Denton Jaques Snider.

Music and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic online

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educator or the pedagogue, as some have
held. Very fine is the texture of the flesh
which shows a certain soft liquidity or youth-
ful juiciness. Humanly beautiful but not
grandly godlike, the statue bespeaks the
Praxitilean character as already set forth;
it is a flight from the time's bitter wrestle
with approaching fate, showing an untroub-
led idyllic serenity quite similar to that of
the Faun. The same trait dominates a copy
of another statue of his called the Apollo
Sauroctonos, or the Delphic God playing with
a lizard running up a tree stump. Very gra-
cious, delightful, and self-delighted is this
divinely rural form ; but what an occupation
for a God in that time, and Apollo at that!
Still this is just Praxiteles through and
through, idly idyllic, very pleasing and very
pleased in himself, always more Faunlike
than Godlike — even his Gods are Fauns, and
his world recalls Theocritus rather than

132 -^T^^ir Axn tju: fixi: AnTS^^Rci^LPTURE.

The third capital sculptor of the post-Phi-
dian epoch is Lysippus whose highest activ-
ity ran parallel with that of Philip and Alex-
ander. Thus his artistic life moves out of
autonomous Hellas into Macedonian Hellas,
and makes the passage from the free Greek
City- State to the subjected one, after the bat-
tle of Chaeroneia. This great institutional
change of Greece v/e may expect to see sug-
gested in the Art of Lysippus. The exact
dates of his birth and death are not known ;
but it is emphatically known that he Avas the
favorite sculptor of Alexander the Great
whose image has been transmitted from his
workshop in numerous copies. His artistic
activitv seems to have lasted more than fiftv
years, and it bridged the fateful chasm be-
tween communal independence and com-
munal subjection in Greece. There is little
doubt that Lysippus, though a Greek, was or
became sympathetic with Macedon in this su-
preme national crisis, possibly recognizing
the historic fact that the days of the free Hel-
lenic world were over.

Accordingly we may understand how
Lysippus turned away from all that Athens
had represented and upheld in Art and insti-
tutions. Athens had fought Philip and Alex-
ander, as she once fought the autocratic Per-
sian, in defence of the autonomous City-State


as tlie peculiar ijolitical institution of Greece.
Tlien she was victorious and bloomed forth
into the triumphant Art of Phidias to ex-
press her victor}' ; but now she is defeated
and her chief artistic utterance flees to the
school of Lysippus who was born at Sicyon
in the Peloponnesus, and hence a Dorian.
The result was that Dorisni rises to the sur-
face again in Sculpture, after a subsidence
of a hundred years or more. Polycletus with
his realistic tendency in contrast with the
idealistic movement of Phidias, reappears in
Lysippus, who again celebrates the athletic
rather than the divine element of the world's
order, reflecting the physical yet well-trained
and skillful might of his hero Alexander.
His best known statue (the so-called x\poxy-
omenos) has immortalized the victorious
athlete scraping the oil and grime from his
right arm with a strigil after the conflict. It
was carried to Rome and set up in public
where it became a great favorite with the
Roman people who probably glimpsed
in it some image of themselves. It repre-
sented, moreover, the so-called canon (rule or
modulus) of Lysippian sculpture which mod-
eled the head less in size and the body more
slender than the transmitted canon of Poly-
cletus, which made the human frame more
heavy and stocky in its proportions. Such


a cliaiige means an increase in physical dex-
terity and speed as compared with the old
Doric norm. (Compare also the early Doric
architectnral columns with the later ones, or
with the Corinthian.) An added elegance of
form may also be observed, characteristic of
the time. Recently another athletic statue
supposed to be by Lysippus has been brought
to light, known by the name of Agias (or Ha-
gias) which some connoisseurs hold to be a
better sample of the artist's work than the
foregoing Apoxyomenos. Very doubtful is
such an estimate (only the latest art books
have its picture). In general, however, it re-
affirms the athletic character of the art of Ly-
sippus and of the time, with its love of strat-
egy and strength in war and combat.

It has been handed down that Lysippus
started in life as a common workman in
bronze, but rose through his genius to be the
creator of shapes instead of a mere mechan-
ical copyist. Much to his credit is such an
advance from below upward, which may sug-
gest the mainspring of his artistic character.
The producer of 1500 statues — so the account
runs — must have known how to turn out his
products mechanically or by collaboration.
Doubtless all of his work can be roughly di-
vided into two kinds ; that of the artisan and
that of the artist. Lysippus was no inspired


God-maker like Phidias, still in his shop he
would fabricate a Greek God according to
order, doubtless for fair compensation. Thus
he put up at Tarentum a huge simulacrum of
Zeus, evidently verj^ different from the work
of Phidias at Olympia, as it has sent down no
such echoes of admiration from antiquity. A
colossus of the sungod at Rhodes seems also
to have been one of his enormities. Enough;
Lysippus was no ideal God-maker, but a
clever practical God-smith ready to turn out
of his smithy — for he worked wholly in
bronze — any numl)er of deities on demand,
for they still were cherished in the faith of
the masses. But for the artist himself Olym-
pus with its divine folk topped by Zeus was
hardly extant any longer, being supplanted
or indeed overthrown by Alexander, who had
shown himself mightier than the Greek
world aided by all its Gods. So we may con-
strue the fact that the artist could no longer
shape the Olympians into a divine epiphany
by his Art.

Another loss may be noted in this connec-
tion. Lysippus seems to have avoided the
form of the beautiful woman ; fair Helen, who
by her beauty caused the Trojan War, could
not have enraptured his Doric heart. Only
one ideal figure of a woman is ascribed to
him, that of a drunken female flute player.


He made some portraits of women, notably
one of Praxilla the poetess, but as far as
known not from any charm of her verse or
of her person.

Finally Lysippus was specially the maker
of portraits, the shaper of natural real men
rather than of the ideal Gods. Thus he cel-
ebrated the individual, endowing the same
with certain personal subjective traits. The
best illustration in this field is one of his
busts of Alexander (that of the Capitoline
Museum, also often reproduced). Very mas-
sive are the features, even heavy, suggesting
a veritable fortress in defense, or perchance
the solid Macedonian phalanx in attack. Still
the head is thoughtfully bent sidewise, indi-
cating that it can think, and even feel sym-
pathy, if not sentiment. The brow and hair
are leonine, indeed the type of Zeus (doubt-
less the Phidian) is suggested, Alexander
now being the actual Olympian over Greece.
So the artist may be supposed to herald in his
way the end of one great Period, and the
start of another.

A word should be said about the material
employed by Lysippus — the dark earthy
bronze instead of the white snowy marble,
used mostly by the Athenian artists. In this
choice of m.aterial also lies character. Marble
has a tender sparkle vrliich is akin with the
sunshine and the Upper "World : bronze even


ill its brighter hues largely sheds light or ab-
sorbs it, wills it not but the opposite, and so
this metal is truly of the Lower World, natur-
ally undivine, even if Gods were at times
made of it, embodying that elemental contra-
diction between Erebos and Olympus. Then
the bronze had to be melted and mixed and
poured into the fixed mould taken from the
clay model, and not directly chiseled from
Nature's own gift of material. Such a work
had in it necessarily more of the man than
the God, more of reflection than inspiration,
even if Praxiteles also worked in bronze, and
possibly Phidias in a few instances.

With Lysippus concludes the post-Phidian
epoch of the Hellenic Period which rounds
itself out in a return to the pre-Phidian real-
ism characteristic of Doric Sculpture. This
Hellenic Period contains the greatest sculp-
tors of Greece, and hence of all time ; it was
a Period when our human consciousness was
sculpturesque, and when plastic Art reflected
the race's highest world-view, which it has
hardly done since. We may repeat that then
for once and for all the World-Spirit turned
sculptor for its highest self-expression.

But Lysippus fulfills another function ; he
forms the bridge from Hellenic to Hellenistic
Art ; through him we make the transition be-
tween the two supreme Periods of Greek
Sculpture. His work marched with the vie-


torious stride of Alexander, out of the old
order into the new. His idealizing portraits
of his hero scattered over Hellas the visage
not merely of an Achilles, whom Alexander
once took as his model from the poems of
Homer, but of the newly-descended Zeus of
the Greek world in his final triumph over the
Orient. Alexander regarded himself later
as a divine epiphany, and Lysippus was his
chosen sculptor thereof, in a sort of rivalry
with Phidias M'ho was the sculptor of Zeus.
But Zeus never did or could lead his people
to conquer Asia as this young God has done.
So Lysippus created a new sculptural type of
a kind of God-man, which left its permanent
mark on the Art of succeeding times. The old
Greek Gods were not indeed overthrown, but
a new one was admitted more or less con-
sciously by the people into their Pantheon.
The Trojan War and the Persian War, both
of them directed by Greek deities against the
Orient, seemed small atfairs compared with
this new war which subjugated the East as
far as the Indus. There resulted a mighty
wrench in the Hellenic world-view, a deep
breach which cleft to the bottom the Greek
consciousness and which kept widening more
and more through later historic occurrences.
All this is found reflected artistically in the
second great Period of Greek Sculpture, of
which we shall give a brief outline.



The general significance of tlie term Hel-
lenistic is tliat Greek culture, having attained
its highest fulfilment at home, is to pass out
of its purely national limits and is to be im-
parted to the rest of the world, that is to
those peoples whom Greece called barbarous.
Greek Philosophy, Poetry, Architecture, Sci-
ence, break through their old bounds and be-
come universal. The political career of the
Hellenic City-State is finished. Another
work falls to the lot of Greece which is to
scatter its spiritual acquisitions far and wide,
becoming really the University of Civilization
for several centuries. The world Hellenizes,
and this is what makes the Period Hellenistic
as distinct from Hellenic. It was no local or
national movement merely, but truly world-
historical, wherein its Sculpture participated
along with the other Arts.

Now the mighty crash which first shivered
the old hide-bound Greek spirit was Alexan-
der's conquest of the East. What an up-
heaval in the mind of Greece this sudden and
surprising event produced we may still con-
ceive faintly by noting the deep conviction
which it uprooted almost at a blow. For


many centuries the grand struggle of Hel-
las had been against Asia. The Orient was
the line of Fate itself drawn in the Greek
soul — the mighty monster ever threatening
to swallow it up. The long-continued strug-
gle upon the border between Occident and
Orient, had called forth Greek poetry from
Homer to the Attic tragedians, Greek His-
tory, even Greek Mythology to a large ex-
tent. And the great and glorious deeds of
Greek heroes, both mythical and historical,
were enacted in that contest, warding off
Fate from the Greek world. But behold ! in
the span of a few years that ancient Fate is
grappled with, hurled to the earth and totally
subjugated by this new hero who deems him-
self a Greek, and claims to be fulfilling Greek
aspiration in conquering the East. Thus the
stamp of Destiny deepest and oldest in the
Greek consciousness is of a sudden wiped
out so that it practically no longer exists.
The event was a mighty earthquake which
shook Olympus to its base, for its Gods had
never been able to bring about anything like
that overturn. Such was the grand inner
cataclysm of the Greek Spirit, whose nar-
rower and somewhat crystallized limitations
were now breached for its passage out of the
old Hellenism to the new Hellenisticism.
At once Greek' culture followed the wake


of Alexander and streamed outward into
Asia, wliicli was first Hellenized. Later the
same process swept westward over the whole
Roman Empire. But at present we are to
note that Greek Spirit becomes at once ex-
pansive, centrifugal, whereas in the Hellenic
Period jnst considered its tendency was on
the whole centripetal, making Athens its
chief though not exclusive center. So it
comes that during the Hellenistic Period
Sculpture quite abandons Athens and the
Greek mainland, establishing its new home
of originality chiefly in Asia Minor- and in
the Greek islands not far from the coast —
hence locally we may call it Anatolian.

Moreover a great and far-reaching institu-
tional change of the Greek world starts and
develops in this Hellenistic Period. The
Greek City-State independent, self-contained,
autonomous, which produced the wonders of
Greek Art, Literature, Philosophy, indeed of
Greek Civilization, is no more. To be sure
the places and people are still existent, but
the distinctive institutional characteristic of
Hellenic Hellas, namely, autonomy, has de-
parted forever. Alexander and the Mace-
donian rulers suppressed it from the outside,
but the Romans will at last organize it out of
existence. Communal freedom from which
bloomed all the finest flowers of Greek Spirit,


becomes a memory, a hopeless longing in the
soul of Hellas during the Hellenistic Period.
Here indeed we may glimpse her new Fate,
the inner one to which other outer Fates will
be added, in place of the departed Oriental
Destiny. It is true that the Nation will seek
to recover her lost institution by alliance, by
revolt, by the league, notably the Achaean
League — all in vain. Hellenistic Sculpture
will not fail to illustrate this deep imderly-
ing struggle of the folk-soul for its vanished
liberty in some of its most impressive works.
The Mythus will still be employed by the
artist to express Avliat is fermenting most
deeply in the Greek heart. To be sure
there are some exceptions. The irruptions
of the Gauls was an awful outer Fate coming
down upon Hellas during the Hellenistic Pe-
riod, and in its way it took the place of the
Oriental menace of barbarism which hung
over the Greek world during its Hellenic Pe-
riod. Now Hellenistic Sculpture will seize
directly upon these new barbarians, and show
forth the furious contest with them in many
realistic shapes, of which quite a number
still are extant scattered through the gal-
leries of Europe. The so-called Dying Glad-
iator is the best known example. The ter-
rible Gaul seemed Fate realized, which, there-
fore, needed no mythical vesture for its por-


trayal. Still the Greek imagination will for
the most part continue to emploj^ its ideal
Mytlius to mirror the reality of present His-
tory. Especially the strong deep undercur-
rent of hostility to Roman domination for
destroying the dearest institutional heritage
of Greece, her communal autonomy, we shall
find expressed repeatedly during this time
by Sculpture in themes derived from the
Greek Mythus. Such an undercurrent of
meaning pulses passionately through the
Laocoon, and the so-named Farnesian Bull.
Hence the Greek folk will not surrender their
mythical inheritance when they give up their
liberty, but will invoke it anew to express
their most intimate heart-throbs in the time
of their humiliation, as it once did in the
time of their glory.

To be sure Greece had undone herself, and
she knew it in her deepest moments of self-
communing which her Art will not fail to
hold up before her. An inner Fate had over-
whelmed her, the Fate of her own conduct,
ere the outer Fate in the form of Macedon
and Rome had appeared. History shows —
see Thucydides passim — that the Greek City-
State had literally ground itself to impo-
tence, and that its autonomy was its tragedy.
So the world-judge above all nations has de-
creed its cessation, or its evanishment in a


higher principle of the Divine Order repre-
sented by Rome. Still the Greek mind clung
to the autonomous City-State as its sacred
institutional anchor during the whole Hel-
lenistic Period which is therefore in the
fiercest mental struggle with the new incom-
ing institution. We may say that the deep-
est note of Hellenistic Spirit is its battle with
the AVorld-Spirit. Therein lies its ultimate
dualism, its terrific wrestlings within and
without, which are characteristic both of its
body and its mind. The contorsions of a
Laocoon are not merely those of an individ-
ual, but of a people, of a period, yea of the
world at a given time. Gone is that divine
serenity of the Hellenic age, when the Gods
were in triumph; but now Ohnnpus and all
its deities toss in pain, mightily writhing in
the throes of dissolution. Hence it comes
that Hellenistic Sculpture which still has to
manifest the spirit of the time in the human
body, shows so much corporeal contorsion in
its forms, such a swollen muscular energy of
our frame work, to make this the adequate
vehicle of the age's conflict.

Already we have noticed that the sculptor
of Niobe indicates a consciousness of the
tragedy of Greece, whose children were per-
ishing under a divine judgment during the
Peloponnesian War. Still Niobe remains


collected and self-controlled in the midst of
her fearful visitation, and thus keeps up the
character of the Hellenic Period. But suf-
fering breaks loose from its human restraint
with a violent intensity in Hellenistic Sculp-
ture. We may here add that it also on the
other hand takes flight from the tribulations
of the time, and seeks refuge in an idyllic life
portraying pastoral scenes and an unagitated
rural folk in sharpest contrast with urban
turmoil. Theocritus has given the same ut-
terance in poetry. Noticeable is the fact that
some Hellenistic sculptors employed their
best art in a loving presentation of childhood
— a treatment quite unknown in the Hellenic
Period, for the babv Bacchus of Praxiteles is
felt to be a mere by-play. The well-known
struggle between the chubby Boy and the
Goose, both evidently of the one household,
was a great favorite in Hellenistic antiquity.
In like manner the frolicsome infantile Cu-
pids now make their early appearance, and
will propagate their playful antics through
all the changes of Art to the present time.
But this flight back to the innocence of child-
hood we have to regard as a sign of the
time. Already, we observed an early form of
this idyllic tendency in the Hellenic Period;
Praxiteles shows it, for every statue of his,
original or copy, is an idyl in spirit, be it



Aphrodite or Eros or the Faun; it bespeaks
a turning away from the bitter struggles of
the time to some form of happy self-indul-

Still in spite of such diversions the Hellen-
istic Period was one of throeful agony
against what may be called its Fate bursting
upon it both from within and without. Such
being the deepest national feeling of the
time, its Sculpture, as the true representa-
tive of the folk-soul, will reflect the latter in
its pivotal character. And so we may ask,
what is the most distinctive work of the Hel-
lenistic Period? As the group of Phidias
imaged best the foregoing Hellenic Period,
so we shall, first of all, look at the typical
group of the time now under consideration.

TJie Laocoon Group. We wish to empha-
size the Laocoon Group as the piece of Sculp-
ture most characteristic and illustrative of
the whole Hellenistic Period, and decidedly
its supreme work of Art. It may well be
deemed an epitome of the age, an artistic
concentration of the most distinctive con-
flicts of the Hellenistic centuries. I am well
aware that its worth and importance are be-
littled by the modern school of archaeolo-
gists. It is often placed below the sculpture
of Pergamum brought to light not long ago
and now in Berlin. It has been denied to


have any spiritual meaning- and Overbeck
even declares it to be no true work of Art in
a tragic sense. Interpreters of the present
time seem to take delight in flinging a stone
at this image which was formerly held in
snch high estimation by the famous art-crit-
ics of the past. Winkelmann, Lessing, Goe-
the have all expressed the strongest admira-
tion for the work, and have placed it upon
the summit of Plastic Art. It is true that
these illustrious judges had not seen the Phi-
dian sculptures of the Parthenon, and on
this account their defective judgment has
been patronizingly excused by some of their
countrymen of today. But Roman Pliny,
who must have known many originals of Phi-
dias and of the other greatest Greek artists,
declares that the Laocoon surpasses all w^orks
of Painting and Sculpture — an echo doubt-
less of the opinion of ancient experts.

This work is, therefore, to be restored to
its true place, which is not the highest in all
Sculpture, such rank properly belonging to
the Phidian marbles of the Parthenon, but
the highest in the Hellenistic Period. The
judgment of those men of deepest insight —
Winkelmann, Lessing and Goethe — we shall
still retain with the before mentioned excep-
tion. It is not wholly antiquated, and is
probably not going to be. Still the position


and importance of this work must be rein-
forced with new arguments, and indeed
grounded on a new interpretation, which puts
special stress upon its social and institu-
tional character.

(1) The Laocoon Group is a work of the
so-called School of Rhodes, in which citv Iv-
ing on an island of the same name not far
from the Asiatic mainland, it doubtless orig-
inated. Rhodes became a chief seat of cre-
ative Sculpture after the lapse of the Hel-
lenic Period, when this Art seemed to quit
continental Greece. For several reasons the
Rhodian City-State rose to be more prosper-
ous, and had more inner self-development
and greater freedom tlian its other Hellenic
sisters. Hence it bloomed more fully into
artistic expression, which, however, reflected
the general spiritual struggles of the whole
land. The famous colossus at Rhodes, the
work of Chares, a pupil of Lysippus, was re-
puted one of the seven wonders of the world,
and had a height of 100 feet or more. It was
of bronze, and to cast it took twelve vears
(292-280 B. C). It may be taken as a kind
of overture of Rhodian Art.

Much later than this the Laocoon Group
must be dated, probably almost two centu-
ries though the exact time of its origin is
not known. It seems to hover about the year


100 B. C, but may be somewhat earlier. Pliny
gives the names of its three artists as Age-
sancler, Atlianodorus, and Polydorus. Fur-
thermore some ancient inscriptions mention
Agesander as the father of Athanodorus.
Hence has arisen the very probable conjec-
ture that a father and his two sons, compris-
ing one artistic family, made the Laocoon
Group which is also composed of .a father
and two sons wrestling with an awful calam-
ity, with Fate itself in the last crisis of life.

No one can help noting the significance of
such a fact. The artist father in conceiving
and then making this statue must have
poured into his labor the deepest struggle of
his own soul. We may well feel the personal

Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 15 of 32)