Thursday, July 14, 2011

Diane de Gabies, La DéesseVierge du Grand Louvre

It has long seemed right, almost inevitable to me, that the statue of Artemis adjusting her himation, draped diagonally over a very full chiton double-girt to hang only to the knees of the maiden huntress, resides in Paris and in the Louvre; it has been there since 1820.  On the other hand, the Artemis of Versailles, perhaps from an original of about the same date, needed to run in the gardens; she is almost a tomboy in comparison with the Gabii statue.  It is because the Louvre statue is absorbed in dressing herself that she is thought to belong to the Brauronian cult; in Athens, in fact, Brauronian Artemis received new robes periodically.  Though such a statue might stand in the park of a sanctuary, and coins of Ephesos show one standing there, with trees (but not adjusting her clothes), this one is so gracious that she is most at home where she is.
This is the unique copy.  The original was probably bronze, though the modern commercial copies in bronze, in varying grades, do not do it justice.  It is taking molds to make casts, which requires a separating compound, that leaves marble statues brownish.  Since I took the grayscale images in the 1980s the statue has been cleaned carefully and now stands in a different place.  In 2002 the statue was so clean that I was afraid that the richness of the drapery patterns would be lost in photography (but I was only learning to think digitally), and I took only several details in color.  The museum itself, however, had provided for the Louvre station of the Métro a fine, new cast, well mounted and behind glass, to announce visitors' arrival there.  The choice confirmed me in my conviction that this is France's Greek statue par excellence.  If the visitors had just come from the Cathedral of Notre Dame and seen the Vierge de Paris of about 1310, they would see why.
Saying that the original was "probably" bronze (considering the complexities of her drapery) I have in mind that by the late fourth century BCE mixed media is a real possibility, on an armature with ivory for skin, or marble delicately tinted, and clothing carved of wood, gessoed and painted in encaustic; the use of some gold, for patterns or borders would be normal, too.  If the real new robes for Artemis were patterned, there might be small motifs, as if woven or embroidered, on the statue, too.  Such a statue, of course, would have to be sheltered.  The point is that mixed media might account for the lack of multiple copies.  Of course, a bronze with discrete gilding and some inlays remains more likely.
The between-the-wars generation (especially Süsserott, in his close study of chronological indices) placed the original work in the generation of Praxiteles' followers, c. 320–c. 280 BC.  Recently, Jean-Luc Martinez, including her in his chapter, Praxitèle après Praxitèle, entitles the entry Statue of draped woman, called "Diane de Gabies".  Considering the Ephesos coins (and an ugly specimen of one for Gallienus is perfectly good evidence, since photographs do not abound), I see no reason not to call her Artemis (or Diana, if you wish).  A Julio-Claudian family was delighted to show their daughter in that Ephesos pose.
Ephesos, reign of Gallienus.  Artemis in a grove.

Museo Nazionale Romano, portrait of Julio-Claudian girl, as Diana
In the case of the Gabii statue I would point out that the existence of the venerable Artemis of Ephesos cult statue did not preclude the existence of the girl Artemis standing in the woods (just as the Archaic cult statue of Apollo Smintheus has no bearing on the pose or manner of the Late Classical one, and both are shown on coins of Alexandria Troas), so Prof. Despinis' identification of the magnificent colossal head of Artemis on the Athens Acropolis as that of the cult statue of Artemis Brauronia has no bearing on our consideration of the Gabii type as a copy of an agalma dedicated there, or near by in Athens, representing the Athenian Brauronia donning her new garments.  And if that colossal, original head is Praxiteles, why not an agalma of the next generation by one of his closest followers?
But that is just a sidebar to this essay: I am concerned with its appropriateness to Paris.  This is meant as a somewhat playful essay.  Praxitelean studies are for a lifetime.  Here I provide an album with a selection of images meant for study.  I heartily recommend the scholarly catalogue Praxitèle, by Alain Pasquier and Jean-Luc Martinez, that the Louvre prepared for the great exhibition of 2007, where the Gabii statue is no. 73 (with two fine, new photographs, which also show that this work can suggest unlimited points of view and interpretations to different photographers).
For the Artemis of Gabii is several works of art, only one of which is the direct front view shown above side-by-side with the Vierge de Paris of c. 1310.  And its use of drapery to determine its meaning from most vantage points proves that it was exhibited in its original situation in Greece (and, one hopes, in this copy at Gabii) to be relished from every angle—not as nudes are said to have been relished in vulgar anecdotes but for the pleasure of connoisseurs of the artistic possibilities as one moves around it and as incident and reflected light changes around it.  That is to say that, in the most evolved concept of three-dimensional art, it is a sculpture in the fullest sense.  It has no sides, only aspects.  It lives as you move in its vicinity and your eyes follow it.  (I admit to being daft about drapery, but only when it is obedient to a body).
The statue with an enlivening S-curve was fully realized by Praxiteles.  Whether it is, even remotely, related to the Indian tribangha, I do not know.  It was not quite lost in late Roman and early medieval art, though without real contrapposto, and in the Île de France in the 13th century a sculptor of genius, the one who did the Joseph and Hannah in the Presentation in the Temple at Reims Cathedral, as well as its Angel of the Annunciation and the great "Smiling Angel", without any direct knowledge of Praxitelean S-curves, created for French Gothic (which even Giovanni Pisano could not quite grasp) what William
Deonna called le miracle chrétien.  He meant that once again western art had found formal 'solutions' based on study of living reality, surpassing both imitation and pattern-making.  Ernst Robert Curtius, in the same generation as Deonna, emphasized the re-creation of a poetry based on living perceptions expressed in the living, evolving languages.  As we all know, French Gothic spread like wildfire.
Those are large, overarching questions that I can only allude to here.  The point here is that first in the area around Paris an art was created which, like that of Athenian Praxiteles, dealt with courtly and humane ideals in terms of slender gracefulness.
Now, can anyone think of another Praxitelean statue, besides the Artemis of Gabii, so perfectly consonant with the High Gothic of the Joseph Master, as we call him?
The sculptors who created the Artemis of Gabii and the "Smiling Angel" even turn their heads to bring us back to the gesture of the raised hand, and in emphasizing how much fuller the folds of cloth are than the girl goddess's young body the Praxitelean sculptor (and, naturally, I sometimes wonder whether it is not the old master himself, since it certainly was an artist great in his own right) he expresses her delicacy.
The bare left shoulder (not, however, immodest) has been thought to be a characteristic of an Artemis, but for our sculptor it was an opportunity to make the light cloth of her chiton form more expressive folds in light and shadow, falling out over the half-folded himation that is pulled taut to be pinned at her right shoulder, and though this is not like the trick of showing folds underneath a thin silk overgarment, he exploited sculpturally his awareness of several thicknesses of cloth across her back.  I can't recall any other ancient statue that handles drapery in this way.
One thing that I love about the great galleries of the Louvre is their reliance (though there is electricity throughout now) on natural light: I ought to have come back at different times of the day to do the Gabii statue.  On the other hand, notice how the soft light here on her left side imparts something like reticence to the remarkably intricate pattern of folds.
Back in the bright, natural light of the 1980s, here we have the Artemis at her most Parisian.  Why do I say that?  Partly because the statue is so often shown this way, with her face in pure profile and with the cascading edges of the drawn drapery massed in line with her supporting leg.  Probably it is this view of the head that made Jean-Luc Martinez think of Artemis Soteira.
Syracuse.  Agathokles.  Artemis Soteira.

Be that as it may (and on Agathokles' bronze she has her huntress's quiver, while the young girl's hairdo is what Artemis usually has, and she has no reference to her garment here), this view of the Artemis of Gabii has always reminded me of fashion models, particularly those of the early 20th century, often those in French Vogue, especially by Paul Poiret early in his career (but even in young Chanel).  I wanted to post some, but they are most horribly under copyright, and even if they weren't they represent an aspect of Edward Steichen's work that historians of photography seem not to like to dwell on.
But the Gabii statue is the one Greek statue that reminds me of a fashion plate, a French one, where the model, in a photo or a drawing, is likely to be wearing a cloche, etc.  Of all the ancient statues in all the museums of the world she is the one who looks like she actually belongs to the Île de France, to Paris, and now they have put her cast in the Métro as a gracious hostess to all the Louvre's visitors.  I hope she is still there; I haven't been for nine years.
Séduisante?  I heard Elaine Sciolino, who has just published a book of essays on the French use of this epithet, interviewed on television last week.  If I understood her properly, that quality, too, makes this statue very French.  I mean, other languages have special adjectives; Italian can call a tender young girl morbida, and mean nothing like English morbid!

It is great fun for anyone who has spent a lifetime reading term papers on works of art to indulge in one of her own.  CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT.
Here is a link to a good photo of the Presentation in the Temple at Reims.  Notice the different style, more conservative, of the Mary and Simeon, compared with the Joseph and the Hannah.
Also, a fine close profile of the Artemis.


  1. Hello! I have a question to you. The photograph at Louvre (left) is that really a statue of Artemis? It looks like Mary with the child Jesus!
    I Hope you can answer the question!

  2. You are quite right; the statue with the Christ Child is in Notre Dame de Paris, near by; she is always called La Vierge de Paris. But in this playful essay I wished to point to the stylistic consonance of Parisian High Gothic and the late Praxitelean style exemplified by the Diane de Gabii: so I wrote,
    "If the visitors had just come from the Cathedral of Notre Dame and seen the Vierge de Paris of about 1310, they would see why." Thank you for noticing.

  3. Well I wondered of there might be evidence for thinking that what Artemis was for th Greek, Mary is for the Catholics, so I looked for statues on both to see if there might be some likeness. Did you ever think this way? What do you think about it?

  4. Yes, and it may be poetically true, without regard to the history of religions. But Mary in the Greek church is not only the god-bearer but also the all-holy queen of heaven and a loving mother. So far as continuity in worship is concerned she fills the place once held by Hera and Demeter--even some aspects of Aphrodite, as Ourania, perhaps.
    Artemis originally is a rather wild goddess and the mistress of wild things and then a huntress, and that is perhaps why the Classical and Hellenistic Greeks saw her as a spirited unmarried young girl.
    So I was thinking more of the way that this statue and the High Gothic ones embody noble graciousness in their style, more than in their history.

  5. Interesting!

    Trying to make the Greek christians, it might be possible that the catholic church rather early tried to make it acceptable to the Greek lieving their godesses and adopt Mary by "making" her goddesslike... Maybe the Greek didnot feel comforted to talk directly to God and Jesus and therefore wanted to have a loving, virginmother like Mary. I read elsewhere that a statue of the Greek goddesses with a little child was made said to be Mary!! This would make it easier for the Greek to accept catholic religion, not knowing that the Bible tells us about Mary in quite another way. Actually there is a huge difference between Mary in catholic belief and Mary as shown in the Bible.

  6. It will take me a little while, to find pictures and to think about how to present it, but I shall write my next Opera Nobilia post on the goddess with the baby. Remember that Christian art often adopted figures and compositions and gave them a different meaning (such as making the tree with the apples of immortality, guarded by a snake and tended by the nymphs called Hesperides serve for Adam and Eve in Eden!). After all, the Bible had no pictorial tradition (and the church had a period of Iconoclasm, too, out of fear of loving images too much). Christianity is no just Hebrew; it is also Greco-Roman. I think that Luke, certainly, and probably Paul most of the time, were comfortable in the human-centered world of Greek art.

  7. You wrote: "I think that Luke, certainly, and probably Paul most of the time, were comfortable in the human-centered world of Greek art."

    Do you have reason from the Bible itself for that? I mean, after that the jewish part of the church became more and more less after have been totally jewish from the beginning, gentile influences came in by the greek christians. I personally do not consider that as something good...

  8. I disbelieve in citing scripture verse by verse, mention by mention. I may discuss this kind of question in my other blog, TeeGee: Essays, but not in this one, Opera Nobilia, which was expressly created for writing about visual arts as such. I am an art historian, and I created Opera Nobilia for my own kind of audience. As for the Bible, I do not know Hebrew, but I do know Greek. There is more to Luke, for example, than just what he states; there is his style, the way he uses language. NOTICE: I DID NOT SAY I AM RIGHT. I do think it is not good to judge categories as 'something good' or not, but in any case, those considerations would belong in TeeGee:Essays, not in this blog.