Greek sculpture now enters upon a stage of development which possesses for the modern student a singular and potent charm True, many traces still remain of the sculptor's imperfect mastery. He cannot pose his figures in perfectly easy attitudes not even in reliefs, where the problem is easier than in sculpture in the round. His knowledge of human anatomy – that is to say, of the outward appearance of the human body, which is all the artistic anatomy that any one attempted to know during the rise and the great age of Greek sculpture – is still defective, and his means of expression are still imperfect. For example, in the nude male figure the hips continue to be too narrow for the shoulders, and the abdomen too flat. The facial peculiarities mentioned in the preceding chapter – prominent eyeballs, cheeks, and chin, and smiling mouth – are only very gradually modified.
As from the first, the upper eyelid does not overlap the lower eyelid at the outer corner, as truth, or rather appearance, requires, and in relief sculpture the eye of a face in profile is rendered as in front view. The texture and arrangement of hair are expressed in various ways but always with a marked love of symmetry and formalism. In the difficult art of representing drapery there is much experimentation and great progress. It seems to have been among the eastern Ionians perhaps at Chios, that the deep cutting of folds was first practiced, and from Ionia this method of treatment spread to Athens and elsewhere. When drapery is used, there is a manifest desire on the sculptor's part to reveal what he can, more, in fact, than in reality could appear, of the form underneath. The garments fall in formal folds, sometimes of great elaboration. They look as if they were intended to represent garments of irregular cut, carefully starched and ironed. But one must be cautious about drawing inferences from an imperfect artistic manner as to the actual fashions of the day.
But whatever shortcomings in technical perfection may be laid to their charge, the works of this period are full of the indefinable fascination of promise. They are marked, moreover, by a simplicity and sincerity of purpose, an absence of all ostentation, a conscientious and loving devotion on the part of those who made them. And in many of them we are touched by great refinement and tenderness of feeling, and a peculiarly Greek grace of line.
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