The artistic activity in Athens did not cease with the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431. The city was full of sculptors, many of whom had come directly under the influence of Phidias, and they were not left idle. The demand from private individuals for votive sculptures and funeral reliefs must indeed have been abated, but was not extinguished; and in the intervals of the protracted war the state undertook important enterprises with an undaunted spirit. It is to this period that the Erechtheum probably belongs (420?-408), though all that we certainly know is that the building was nearly finished some time before 409 and that the work was resumed in that year. The temple had a sculptured frieze of which fragments are extant, but these are far surpassed in interest by the Caryatides of the southern porch. The name Caryatides, by the way, meets us first in the pages of Vitruvius, a Roman architect of the time of Augustus; a contemporary Athenian inscription, to which we are indebted for many details concerning the building, calls them simply "maidens." As you face the front of the porch, the three maidens on your right support themselves chiefly on the left leg, the three on your left on the right leg, so that the leg in action is the one nearer to the end of the porch. The arms hung straight at the sides, one of them grasping a corner of the small mantle. The pose and drapery show what Attic sculpture had made of the old Peloponnesian type of standing female figure in the Doric chiton. The fall of the garment preserves the same general features, but the stuff has become much more pliable. It is interesting to note that, in spite of a close general similarity, no two maidens are exactly alike, as they would have been if they had been reproduced mechanically from a finished model. These subtle variations are among the secrets of the beauty of this porch, as they are of the Parthenon frieze. One may be permitted to object altogether to the use of human figures as architectural supports, but if the thing was to be done at all, it could not have been better done. The weight that the maidens bear is comparatively small, and their figures are as strong as they are graceful.
Next Chapter: The Balustrade
Back to the table of Contents * More online Greek Resources
Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-Greece/history-of-ancient-greek-art-40.asp