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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
 

F. B. Tarbell, A History of Ancient Greek Art

The archaic period of Greek Sculpture. Second half: 550-480 B.C.

Early Attic sculpture

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Page 2

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.


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