Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pleasing the gods

One last nod to The Parthenon Enigma.

Connelly's book is centered around her interpretation of the frieze that girds the temple high inside the porch, at a place almost impossible to see by people on the ground. Connelly suggests that the sculptures were meant to be viewed by the gods, to remind them of the divine origin of the city. If so, even the gods would need x-ray eyes.

Another example of the cognitive dissonance of the sort we share with the Athenians?

Here is a painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema titled "Phidias Shows the Frieze of the Parthenon to His Friends" (1868). Phidias is the famed Athenian sculptor and architect. Among his many works was the gigantic statue of Athena that adorned the Parthenon. He is using a scaffold to give his friends an eye-level view.

Alma-Tadema was among the first to accept what scientific research has confirmed: the Parthenon sculptures, including the Elgin marbles now in the British Museum, were painted. Not only painted, but decorated with attached metal bridles, weapons and crowns. Quite a show for the gods once the scaffold was taken down.

Painting marble! That was hard to accept. Try to imagine Michelangelo's David or Pieta painted. Kitschy, we might say.

And speaking of kitsch, what about Alma-Tadema's art. The same sort of kitsch as those National Geographic paintings of classical times I loved as a kid. A step too far over the Pre-Raphaelite line, I'd say.

But what do I know. According to Connelly, in 2010 an Alma-Tadema sold at Sotheby's in New York for $35,922,500. Some kitsch!