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seen sideways; fortunately, as both shoulders are shown, they do not interfere with one another. Again, a profile is more characteristic than a full face, but a profile eye is a poor foreshortened thing. So in this profile we insert an eye seen to its full extent, and then we really have done the man justice. This eye, seen full face while the head is profile, gives naturally a peculiar expression, which makes people talk of the long, narrow eyes of the ancient Egyptians. They very likely had nothing of the kind. Then, again, the twisting of the body makes the shoulders seem too broad. The ideal is certainly broad-shouldered, but not so much so as this would make it appear.
Of course there are occasional variations from this type, but on the whole it is so uniform and so persistent that I think we must assume that it was settled by a kind of standard to which all sculptors and draughtsmen had to conform on pain of heresy. The chief alteration that affected this standard was that it became slimmer in course of time, until under the Ptolemies a very elongated type was fashionable.
It is interesting to contrast with this over-refined and bloodless type the more vigorous and coarser art of Assyria. Here the figures are short and thick, and the muscles are strongly accentuated. The men are heavily bearded, with luxuriant curly hair; the features are of a pronounced Jewish type, and the whole effect is that of great muscular strength and manly vigour. There are hardly any representations of women. This very masculine art appears to have considered them unworthy of notice.
As with the Egyptians, the type is very uniform, but it persists for a much shorter time, and the art is on the whole less conventional.
No doubt a sturdy race and one that valued strength and vigour above all other qualities. So the artists, with their usual trick of flattery, exaggerated this sturdiness, much in the same way that the Egyptian artists exaggerated slimness and refinement.
The two races probably differed in physique far less than their artistic remains would seem to imply.
After the Persian conquest of Assyria we find the same type persisting in the representations of the conquerors, but in a very much weakened form. Persian art seems purely derivative from the Assyrian, and shows the natural decadence of an imitation.
Of course the most important and influential ideal of human beauty that has ever been evolved was that of the Greeks. It remains to this day the ultimate standard for all European civilisation, and its influence in favour of health and sanity can hardly be overestimated. Alas! we fall away from it all too frequently, and worship false gods and especially false goddesses; admiring, to our shame, mere quaintness or prettiness, or worse. Nay, we even find beauty in morbid and neurotic types that seem to have stepped out of the hospital or the madhouse. But we always return in our better
moments to the worship of the Venus of Milo; and no man could have a saner or a healthier love.
Of course the Greeks were some time working up to their magnificent ideals. Their early art was no doubt derived from Asiatic sources. The remains of it are scanty, and so various that it is difficult to pitch upon any special archaic type.
But even in the earliest specimens one feels that this Art is alive; above all, that it has that element of healthy realism without which no art can progress. There seems to be no definite pattern to which all works must conform; individual sculptors arise who, instead of blindly copying their predecessors, go to nature for their inspiration; and they have a public who appreciates these efforts; a life-like gesture is applauded; truth is esteemed the highest merit in a work of art.
When Myron produced his celebrated statue of the runner Ladas falling dead as he reached the goal, it was hailed at once as a triumph of realism. It seemed as if the last breath from the empty lungs was passing the lips of the dying man.
I lay stress on this essential naturalism of the Greeks, as I am convinced that it is the only sound foundation for an ideal type. The majestic creations of Phidias were not portraits of actual Athenians, but they were founded on an extraordinarily close observation of individuals, not only on the part of the master himself, but also of his forerunners and contemporaries.
It is this that gives the essential vitality to the Phidian ideal, and saves it from any reproach of cold and abstract formalism. The remains left us of the work of this great artist are so much injured that, although they fully convey to us his mastery over the figure, we can only guess at the splendour of the heads.
In his own time the most highly esteemed of the statues of Phidias was the Olympian Zeus. It was of enormous dimensions and of chryselephantine workmanship: that is, the flesh was represented by a thin veneer of ivory, and the drapery was gilded.
The statue has been irretrievably lost, but the type of Zeus has been perpetuated by Roman imitations. It represents a man in the full prime of life, with flowing beard and hair. It has been unfortunately vulgarised by these imitations, but we can well imagine that in the hands of the master himself it was a creation of unsurpassable majesty.
The similar statue of Athene has also disappeared, but here again there are Roman busts that convey probably a very good idea of the type of head. This also is extraordinarily noble, but in the reproductions appears to have a certain cold formality that was probably absent from the original.
These statues are both fully draped. To show the treatment of the figure by Phidias we must refer to the statues commonly called
Theseus and Ilyssus in the British Museum. They represent the perfection of strength without any undue development of muscleperfectly well-grown and well-proportioned examples of vigorous early manhood.
For the treatment of the female figure we have not the same material, but the remains from the Parthenon show enough of the form beneath the draperies to convince us that the women of Phidias were worthy of the men.
For a full comprehension of the Greek ideal of the female figure we must go to a later statue, the so-called Venus of Milo, which is probably by a pupil of Praxiteles.
Unfortunately the arms are missing, but the head and the torso are practically complete, and as such form an ideal of womanhood that has never been excelled. I may mention that the tip of the nose has been restored, and that the restoration is an atom too long. This should be taken into account in judging of the perfection of
The head is certainly less severe than the Phidian ideal. Its predominant expression is that of calm graciousness. The body is vigorous and robust. In proportion it differs but little from the male, but it is very feminine in the graceful roundness of its contours. It especially resembles the male figure in that it has no waist. Indeed we may take it that the Greek woman never knew she had a waist, and that her garments were designed without the smallest reference to this imaginary division of the figure. The whole aspect of the statue seems to breathe health and sanity; nor is it devoid of a special feminine charm-at least to all right-minded people.
A worthy pendant to it is the celebrated Hermes of Praxiteles, which gives very completely the Greek conception of a young
The head is less ideal than the Phidian type, and is certainly devoid of that abstract formalism that is sometimes imputed to Greek art.
It looks quite individual, and might almost be a portrait of some exceptionally good-looking young man. The figure is a little younger and softer than the Phidian type, but is nevertheless perfectly vigorous and athletic.
Within certain limits there is a great variety in Greek art, and it would be easy to multiply instances of ideal figures which show marked individuality. The best statues are far indeed from being all of one pattern, but the conception of the highest beauty that they display is essentially of one type, which can best be described as the healthy human body in its most complete and harmonious development.
That the actual Greeks approached very closely to this type
may be doubted, but they were certainly a handsome and welldeveloped race.
What they really looked like we can judge better from the little Tanagra figures, which display a good deal of the beauty and grace of the statues without any of their dignity. We see from them that a self-respecting young Greek woman could have a turned-up nose and perhaps a double chin, but she must not be fat and clumsy, nor bony and angular, if she did not wish to be outside the pale of even this humble and domestic art.
The Romans, who had practically no art of their own, or at the most a very poor one, simply took over Greek art en bloc, and it is interesting to see that the Greek ideal was maintained in all its purity without being at all influenced by the racial peculiarities of its patrons, who were probably of a much heavier and coarser build. This is an interesting proof that an artistic ideal need not represent the type of the race that honours it. But it is better for art that it should. No doubt some of the coldness and formality that distinguish Roman work may be traced to the divorce of art from its subject-matter.
This imitative tendency of the Romans, although far from praiseworthy in itself, has the great advantage for us that it supplemented by innumerable copies the somewhat meagre remains of Greek art. Indeed, were it not for the Romans we should have no idea of what Greek painting was like. It is true that the frescoes of Pompeii are but the faint imitations done by the journeymen painters of a provincial town of the works of the great Greek masters, but such as they are they are purely Greek in spirit. With all their imperfect drawing and flimsy execution, they have an extraordinary sense of beauty that makes one all the more regret the irretrievable loss of the great examples of this lovely art.
And so this ideal of the Greeks persisted in an alien race, gradually growing more formal and less life-like until all art decayed and the dark ages spread over Europe like a funeral pall.
When this pall has begun to lift we find that a new art has been born that owes but little to its magnificent predecessor. A very babyish art at first, brought up under the shadow of superstition and slave to an ignorant priesthood. And yet it has vitality. The mere fact that it is so little reminiscent of its classical origin is in its favour; any attempt at imitation of the Greeks would have been beyond its power, nor, indeed, were its surroundings compatible with any sane and healthy ideal.
The great characteristic of medieval art, as opposed to the classical, is the curious awkwardness and uncouthness of the form and gestures. In the early specimens it is extraordinarily stiff and rigid; in later examples we find more movement, sometimes a superabundance of it; but it is never by any chance easy and graceful like the movement
of the Greeks. Medieval gestures are invariably grotesque; they are not so stereotyped as those of the Egyptians and Assyrians, but they show an almost equal lack of any close observation of nature. The heads are mostly of a poor type, though often pleasing from a certain naïveté of expression which was probably not intended by the artist. The figures are almost invariably misshapen.
This is one of the extraordinary changes that had come over European civilisation. In the classical times the body was esteemed and cultivated. In the middle ages asceticism was so rampant that the body was despised. This again reacted upon dress, so that the mediæval costume was entirely opposed to the classical. The latter was always of the nature of drapery, an adjunct to, rather than a concealer of the figure. It was very little shaped, and was so worn as to hang in the natural folds given to it by the form beneath. The medieval costume was mostly so elaborately and fancifully shaped that it was difficult to form any true idea of the body that it so effectually covered.
It is true that this body was mostly a very poor one-what with plague and famine and dirt and unwholesome surroundings. So, perhaps, the folk of the middle ages did well to concentrate attention on their garments rather than on themselves. But the result of it all is that in medieval art there is no feeling at all for a fine human figure. In the few cases where the nude is portrayed, it is made simply ugly and grotesque. The heads are better than the figures, but, take it all together, it may be confidently said that during the middle ages the ideal of human beauty was a very poor one. On the other hand, the feeling for inanimate beauty was very great. Architecture of course attained a surprising, indeed an almost unaccountable, development and all the decorative arts had an originality and a vitality that were probably unsurpassed even in the classical times. I am not running down the art of the middle ages, which indeed, in many of its developments, I admire immensely. It is merely with reference to its human ideal that I find it so sadly wanting.
It is interesting to note that Gothic art in Italy was never so purely Gothic as in other countries. It seems as if the classical leaven still worked in it. At the worst, in Italy it is never absolutely ugly. Giotto's figures, stiff as they are, have a certain grace and dignity very foreign to most Gothic work; even the earlier Cimabue is not devoid of charm.
That the Italians never quite lost the classical ideal is shown by the fact that Niccolo Pisano, working as early as 1260, distinctly anticipated the Renaissance by giving to his bas-reliefs a quite unmistakably classical quality, a quality that was somewhat but not entirely lost by his successors.
We may take it that throughout the middle ages the Italians