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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
 

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

Greek Painting

Portrait painting

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Page 2

The finest collection of these portraits is one acquired by a Viennese merchant, Herr Theodor Graf. They differ widely in artistic merit; our illustrations show three of the best. Fig. 194 is a man in middle life, with irregular features, abundant, waving hair, and thin, straggling beard. One who has seen Watts's picture of "The Prodigal Son" may remark in the lower part of this face a likeness to that. Fig. 195 is a charming girl, wearing a golden wreath of ivy-leaves about her hair and a string of great pearls about her neck. Her dark eyes look strangely large, as do those of all the women of the series; probably the effect of eyes naturally large was heightened, as nowadays in Egypt, by the practice of blackening the edges of the eyelids. Fig. 196 is the most fascinating face of all, and it is artistically unsurpassed in the whole series. This and a portrait of an elderly man, not given here, are the masterpieces of the Graf collection. It is much too little to say of these two heads that they are the best examples of Greek painting that have come down to us. In spite of the great inferiority of the encaustic technique to that of oil painting, these pictures are not unworthy of comparison with the great portraits of modern times.

The ancient wall-paintings found in and near Rome, but more especially in Pompeii, are also mostly Greek in character, so far as their best qualities are concerned. The best of them, while betraying deficient skill in perspective, show such merits in coloring, such power of expression and such talent for composition, as to afford to the student a lively enjoyment and to intensify tenfold his regret that Zeuxis and Parrhasius, Apelles and Protogenes, are and will remain to us nothing but names.

 

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