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§29. Effect of the mimic Dances upon Sculpture and Painting.
Lifelike impersonations of this kind, moulded to a form of art by the element of measure and rhythm, must have proved an inexhaustible source of suggestion to the graphic and plastic artists, who would have before them examples of the conveyance of ideas in a vivid and forcible manner by means of bodily gesture and facial expression alone, without the intervention of the voice. i It was essential to accom' plishment in this kind of dancing, that the idea to be impressed on the spectator should be read in every part of the form and not in a single feature or limb.1 The dancer in Lucian’s view ‘ must study clearness so that he may make everything plain without an interpreter, and as the Pythian Oracle said, the spectator of a dance should understand a mute and hear one that does not speak.’ '1
§ 30. Evolution of the Drama from the mimic Dance.
More elaborate forms of the mimic dance were also introduced at the religious festivals of the Greeks, where they took the character of sacred pantomimes displaying the persons and the adventures of the deities celebrated in the locality. The most important in its artistic results of these pantomimes was that connected with the festivals of the wine-god Dionysus, wherein were represented dances of satyrs, his woodland comrades, and where would appear also at times the god himself, or at any rate a messenger from him who would recount and re-enact his adventures. This was originally a mere incident in a scene of village jollity at vintage time, but, strangely enough, was developed
1 Xenophon, Symposium, ii. 16. 9 D: Sallationz, § 62.
CHAP. 11 Origin of the Drama 51
in after days to that sustained and stately form of art the tragic Drama. Nothing could appear more unlike a haunt of rustic merrymakers than the Athenian Theatre, when assembled Greece saw
and it is not easy to see how the Dionysiac Revel could be turned. in so short a space of time to a performance so solemn and elevated, in which only a few accidental features remained to tell of its origin in the masque of satyrs. The difficulty is explained when we understand the prevalence of the mimic dance or pantomime in many different forms throughout Greece. The themes of these were not necessarily Dionysiac, but embraced various mythological stories and brought upon the rustic stage both divine and heroic personages. Lucian says that the whole range of ancient legend ‘from Chaos to Cleopatra of Egypt’ 1 was pressed into the service of the dancers, and we have a long list of dramatic dances performed in early times, as for example, the birth of 'Zeus in Crete, the marriage of Zeus and Hera at Argos, the battle of Apollo and the Python at Delphi. At Tanagra there was represented Hermes Kriophoros, Apollo with the Muses in the Theban Daphnephoria, at Sicyon the hero Adrastus and his adventures. Had tragedy been directly evolved from any of these more serious displays there would have been nothing surprising, but their influence seems to have been only indirect. We may con— jecture at any rate that it was the familiarity of the people with mimic dances and shows of a solemn kind, that made it possible for Epigenes of Sicyon and Thespis of Athens to graft these on to the Dionysiac fétes in Attica, and so 1 De Saltatione, § 37.
gradually to change the whole character of the representation. That this was not done without some popular opposition we know from the cry that was raised against these innovators-‘ What has all this to do with Dionysus ’ (miselv wpos rev Atdvuoov).1
§31. Slight influence of the Drama. on Sculpture.
The drama is itself an art of form and as such claims mention in this place; it stood however by itself and had little influence on the other arts. Neither the sculptor nor the painter seems to have learned much from this source, the reason being, no doubt, that the adjuncts of the drama, the robes, the masks, the buskins, were elaborate and cumbersome, and militated against anything like pure beauty of form. Lucian, in fact, when extolling the dance as a form of art, criticises the stage performances from this very point of view. In language which may be half banter, he ridicules the gigantic figures padded out in front and propped up on lofty buskins, that roared forth their verses through masks of which the open mouths seemed ready to swallow the audience ! 2 Probably the less developed mimic performances had far more effect upon the progress of the plastic art. The introduction upon the country stage of the personages of mythology duly ‘ made up’ in mien and vesture and attribute, familiarised the people with representations, which they were afterwards to behold carried up into an altogether higher region of beauty and of expression in the productions of the sculptor’s art. In this way, then, the social customs and common religious rites of the ancient peoples all ‘made for art’ supplying the indispensable
1 See Bergk, GritC/l/Jt‘fit Literaturgucliichte, vol. iii. with passages
there referred to. Esp. p. 263. 2 De Saltatione,§ 27.
can. 11 Early Greek Scuépture 53
stimulus to feeling without which there would be no impulse to artistic expression, educating the artist’s eye by the display of fair forms amid scenes of brightness and excitement, setting sculptor painter and architect at work on abundant and congenial tasks.
§32. Early Sculpture in its' relation to the Festival.
Nor were the artists slow to take advantage of their opportunities. From the midst of the sacred groves or from the bare rock of the citadels, wherever the sons of Hellas had gathered together in town or village, there arose noble buildings adorned or surrounded by stately sculptured forms. These temples, so fair and massive, we have already come to know as the crystallisation in permanent form of the festal structure (§ 21), and we have noted how the decorative arts soon came to lend their aid in covering the bones of the edifice with a veil of significant and beautiful devices (§§ I3, 15). It is true that the earliest Greek temples were comparatively bare of sculpture, but this was doubtless made up for by temporary decoration upon festal occasions. When sculpture and painting came to be added as permanent elements in the effect of the whole, they were at first naive and simple enough. The people were greedy for stories about local gods and heroes, and loved to see these brought before their eyes either as part of a pageant or play, or in the form of a substantial artistic show. Childlike in the extreme were the early efforts of the plastic art, when the temple-image was nothing more than a large wooden doll dressed in real clothes and a wig, and the decorative frieze or slab represented scenes of sacred legend with figures of the quaintest mien and habiliments. To the popular heart however both statue and decorative relief were very dear. The crude realism of the one, the animated, even grotesque, gestures of the actors in the other, were easily understood and appreciated, and so well were they loved that partly on artistic partly on religious grounds they remained in honour throughout the whole period of classical art history. _Pausanias, though he wrote in the second century of our era and was familiar with all the greatest achievements of Hellenic art, declares that in spite of their strange ungainliness these earliest productions had in them ‘something that was divine.’ 1
§33. Mature Sculpture also in Greece the expression of popular ideals.
Widely different from these in aspect and idea are the standard examples of Greek sculpture in its maturity, such as we possess in the fragments from the Parthenon. Monumental dignity, even austerity, of aspect marks these colossal shapes, in which we read the deepest thoughts of the people about man and about divinity, and the contrast between these and the naive representations of the infancy of the art is much the same as that between the Attic drama in the hands of an fEschylus, and the primitive Dionysiac revel out of which it was evolved. There is no need to trace here the historical development of sculpture from its beginnings to its maturity, and we may pass on now to note that in their own more lofty style these works of the maturity of the art are just as much the expression of the mind of the people, just as truly the outcome of the common emotional life concentrated in the festival, as were the temporary embroidered hangings, or the doll-idol to which the multitude presented a new gown at the periodical celebration.
1 Descriptio Grzzciw, ii. 4., 5.