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with black or reci, and women with white, paint, as is the cus-
tom in black-figured vase-painting.

Cimon of Cleonae was a contemporary of the poet Simonides ;
if he was at work toward the end of the sixth century, certainly
that was a time when bold experiments in attitude and pose
were being made, and art rapidly breaking away from the
trammels of archaism. The red-figured vase-painting was just
coming in ; and in the light of it what Pliny tells us about
Cimon seems full of meaning. In it we find fresh poses,
more correct drawing, all kinds of fresh applications of skill.
What is meant by the word catagrapha, which Pliny trans-
lates by " obliquae imagines," has been much discussed ; I am
disposed to think that it means poses other than full-face and
profile; in such the
art of the time would
be making its first
experiments. As an
example, I give (Fig.
32) the face of a
negro from a vase
representing the ad-
venture of Herakles
with Busiris in the
Ashmolean Museum.^
It is later than the
time of Cimon, but
still a very interest-
ing example of an
attempt to introduce a new attitude, and indeed a new type.
That it was certainly Polygnotus of Thasus who set painting
going on new and bolder lines we shall see presently. When
Pliny says he began to open the mouth and to show the teeth,

1 Ann. d. Inst., 18G5, PI. P.

Fig. 32. — Type of negro.




we think of the fallen warrior in the west pediment of Aegina
who is grinning in pain. There are many contemporary par-
allels both in sculpture and painting.

It is worth while to inquire which among the monuments
extant in our museums can give us the best notion of what
Greek painting was, when it became really national and really
progressive, say in the latter part of the sixth century. As
regards colouring, we must fall back on the coloured sculptures

Fig. 33. — Tablet from Athens.

and reliefs of the period, which have kept some vestiges of
their colours, whereas the frescoes have bodily vanished. Of
these I have spoken in chapter VI. Perhaps such reliefs as
the grave-monument of Aristion and the archaic female figures
in the Acropolis Museum at Athens (as Fig. 3) are our best


evideuceo But as regards drawing, we are far better informed :
drawings on baked terra-cotta persist. A good example from
Athens is a dedicated tablet (Fig. 33) published by Professor
Benndorf,^ representing a warrior charging. The name in the
field, ]\regacles, which has been filled in over the erased name,
Glaucytes, occurs on vases of about 500 b.c. In the case of
this tablet four colours are used. The terra-cotta ground was
first covered with a yellow^ slip or layer of fine composition ; on
the slip brown, crimson, and black are superposed, and in the
black inner markings are indicated by incised lines.

But, after all, our best evidence for the character of the paint-
ing of the age of the Persian wars is furnished by the splendid
series of vases by Epictetus, Euphronius, Hieron, and their
contemporaries. Here we have a school of vase-painting of the
greatest force and originality, and it is certain that there must
haye been a contemporary school of fresco-painting which be-
longed to the same stage of art and went on the same general
principles of composition and drawing, though the designs
which we have on the vases are clearly composed for the sur-
face of vases and not for mural paintings. It is probable that
if we had as detailed descriptions of the paintings of Cimon
of Cleonae as we have of the chest of Cypselus, we could
restore their designs from the evidence of red-figured vases as
successfully as Mr. Stuart Jones has restored the scenes of the
chest from the evidence of archaic vases.-

Soon after this, about 470 b.c, we come to the great Thasian
painter, Polygnotus, who made his home at Athens, and who
undoubtedly did more for painting than any one else. His con-
temporaries, ^licon, and Panaenus, the brother of Pheidias,
formed with him a great school. And we come now into
clearer light, since Pausanias has left us careful and detailed

1 EphemeHs, 1887, PI. VI., p. 115.

2 Journal of Hellenic Studies, 1891, PI. I.


accounts of some of the great paintings of Polygnotiis and
Micon in the Stoa Poikile at Athens, and the Lesche of the
Cnidians at Delphi. Excellent as are the descriptions, one
might almost say the catalogues, of Pausanias, they do not
enable us to restore in imagination the pictures he treats of
until we reinforce the information of the mind with appeals to
sense, and vivify our knowledge by the comparison of extant
fragments of painting or the finest designs of vases. If any
reader doubts this assertion, he has but to study the attempts
to restore the Delphic paintings of Polygnotus made before
appeal was made to the testimony of vases.^ We are now for-
tunately able to trace with confidence the influence of Polygno-
tus on some of the vases of the fifth century ; and a comparison
of these with the descriptions of Pausanias may be said to have
given us a fairly satisfactory notion of the drawing and group-
ing, though not of the colouring, of the great Thasian master.
In particular we can trace what kind of perspective he intro-
duced into art, and what ways he had of telling a story or
describing a situation. That is to say, we can recover his
grammar, if not his poetry.

The Polygnotan perspective, simple and almost childish as
it seems to us, really marks the parting of the ways between
painting and relief, which had hitherto been frequently com-
bined so as to be almost confused. Polygnotus attacked the
problem of representing different sets of people, not in the same
plane, but some farther off than others. He did not depict the
farther figures on a smaller scale, nor did he (what indeed we
could scarcely expect of an early artist working in the bright
light of Greece) allow for the effect of atmosphere in making
them less clearly visible. But two things he did: first he placed
the more distant figures higher up in the field of the painting,
and second, he represented the lines of the irregular hills of
1 See the Vienna Vorlegeblatter for 1888, Pis. X.-XII.


the background, hills abnost invariable in a Greek landscape,
as passing up and down through the painting, and sometimes
concealing parts of the farther figures. Professor Robert has
skilfully reconstructed on such principles the Iliupersis and the
Nekuia of Polygnotus.^ A few vases of the middle of the fifth
century seem arranged on exactly the same plan. One of these,
representing the slaying by Apollo and Artemis of the children
of Xiobe,- on one side, and on the other the Argonautic heroes
(Fig. 34), will show at once the character of the Polygnotan
perspective. On the left of the larger group a figure in
armour may be seen half hidden by the hill. Who he is we
shall afterwards consider. At present I wish to observe that
we are told that in ^licon's painting in the stoa at Athens, one
of the combatants named Butes was hidden behind a hill, all
save his helmet and an eye ; whence a proverb arose, " quicker
painted than Butes." This shows how- the laws of composition
invented by great painters found their way on to vases.

Another prominent feature of Polygnotan art is the use of
the method of allusion, alike in indicating personalities, defin-
ing situations, and telling stories. It is quite in the manner of
Greek art, and especially of the great art of the fifth century,
to define a character or tell a story not by direct representation,
but by a gentle suggestion, which leads the mind on without
compelling it. Thus we are told by Cicero that when Alca-
menes, the pupil of Pheidias, represented the artisan-god,
Hephaestus, he made his lameness appear in a slight and grace-
ful way ; ^ and it is just in accordance with this statement of
Cicero that we find the lameness of the seated Hephaestus of
the Parthenon frieze represented only by the manner in which

1 Published at Halle, 1892, 93. The schemes are repeated in Frazer's
Pausanias, Vol. V., pp. .3(J0, 372.

2 Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. X., p. 118.

3 " Leviter apparet claudicatio non deformis." Cicero, iV. Z>., I., 30.





the god leans on the handle of his mighty hammer, and by the
awkwardness of his feet. The grave reliefs of the fifth and
fourth centuries at Athens are full of suggestions of death
given in this gentle manner ; the head resting on the hand im-
plies grief at separation, putting on the sandals means prep-
aration for the last great journey, and so forth. -^ It seems,
however, that the prevalence of this manner in Attic sculpture
really comes from Polygnotus. For Pausanias, in his descrip-
tion of the Delphic paintings of Polygnotus, tells us that in the
picture of Hades Eriphyle was represented with her hand to
her neck, to signify that the necklace of Harmonia was fatal
to her, since by it she had been bribed to betray her husband,
and Phaedra was depicted in a swing, to hint at the manner of
her suicide, which was by hanging. This gentle and graceful
way seems to be of Ionian origin. In vases of the fine period
it is very prevalent. We need take but one or two examples.

iSee P. Gardner, Sculptured Tombs of Hellas, pp. 152, 170,176, etc.


In the vase-painting which represents the slaying of Rhesus
and his Tliracians by Diomedes and Odysseus (Fig. 75, J3. 222)
the Thracians are seen to be dead only by their constrained
attitudes ; the unpleasant marks of a violent death are omitted.
In the Orvieto vase (Fig. 34), representing the Argonauts, it is
possible to identify by hints most of the heroes, though their
names are not inscribed. Tiphys, the elderly pilot, rests on a
spear ; Jason, in full armour, face to face with Herakles, stands
near the middle of the picture ; Castor and Pollux stand on the
extreme right and left, one holding a horse, both distinguished
b}^ the fashion of their caps. AYe may also, I venture to think,
recognize the figures of Theseus and Peiritlious below, from the
mere fact that they are seated, since it was their destiny to be
fastened to a rock in Hades, and Polygnotus in his picture of
Hades (followed in some of tlie vases wdiich represent the
under-world ^) renders this fastening merely by making them
sit on the rock. Virgil must have had such a representation
in his mind when he wrote "Sedet aeternumque sedebit Infelix
Theseus." So in the hgure which is disappearing over the
mountains we may with probal)ility recognize Hylas, who
strayed away from his companions and was carried off by the
Naiad nymphs. We think of Hylas as an effeminate youth,
in accordance with the poems of Ovid and Propertius and
Pompeian paintings ; but in the more manly art of the fifth
century he would be represented, as he figured in early legend,
as a hero, and one of the Argonauts. He was the friend of
Herakles, as Patroclus w^as the friend of Achilles, without any
detraction from his manliness.

On the other side of the vase, in the scene of the slaying of
the Xiobidae, we notice that a single tree, and that depicted in
a summary way, represents the forests on Mount Sipylus. In
just the same way, in Pol3'gnotus' representation of Hades, a

1 Baumeister, Denkmdler, art. " Unterwelt," PI. 87.



single tree stood for the sacred grove of Persephone. Niobe
herself does not appear on the vase — only three of her sons
and one of her daughters, of which four figures two lie dead
in the foreground, two fly to right and left.

Can we venture to see between the vase-paintings of this
group and the works of the Polygnotan school a still closer
connection ? Is it possible to prove in any case that the vase-
painting is a copy, or at all events a reminiscence, of the mural
painting ? The range of subjects is certainly the same : Micon
painted the return of the Argonauts, and such subjects from
the exploits of early heroes were common to fresco-painters
and vase-painters. Many archaeologists have from time to
time not unnaturally attempted to find on vases scenes and
groups repeated from some of the great fresco-paintings of
Athens and elsewhere. Dr. Klligmann, for example, in his
excellent paper on the Amazons,^ observes that about the
middle of the fifth century a new set of vases comes in at
Athens, whereof the subject is the battles between Theseus and
his Athenians and the invading hosts of Amazons ; and that
these vases in common present certain features, such as that
the Amazons are on horseback and the Greeks on foot, and
that the women warriors are usually clad in the well-known
dress of the Persian cavalry, familiar to the Athenians since
Marathon. He is disposed to attribute the general character
of the vases to the influence of the painter Micon, who at about
that time painted in the Stoa Poikile and in the Theseion at
Athens fresco-paintings of the battles of Theseus and the
Amazons. This suggestion it would certainly not be rash to
accept. But when Klligmann goes farther, and proposes to
find in some of the schemes and fighting groups reminiscences
1 Die Amazonen in der attischen Literatur iind Kunst, 1875.


of some of the figures of Micon, we feel that he is venturing on
thin ice, because, as will abundantly appear hereafter, the
customs of vase-painting were so definite and exclusive that it
is far more likely that the artists would take details of treat-
ment from one another and from tradition than from the new
and bold schemes of a great and progressive fresco-painter.
AVe are here on the borders of a very considerable question.
What would seem to us more natural than that an Athenian
vase-painter should copy groups of horsemen or chariots, or
take poses from the sculptural decoration of the Parthenon ?
Yet scarcely more than two or three vases can be pointed out
which appear to show traces of the influence of the workshop
of Pheidias,^ and only one or two show any close likeness to
the pediments of the temple of Zeus at Olympia, or the reliefs
of the temple of Athena Nike at Athens. And even in these
cases the relationship is certainly not close, and may be dis-
puted. There is perhaps more ground for finding in sculptured
relief the influence of contemporary paintings. We are told that
Pheidias worked at painting when young, and his brother Pan-
aenus was a painter. Professor Benndorf has made out a good
case for seeing in some of the reliefs of the tomb of Trysa- an
echo of the paintings of Polygnotus and other Attic painters ;
but we cannot insist strongly on this line of influence, as its
grounds are largely mixed with hypothesis and conjecture, in
the absence of the paintings supposed to be copied.

Let us however return to the question of the relations of
vase-paintings to great works in fresco. We may best bring
this question to a definite issue by discussing a vase-painting
which has by good authorities been thus connected.

1 See Winter, Jiingere attische Vasen, p. 34.

^ Benndorf, Das Heroon von Gjol Baschi Trysa, passim. It is especially
the introduction of perspective of a simple kind at Trysa (as on Pis. 12, 13)
which appears to point to the influence of painting.



Pausanias thus describes a painting by Micon in the Ana-
keion at Athens : ^ " The painting on the third wall is not intel-
ligible without interpretation, partly because it has suffered
from time, partly because Micon did not put in the whole
story. When Minos was bringing to Crete Theseus and the
rest of the tribute of boys and girls, he fell in love with Feri-
boea. And when Theseus was his chief hindrance, Minos cast
against him angry reproaches, saying, among other things, that
he was not the son of Poseidon, for he could not fetch back the
ring which he himself was wearing, if he threw it into the sea.
With these words JMinos is said to have thrown down the ring,
and Theseus [plunging after it] came back from the sea, bring-
ing it and also a wreath of gold, the gift of Ampbitrite."

The visit of Theseus to the court of Poseidon and Amphitrite
beneath the waters of the Aegean Sea is spoken of in the
recently discovered poem of Bacchylides, and it is the subject
of some very beautiful vase-paintings. One of these is the
well-known kylix of Euphronius,^ on which Theseus as a boy
is represented as being presented to Amphitrite by Athena.
A vase-painting more important for our present purpose, and
here repeated (Fig. 35),^ is of a somewhat later date and of
less simple grouping. On the left we see the stern of the
ship, whence the fish-tailed monster Triton is bearing the
young Theseus to the abode of Poseidon and Amphitrite.
This abode is clearly constructed after the fashion of a Greek
shrine. Poseidon reclines, like the father of a family, on a
couch. Amphitrite, seated near him, holds her golden wreath.

1 Pausanias, I., 17, 2.

2 Repeatedly figured ; see especially Momiments grecs, 1872, PI. I. ; Klein,
Euphronios, p. 182; Harrison and Maecoll, Greek Vase-paintings, Fl. XIV.;
Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. XVIII., PI. 14; Furtwilngler and Reichhold,
Griechische Vasenmalerei, PI. 5.

3 ^fon. dell Inst., Suppl., PI. XXI. Repeated in Journal of Hellenic Studies,
Vol. XVIII., p. 277, whence our cut.


Eros pours wine from an amphora into a crater or mixing
vessel ; an oenochoe close by is ready to be dipped into the
crater. Dedicated tripods stand near ; a few trees and plants
show that Poseidon has his groves as well as Persephone.
Above, on the left, is the Sun-god rising from behind the
hills in his chariot ; above on the right are four female figures,
one of whom holds a shield.

Whether these pictures are related to the literary versions
of this early exploit of Theseus I shall consider in a later
chapter (XIV.). At present I propose briefly to consider
whether they are related to the picture of Micon. In the first
place we may observe that the cup of Euphronius, and some
other vases which bear representations of this tale,^ are too
early to be influenced by the picture in question ; besides
which their composition is altogether after the manner of vase-
paintings. The supposition that Euphronius w-ould be influ-
enced by Micon belongs to a stage of knowledge which is now
passed. But in the i)icture of the P>ologna vase we may un-
hesitatingly trace the stylistic influence of the school of Poly-
gnotus and Micon. It is apparent in the perspective of the
picture ; indeed, it is so faithfully followed, that the place of
meeting of Theseus and Amphitrite, which is on the vase of
Euphronius identified by the introduction of swimming fishes
as the bottom of the sea, here becomes a country of hills and of
groves. The introduction of the Sun-god into scenes, an intro-
duction which was a noted feature of the art of Pheidias, was
probably a Polygnotan innovation. And in the female figure
most to the right, we seem to have an example of Polygnotan
allusion. The woman holds a shield ; and this suggests that
she, as well as her companions, is a iSTereid ; Nereids on vases
being commonly occupied in carrying the arms made by

1 They are figured by Mr. Arthur Smith in Journal of Hellenic Studies,
Vol. XVIII., pp. 276 and foil.


Hephaestus for their sister Thetis, and by them borne to the
tent of Achilles.

Again, in the somewhat elaborate and variegated dress of the
figures on the vase, we may trace a likeness to the style of the
great Ionian painter, who adorned his women's hair with
bright kerchiefs and gave them transparent robes. That even
Triton should wear a chiton must almost certainly be a touch
of Ionic art.

But though the vase-painting thus belongs to the cycle of
the works of Folygnotus and ]\Iicon, yet it is anything but cer-
tain that it is an actual copy of the mural painting of Micon.
In the first place, we do not know exactly how Micon treated
this subject. Pausanias says that he told the story imperfectly,
and this reproach could scarcely be brought against our vase-
painting. And further, some of the details of the picture
seem much more suitable to a vase design than to a mural
painting. The treatment of Poseidon as a feaster, by no
means unnatural to a vase-painter among whose commonest
subjects were scenes of feasting, is scarcely worthy of a great
painter like Micon, and the grouping of the upper line of
human figures is so completely such as we are accustomed to
in late Attic vases, that it is not easy to suppose for it in this
case a dissimilar origin. If there be one feature which is likely
to emanate from Micon, it is the group of Triton and young
Theseus. On the vase of Euphronius Triton is minute, and is
supporting the feet of Theseus; here he bears the youth in
his arms, as in the sculpture of the fourth century Hermes
carries the 3^oung Dionysus. But even on this point we
cannot insist.

A definite proof of Polygnotan influence on vase-paintings is
to be found in the use on some of them of Thasian dialectic
forms. In the inscriptions such forms would scarcely be used
save by artists belonging to the school of Polygnotus and


brought by him to Athens. One vase-painter of the middle of
the fifth century even bears the name Polygnotus.^

Painting is a more complicated and expressive art than sculp-
ture ; we cannot, therefore, be surprised that its period of high-
est bloom is later. It does not appear that Greek painting ever
reached a higher ethical level than it reached in the fifth cen-
tury. But unquestionably the great painters of the next age —
Zeuxis, Parrhasius, Timanthes, Apelles, and the rest — improved
the technique of painting enormously, brought in a greater
variety in colouring, developed perspective, and immensely in-
creased the range of the art. Unfortunately, at this point we
lose the evidence of vase-painting, which not only begins to
decay, but is driven, so to speak, to despair by the increasing
complexity of the great art of painting, of which it can give
but the feeblest echo.

We are told that Polygnotus used but four colours — white,
yellow, red, and black. But if this were the case, how could
he be praised for the mitrae versicolores wdiich adorned his
women's heads ? J. Lange - is almost certainly right in his
view that it was in representing the nude human body that he
confined himself to these colours. For alike in architecture,
sculpture, and painting, green, blue, and brown were used long
before the time of Polygnotus, and one cannot understand why
he should have abstained, for instance, from using green for
the representation of trees. But, doubtless, painters like
Zeuxis and Apelles w^ere much freer than he in their variety
of colouring.

The colouring of Polygnotus must have been flat and uni-
form, without much light and shade. The full introduction of
this enormously important element into painting was largely

1 See Klein, Vasen mit Meistersignaturen, p. 11)9.

2 Die raenschllche Gestalt in der Geschichte der Kunst, p. 66. This is a
work full of genial and interesting observations.


the work of the Athenian Apollodorus, who thus embarked on
a great sea of discoveries. He is described as seeking after
illusion in painting, — doubtless a very primitive illusion, — but
the "ttempt was frowned on by some of the stricter spirits of
the time, among others by I'lato. Of light and shade in ancient
painting we can judge only from the frescoes of the Roman
age. Pausias, a contemporary of Apelles, is said to have
greatly succeeded with perspective and foreshortening.

There are but two ways, neither of them quite satisfactory,
by which we can approach the painting of the later fifth and
fourth century masters. In the first place we can make the
best of such fragmentary remains of paintings of this period
as have come down to us ; and in the second place we can
feel our way back, with great caution, from the mural paint-
ings of Rome and Pompeii to an earlier and nobler stage

of art.

I will mention a few of the most important extant remains
of the period. On the key-stone of a grave in the Crimea was
found a painting of the head of Persephone, crowned with
flowers.^ As in the grave itself there was found a gold coin of

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Online LibraryPercy GardnerA grammar of Greek art → online text (page 10 of 18)