The Setting of Greek Sculpture

Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway
1971 Hesperia  
T WO articles by C. C. Vermeule ' have recently discussed the various ways in which the Romans displayed the many copies of Greek works which today fill our museums. Our knowledge of statuary arrangements, already enlightened by the excavation of Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli and of entire sites such as Pompeii and Herculaneum, constantly increases as more methodical and accurate research is carried out in many Asia Minor centers rich in sculpture, as for instance Aphrodisias and Side. But if we
more » ... Side. But if we are reasonably well informed on Roman practices, the same cannot be said for Greek times despite the great wealth of ancient literary allusions to statuary. Greek originals are seldom found, and when they are, they are mostly out of context. Whatever evidence is available is often hidden in excavation reports with no specific reference to sculptural setting, and ancient sources are rarely detailed enough to allow safe speculation on location and arrangement. The problem becomes even more complex when Greek works are known only through later replicas of various provenience, which in some cases may even involve transposition from one medium to another or conversion into a different form of artistic expression (such as, for instance, a relief reproducing a composition originally in the round, or a sculptural group made after a famous painting). The present notes do not attempt to explore the subject with thoroughness but propose to set forth some suggestions as to the arrangements of Greek statuary in antiquity, emphasizing the difference in approach between the Classical and the Hellenistic periods. Much of what follows has already been stated in some form by others but is here reviewed from the specific point of view of sculptural setting; some theories which have at times been rejected will be reproposed, not because the issues have now been settled with greater certainty, but in the hope of promoting further study of this interesting topic. I am mainly concerned with the outdoor setting of free-standing sculpture. Many statues, cult images or otherwise, were placed within buildings, but their loca-* Some of the ideas in this paper were prompted by a visit to North African and Asia Minor sites during the Summer of 1969. I am most grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for their Summer Stipend, and to the American Philosophical Society for their grant from the Johnson Fund, which financed my travels. I have purposely refrained from illustrating my text in order that attention may focus not on the monuments per se but on their setting. 1 " Graeco-Roman Statues: Purpose and Setting-I," The Burlington Magazine, no. 787, vol. 110, October 1968, pp. 545-558; " Graeco-Roman Statues: Purpose and Setting-II: Literary and Archaeological Evidence for the Display and Grouping of Graeco-Roman Sculpture," Burl. Mag., no. 788, vol. 110, November 1968, pp. 607-613; by the same author, "Greek Sculpture and Roman Taste," B.M.F.A.Bull., LXV: 342, 1967, pp. 175-192. American School of Classical Studies at Athens is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve, and extend access to Hesperia www.jstor.org ® THE SETTING OF GREEK SCULPTURE 337 tion was determined by the available space in any given structure; statuary for interior decoration does not seem to have existed before Roman times.2 Similarly I shall not take into account architectural sculpture proper, because the setting of carved friezes, metopes or pediments was determined by the established sequence of parts in the Greek orders. The function of architectural sculpture was decorative from its very inception, but could not have existed without the underlying structural frame and should be studied only in conjunction with it. Having thus delimited the field of my enquiry, I wish to state as a working hypothesis the following proposition. At first Greek sculpture in the round was purely " utilitarian," either in a religious or a civic sense, and the location of a monument was chosen in relation to its importance to the citizens at large. Toward the end of the fourth century B.C. sculpture became increasingly spectacular, and with the loosening of religious conventions and civic concern it tended to acquire a more decorative function. This aspect of " art for art's sake " was finally fully exploited during the Hellenistic period, when the formation of the Eastern monarchies and the creation of the great private estates provided at the same time the incentive and the funds for more elaborate displays. The densely populated Hellenistic cities prompted a desire for more pastoral surroundings, and the private villas of the wealthy furnished the necessary acreage; landscape became more physically involved in sculptural compositions, in which it finally formed an element per se rather than a purely neutral background. This concern with the environment eventually led to the great Roman villas filled with statuary in key positions, a pattern later copied and imitated not only in the Renaissance but down to our times. The first impulse behind Greek monumental stone sculpture was religious. Aside from the making of cult statues, which did not necessarily require stone or bronze as their proper medium, and of funerary monuments, to be discussed below, the Archaic period saw the beginning of votive art in the form of marble figures of youths and girls,3 often over life-sized, which were dedicated in the major panhellenic sanctuaries as gifts to the divinity. In the majority of cases it is now impossible to determine where these statues originally stood, since they have been found in disturbed contexts, but some surmises are possible. Their setting must have varied according to their scale; small figures were often placed within the colonnades 4 or 2 For the practice of apartment decoration in Hellenistic times see infra, p. 352. Honorary statues within public buildings are known through literary sources, but they cannot be considered decorative in the common sense of the word. Temples also were converted into storerooms or museums of statuary and other objects of revered antiquity, but these were cases of slow accumulation with no preliminary planning. 3 Most of the pertinent information can be found in G. M. A. Riclhter's Kouroi, Phaidon, 1960 and Korai, Phaidon, 1968. See also E. Buschor, Altsamische Standbilder I-V, 1934-1961 and A. Raubitschek, Dedications from the Athenian Akropolis, 1949. 4 This practice, at first purely haphazard, may later on have inspired a systematic arrangement
doi:10.2307/147532 fatcat:6faagrakxfcoxdnejuvd5xhp2u