Sculpture

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A friend peering up at early-20th-century polychrome terra cottas of mythological figures at the Philadelphia Museum of Art once remarked to me: “There is no way the Greeks were that gauche.” How did color become gauche? Where does this aesthetic disgust come from? To many, the pristine whiteness of marble statues is the expectation and thus the classical ideal. But the equation of white marble with beauty is not an inherent truth of the universe. Where this standard came from and how it continues to influence white supremacist ideas today are often ignored.
Most museums and art history textbooks contain a predominantly neon white display of skin tone when it comes to classical statues and sarcophagi. This has an impact on the way we view the antique world. ~ Sarah E. Bond
In the 18th century, the pioneering archaeologist and art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann chose to view the bare stone figures as pure—if you will, Platonic—forms, all the loftier for their austerity. "The whiter the body is, the more beautiful it is as well," he wrote. "Color contributes to beauty, but it is not beauty. Color should have a minor part in the consideration of beauty, because it is not [color] but structure that constitutes its essence." Against growing evidence to the contrary, Winckelmann's view prevailed. For centuries to come, antiquarians who envisioned the statues in color were dismissed as eccentrics, and such challenges as they mounted went ignored. ~ Matthew Gurewitsch
And the cold marble leapt to life a God. ~ H. H. Milman
Pygmalion loathing their lascivious life,
Abhorr'd all womankind, but most a wife:
So single chose to live, and shunn'd to wed,
Well pleas'd to want a consort of his bed.
Yet fearing idleness, the nurse of ill,
In sculpture exercis'd his happy skill;
And carv'd in iv'ry such a maid, so fair,
As Nature could not with his art compare. ~ Ovid
You are fifty years old and would worship a day old statue! ~ Abraham
Tacitus says, that the Jews held God to be something eternal and supreme, neither subject to change nor to decay; therefore, they permit no statues in their cities or their temples. The universal Being can only be described or defined by negatives which deny his subjection to the laws of all inferior existences. Where indefiniteness ends, idolatry and anthropomorphism begin. ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork. Traditionally, such artwork was created by shaping or combining hard materials - typically stone such as marble - or metal, glass, or wood. Softer ("plastic") materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals. Modernly, the term has been extended to works including sound, text and light.

Quotes[edit]

  • In general, just as painters in working from models constantly gaze at their exemplar and thus strive to transfer the expression of the original to their own artistry, so too he who is anxious to make himself perfect in all the kinds of virtue must gaze upon the lives of the saints as upon statues, so to speak, that move and act, and must make their excellence his own by imitation.
  • The men who ushered in the Dark Ages were men like Theodoric and Cassiodorus, who were intent on restoring the cities, preserving the statues, and transcribing the classics. Their adoration of the ancient world was matched only by their inability to understand it, for by the time that they were born, classical culture was already dead. They were the first of the great medievals and began to build a new civilization in an attempt to restore the old.
    • R. H. C. Davis A History of Medieval Europe from Constantine to Saint Louis (London: Longman, 1970) p. 53.
  • The Magi of Egypt looked round in every quarter for phenomena that might produce astonishment among their countrymen, and induce them to believe that they dwelt in a land which overflowed with the testimonies and presence of a divine power. Among others the statue of Memnon, erected over his tomb near Thebes, is recorded by many authors. Memnon is said to have been the son of Aurora, the Goddess of the morning; and his statue is related to have had the peculiar faculty of uttering a melodious sound every morning when touched by the first beams of day, as if to salute his mother; and every night at sunset to have imparted another sound, low and mournful, as lamenting the departure of the day. This prodigy is spoken of by Tacitus, Strabo, Juvenal and Philostratus. The statue uttered these sounds, while perfect; and, when it was mutilated by human violence, or by a convulsion of nature, it still retained the property with which it had been originally endowed. Modern travellers, for the same phenomenon has still been observed, have asserted that it does not owe its existence to any prodigy, but to a property of the granite, of which the statue or its pedestal is formed, which, being hollow, is found in various parts of the world to exhibit this quality. It has therefore been suggested, that the priests, having ascertained its peculiarity, expressly formed the statue of that material, for the purpose of impressing on it a supernatural character, and thus being enabled to extend their influence with a credulous people.
  • Colored statues? To us, classical antiquity means white marble. Not so to the Greeks, who thought of their gods in living color and portrayed them that way too. The temples that housed them were in color, also, like mighty stage sets. Time and weather have stripped most of the hues away. And for centuries people who should have known better pretended that color scarcely mattered.
    White marble has been the norm ever since the Renaissance, when classical antiquities first began to emerge from the earth. The sculpture of Trojan priest Laocoön and his two sons struggling with serpents sent, it is said, by the sea god Poseidon (discovered in 1506 in Rome and now at the Vatican Museums) is one of the greatest early finds. Knowing no better, artists in the 16th century took the bare stone at face value. Michelangelo and others emulated what they believed to be the ancient aesthetic, leaving the stone of most of their statues its natural color. Thus they helped pave the way for neo-Classicism, the lily-white style that to this day remains our paradigm for Greek art.
    By the early 19th century, the systematic excavation of ancient Greek and Roman sites was bringing forth great numbers of statues, and there were scholars on hand to document the scattered traces of their multicolored surfaces. Some of these traces are still visible to the naked eye even today, though much of the remaining color faded, or disappeared entirely, once the statues were again exposed to light and air. Some of the pigment was scrubbed off by restorers whose acts, while well intentioned, were tantamount to vandalism. In the 18th century, the pioneering archaeologist and art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann chose to view the bare stone figures as pure—if you will, Platonic—forms, all the loftier for their austerity. "The whiter the body is, the more beautiful it is as well," he wrote. "Color contributes to beauty, but it is not beauty. Color should have a minor part in the consideration of beauty, because it is not [color] but structure that constitutes its essence." Against growing evidence to the contrary, Winckelmann's view prevailed. For centuries to come, antiquarians who envisioned the statues in color were dismissed as eccentrics, and such challenges as they mounted went ignored.
  • After a long time the great and awful Name was forgotten and the people, men, women and children, only recognized an image of wood or stone and the temple of wood or stone which they had been brought up from infancy to serve by bowing down. ... Abraham ... knew that all were mistaken and that what caused them to err was worship of the images which drove the Truth out of their minds.
    • Maimonides, Mishneh Torah (c. 1180), Treatise 4: “Idolatry,” H. Russell, trans. (1983), pp. 72-73
  • Pygmalion loathing their lascivious life,
    Abhorr'd all womankind, but most a wife:
    So single chose to live, and shunn'd to wed,
    Well pleas'd to want a consort of his bed.
    Yet fearing idleness, the nurse of ill,
    In sculpture exercis'd his happy skill;
    And carv'd in iv'ry such a maid, so fair,
    As Nature could not with his art compare,
    Were she to work; but in her own defence
    Must take her pattern here, and copy hence.
    Pleas'd with his idol, he commends, admires,
    Adores; and last, the thing ador'd, desires.
    A very virgin in her face was seen,
    And had she mov'd, a living maid had been:
    One wou'd have thought she cou'd have stirr'd, but strove
    With modesty, and was asham'd to move.
    Art hid with art, so well perform'd the cheat,
    It caught the carver with his own deceit:
    He knows 'tis madness, yet he must adore,
    And still the more he knows it, loves the more:
    The flesh, or what so seems, he touches oft,
    Which feels so smooth, that he believes it soft.
    Fir'd with this thought, at once he strain'd the breast,
    And on the lips a burning kiss impress'd.
    'Tis true, the harden'd breast resists the gripe,
    And the cold lips return a kiss unripe:
    But when, retiring back, he look'd again,
    To think it iv'ry, was a thought too mean:
    So wou'd believe she kiss'd, and courting more,
    Again embrac'd her naked body o'er.
  • Tacitus says, that the Jews held God to be something eternal and supreme, neither subject to change nor to decay; therefore, they permit no statues in their cities or their temples. The universal Being can only be described or defined by negatives which deny his subjection to the laws of all inferior existences. Where indefiniteness ends, idolatry and anthropomorphism begin.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 694.
  • The stone unhewn and cold
    Becomes a living mould,
    The more the marble wastes
    The more the statue grows.
  • Ex quovis ligno non fit Mercurius.
    • A Mercury is not made out of any block of wood.
    • Quoted by Appuleius as a saying of Pythagoras.
  • A sculptor wields
    The chisel, and the stricken marble grows
    To beauty.
  • Not from a vain or shallow thought
    His awful Jove young Phidias brought.
  • In sculpture did ever anybody call the Apollo a fancy piece? Or say of the Laocoön how it might be made different? A masterpiece of art has in the mind a fixed place in the chain of being, as much as a plant or a crystal.
  • Ex pede Herculem.
    • From the feet, Hercules.
    • Herodotus, Book IV, Section LXXXII. Plutarch. As quoted by Aulus Gellius. I. 1. Diogenes. V. 15.
  • Sculpture is more divine, and more like Nature,
    That fashions all her works in high relief,
    And that is Sculpture. This vast ball, the Earth,
    Was moulded out of clay, and baked in fire;
    Men, women, and all animals that breathe
    Are statues, and not paintings.
  • Sculpture is more than painting. It is greater
    To raise the dead to life than to create
    Phantoms that seem to live.
  • And the cold marble leapt to life a God.
  • The Paphian Queen to Cnidos made repair
    Across the tide to see her image there:
    Then looking up and round the prospect wide,
    When did Praxiteles see me thus? she cried.
    • Plato, in Greek Anthology.
  • Then marble, soften'd into life, grew warm.
  • The sculptor does not work for the anatomist, but for the common observer of life and nature.
  • So stands the statue that enchants the world,
    So bending tries to veil the matchless boast,
    The mingled beauties of exulting Greece.
  • The marble index of a mind forever
    Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.

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