At first sight these figures strike many
untrained observers as simply grotesque. Some of them are
indeed odd; (...) But they soon become absorbingly
interesting and then delightful. The strange-looking,
puzzling garments, which cling to the figure behind and fall
in formal folds in front, the elaborately, often impossibly,
arranged hair, the gracious countenances, a certain
quaintness and refinement and unconsciousness of self –
these things exercise over us an endless fascination.
Who are these mysterious beings? We do not
know. There are those who would see in them, or in some of
them, representations of Athena, who was not only a martial
goddess, but also patroness of spinning and weaving and all
cunning handiwork. To others, including the writer, they
seem, in their manifold variety, to be daughters of Athens.
But, if so, what especial claim these women had to be set up
in effigy upon Athena's holy hill is an unsolved riddle.
Before parting from their company we must
not fail to look at two fragmentary figures, the most
advanced in style of the whole series and doubtless executed
shortly before 480. In the former, presumably the earlier of
the two, the marvelous arrangement of the hair over the
forehead survives and the eyeballs still protrude
unpleasantly. But the mouth has lost the conventional smile
and the modeling of the face is of great beauty. In the
other, alone of the series, the hair presents a fairly
natural appearance, the eyeballs lie at their proper depth,
and the beautiful curve of the neck is not masked by the
locks that fall upon the breasts. In this head, too, the
mouth actually droops at the corners, giving a perhaps
unintended look of seriousness to the face. The ear, though
set rather high, is exquisitely shaped.