great success. Besides them we hear of Posidonius of Ephesus, Zopyruz Pytheas, and Teucrus. Among the many existing examples of silver work of this period, one -- a vase found in l761 at the Porto d' Anzo, and belonging to the Corsini family -- has been identified as a copy of the silver vase by Zopyrus representing the acquittal of Orestes before the Areopagus. The immense number of existing statuettes, vases, utensils of various kinds in bronze and silver, dating from this period, are evidence of its artistic activity, and at the same time of the closeness with which Greek models were adhered to.

Under the influence of the luxurious tastes in the times of the Ptilemies, gem-engravers aimed mostly at effect, and to this end sought out specimens of onyx and sardonyl which from their own splendour would lend a charm to the work. A gem was now a thing to be worn flauntingly. Hence the chief examples of the art are the cameos, of which from the latter half of this period we have still some magnificient examples. Of these, the most important, artistically, is the large cameo, now in Vienna, representing, in a partly allegorical and partly literal fashion, the suppression of the Pannonian revolt by Tiberius and Germanicus (Muller, Denkmäler, i. pl. 69, No. 377). Larger and richer in figures, but much inferior in work, is the cameo in the cabinet of medals in Pris (Müller, ibid., No. 378). Besides producing cameos for personal ornament, the gem-engravers of this period were also employed on the production of drinking cups of onyx and other precious stones, of which the tazza. Farnese in Naples is the best existing example (Mus. Borb., xii) pl. 47. When stones were too costly, glass was used, as in the famous Portland vase in the British Museum, and in numerous cameous. Compared with the cameo-engravers, who, as if conscious of the inferiority of their work, with held their names from it, the engravers of intaglios very frequently asserted their merit by adding their names. Among the names thus handed down are those of Dioscurides, his son Eutyches, Ahtneion, Protarchus, Solon, Euodus, and others of lesser note.

In the history of painting during this period few names painting of importance occur. In the earlier part of it the traditions of the school of Sycon were maintained by Neacles, from whose hands we know of a picture of Venus, and of a naval engagement between Persians and Egyptians on a river which was localized as the Nile, by the presence of a crocodile and an ass drinking at the edge; and Timanthus, who painted a battle between the troops of Aratus and the Atolians. In the Athenian school, Athenion, though dying young, produced some works which were favourably compared with those of the older master, Nicias. About this time the production painted vases, driven out of fashion by vases in silver and other metals, so far ceased to attract skilled workmen, that it can hardly be fair to regard the large naumber of so-called Apulian vases belonging to this period as evidence of the contemporary style of painting. The ornament and the colours are aleays florid, the figures are drawn mechanically as from a set design, and the dimensions are very frequently large. According to the theory advanced by Brunn (Probleme in der Gesch. der Vasenmalerei), almost the whole of the vases found in Italy with black figures on red ground, which previously were considered archaic, were produced about this time, and are but feeble imitations of the early style made to please the Roman taste for archaic work. As to the general question. It remains to be seen, however, whether Brunn has not placed them at too late a period.

With the scanty records of painters, and the depreciatory Paint remarks in regard to the art of their time made by Pliny and Petronius, we have to compare the immense series of the particularly those of Pompeii and Herculaneum, an examination of which will show that the painters then, like the contemporary sculptors, drew their inspiration, and apparently to a tolerably close extent their models, from more ancient works. Had they been gifted with original genius, they could not have excluded, when painting landscapes, the views of the immediate neighborhood; and yet on all the walls of Pompeii or Herculaneum there is perhaps not more than one subjects which can be positively identified as local. Nor would they have avoided so systematically as they have done subjects from the national Roman legends, which were then in high favour, and attracted poets like Virgil and Ovid. Bur while a complete dearth of imaginative power be denied them, these painters were possessed of a fine eye for pictorial effect, and of a refined taste in the management of their colours (Helbig, Wandgemälde Campaniens, to which is prefixed an elaborate inquiry into the technical processes employed; and Helbing, Campanische Wandmalerei, l873, where the sources the courses from which these painters drew are fully pointed out).

Closely allied to painting is the art of mosaic-working, which, though occasionally employed for the pavements of the earlier temples, as in the pronaos of the temple at Olympia (Expedition de la Morée, i. 63), did not till after the time of Alexander assume an importance which entitled it to be ranked as an independent art. The first mosaic artist of consequence whom we hear of is Sosus of Pergamus, celebrated as having introduced the practice of decorating floors of houses with imitations of characteristic objects, such, for example, as the accompaniments of a feast in a dining room. From Pergamus, Ephesus, Alexandria, and the chief towns of the Macedonian period, the art was afterwards transferred to Rome, where the numerous villas and ppalaces furnished it with abundant occupation. As an example of the work of this later time we have the large mosaic found on the work of this later time we have the large mosaic found on the Aventine in 1833, and now in the Lateran, which bears the name of Heraclitus as its author, and which, with its representations of all manner of remains from a feast, is an illustration of the class of subjects introduced by Sosus. We still possess a splendid example of their rendering of historical subjects in the mosaic found in l831 in the Casa del Fauno at Pompeii, representing a battle between Alexander and the Persians (Muller, Denkmäler, i. pl. 55, No. 273).

What was said of the progress of architecture at the close of last period should be here borne in mind, as it continues to apply to the first half of the period now before us. While the building of Alexandria supplied a model and an impulse, which the successors of Alexander availed themselves of, in the construction of new towns, the example of boundless luxury, in the decorations of even temporary monuments, which was set by Alexander in the erection of a funeral pyre for Hephaestion in Babylon, was also eagerly followed by his successors . From the work of Callixenus on Alexandria we have (Atheneus, v. p. l96) a description of the tent erected by Ptolemy Philadelphus for a Dionysiac festival, and of the splendid colossal barge of Ptolemy Philopator on the Nile (ibid.p. 204,d). Still more magnificent and stupendous in its dimensions was the ship of Hiero of Syracuse, with its granaries, dwelling-houses, towers, gymnasiums, and park, for the construction of which Archimedes and the Corinthian Archias were employed. Greece proper, however, shared little in this prodigality. Thebes was, indeed, restored after its destruction by Alexander; and Athens, still the eye of Greece, obtained many marks of favour from the princes of the time, who sought to identify their names with her glory by erecting public public monuments of various kinds.

The presence of countless specimens of Greek art in Rome, carried off by plunderers like L. Mummius, produced a general craving for Greek architectures also. The first step in this direction was taken by Q. Caecillius Metellus, who brought a Greek Architect, Hermodorus of Salamis, to Rome to build a temple to Jupiter Stator in the pure Greek style. The public favour with which this was viewed may be gathered from the fact, that shortly after we find d. Junius Brutus employing Hermodorus to build a temple to Mars. Of the Roman architects who during the republic adopted the Greek style, the most distinguished were Cossutius and C. Mutius. The Greek had either supplemented or become blended with the native Roman architecture when the extraordinary activity in building, of which Pompey and Caesar were the leaders, set in, not only in Rome, but throughout the provinces of the empire. The building of temples and monuments, which under Augustus had been the chief occupation of architects, gave way under his immediate successors to constructions of a more useful and sometimes of a colossal type, such as bridges, canals, aqueducts, and harbours. The enlargement of the imperial palaces on the Palatine, particularly the construction of the golden house of Nero, gave scope to the boldness of design and extravagance of execution possessed by the architects Celer and Severus. In the following times those of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian were characterized by a series of buildings which had not their equal in the architectural history of Rome, as, for example, the Collisseum, a building erected to contain 87,000 spectators, and still in its ruins the most striking monument of imperia Rome. While the chief interest of Trajan was in the construction of roads, bridges, and harbours, his successor, Hadrian, was not only himself ambitious as an architect, but gave a new impetus to the erection of splendid buildings throughout began to sink rapidly, its original tendency to florid decoration obtaining more and more free rein, till finally discrimination was abandoned. The ruins of Palmyra and Baalbec (R. Wood, London, l827), the arch of Severus, the baths of Caracalla and Diocletian, and the arch of Constantine, are evidence of this.

For Etruscan Archaeology , see ETRURIA. (A. S. M.)

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