Denton Jaques Snider.

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to the Assyrian bull.

One rivulet flowed into the so-called Hittite
Art, (piite recently brought to light. Phoe-
nicia and the Greek borderland, Cyprus,
Crete, Asia Minor show Egyptian influence
in their pre-artistic remains which belong-
more to archaeology than to art. All these
smaller stations must now be left behind, in
this survey of the summits that we may at
once leap over the Oriental boundary into
Greece and Europe, where another artistic
Type welcomes us.

But the supreme conception of all Art,
however diverse its Types, must be kept be-
fore the mind — which conception we seek to
concentrate and keep alive in the word The-
ophany, which we have already defined as the
divine descent into individual form, as cre-
ated by the artist. This is what unites the
Egyptian and the Greek Art worlds, though
otherwise so different. The common human
consciousness of both the Asiatic and Euro-


pean demands the appearance of the God
who thus is manifested in the work of Art as
the associator of his people. The original
artistic monument is the unifier of the nation
through its faith in its Creator whom the
artist makes appear by means of his own cre-
ative genius. Tliis is what we are next to wit-
ness in a new manifestation on Europe's side
of the Aegean.


European Sculptuee.

With tlie advent of the Greek into history,
a new Type of Sculpture is born and slowly
unfolds to maturity; the statue steps forth
endowed with a new body. Behold the
Sphinx slough off its animal part and be-
come human in form — the Hellenic solution
of the Egyptian riddle. Drop down 2500
years or more (a longer time by several cen-
turies than has elapsed since the Christian
Era) to the colossal statue of Amenophes III,
and see the singing Memmon rise out of its
chair of rock in which it is not only seated
but imbedded, and become a free human
shape, capable of self-movement, perchance
a Greek Hermes. In some such fashion we
may image the great transition from the Ori-
ental and specially the Egyptian Type to the
European. The Body which Sculpture takes
as the bearer of its Art, is transformed, is in-
deed evolved into a higher stage ; it is set free
from the outer trammels of matter, with
which it seemed ingrown in Egypt ; it is liber-
ated from that overwhelming thrust down-
ward of gravity which even the face shared
in the Egyptian statue. Thus the Human
Body is shown completely individuated from
external Nature and self-evolved; it is de-


animalized and de-gravitated in this new
stage of Art which we call a Type, so deep
and lasting is the change. Within this Eu-
ropean Type, however, we shall note many
significant and far-reaching changes, which
can be named Styles.

We observe first the outer geographical
environment of this supreme transition, Tlio
civilization of the Orient rose chiefly in large
fertile river valleys where a vast population
was gathered and huge cities were built.
The earth itself was niassified, and the
swarms of humanity hung dependent from
the bounty of Nature. Egypt in particular
was more bound to the Nile than any other
people of the East to their river, being fur-
nished by it not only with food but with soil
annually. This unique physical condition of
Egypt, unique on our globe, gave the spot
where could be enacted the evolution of sub-
human life into humanity, which mightiest
step of progress ever taken by man Egypt
remained dimly conscious of still in her his-
torical period, imaging it in her greatest
work of Art, the double-bodied Sphinx whose
shape she strangely kept repeating in large
and small as long as she was Egypt. But in
Europe the land was divided up by Nature,
specialized, made individual; especially was
this the case with Greece which had no great


plains or large river-valleys in wliicli to mass
the folk. Their sea was fnll of their separated
islands; their continent was divided up by
mountains. Nature was the first Sculptor of
G-reece, chiseling ever her tei-ritory into
sharply marked forms of distinct individu-
ality. The Greek land and sea thus furnished
the outer setting for the arrival of the new
man, and with him of the Art, which will re-
veal a creative Type for the future.

The next fact is that an altogether new in-
stitutional world will arise in such an en-
vironment. Politically the Orient tends to
absolutism, and its history is largely the es-
tablishment of great empires through ex-
ternal conquest. Europe will show the ten-
dency to break up this Oriental consolidation
of authority, and to divide itself into many
commonwealths, which may be republican,
aristocratic or monarchic. A multiplicity of
independent States has been the basic world-
historical fact recorded of Europe ; this mul-
tiplicity has changed in form, but has re-
mained to this dav ; anciently within its bor-
ders flourished many city-states, then came
many tribal states, now we see many nation-
states. A special word should be employed
for this deepest characteristic of Europe;
elsewhere we have called it polyarcliic. But
at present we wish to note that European


Sculpture reflects this trait of European in-
stitutions, for just that is its supreme call.
Already we have emphasized that Art springs
from and depicts man's institutional world.
The European artistic Type as a whole is
polyarchic, separating into many individual
centers, communal and national, each with
its own character and its struggle against
others. Moreover the artist will be free to
assert himself against too much tradition;
he also has his individual right. Particu-
larly in that marvelous galaxy of Greek City-
States, Sculpture will rise to be the Art of
all Arts, and will reach its supreme perfec-
tion, becoming the very utterance of the
Greek folk-soul, when this is at its fairest
flowering as the bearer of the world's civili-

Egypt's Sculpture is largely sepulchral;
not a little of it has been found inside the
darkness of the tomb, where it was conceived
to help make the deceased immortal. But the
Greek statue shuns gloomy Hades and is it-
self sunshine in marble. We think of ancient
Egypt as unrisen, unrevealed, a land of
tombs, and today it is still for us a vast grave-
yard ; but when we cross the sea into Hellas,
we seem to pass from death to life, from the
hidden to the open, from the hieroglyphic to
its interpretation. To be sure we may ob-


serve premonitory Greek pulsations in old
Egypt, but the child remained there unborn.
European Sculpture will therefore keep
the evolved and liberated Human Body and
make it the bearer of the social and institu-
tional struggles of the future. The Gods of
the community, tribe, city, nation will be still
represented in sculpturesque form, and will
reveal the triumphs, the defeats, and even
the agonies of their respective peoples. In
the total sweep of European Sculpture can
be observed three leading stages which we
shall call Styles. First is the Classic Style
which is essentially Greek, but overarches
all antiquity including ancient Rome. This
embraces the Art of the heathen world till
the latter changed its religion or God-concep-
tion, which brought about the second or
Christian Style of European Sculpture,
which prevailed during the Middle Ages, es-
pecially, and was dominated by the dominant
church. On the whole the religion of this
time tended to discredit the Human Body,
and even to torture it w^itli its OAvn self-in-
flicted pain. Thus arose on one side a Sculp-
ture of the grotesque but on the other a
Sculpture of suffering. Finally came the re-
action and the return to the antique which
produced the third great period of European
Sculpture, the revival of it known as the Ren-


aissance Style wliicli readies back some four
or five Iniiulred years from our time, but is
not yet ended, as far as can now be seen.

It is evident that the supremely creative
epoch of Sculpture, in which it became a
world-historical Art, with a message not
only for its own people and time, but for all
civilization and the future, was the Classic.
Yet this too showed inequalities. AVe shall
find that Classic Sculpture had its various
stages of excellence.


The Classic Style.

The Sculpture of the Classic period lasted
hardly a thousand years in its own right ; to
be sure in another sense it lasts today, in fact
it has been re-animated to new life within the
past century. So vigorous and persistent
has this resuscitation of the antique become
that we have to think it still has its niche
though not very large, in the artistic expres-
sion of our age.

Classic Sculpture springs from a God-
world, comes down out of the same, as it
were, and brings along the thousandfold
shapes of deities, revealing them in statues
to the eyes of the believers. This presupposes
a polytheistic faith of the people, and also
their demand for the immediate divine pres-
sence appearing to their vision. The God
must be manifested in external form to the
Greek religious consciousness; when this be-
lief began to wane, the Art expressing the
same necessarily followed in the decline till
the light went out. But this descent of divin-
ity lingered long in the hearts of the
common people after the intellect had un-
dermined conviction; indeed the old faith
and its forms can often be seen flickering


still in Mediterranean lands by the watclifnl

The Classic world, then, is the world of the
Gods, whose literary bible is old Homer, but
whose permanent visible appearance is
Sculpture. But why so many? Each com-
munity, tribe, city, and the whole nation, had
its own deity, who was its divine protector
against its foes, even against other hostile
Gods. We recollect how Homer portrays the
Olympians divided into two parties, for and
against Troy. We have, therefore, to con-
ceive Godhood individuating itself into the
vast multiplicity of Gods ; Hellas turned the
universal One into many individuals. That
was just its consciousness, and its place in
the World 's History, which made it the scene
of the divinely sculpturesque appearance for
the one time on this planet. It was a rain,
yea storm of Gods falling upon that Greek
earth during that time in response to the fer-
vent prayer of the people. We dare affirm
that no such petition since then has been sent
to the upper realm from any national folk-
soul though this still prays to its Maker, yet
with a wholly different consciousness back
of its worship. And the artist, who could
perform the act of divine individuation, mak-
ing the Gods appear in their most adequate
visible shapes to his folk, was the universal


mediator of the spirit of liis time, ever re-
memberable along with the warrior and
statesman. To be sure there was an aristo-
cratic prejudice, even at Athens, against the
artist as a workman; still his vocation stood
nearer to the heart of the people than that of
any other man, and Art occupied a place in
life w^hicli it has hardly since attained even
in its most favored periods. In Greece the
AVorld-spirit became sculptor for once and
for all.

But now we are to note the fatal birth-
mark on this Classic God-world, for it has
within itself the strain of finitude and disso-
lution from the start. Each little Greek com-
munity would be of itself the complete polit-
ical individual, hence its pivotal word was
autonomy. It would have its own self-suffi-
cient life, its own government, its own laws
and law-making power, yea its own Gods.
The result was the Greek community became
dissociative in spirit, exclusive, quarrelsome
with the neighboring community which, how-
ever, was of the same temper. Thus Greece,
having united once in a great national deed to
repel the Persian, turned internally to a
seething caldron of jealous, selfish, warring
towns and cities, till it fell under control of
an external ruler, first Macedon and then
Rome. Now this strife in the lower world of



men lias its counterpart in the upper world
of the Olympians, quite as we see it foreshad-
owed in Homer. Accordingly there took
place in Greece a long, desperate battle of
the Gods, whose prefigurement we may again
note in the Iliad, that magic looking-glass
which the poet held up before pre-historic
Greece and which had the power of fore-
tokening her future historic destiny. The
result was that the Greek Nation sank be-
neath its own blows re-inforced by outer
powers interfering at the right moment to
help her kill herself.

So it comes that the Greek God-world en-
acts a grand tragedy upon the stage of uni-
versal History with rise, culmination, de-
cline and death — truly the creative source
and ideal prototj'pe of all lesser Greek trag-
edies so well known in Literature. But what
concerns us here is that Classic Sculpture
taken together embodies this tragic action in
its full sweep, in its most direct and impres-
sive appeal to the folk, making it indeed di-
vine, the very process of the Gods. Then the
Art itself perishes along with the conscious-
ness which produced it and which it so faith-
fully and intimately represented. For Sculp-
ture as the Classic Art dies also at the end
of the tragedy of the Classic World, so in-
born and bound-up Avas it with its own theme.


It will not outlive its own Gods. x\nd this
hint of its end it had from its beginning.

In the sculptured faces of those antique
deities there is the strain of Fate, which
springs inherently from their multiplicity
and their particularity. Their limitation is
stamped upon them, they give an undertone
of longing for what they are not, of seeking
what they have not; they Avould be eternal
yet are finite, would be immortal, yet must
die. An inner self-contradiction of the God
lies in the polj^ theistic conception ; then these
many Gods fall into outer conflict with one
another. So they are at last fated and show
it in their look, yea in their bounded form.
With all their much-praised serenit}" — yet
the Gods cannot be forever serene — there
interweaves a tinge of divine sorrow, deep,
quite superhuman sorrow that they have
ever been individuated into their finite shapes
from the One-and-All. So we may interpret
that touch of infinite regret which we can feel
in the serene Gods looking down on us from
their best statues. But still they mirror their
own people in its profoundest soul, and fore-
cast the destiny of that social and institu-
tional order which they adumbrate. It may
be here added that the sculptured God-pain,
so softly soothed into serenity by the earlier
or perchance Phidian ideal, will break forth


into volcanic convulsions in the Laocoon be-
longing to the later Hellenistic time. Still
both must be seen as genuine stages of the
same sculpturesque God-world of Hellas.

Here another fact should be noted. That
supereminent realm of deities had its o^Yn
peculiar expression in the Greek Mythus
which was an elemental product of the Greek
consciousness. This Mythus is what Sculp-
ture seized upon in order to inform its high-
est conceptions. Moreover the Mythus was
familiar to the people who made it and kept
re-making it as their own utterance. Now
this popular material of all Art and Poetry
the sculptor took and formed anew accord-
ing to his idea, using it as so much elemental
stuff for his work. Many illustrations we
shall have of his procedure in this regard.
Here, however, we emphasize that the artist
found created for his hand the people's
Mythus with its ready-made God-world whose
shapes he Avas to render visible, actually
tangible, even in the crisis of the hour, so
that Divinitv should become an immediate
presence to the folk.

The Sculptor lived in historic times, and
was himself a product of the historic con-
sciousness. He shares deeply in the soul of
his age and is to express its pivotal conflict
in his Art. But this conflict of the moment


lie is to transfer to the upper world of tlie
Gods through the Mythus ; thus he raises the
great event out of its temporal wrappage
and clothes it in the form of the eternal, so
that it endures through time, and we look at
his w^ork today, though it be in fragments.
In some such way we have to construe him
shaping the groups in the pediments of the
Parthenon for instance, and even the pe-
culiar medley of figures know^n as TJie Far-
nesian Bull. The old Mythus is transformed
into the bearer of present History by the
sculptor who therein brings to the immediate
vision of his people the existent state of their
institutional world, not as external history
but as the inner spirit of history. Here again
ancient Homer sets the example, and is the
best commentary. He has the two realms,
the lower one of human events and persons,
and the upper one of the Gods who bring-
about what transpires below\ The supreme
function of Sculpture is to set forth that up-
per divine realm, though it portrays also the
man in action here below, and even makes

It has been alreadv intimated that the
Classic Style of Sculpture keeps step histor-
ically with the periods of the Classic World
from start to finish. These are seen to be in
the main three, with many side-currents and


counter-currents which play into and around
the one forward roll of the mighty stream.
To these lesser branches we cannot pay at-
tention in this brief account, but we shall be
content to mark the chief outlines of the fore-
mentioned three Periods of the Classic Style.
First is the Hellenic Period Avhich rises to
fulfilment in the one great artist of Greece,
Phidias the Athenian in whom and in whose
city the Sculpture of Greece concentrates
and puts forth its finest bloom, representing
the triumph of the Greek world, especially of
its distinctive political institution, the City-
State, yet not without fierce inner conflicts.
Then comes secondly the Hellenistic Period,
in which we behold the Greek institutional
Avorld subordinated to an external power and
alien to its spirit, with which alien power it
is in desperate struggle. Now it is this furi-
ous iight of Greek with non-Greek, of city-
state against other political forms, in gen-
eral of Hellenic civilization against an over-
whelming outside energy which crushes in
upon it — this is the convulsive fateful epoch
which Hellenistic Sculpture mainly portrays
with a tremendous outlay of national pathos
and writhing. The Laocoon group is the best
representative of the Art of the Period,
which ends in the complete domination of
Rome lasting several centuries. Hereupon


follows the third or Helleno-Roman Period of
the Classic Style, in which Greek Sculpture
again centralizes itself in a city, but non-
Greek, though the capital of the ancient
world, and becomes largely an imitative art
living on its past glory and copying the great
masterpieces of its freedom to decorate the
abode of its foreign master.

It is to be observed that through all these
three Periods prevails the common Classic
Style, which sought to preserve the free
Human Body idealized by a divine content,
and wdiicli sprang from a God-world descend-
ing into visible form for the people who kept
the faith. We can behold in the Emperor
Trajan's reliefs the Classic Style alive and
active still, even if decadent. That imperial
world-ruler whose empire had sw^allowed up
the independent Greek City-State, endeav-
ored to keep its Art world-historical to rep-
resent Roman conquest and greatness — real-
ly a contradictory task. But we may carry
our retrospect yet farther back and look at
the European Type with its liberated body
in contrast with the Egyptian Type, and the
Oriental generally, which could never quite
set free the individual human organism in its
Sculpture, which therein, however, mirrors
the spirit and social order of the East.

Undoubtedly Art both in the Orient and in


Hellas, is religious, is primarily to manifest
the national God who makes his people a na-
tion in their common religion. Still there is
quite a difference between those two worlds,
Oriental and European, in their attitude to-
ward the religious and political institutions.
As this attitude decidedly influences their
Art, we may note the following distinctions :

(1) 111 the Orient Religion makes the one
State, is indeed one with it, both being con-
centrated in one head or ruler. Such at least
is the tendency.

(2) In Europe, however, the State sepa-
rates from Eeligion and divides into many
states, from Greece down to the present time
(polyarchy). On the other hand European
Religion tends to unity; Greek Religion uni-
fied Greece religiously underneath all its po-
litical separation; in modern Europe the
many Nation-States have a common religion
— Christianity.

(3) In America (the true Occident) the
State has risen to be what unifies or feder-
ates the people, while Religion separates
them (the many sects). The artistic outcome
of this new condition is not vet unfolded,
though on some lines it may have started.

But European Art, with which we are now
dealing, will have a unitary tendency amid all
the political diversity, as it originates in a


common religion. Bnt tlie later Art will tend
to split up nationally when it drops away
from its originative source.

But we have reached the opening of Greek
Art, indeed of all Art in the European sense ;
that is, the Art of man is to assume its Eu-
ropean Type, starting with the Classical
Style as the original mould of what Europe
deems the artistically beautiful. But this
Style has also its movement in time, its su-
preme flowering and then its decadence and
even death, which movement becomes in
itself a type or model of all the Fine Arts in
their historic development. This primal cre-
ative round of Europe's Art is now to be set
forth in its three Periods.



The greatest Greek statue, hj the greatest
Greek artist, on the greatest Greek theme, in
the greatest period of Hellas : that may well
be deemed the complete summation and
embodiment of Sculpture itself. There is a
consensus of judgment, ancient and modern,
that such was the work of Phidias the Athe-
nian when he shaped the sculptured present-
ment of Zeus at Olympia. He brought down
the universal God of the Greeks to their im-
mediate vision when they were assembled at
their supreme national festival, and united
them in one vast act of worship which stirred
their Greek blood from the farthest outlying
rim of colonial Hellas to its center. So we
may consider this the mightiest act of Hel-
lenic Sculpture done by its mightiest hero,
a concentration of the whole Art into one
creative point which had the power of re-
awakening in each soul the common Hellenic

Now comes the other side of the fact : this
statue has perished and there is not a single
worthy copy of it at present known to be in
existence. We moderns, therefore, have to
reconstruct it in imagination from the state-


ments of ancient writers who saw it, from the
i>eneral character of Phidias and the ideal of
Hellenic Scnlpture which we can still ob-
serve, and from a few small images of it on
coins as well as from certain ancient busts
which probably show some lineaments of
the face and head. More suggestive, but
subtler and harder to trace is the imitation
in later Art of the Phidian Zeus, which be-
came a type not only of the highest God but
of other divinities of the Pantheon, even of
heroes. Most significant is the fact that
Laocoon has a Zeus-head, though this identi-
fication has been often denied. Phidias more
than any otlier Greek sculptor was the cre-
ative God-maker, and his divine shapes con-
tinued reproducing themselves, undoubtedly
with many variations and shortcomings, to
the end of Classic Art. In fact if we enter
the British museum and watch the eager
copyists of the Elgin marbles, we can see
that the influence of the Phidian ideal is still
at work today with pervasive power.

Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 11 of 32)