( Originally Published 1920 )
BY EDMUND VON MACH, PH. D.
THE spirit of Greek sculpture is synonymous with the spirit of sculpture. It is simple, and therefore defies definitions. We may feel it, but we cannot express it. The reason it has lost its power to-day is that we have listened to what has been said about it instead of coming in contact with it. No amount of book knowledge makes up for the lack of familiarity with original pieces of sculpture. "Open your eyes, study the statues, look, think, and look again," is the precept to all who would learn to know Greek sculpture.
Some introductory helps and guides, to be sure, are not to be despised: they clear one's mind of prevailing misconceptions. Suggestions in this direction, however, often do more than exhaustive discussions, for they stimulate individual thought.
RAPIDITY OF GROWTH.
Greek sculpture was of remarkably rapid growth, developing under conditions which are not generally believed to be favorable. Few countries ever underwent such rapid changes as Greece, for the suddenness with which the Mycenaean civilization was swept away, perhaps by the Dorians, is unequalled in history. The three or four centuries following upon the Dorian invasion (about 1000 B.C.)-the dark middle ages of Greece-were full of violent political upheavals; and the whole of the historic period of Greece was characterized by unsettled conditions. States rose and fell with startling rapidity. Athens was an insignificant community before the time of Peisistratos, and is hardly mentioned in the Homeric poems (about 800 B.C.). Her ascendency dates from the Persian wars (490-480 B.C.), but before the century closed, her glory was over. Alexander the Great came to the throne in 336 B.C.; he carried his standards to India, and when he died Macedonia was destined no longer to be a world power. Pergamon came into prominence in 241 B.C. under Attalos I., and disappeared from among the powers of the earth in 133 B.C. America is spoken of as a new country, but it is almost as old as Greece was when she was absorbed by Rome; and more years have elapsed since the American Declaration of Independence than intervened between the rise and fall of Athens.
THE TRIUMPH OF THE FEW.
Peace and leisure are commonly believed to be the prerequisites for a period of great art. They surely are, but they must not be understood to refer to external conditions only. It is not the surroundings of the people that tell, but their state of mind; nor is it necessary that all share the blessing of a noble character. The fervor of the few has often achieved the triumphs of a nation. It is a mistake to credit all the Athenians, or even the majority of them, with an artist's love of the beautiful. The petty, unjust, middle-class man, as he appears in Aristophanes's comedies and in Plato's dialogues, with his narrow horizon and jealous prejudices, does not explain the sudden rise of Athens, though he may, and probably does, account for her rapid fall. It was in spite of him and his fellows that Athens gained her superiority.
In the field of art, therefore, the importance of the individual artists cannot be overestimated. Sir Robert Ball is on record as saying that scientific discoveries follow the law of necessity, though they may be hastened by the presence of big men. If Watt had not discovered the power of steam, some one else would have done it; and several men were ready to announce to the world Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest. "But," Sir Robert added, "what would the world of music be, if Beethoven had not lived?" What is true of music is true also of sculpture, or of any of the thought-expressing fine arts. Some of the noblest Greek statues would never have been created if Pheidias had not lived. "Dost thou not know," exclaims an ancient writer, "that there is a Praxitelean head in every stone?" But, it may be added, it takes a Praxiteles to bring it out. Only after the confusing mass of encasing rock has been hewn away does the head reveal its meaning. Most of us, to understand a thought, need its expression. The reality of the thought, however, cannot be denied even when no expression has been vouchsafed it, for it is independent of our conception of it.
SMALL RANGE OF SIMPLE IDEAS.
The realm of thoughts expressed in Greek sculpture was circumscribed and far removed from the complexity of modern times. A few simple ideas well expressed form the charm of Greek art. Adequacy of expression, indeed, has at times been considered an essential part of Greek art; and many have spoken of Shelley, Keats, Holderlin, and others, as Greek, not because these men thought as the ancients did but because they knew how to express their feelings adequately. They were Greek, however, only in part, for they lacked the second quality of ancient art,-simplicity. True simplicity with human beings is rarely spontaneous. The beauty of the Parthenon was the result of much clear thinking and right feeling. It was, therefore, understood by all, and had become in the very year of its completion, as Plutarch says, a classic.
THE APPEAL OF A WORK OF ART.
The power to appeal to all classes of men is given to but few artists, for it requires not only great skill but also a sympathetic knowledge of human nature. This fact is often overlooked. People forget that the appeal of a work of art is directed to the higher faculties of man but that it is made through his eyes. Few things are seen just as they are. The house that we think we see is very different from the pyramidal image of the house that appears on the retina of our eye. The only reason why we are not misled is that we are thoroughly familiar with the house. No such familiarity can be supposed to exist with the work of art. The discrepancy between the imagined object and its realistic representation must be taken into consideration and allowances be made for the peculiarities of human vision. The artist is not permitted to forget that in order to convey his thoughts he borrows shapes from objective nature, and that he makes his appeal to human, that is subjective nature. He will select of all possible subjects only those that are readily understood, and carve them in a way that is calculated to meet the requirements of the human power of perception. The moral and intellectual development of a race, therefore, requires changes in the selection of suitable subjects and also in the mode of their representation.
PERIODS OF GREEK SCULPTURE.
The Greeks worked along these lines. It is therefore not astonishing that their sculpture can be divided into periods to correspond to the several steps in their civilization. The spirit of their art never changed. Not all sculptors, to be sure, were invariably true to it. However correct their ideas were they could not help giving them an individual interpretation. This makes it necessary to distinguish between what a sculptor meant to do and what he actually did. Just here the archeological treatment of ancient art has erred most. The detail which in the process of creation has detached itself from the whole has been considered by many to be the expression of a new conception. This is a mistake. The Athenian tendencies to over-elaboration, for instance, and the Polykleitean neglect of the nobler side of human nature, are only periodic aberrations. They are entirely outside the even spirit of Greek sculpture, and find their explanation in the passing likes and dislikes of a few men.
Such instances of undue attention paid to one' detail or another had, of course, to leave their impress upon subsequent art manifestations. Their influence, however, would have been vastly greater if they had been the intentional introduction of a new conception, and not merely the accidental exaggeration of a minor part. It is well worth noticing that the overgreat delicacy of early Athenian sculpture is followed by Pheidias; and that Polykleitos, with his disregard of man's noblest side, is immediately superseded by Praxiteles and Skopas, who were the greatest masters in the expression of the passions of the human soul.
GREEK SCULPTURE IN ITS RELATION TO NATURE : THE MENTAL IMAGE.
Greek sculpture exhibits a quality which is strongly opposed to what is termed realism. Sines realism and idealism are opposites, Greek sculpture often has been called idealistic. The realist in art endeavors to represent nature as she really is with all her accidentals and incidentals, and is often so far carried away by these minor quantities that he is unable to catch the true, though fleeting, essence of the object. The idealist consciously disregards the apparent details, spending his efforts in emphasizing the idea which he finds embodied in the object selected for representation. Both men work from the visible objects of nature, which they try to reproduce. Not so the Greeks.
Every one has what may be styled a mental image or a memory picture of his familiar surroundings. To represent these mental images accurately was the aim of the Greeks. They endeavored to make real their ideas, and are therefore rather realists than idealists. But since both these terms at the present time are applied to the definite classes of people mentioned above, it is confusing to use them in speaking of the ancient Greeks. This is also true of the modern use of the word "elimination," by which most writers mean "an intentional omission or suppression of details." The absence of unnecessary details in Greek sculpture was not due to conscious eclecticism, but to the fact that such details have no place in one's mental images.
The mental image or the memory picture is the impression left upon one after seeing a great many objects of the same type. It is in the nature of the Platonic idea, purified and freed from all individual or accidental ingredients. At times it may even be strangely at variance with a particular object of the class to which it belongs. The human memory is a peculiarly uncertain faculty, and in its primitive stage, though quick to respond, very inaccurate. The shape of a square sheet of paper is readily remembered, and so is a pencil or any other uniform and simple object. Our mental image of an animal is less distinct. We remember the head and the legs and the tail, and perhaps the body, if it is a prominent part, as in the case of a dog or a horse; but all these parts are unconnected, and if a child, for instance, is asked to draw a man, he will remember the head and arms and legs, but will not know how to join them together. His mental image of the man as a whole is too indistinct to guide him. In nature the several parts are united in easily flowing curves-they grow together; in our mental image they are simply put together.
This process of putting together is entirely unconscious, causing us little concern unless we are compelled to reproduce it on paper or in stone, and are forced to compare it with the actual objects about us. Professor Lowy cites a remarkable instance of a perverse mental image on the part of the crude Brazilian draughtsmen, who were much impressed by the moustaches of the Europeans and represented them as growing on the foreheads instead of on the upper lips. In the mental image the upper lip is very unimportant, while the broad stretch of the forehead fills a more prominent place. It is on the forehead, therefore, that the moustache is introduced, in spite of the fact that this is contrary to nature and could daily be proved wrong by even the hastiest glance.
It is not necessary, however, to go so far afield in order to realize the peculiar pranks of mental images. Let the reader call to mind pictures of horses, dogs, flies, lizards, and the like. Horses and dogs he will see in profile; lizards and flies from above. If he is shown one of the recent posters of racing horses from above, such a view does not at once agree with his memory image, and requires a special mental effort to be understood, however accurate it may be. The same is true of the picture of a fly in profile, or, perhaps, a dog seen from the front. Neither of these pictures immediately conveys to him the idea of the animal represented, though it probably is more like this particular view of the animal than his own distorted mental image.
On general principles our mental images of familiar objects ought to be the more distinct. This is, however, not always the case. When we see an animal for the first time we carefully observe it; with every succeeding time we give it less attention, and by and by the most cursory glance satisfies us. The ultimate result of such a procedure is that we carry away with us a mental image, the haziness of which in details corresponds to the lack of attention which we finally bestow upon it. Expressed in drawing it will be much further removed from the actual semblance of the animal than another mental image which is penned before the creature has be-come too familiar to cease to be the interesting object of curiosity. When a primitive draughtsman sketches a wild beast he is apt to show much more individuality than when he is representing his own kind. The features of the Egyptians on old Egyptian wall paintings and reliefs are distinctly less characteristic than those of the Keftiu, or Oriental captives, which often are introduced, and both fall far short of the excellence with which animals are represented.
No mental image is ever reproduced on paper or stone as it actually is. The very attention which is bestowed on it in the endeavor to realize it, robs it of much of its spontaneity; and since it is the result of unconsciously observing a great many objects, it will, when consciously expressed, exhibit many gaps and hazy lines of connection, which the artist must fill as best he can.
Another reason why all mental images cannot be accurately reproduced is that the laws of the physical universe to which the objects belong have no binding force in the psychical world of mental images. Lowy cites as an instance of this the fact that the memory picture of a man in profile may, and with primitive people does, contain two eyes. You cannot, however, draw them both in your picture because of the limitation of space, and are therefore compelled to deviate from your mental image.
Such instances compel the primitive artist to turn to nature for information. This he can do in two ways-either by observing more thoughtfully, and thus gaining a clearer mental image, or by actually copying the missing parts from a model. The latter way, natural though it may seem, is not so readily resorted to as the first, probably because it would introduce an entirely different quality into the work-the individual instead of the type. It is, moreover, a well-known fact that children gifted with the pencil and clever at drawing are often utterly unable to make an intelligible copy of a definite model.
The artist under primitive conditions is the exponent of the general tendencies of his people. When he for the first time expresses his and their mental images, such copies serve a definite end in the development of the race. If the race is sincere and imbued with a craving after truth, the accuracy or inaccuracy of these embodied mental images will be checked by more or less unconscious comparisons with all the many objects of nature, and the result will be a readjustment of the first naturally incorrect mental images. The new ideas will again be expressed by some subsequent artist, and the process of readjustment and renewed expression be repeated. This was the case with the Greeks. The period of historic Greek art was short, but it was long enough to enable the Greeks to advance to the point where mental images of objects suitable for representation in sculpture are so delicate that expressing them is almost identical with copying nature.
The development in Greece was diametrically opposed to what took place, for instance, in Egypt or Assyria. The earliest art expressions in these countries were far ahead of the crude attempts of the Greeks. But instead of using them for the clarification of memory conceptions the mental lethargy of the people rested satisfied with them, and subsequent generations were content to look upon them as binding prototypes. Egyptian or Assyrian statuary in later times can never again be said to be the genuine expression of the ideals of the people. We may take a Greek statue and learn from it the moral and intellectual attitude of the Greeks at the time when it was made; but we cannot do the same with an Egyptian or Assyrian relief-at least, not to the same extent. This is also largely true of sculpture in modern times. The modern artist has the entire wealth of ancient and Renaissance sculpture at his disposal, and is often willing to copy or adapt their types, making only such alterations as the tastes of his own time imperatively demand. American sculpture, for instance, beautiful as it is in some of its phases, shows a rapid and most remarkable increase in skill, but can hardly be said to reveal the gradual development of the ideals of the people.
It has so far been tacitly assumed that the skill of the artist at every given time enabled him accurately to present his mental images. This was, however, not always the case with the Greeks. Their unusually spirited mental development was such that the technical skill of the artists could not keep step with it, and until toward the autumn days of their art generally fell short of their ideals. Hardly a problem was solved before the growing accuracy of the mental images presented another; and when all the problems of the limited range of subjects which at first were represented had found their solution, new subjects were urgently clamoring for representation. The end of Greek sculpture may be said to have come when all the technical problems had been solved and the mental degeneration of the race, unwilling to accept the moral and religious views of the new era, had no more worthy ideas to suggest.
Defect and excellence in skill, however, have another influence which cannot be overlooked. Since mental images are the involuntary results of seeing a great many objects and seeing them frequently, they are influenced as well by the numerous statues of men as by men themselves. This is especially true of modern times, when the Puritanic disregard for the body has brought about a state of affairs where it is difficult to form intelligent ideas of the human body except from statues and pictures. Nobility of mind and of body often are closely connected, and since the noblest people are hardly to be found among the professional models, the noblest bodies are rarely represented. Some of the coarseness of the nude in modern art is perhaps explained by the fact that the artists are obliged to copy accurately the best models obtainable, instead of being able to form by observation of the noblest bodies their own refined mental images.
The effect of statues upon the mental images of the Greeks was probably less powerful than it is with us, because the Greeks were more familiar with nude bodies, both male and female. They had, however, infinitely more statues, and could not possibly remain entirely uninfluenced by them.
An artist, therefore, in the first place expresses the ideas of his people, and then by so doing influences them either for the better or the worse. The next artist who endeavors to express the mental images of his contemporaries finds them no longer the primitive product of crude observation of nature, but a combination of the original conceptions and some new ideas. These new ideas are due partly to the impressions received from the first artist's work and partly to the general change that has taken place in the character of the people; owing to their moral and intellectual advance.
The rapid growth of Greek sculpture is undeniable; the primary aim of the artists, however, seems to have been always the same-to represent well the clearest mental images of the time.
THE APPEAL OP GREEK SCULPTURE.
It is admitted even by materialists of the most extreme type that a world of bare facts and dry bones is uninteresting and needless. Thoughts that come with the stillness of the evening are realities, and few are the men who in the majestic solitude of a forest are not impressed by greater forces than their eyes can see. Such observations are as true of one's most familiar surroundings as of the rare opportunities in every one's life. Our friends mean more to us than the pleasure we get from looking at them. In fact, we rarely examine them accurately. One glance suffices to tell us they are coming, and after this first announcement through the faculty of eyesight, our enjoyment is almost entirely psychical. This does not, however, exclude the possibility of taking also a distinctly physical pleasure in them, provided the lines of their bodies are such that our eyes glide easily and rhythmically over them. What is true of our friends is true also of less well-known persons and even of strangers. Seeing them means a great deal more than seeing a table or a chair, for these latter objects generally suggest nothing beyond what is actually seen. No thoughtful man, however, can see a person without coming-to some extent-in contact with his personality.
A picture also, which may call for admiration on account of its perfect technique, is valuable as a work of art only if it conveys ideas. The outer form of an object appeals to the vision, its spiritual essence to the imagination. The vision is a purely physical faculty; the imagination, a noble acquisition of the human race. The enjoyment through the one is not, however, entirely independent of the other, for the intricacies of human nature are such that it is impossible to say where the one begins and the other ends. The artist, therefore, must consider both, and since his appeal to the imagination is made through the senses, he must studiously avoid all friction with them. This is perfectly in keeping with the experience of great poets, who cannot successfully transmit their thoughts unless they refrain from offending the ear by harsh cadences.
That the Greek sculptors worked along these lines is clear, for many peculiarities of their art find their explanation only if this is understood. The Greeks always had in mind the nobler side of man, but they were well aware of the fact that an impression upon it is impossible unless the physical side of human nature is also gratified. The work of art fails to carry its message if it is not pleasant to look at. To credit the ancients, on the other hand, with a logical interpretation and knowledge of all the principles which they followed, is a mistake; the most refined people do the proper things unconsciously.
Modern artistic standards are not uniform; the individuality of the spectator is generally lost sight of in the overpowering individuality of the artist, and the complexity of modern times has so far forced the claims of simple human nature to the background that they are almost forgotten. In antiquity these claims were of great importance. Before attempting, therefore, to judge of the allowances made to them by the Greeks, it is necessary to see what they are.
After the unveiling of commemorative statues it is not unusual to hear comments to the effect that the sculptor had well caught the characteristic pose of the dead, and that the statue looked just like him whom it was intended to commemorate; one could believe one saw the man himself; in short, the statue was a great work of art. The statue may indeed be a great work of art, but not for the reasons mentioned; for most of them are applicable with equal force to any fine figure in the Eden Musee, where wax policemen guard the entrance and waxen smiths are working at the bellows.
Few people, however, would be willing to call such figures great works of art. The average wax figure, while it accurately reproduces the material body of a person, pays no attention to his personality. It is meant for a moment's deception of the vision, and makes no appeal to a man's higher faculties ;-as a suggestive work of art it is unsatisfactory. If a man wants a bodily memento of his friend, he places a statue or a bust of him in his study, and not a wax figure. A good portrait is more satisfactory than a photograph, though the latter is generally a more accurate copy of the material body. Neither the photograph nor the wax figure transmits the spirit of life which primarily represents the man. In art it is the man, with the multiplicity of his thoughts, who is wanted, and not the mechanical reproduction of the lines of his body. The sculptor works in the tangible material of stone or bronze, and the questions arise, Has he any means at his disposal to satisfy the requirements of art? and What are these means?
The first question may unhesitatingly be answered in the affirmative; for the Greek sculptors, and some great men after them, have demonstrated the existence of such means. The second question is less readily answered, because the means are not only different for different subjects, and different according to the several standards of the race, but also so subtle that they can hardly be expressed in words-they must be felt. It is therefore not only impossible, but also perhaps needlessly presumptuous, to enumerate all the means at the disposal of the sculptor-for who would dare to prescribe to the genius of a great artist? It may be, however, profitable to point out some of the things which the Greeks avoided in their endeavor to meet the claims of an art that could appeal to human nature.
The practically complete absence of subjects taken from inanimate nature is one of the most noticeable traits of Greek sculpture. The precept, therefore, has been laid down that sculpture ought to rep-resent nothing but living things. Says Mr. Ruskin: "You must carve nothing but what has life. 'Why?' you probably feel instantly inclined to ask me. `Must we refuse every pleasant accessory and picturesque detail and petrify nothing but living creatures?' Even so: I would not assert it on my own authority. It is the Greeks who say it, but whatever they say of sculpture, be assured, is true!" And there he and most teachers of art let the matter rest. But this is neither wise nor just. Unless a man sees the correctness of a precept he ought not to accept it, not even on the authority of the Greeks. Fortunately for us it is not difficult to see why the Greeks avoided inanimate matter in sculpture, for the principle which guided them in this respect is at the very foundation of their art.
Since a work of art may be considered to be non-existent unless it is beheld by human eyes, the danger is ever present of having the spectator's consciousness centred in his purely physical faculty of sight. In order to avoid this the Greeks made use of certain devices or "conventions," by means of which the claims of the vision were satisfied without curtailing the scope which was given to the higher human faculties of thought or imagination. This was done by reproducing rather the mental image of the object than the object itself. Care was taken, however, that the reproduction should be neither so completely like the original as to challenge, after the first momentary deception, immediate comparison, nor so unlike the original that it should fail to bear strong points of resemblance; for in both these cases the faculty of eyesight would have become disproportionally prominent.
The sculptor, it may be remarked by way of digression, must observe these principles much more carefully than the painter, because painting, which is restricted to two dimensions,-whereas all objects of nature have three,-does not run the danger of deceiving our vision. Sculpture in the round, however, which can exactly represent not only the appearance but also the bodily form of the object, may easily make such a forceful appeal to the vision pure and simple that it fails of attaining its desired end.
In representing inanimate objects in corporeal form the sculptor meets with practically insurmountable obstacles; for, generally speaking, such objects offer no suggestions of thoughts able to appeal to one's nobler self ; it is, therefore, their form pure and simple which is of importance. But since they are represented in full bodily form, even the least deviation from their actual appearance is apt to be noticed-here there is no work of art because there is no appeal to the imagination. The very excellence, on the other hand, of a truthful representation challenges the vision to make a comparison-again there is no work of art. Only when living people are represented does the indicated character, not the outer form, attract attention. The appeal is not to the vision, but through the vision to the higher mental faculties; for we are, consciously or not, in the habit of reading character in human bodies; and this, of course, cannot be done by the mere exercise of vision. In viewing, therefore, the statue of a man the faculty of eyesight is less consciously active than that of imagination. The best work of art in fact ceases to be an interesting object of sight altogether, making its appeal immediately to the imagination. Artists at all times have striven to accomplish this. The realistic reproduction of nature never does it; neatness of workmanship alone is useless in this respect. Only those workers achieve it who, like the Greeks, pay full attention to the peculiar needs of physical human nature. In sculpture this is impossible unless living creatures are represented.
The idea of life may be enhanced by means of contrast. The ancients, therefore, admitted lifeless things into their compositions as accessories. The principles which ought to govern the use of such secondary subjects are well set forth by Mr. Ruskin, who says: "Nothing must be represented in sculpture external to any living form which doe's not help to enforce or illustrate the conception of life. Both dress and armor may be made to do this and are constantly so used by the greatest, but," Mr. Ruskin adds, using an instance of modern sculpture, though his inferences are equally true of Greek art, "note that even Joan of Arc's armor must be only sculptured, if she has it on; it is not the honorableness or beauty of it that are enough, but the direct bearing of it by her body. You might be deeply, even pathetically, interested by looking at a good knight's dented coat of mail, left in his desolate hall. May you sculpture it where it hangs? No; the helmet for his pillow, if you will-no more."
But how may such a helmet be sculptured, or how must the armor be treated if the hero has it on? Shall we represent it as accurately as possible? Suppose we do, and suppose the statue we make is of bronze; then there is absolutely no reason why the result should not be a second armor so much like the one the hero wore that our vision is deceived into seeing the armor itself. But how about the person that wore it? His bronze statue reproduces the sculptor's mental image of his personality-the man it cannot be; the quality of the accessory is different from that of the figure itself. The one is what it appears to be; the other cannot even appear to be what it is meant to represent, because the very contrast between the real armor and the lifeless form of the man awakens the thought that he is not real. "But," an objector exclaims, "if the armor ought not to be made just like its prototype, the sculptor surely ought not to carve it altogether unlike it." Certainly not; for if he did, the very fact that it was all too little like a coat of mail would at once attract the spectator's attention, and his vision, always on the alert, would be so prominently called into play that the true purpose of the work of art would be lost.
How fully the Greeks appreciated these facts is perhaps best seen in the draperies of their statues, which are always true enough to appear real without ever being correct. Nobody has yet been able to demonstrate from the statues the accuracy of his theories on ancient costumes gleaned from the study of literary descriptions and vase paintings. The painters often attained to a fairly accurate rendering of the garment, the sculptors never. They not only took great liberties with those pieces of the drapery which they represented, but even omitted entire garments. The Sophokles, which is in the Lateran Museum, for instance, is represented as wearing only the outer costume or overcoat, while it is well known from literature that gentlemen never appeared in public in quite so scanty an attire. The warriors from the pediments of the temple of Aigina, with one or two exceptions, are completely nude; they have gone into battle with the helmets on their heads and the shields on their arms, but without one single piece of drapery. The Greeks never entered battle in this way, either at the time the marbles were carved, or at the time which the statues commemorate, or at any other time. Such a partial or complete omission of the drapery can hardly be explained as the unconscious reproduction of a mental image; while the actual treatment of the drapery, as it appears, for instance, in the Nike of Paionios or on the Parthenon frieze, probably is more or less unconscious. Many modern writers use the word "elimination" in speaking of Greek drapery; but this is a mistake, because elimination implies the studied omission of details, and cannot, therefore, account either for the omission of entire garments or the unconscious treatment of actually sculptured costumes.
The eclecticism in Greek drapery may be called one of the devices or "conventions" of Greek sculpture, and may serve to prove that such conventions do not hold good for all times. When Greenough carved his large statue of George Washington in the national Capitol, he omitted the drapery on the upper part of the body, obviously with the intention of drawing the attention of the spectator away from the dress to the person who wore it. He clearly followed in this respect the practices of the Greeks, and more especially the pattern set by Pheidias in his colossal Zeus in Olympia. The Greeks might omit the drapery with impunity, for they were as a race intensely fond of the nude. Greenough, imitating them in the face of very pronounced racial and religious prejudices against the nude, committed the unpardonable mistake of copying not the spirit of a past art but its accidental expression. Instead of accomplishing his end, therefore, by omitting the drapery, he achieved the opposite, for the drapery is "conspicuous by its very absence."
The same considerate spirit which prompted the Greeks to deviate from nature in representing drapery shows itself also in their treatment of rocks, trees, and the like in marble reliefs. Marble is rock, and nothing is easier than to reproduce the rock accurately, so that the result is not only a picture of the rock, but really a second piece of rock. If this had been done, for instance, on the marble base from Mantineia, the contrast between the actual rock and the representation of Apollo sitting on it would have deprived the god of all semblance of reality. Similar observations may be made with the trees on the frieze of the Athena-Nike temple in Athens, or the stepping-stones on the frieze of the Parthenon.
These instances suffice to show the general attitude of the Greek sculptors toward the public. The public-and of course the artists belong to the public-are not automatic checking machines, but human beings, with all the complexities and inconsistencies that the term implies. They are entitled to consideration, and at the hands of the ancient artists they received it. What is more, the Greeks gave it gladly; for to make allowances for the frailties of human nature was to them not an irksome duty but a welcome privilege, enabling them to introduce into their art a human element of great variety and of unexhausted possibilities.