Phoenician And Cypriote Sculpture
( Originally Published 1896 )
HISTORY. The principal intermediaries between the civilization of the East and that of the West were the Phoenicians. In its physical characteristics, the land that was once called Phoenicia is quite unique. Its narrow band of coast, that stretches between the Mediterranean and the slopes of the Lebanon, is so often interrupted by the extension of the mountains to the sea line that the ancient cities of Phoenicia had no communication by land, but were a series of detached ports, each one a centre of municipal life—an aristocratic republic. The geographical form of their existence precluded any close union even in the stress of greatest danger. Consequently, a common style of art or of industry could hardly be expected. Again, the population of the Phoenician cities was so small and variable, so little given to home-staying, so taken up with life at sea, that no great monuments of art, such as were created by the great Eastern civilizations, were possible to them. It was entirely in the commercial spirit that works of art were produced by the Phoenicians. They were executed not for home use, but for sale and barter, and consequently there was every reason why the style of their execution should have been, as it was, imitated from that of their more powerful neighbors who had developed a monumental art. We have no traces of monuments belonging to the early period of Phoenician history. There are none of the second age—that of the supremacy of Sidon. It is only after Tyre had wrested from her older friend and neighbor the supremacy of the sea (circa 1000—900 B.C.), that we begin to find traces of Phoenician art—monuments the dates of which are more or less certain. Before this period, Sidon had occupied the islands of Cyprus and Crete, had establishments in Rhodes the Sporades, and the Cyclades, in Thera, Melos, Thasos, and Cythera, and had established relations with the mainland of Greece. In Africa it had built several cities, especially Utica, and had marts in Malta and Gozo. We may attribute to the Sidonian merchants the earliest traces of Oriental artistic influence in Greek lands during this period, the influence of Egypt being then supreme with the Phoenicians.
Tyre was far more enterprising than Sidon; she carried her commerce very much further, occupied Sardinia and Spain, and established many important colonies in Africa, of which the greatest was Carthage. Until the middle of the eighth century the maritime supremacy of Tyre was not disputed. Then it began to be opposed, and in many cases superseded by the navies of the Greeks and the Etruscans. From that time, therefore, the influence of Tyre was on the wane. While this was going on, Carthage was building up an important empire. She alone of all Phoenician cities undertook a policy of settled conquest—the ruling of a large territory, the permanent establishment of a trained army. When Tyre let fall the sceptre of the sea, the many Phoenician colonies scattered along both basins of the Mediterranean naturally turned to Carthage for help. Then began that memorable contest between Carthage on the one hand and the Greeks, and after them the Romans, on the other, which ended only in the third century B.C. with the downfall of Carthage.
The three great names that are significant, therefore, in the development of Phoenician art and in the history of the Phoenicians as intermediaries between the East and the West are Sidon, Tyre, and Carthage. To these we may add a fourth, Cyprus. While in Cyprus the Phoenician and native art came in contact with the Greeks in a way elsewhere unknown, the importance of Carthage was especially great for the influence of Greece and the Orient upon Italy. Italian trade remained largely in the hands of the Carthaginians, and the contents of the Etruscan tombs of the sixth, fifth, and fourth centuries are ample proof of the fact that the Carthaginians did not disdain to convey to Italy not only Oriental wares, but also the products of their natural enemies the Greeks. After the subjection of Carthage the Phoenicians, not only of Africa but of Syria, came under Roman influence, and the great bulk of their monuments that are now remaining—such as the votive stelae—belong to the centuries of Roman rule. In them we still see lingering something of the Oriental spirit, but the dominating style of art is as thoroughly Roman as in the old days it was Persian, Assyrian, Egyptian, or Babylonian.
MATERIALS AND METHODS. The Phoenician coast did not afford any favorable stone or marble for the use of sculpture. The local stone was far inferior to the corresponding material used by the Egyptian and Assyrian artists, and when a very choice work was to be executed the material was imported from Egypt. In the sixth century importation of marble from Greece commenced, and after that period was quite frequently used. But the sculptures in stone, such as the anthropoid sarcophagi, statues of gods, the stela, and architectural deco-rations, form a very incomplete series, and one that does not represent at all continuously the history of Phoenician sculpture. The history is represented much better by small sculptures in bronze and in terracotta. Phoenician monuments in these two materials are found in almost every country where the Phoenicians had settlements or commercial relations. The main centres, however, were Syria, Cyprus, and Sardinia. The bronzes were generally of a very crude type, poor in execution, and were in the style which was imitated very largely throughout the mainland of western and northern Asia. The most common figure reproduced was that of a standing warrior. If the Phoenicians were comparatively unsuccessful in the casting of metal, they excelled in the engraving and hammering in relief of various metals, a branch of industrial art in which they produced many exquisite works, especially the bowls and platters of silver and bronze in the manufacture of which they had a monopoly throughout the East. Analogous to this work was that of the great shields in bronze, whose design in circular bands was very similar to that of the bowls, and brings Phoenicia into closest relation with early Greek art, as, for example, the Corinthian school of vase painting.
In the making of terracotta figures the Phoenicians borrowed both from Assyria and Egypt, taking from the former the idea of painting terracotta figurines, and from Egypt the idea of faience figures, showing a sandy frit covered with enamels of different colors. This glazed earthenware was used, however, more largely for decorations than for figures.
At an early date, when Assyrian influence was predominant, the Phoenician artists used ivory with great skill as a material for reliefs in the decoration and manufacture of large and small objects, such as thrones, door-panels, caskets, perfume-boxes, and small statuettes.
TYPES AND SUBJECTS. The types and subjects that were the peculiar creation of Phoenician art were very few. The Phoenician gods, the Baals, the Molochs, the Astartes, the type of the dwarf Herakles, were more or less purely native products, because they were connected with the original worship of the people. But in many cases, as the Phoenicians adopted the worship of the gods of different countries, they also adopted their artistic type. In the elaborate scenes that are often portrayed upon such works as the silver bowls, we find it often difficult to ascertain the nature of the subject. The theme frequently seems to be used merely for a decorative purpose, without any regard to the significance ; and in some instances it is made up of elements borrowed from different sources. The Phoenicians appear to have been the first civilized nation to employ figured compositions, primarily not for the sake of their significance, but purely as decorative material pleasing to the eye and leading to a readier sale.
CYPRIOTE SCULPTURE. It is usual to treat Cypriote sculpture as a branch of Phoenician art, and yet it forms a very distinct, class, having but slight connection with what we know of various branches of Phoenician art. Cypriote sculpture has far closer analogy than Phoenician with the development of the art in Egypt and Assyria on the one hand and in Greece on the other.
In contrast to the products of Phoenician industry, its works were executed for the island itself, and not for export and sale. It therefore developed the monumental side of sculpture instead of the industrial, and the greater part of its productions were executed in the round. The Cypriote artist used stone in preference to any other material, and in this also-he varied from his Phoenician brother. The art showed great activity between the seventh and the third centuries B.C., and proofs of the immense production of its artists can be seen in many museums, especially at New York, in the British Museum, the Louvre, and at Berlin.
The population of Cyprus was of a mixed character, in part Asiatic and in part Greek. Constant communication was maintained with both the East and the West by means of the Phoenicians, who had important stations on the island. The Cypriote civilization was therefore called upon to combine, in a way perhaps unique in history, the elements of Oriental and Greek culture. The earliest sculptures thus far discovered are influenced very strongly by Assyrian models, and yet it is evident that this influence is not directly through the study of original Assyrian work, but indirectly through the medium of Phoenician copies. The fundamental Oriental influence upon Cyprus was always that of Egypt. Assyria merely touched the surface. The analogies to Assyria in the early works lie mainly in the profile and form of the face, in the long beard and pointed cap. Even in these works we find no trace of the vigorous modelling of the Assyrians, their strong muscular development, their love of detail. At the close of the seventh century or the beginning of the sixth, the Egyptian influence superseded the Assyrian and lasted until it was replaced by the influence of the Greeks. This Egyptian influence showed itself in the attitude of the figure, in the clinging character of the drapery, in the head-dress, in the drapery about the waist, and the designs upon it borrowed from Egyptian monuments.
There follows, in the fifth century, a Greco-Cypriote style. For a long time it was thought that Cypriote sculpture served as a model and an example to archaic Greek sculpture; but, now that the origin of archaic Greek art has been pushed back into the seventh century, before Cyprus had produced any works that could have served as models for Greek sculpture as we know it, it is evident that the influence was of Greece upon Cyprus. The resemblance between Greek and Cypriote sculpture during the course of the fifth century was far closer than between the earlier Cypriote examples and the Oriental works that influenced them. Cypriote statues of this period had great analogy to works of the Ionic school, with greater softness and heaviness of proportion. The figures often have the same archaic smile that we see in the figures on the Acropolis at Athens and the sculptures of AEgina.
The statues were usually of life size or slightly larger, and generally represented the divinities worshipped on the Island of Cyprus, such as Aphrodite, Herakles, etc. Relief sculpture was practised with considerable skill, both in high and low relief ; but sculpture in the round was a more favorite branch of art. Some of the stone sarcophagi in the Metropolitan Museum are among the finest works of the school. One of these—a sarcophagus from Amathous—shows an interesting combination of Greek with Egyptian and Assyrian art, while a bas-relief representing Herakles and Eurytion, although it treats of a Greek subject, does so in a style almost purely Assyrian.
EXTANT MONUMENTS. The largest collection of Cypriote sculpture —the Cesnola collection—is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The Louvre possesses many works of the Carthaginian (African) and Tyrian (Asiatic) schools, as well as some Cypriote sculpture, of which there are also examples in Berlin. Works of Phoenician industrial art are frequent in the museums of Italy, the British Museum, etc. The collections established by the French in Algeria and Tunisia are rapidly assuming importance.