Semantics of figurative and plastic solutions of Green Man mascarons in the Lviv architecture of the 19th century

Lidiia Kukil
2019 Bulletin of Lviv National Academy of Arts  
Background. The image of Green Man (Green Man — "the spirit of the forest"), which embodies a mythological forest deity, undoubtedly entered the city's architecture along with new Western stylistic tendencies and immediately gained popularity among the Lviv architects of that time. Mythological images, which were formed during the ancient history of mankind, have often remained topical for subsequent epochs, but it should be noted that in the 19th century these mask-images acquired exclusively
more » ... decorative function and canonicity of their depiction was altered by interpretations of the author's vision. Despite the fact that Lviv architectural decor of the 19th century is a rather studied topic, so far Lviv Green Man mascarons of the 19th century have not been the subject of a special study, which predetermines the scientific novelty of the chosen topic. Objectives. The purpose of the article is to analyze the main theories of the origin of the Green Man image in the architecture of Western Europe, to reveal its symbolic meaning, to highlight the main typological groups of green man masks in Lviv architecture of the 19th century, to reveal and analyze their figurative and plastic solutions. Methods. The article applies the general scientific methods of research: method of analysis is used in the study and systematization of scientific literature in terms of the subject of research; comparative method is used for the analysis of stylistic features of 19th century Lviv Green Man mascarons in comparison with Western European tendencies; method of synthesis is used in the development of typology of Lviv Green Man mascarons of the period in question; method of art analysis is used in the analysis of stylistic and plastic features of Green Man masks on Lviv facades of 19th century. Results. Green Man is a fiction image that combines human appearance and the flora. In the ancient world cultures, Green Man sometimes was identified as the vegetative deity of the nature. First of all, it is interpreted as a pagan spirit of forest and the symbol of nature revival. It is rather paradoxical that most depictions of this pagan symbol of nature are in the interiors and exteriors of temple architecture of medieval Europe. Pre-Christian pagan traditions were closely associated with nature. Worshipping sacred trees was intrinsic for many ancient cultures that directly influenced artistic culture of Christian Europe. Accordingly, the masks of "green men" were, perhaps, only one of the pagan symbolic images, which gained the right to exist in the space of medieval ecclesiastical architecture. A new wave of interest in Green Man's image dates back to the 19th century. The reason for its revival could be an environmental crisis, and in this respect the image of Green Man present in architecture can be regarded as the archetype of "nature guardian", whose role is to remind people of their responsibilities to nature. During this period various Green Man mascarons, deprived of symbolism, again started to be used by architects as decorative elements of secular buildings. Undoubtedly, such popularity of the "green man" masks in Victorian architecture has influenced the use of this image in European eclecticism, from where it came to Lviv architecture. Motive of the green man has many variations, which, depending on the author's conception, can be either interpreted as naturalistic or stylized. The authors of Green Man mascarons placed great importance on specific species of plants. To a large extent their choice depended on the local flora and symbolic associations they caused. Among Lviv Green Man mascarons, one can distinguish certain common features characteristic for certain types of face reliefs of the green man. Most often the authors of Lviv mascarons portrayed Green Man's face, hair, mustache and beard turning into leaves. Particular importance was attached to the mood of this bizarre creature. A deep, pensive look and a half-open mouth convey specific facial expression reflecting a special meditative condition that forces these masks to "speak". A wide spectrum of moods of forest deity mascarons is conveyed by means of facial expressions. Some faces are friendly and smiling, others look sad, fierce, and at times even threatening, approaching theatrical feelings and emotions, thereby turning into "leafy grotesque". Individual masks have more in common with demons or beasts than with humans. Horny faces of the "green man", which are close to the image of an ancient god Pan, can be referred to a separate typological group of masks. Sometimes these masks stand out with an ominous look and a wry smile that bring them closer to the image of demonic forest deity, wild spirit of forest. Less often in Lviv architecture one can see the relief heads of Green Man dressed in stylized leaf crowns or from the mouth of which plant sprouts are growing. The last type of masks usually serves as an ornamental motive in the exterior decor and is characterized by small size. On the facades of many Lviv eclectic buildings, the mascarons of the green man can be complemented with ornamental compositions of plant sprouts, flowers and fruits, garlands or fruit bundles hanging on the lace out of Green Man's mouth. Similar to European art, there are Green Man mascarons in Lviv architecture depicting a human face decorated with separate leaves or surrounded by a leaf wreath. The atypical attribute of Lviv masks of nature deity are wings. In addition to all the above-mentioned images in Lviv architecture, there are also mascarons of green lions whose symbolic significance is associated with force and power. Conclusions. Consequently, Green Man mascaron is a strange symbiosis of a human face and flora, a pagan spirit of nature, the guard of forests, embodiment of the connection between the world of plants and the world of people. Together with its mysterious roots the "Green man" also entered the facade decoration of Lviv architecture of the 19th century. Analyzing the typology of Lviv mascarons images of the 19th century, we make certain that the image of Green Man was one of the most popular in the toolkit of architects and sculptors of that time. Variation of "neo" Green Man's masks is characteristic for Lviv architecture of the late the 19th century. The authors of Lviv masks attached a great importance to the facial expressions of forest deity. Its attributes can be horns, wings, sprouts growing from the mouth of Green Man or garlands of fruits and flowers, which compositionally complement the image. The choice of plant-like forms was equally important. Performing an exclusively decorative function on the facades of Lviv buildings, this image remains a mystery up to now.
doi:10.37131/2524-0943-2019-39-21 fatcat:pklmap2rszalpkkup74auyipoe