Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hadrian Portrait Supplement

Portraits andTypes, 117-8 to near the end of his reign
The world of portraits and associations on coins is more varied than that of statuary!

04 X 99  AR denarius  Hadrian (AD 118: Cos II).  Laureate bust right.  IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG.  Rev:  PAX (looking like Abundantia, with cornucopiae and ears of grain): P M TR P  COS II (the second consulship is AD 118).

15 V 00 AR denarius.  Hadrian, left-draped bust to r., laureate: IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS [AVG.  Pietas stg frontal, facing l.  P M TR P  COS II and PIE TAS across field.  AD 118.  RIC 45.
This Rome mint denarius shows Hadrian at the beginning of his reign.  Compare the fourth coin, below.  Note, too, that this bust is what, to be accurate, is described as 'bare, with drapery on his left shoulder'.  Altogether bare would communicate some degree of real divinity, and the reverse type (whose meaning need not always be significantly related to the obverse) claims only Pietas (not quite the same as modern piety, but expressive of family and civic values).

04 I 00 AR denarius  Hadrian / Aeternitas with heads of sun and moon.  Obv. IMP CAESAR TRAIN HADRIANVS AVG  Rev.T]R P  COS.DES  III, and, r. and l. of figure, AET AVG.  Eternity stands facing, but her head, facing left, regards the head of Sol (radiate) which she holds in her r. hand, rather than that of Luna (crescent on crown) which she holds in her left.
Like most beginning collectors (once I'd gotten over the thrill of owning an Apollo Sauroktonos different from the one in G. M. A. Richter's Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks), I was attracted by  subjects, generically astrological, that someone had taught me belong to Late Imperial art, not Flavian to Hadrianic.  Collecting denarii (and not only in these instances) taught me otherwise: even Augustan is not early for astrology.  But the Aeternitas coins make plain that the line between symbology/iconology and astrology is hard to draw—and we do not, I think, see here anything like Sufi Islam or US American Holy Rollers.
The portrait of Hadrian here is one of those that the textbooks call still rather Trajanic, but the mood of the portrait is already different and notably less swan-necked.

31 X 00 AR denarius.  Trajan (RSC, 1968, 3a: with slight drapery on far shoulder; RIC 91).  IMP TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P (AD 103-112).  Rev. Aeternitas, veiled, stg looking l., holding the heads of the Sun and the Moon.  AET AVG across field and COS V  P P  S P Q R OPTIMO PRINC around Aeternitas.
So within months (while I was still using Roman numerals for months, which gets them out of order of acquisition), I was delighted to get a Trajan only five or six years earlier than the Hadrian.  Trajan's portraits, in all media, are remarkably consistent.

One of the cities named Aegeai (or -ae) is right at the crotch (or armpit, if you prefer) where Asia Minor meets Syria: east of Tarsus and north of Antioch.  Its bronze coinage just shows a goat; it is the canting badge of Aegeai.  The autonomous (early in his reign) silver "tetradrachms" (not very pure, but the shinier ones like the first here are also lighter), instead of the usual Syrian eagle reverse, have rather delightful mythological subjects.  They are dated, too.  ETOUS DELTA-XI-RHO, which is AD 117-8 in the Caesarian calendar.  And the ethnic is AEGAION.
The obv. legend on both is: AUTOKR KAIS TRAIANOS ADRIANOS SEB (the legends in Greek letters, of course).
The upper portrait, with Amaltheia (search, which includes all the sources), is very strikingly comparable with the PIETAS denarius at the top.
Prieur, Aegeae, p. 85, no. 716.  Amaltheia.  With Aegeai's goat as the type, Amaltheia with her Horn, dandling the infant Zeus, is a natural choice.
Prieur, Aegeae, p. 85, no. 717. Perseus, with harpe.  The harpe, the weapon that decapitated Medousa, is usully curved like a sickle.  Perseus is properly shown as a mere boy.  The portrait of Hadrian is just slightly sturdier, and cuirassed.
Recently published, at the time these coins were available, was:
M. & K. Prieur, The Syro-Phoenician Coins Tetradrachms and their Fractions, from 57 BC to AD 253, Classical Numismatic Group, 2000.

Notice that this little hemidrachm, which was one of my earliest acquisitions and looked curious to me, considered as a portrait of Hadrian, is clearly related to the Pax and Pietas at the top of this Post.  Caesarea in Cappadocia had a long-standing franchise to mint official silver for Rome.  It is the modern Keyseri in Turkey, south of Ankara.  I wonder if my pretty galley (at bottom) could be Cappadocian.

04 X 99  AR hemidrachm (smaller than a dime) of Caesarea in Cappadocia (Asia Minor).  Hadrian, laureate bust to r.   Transliterated the legend is AUTO KAIS TRAI ADRIANOS SEBAST, the Greek equivalent to Imp Caes Trai Hadrianus Aug.  Reverse: Nike advancing r., holding palm and wreath.  EpsilonTauDelta in field is Year 4, or AD 120.  Only a few provincial mints were authorized to issue silver.

Paris, Louvre.  From Heraklion in Crete.  Finely carved, very deliberately Greek, with Athena's gorgoneion on his cuirass.  Beginning in AD 127, he traveled in Greece, usually with Antinoos.  His visit to the Olympieion in Athens and his addition of the epithet Pater Patriae lies behind the Louvre's dating to 127-8.

This finely considered and beautifully carved Greek statue or bust of Hadrian in the Louvre is dated by comparison with coins adding the title PP, Pater Patriae.  The only sestertius of Hadrian readily at hand also may show Hadrian just past his 50th year (he was born in AD 76, in Spain, which is not to say that that he was an Iberian any more than an Anglo-American would be a certified Native American.  The statue, ex-New Iberia (see last Post) surely was thought to be comparable with these PP but not elderly Hadrians.
30 05 07 Æ25 8.07g axis 11h  Egypt, Alexandria.  Hadrian, laureate, draped bust from behind.  Rev., Isis enthroned to r., suckling Harpokrates.  Lotus-bud crown.

This coin debuted in my favorite thread in Forum Ancient Coins: 
What is so great about it is that so many specialists with so many angles and depth of knowledge contributed to it.  True, I initiated it (teaching ancient Egyptian art I brought interest in Isis to my novitiate in ancient coins) with another, lovelier Isis, but the thread became richer than any one of us could have made it.  I keep dreaming of a blog working this way.  If only people weren't (perhaps) afraid of looking silly. In Forum, no one minds looking silly, and we all help one another.

Aegeai in Cilicia
25 03 09 AR4dr Cilicia Aegeae  Prieur cf no. 721 (with long obverse legend)  I cannot read the date on reverse, and this specimen is not illustrated in Prieur, but the long obv legend resembles their no. 721, which dates AD 133-134

Pontos Amisos
12 10 04 ARdr  3.06g  axis 6:00  Pontos Amisos.  Hadrian, laureate, head (with bit of drapery on l. sh.) to r.  AVT K AI TRA ADRIA  |  NOS SEB P P VP G (COS III).  Rev., Demeter veiled stg. frontal, facing l., holding grain in her r., resting on long torch in her l.   AMISOV ELEVTh  |  ERAS ETOVS RZE (=165 =133/4 CE).  Waddington RG I, p. 63, no. 86, pl. IX, fig. 6.
Bithynium Claudiopolis
04 04 08.  AE25.  9.74g, axis 630h.  Bithynium-Claudiopolis.  Hadrian, laureate, bust in armor, from in front.  Rev, Athena in helmet (perhaps with aegis, but not plainly so), wearing peplos, standing r., leaning on spear in her left and holding owl on her l. hand.  For the rev. legend, see http://  For the obverse, at least ADRIANOS (Greek) is plain in the photos here.
Claudiopolis in Bithynia was Antinoos' birthplace.  Not before Hadrian's  first visit there, which was in AD 123 (when Antinoos would have been about twelve).  One of a few portraits that LOOK as if it is based on firsthand knowledge of Hadrian's face in the 120s.

Bithynian mints were very, very good.  Ordinary dies, including many of Rome herself, express Hadrian's aging as he neared 60 by increased formality (as the excellent Aegeai tetradrachm, above, does), but my favorite Hadrian, with Demeter reverse, though contemporary with the Aegeai eagle tetradrachm, really does show a tired-fleshed Hadrian.  The Pontos Amisos denarius that he had struck to honor Sabina when she died shows the famous crouching Aphrodite that may well be the creation of Doidalsos of Bithynia.  Administratively, under the Empire, on the northern coast of Asia Minor, Pontos and Bithynia, side by side, were combined.  See the convenient reference map in David Sear's Roman Provincial Coins, where you can also find lists of equivalent dating systems, for example.
Though my worn, but very rare, Bithynium-Claudiopolis bronze need not be as early as Antinoos's childhood on the occasion of Hadrian's first visit to the place, I suspect that it may be several years earlier than the first PP issues.  A good enlargement of a good photo of the coin can be found in the thread,

Back in Rome
Not all coins marked COS III, but not PP, so far as I have determined, are AD 128 or later.  I do have one Hadrian sestertius,  though, and it looks mature but not elderly (the kind of lively refinement we just saw in Pontos and Bithynia—Rome tended to be somewhat more formal, even in the finest work).  The black goop on the sestertius is typical of coins that had lain on river beds.

27 IX 00 AE sestertius.  Hadrian.  Laureate head r.  HADRIANVS   AVGVSTVS P P.  Rev. Hilaritas stg between two children, boy and girl.  HILARITAS  P R COS III S C.  RIC 970, Sear 1116.
(reference may be to earlier edition)

14 10 08 AR denarius  Rome 3.09g axis 6h.  Hadrian, head, bareheaded, to r.  HADRIANVS  |  AVGVSTVS.  Rev., Tranquilitas, leaning on very slender pillar or column, holding scepter and stg. to l.  TRANQUILIT A  |  S AVG COS III P P.  RIC III, p. 365, no. 222 (a: bare head).

So far as the combing of Hadrian's hair goes and the gracefulness of Hilaritas and Tranquillitas this denarius and sestertius are alike.  Beware of the clogged letters G S, then one I in COS III on the denarius.

09 VI 00 ARden  Hadrian, laureate, draped bust r.  IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG.  Rev., galley oared l., sail furled, P M TR P COS III.

Finally, I do not know how to date the beautifully plump face of the portrait or the unusual galley on this denarius,  which I bought off eBay purely for its appealing design and engraving.  If any of the real Roman numismatists see this, I'd be grateful to be educated.  At one point I thought of the Ephesos mint, but all I can say is that it is atypical for what I know of Rome—and, of course, like Christian apostles and purveyors of other cults, too, and merchants, die engravers and other skilled craftsmen were perfectly free to travel and seek work in Rome.  They only mustn't make forgeries!
I do not keep most of my coins at home, and more than one of these needs to be weighed, too.
A couple of bibliographical first hints to be added.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hadrian, now emigré from the land of Tabasco Sauce

Once the New Iberia bank made aware that the statue ought not to stand  outdoors (though of course it had been exposed to English rain and snow for a century or so), they modified their own front to attach an octagonal pavilion, appropriately honored by a ficus tree (1981) and allowing him to be seen all round.
No longer the only full-length statue of Hadrian in the USA
The best local notice of its sale is on line.

The bank's personnel were proud of Hadrian, chosen as a Good Emperor and so appropriate to their bank.  New Iberia, with only 20-odd thousand inhabitants but the home of one of Louisiana's best known products, Tabasco Sauce, chose the statue for that reason, when it was for sale in New Orleans. When a professor in ancient art brought over a class of about a dozen students from LSU, only about an hour's drive from New Iberia, with the assurance that they would not touch the marble, they were happy to let them into the pavilion with him (also, careful not to tip over the ficus tree in its tub).  It was wonderful for the students (senior undergraduates) who finally understood what restorations look like and appreciate what we mean by heroic scale (about 18% over life size).  They would write a paper on their observations.

To photograph the statue frontal and full length meant through glass and with a combination of the interior and reflections from the street.  By the time that the portrait head indicates, though a man who valued a fine figure, we have here no more his own body than any other emperor's portrait in this type would use.  It is the emperor as Jupiter, just as for Sabina we find the Type of one of the matron goddesses.  I happen not to have a coin for Hadrian as Jupiter, but the point is well made by Vespasian, who certainly never pretended to be glamorous.  Jupiter Custos also happens to be 100% nude:

 26 11 03 AR denarius Max D 19mm  2.52g  axis 6:00.  Rome, AD 75-79.  Vespasian, laureate, head to r.  From 5:00 counterclockwise, IMP CAESAR  |  VESPASIANUS AVG.  Rev.  Jupiter Custos, nude, stg. head facing l, with scepter in his l. and making offering over burning altar with his r. hand.  IOVIS  |  CVSTOS (a footnote says that Iovis is the old nominative form).  RIC II, p. 28, no. 124 b (legend to l.).  The other Iovis Custos are of Titus.  This coin is too light and does not look or feel like silver, but it certainly looks ancient.  Mattingly & Sydenham say that the hybrids are often plated, and this is not a hybrid, since (?) neither die is dated, but it certainly seems to be plated, and for this date it is far underweight.
In any case, half-draped but probably resting on his scepter and pouring a libation from a patera.  The almost "wet" silky drapery is quite Hadrianic, being in a Hellenistic manner (and, in my opinion, the nicest part of the statue).  The woollen cloth, no matter how fine, from which an himation (for this is no kind of a toga but drapery derived from Greek half-draped statues) was made would never hang and cling in this way.  It is not meant as (so to speak) whole cloth.

 It is hard to make out to what extent the hand is restored; certainly the fingers are mended.

In 1968 (the slide masks are dated) a local chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America first had a lovely time with a project and, I'm sure, with a real banquet, and dressed themselves in well researched Greek and Roman garments.  Everyone bought the set of slides at the annual meeting, for teaching as well as for a good cause.  I think the credit goes to North Carolina.  Luckily I scanned the slides before they could fade too badly.  This man is wearing the shorter Republican toga, but I chose it for its colors and because it approximates the pose of Hadrian.  ROMAN MEN DID NOT GO WITHOUT A TUNIC!

The 3/4 side view was taken to show that this is a really good statue: its contrapposto works all round and the body believably continues within the drapery.  The divine torso, also, has well understood classical musculature, and it is just heavy enough for a mature deity or emperor.  By the time we get to Canova, of course, George Washington and even Napaoleon looked ridiculous when sculptors were called upon to deify national heroes in these terms.

The drapery that falls from over his left forearm is suddenly very extravagantly Hellenistic.  I have always wondered whether Hadrian ordered, or relished, or knew about this burst of exuberance (for I would not think that any emperor personally inspected any one of the numerous standard-type portraits set up for him, though Hadrian surely would have ordered and relished the Furietti centaurs and other sculptures at Tivoli).  I am not a specialist in Roman portraits, and obtaining good photos of more than the mug shots is not easy.  I used to wish I were European and could just take the train and go to all the museums when I needed to.  I wish our cast collections in America also didn't have just the same things over and over.  I wish Google Images, for that matter, would not fall into the provincial rut.

It was probably Cornelius Vermeule or Dietrich von Bothmer who provided the dating, AD 127, for this portrait of Hadrian, and I shall try to find the answer.  It has a type of archaizing curls, somewhat modified, and facial proportions that themselves suggest such a dating (and certainly make laughable what the person who composed the "sculpted from life in 127 A.D."—Roman emperors and their families had model types, like the portraits of the Queen of England on her postage stamps, done more or less from life, as needed.  The portraits on Imperial coins likewise.  Hadrian probably chose those archaizing curls on his brow, but it wasn't how his hair grew, surely.

I have put off posting the New Iberia installation of Hadrian, because I wanted to verify that it went to Japan, because I wanted to check what kind of marble it is (it looks Italian, but exposure to weather made it hard to be sure), because I thought I ought to find something like a proper publication of it (or even the sale catalogue).
If anyone reading this knows, please tell us.  As it is, I'll post what I have.
Finally, I am so sorry not to have gotten back to New Iberia again, while I could find him there.
Sold at Christie's, NYC, in 2008, for more than $900,000.  The restorations (old in their own right, so part of 18c art history) were not altered.  

P.S. Seen in ForumAncientCoins:  this cameo shows the statuary type that the ex-New Iberia Hadrian used.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mostly Myrinas

Only a few of the Types can be introduced here
The best general introduction known to me, in English, is still R. A. Higgins, Greek Terracottas, Methuen, 1967 (with a later PB, not nearly so nice).
Similarly, to acquaint oneself with the extraordinary range of Hellenistic sculpture, I think that one of the revised editions of Margarete Bieber's The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, Columbia U. Press, revised edition, 1961, is still indispensable.
Of course, there are all the excavation reports of sites where figurines are found, and all the catalogues of museums that have many of them, but one must start somewhere.  Best, look for terracottas in every museum you visit, and in half a lifetime you will have seen many.
To photograph in color, for teaching, apart from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, which is subject to earthquakes, etc., which may close the upper floor, Paris and Berlin supplied the best light and most generous permissions.
On line, unhappily, there is more repetition than wealth.

I'll post more on miniature sculpture later.  Here, concentrating on the Louvre's Myrinas (that is, made at Myrina, in ancient Mysia), I want to emphasize the color that is preserved on many of them. For they were found in tombs, which is the safest place for a terracotta with water-soluble paint.  What they mean in those tombs attracts all the most fascinated minds.
I'll try to say a few words on each as we go along.

Eros making his rounds on a wintry night, thus clad; on his outstretched left hand he holds a cylindrical object, which seems too tall in its proportions for a cosmetics container and is probably a lantern (an open lamp would blow out as he flew)  that a few strokes of paint  could identify as such.  These 2nd c. BCE Myrinas, especially those from this workshop, have powerful,  truly aquiline wings (compare the Victory of Samothrace) and wonderfully observed anatomy in the legs.  Though little flitting erotes may be shown as babies, the god himself, Eros, is adolescent (appropriately for the urgent and sweet love that it is his mission to deliver).

Aphrodite, risen from the sea (even if the etymology, from 'foan', is untrue), is given a seashell to ride in; the cloth  shown behind her probably was held by erotes (spirits of eros) since aurae (breezes) would be too large in this composition.  The age-old color code for the sexes in art, red-brown or tan for males, white for females, is only one reason for coating the varied colors of regional clay with white engobe.  Here Aphrodite, pearly white, also is set off by the natural red interior of the seashell.  The modeling of the nude is as fine as in any metal or stone.

Showing a lovely woman crouching, after the bath, makes a wonderful Type for Aphrodite,  as indeed is probably intended here: on red-figure vases like that by the Marsyas Painter in the 4th century BC, it is she who is shown crouching, painted white with added clay engobe, surrounded by attendants.  The famous Bithynian statue, known in fine copies from all over the Greco-Roman world, also occurs on Bithynian coins, notably on one minted for Hadrian's empress, Sabina (so the literary documents are probably right) need not have been the unique model for this lovely figurine.  For an artist this complex, folded composition is perfect, fulfilling even the 'rollable downhill' aesthetic of Henry Moore and his followers.  This statuette, though, has damp hair simply tied up and may be thought of as a perfectly human courtesan (like those that Edgar Degas, for the same purely artistic reasons, liked to show in, or just out of, the bath).

For the most part this statuette of Aphrodite Anadyomene, as we call this motif, for her 'rising from the sea' was certainly not new to Sandro Botticelli, preserves only the white coating, but there are sufficient traces to testify to color.  The Anadyomene may be reclining on a seashell, or standing on it, or as an example of the crouching pose, but with her long hair run through her fingers—anadyomene in any case.  Higgins points out that in the best Hellenistic workshops, there were dozens of heads , arms, hairdos, garments in molds that they could and did deftly combine to create variant Nikae and Aphrodites and Erotes.  We must always remember that there were at least as many paintings of all the poses and sculptures and minor arts (gemstones, emblemata for wealthy tableware, earrings, cameos, etc.).  We are dealing with highly professional artisanship, all the higher forms of commercial art that we assume are especially our own.  You could buy what you liked and could afford, and the best terracottas were not at all despicable.

After emphasizing the extreme variability enabled by recombination of piece molds, we must return to the equal fact that one could buy what one wanted: if you knew and appreciated what the lovely Aphrodite of c. 400 BCE looked like, you might also appreciate that a fine freehand foot-tall copy from a center such as Myrina was truer than little marbles executed with running drill (and, yes, themselves painted, though the color does not stick so well to stone).
In various media, big museums like Athens and the Louvre have drawers full of Aphrodite Genetrix, most of them at a reduced scale.  Mme. Semni Karouzou, as I recall, wrote an article on the Athens ones.  It is not to be proven, but if the epithet "Genetrix" (N.B., Latin, not Greek) does allude to Venus as the mother the Julio-Claudian line, it may have been at the time of Myrina's best one, dated early in the 1st c. CE that the small copies multiplied.  Yet it is once again Hadrian's Sabina that has this type labeled Genetrix on her denarii.  Of course, Rome had a temple for Venus Genetrix, but we do not know what type of Aphrodite statue stood in it.  The figurine that has its back to us in this photo is somewhat freer in its expression and proportions, and doubtless it sold well, too.

Eros (left) is shown here nude,  Nike wears  a peplos that opens to reveal her leg.  Nike flying (at least since the famous one at Olympia, by Paionios of Mende, c. 425 BCE) shows the forward leg either bared by the wind or as clothed in "wet drapery".  Berlin has a pair of Eros whose bodies are from the same mold, from House 29 West at Priene (not the one shown above).  Terracotta figurines from building excavation usually retain minimal color, if any.  At Boston and especially in the Louvre there are Nikai and Erotes numerous enough to permit study of the same molds (or molds made from the same matrices).  The smaller figure in the 'Phrygian' cap, wearing leggings but with an upper garment revealing his sex is sometimes labeled Attis, sometimes Hermaphrodite.  

One of the loveliest Eros figurines in the Louvre has one of the nicest Myrina face molds.  It does preserve enough of the red-brown (for male) paint to guarantee its original paint.  This is in the same wall case as the Eros at Night (top of this page), where I could not get a less reddish color balance with my early digital camera, but the masterly modeling of the torso and preserved leg can be appreciated.  Many lifesize statues of this High Hellenistic period have less masterly anatomy and twisting motion.

From my old, grayscale, grainy 1980s images, when a much larger number of Myrinas were exhibited for study, here is one of the erotes with a very similar torso but with his right leg forward.  I used to wonder at the unity of style with many distinctions in pose and garments (or none) every time I came to Paris.
Again, resorting to the older photos, here is one of the nikai  go with the foregoing erotes.  Notice that the feminine figures have less muscular thighs and rib cages.  One is reminded of Netherlands dance companies where the male and female dancers are distinguishable in the same way!  Is this frivolous art?  Perhaps so for many of its purchasers.  It is subtler and in many ways stronger than most of the Tritons and Satyrs in marble.

Turning to the human subject matter that most people think of as "Tanagra" (though many of them are later than Attic and Boeotian Tanagras) and the exquisite lady playing the ancient equivalent of a koto or a ukelele looks to me very like a Myrina (the Louvre does have a good representation of other centers).  The mastery of the relaxed turning posture, with the face expressing social interaction and the full, silken drapery could not be finer if it were in gold or parcel-gilt silver.  Compare the Baker Dancer in the Metropolitan Museum, NY, in most of the textbooks.  Is this not even lovelier?  Is she a Muse (since she is seated on rocks)?  In a world where earthly young women whose musical abilities were lauded as surpassing the muses, I don't think we would be expected to decide.

The effect of a silk himation over a garment of heavier cloth, with the main folds showing through the silk, striking enough in marble (including one statue from Priene) or metal (as in the breonze Baker Dancier), is even more delightful in this painted terracotta, where the color showing so as to suggest very thin, gossamer silk.  The fold of the veil over the brow and the leaf-shaped fan (not to mention the drapery formula, famous from the Herculaneum Women statues and from a late 4th c. BCE funerary statue from Athens itself) are thought of as Tanagran.  When we speak of color in sculpture, we often mean that it is gaudy.  High Hellenistic art is not gaudy; it depends on how it's done, how essential it is.  True, the values of painting and of sculpture merge here.  Gérome, creating his statue of "Tanagra", belonged to the generation when color preserved on many of the figurines.

Back in Berlin, on two exceptional figurines,  no. 8 nearer us preserving much of the white underpainting,  no.7, with the woman holding a baby showing the red clay, at first glance look simply human, but the woman with a baby, though doubtless based on studies of real women, might just as well be regarded as a Nymph.  Let no one suppose that Elizabethan poets, or even the generation of Catullus, invented these conceits.

So what is the meaning of these figurines, found in sanctuaries as votives, in houses perhaps simply as bric-a-brac, in tombs as offerings to the deceased?  
Just the other day I heard, in a Radio forum, someone that may have been reading Homo Necans arguing that the Parthenon frieze was not a representation of a civic festival but something more spiritual (???).  The question of the figurines' meaning seems to me to demand a broader perspective.  Just as the hosts of winged Nikai are not commemorations of military victories, as the Victory of Samothrace alighting on the prow of a ship must be, nor angels, though certainly greeting card angels are themselves vague—and our winged Myrina nikai, if I am right in thinking of wingedness as signifying asomatoi (unbodily characters), as are also the swarms of erotes—as funerary gifts  placed in tombs simply gifts of those who commemorate and mourn the loss of carnal joys with the death of the flesh.  A baby might be given a rattle or a toy cart or a pet animal.  Perfumes and unguents were fit for both men and women, and enjoyment of Psyche's  Eros, the son and agent of his mother Aphrodite.  As for the lovely ladies, even when nominally muses or nymphs, they seem to me to embody the evolved social life of the cities in whose cemeteries they are found.  Sometimes, considering the figurines found in houses, I think of all those St. Joseph altars on which my artistically naive friends and neighbors pile all their favorite dolls and gewgaws and ribbons as well as a votive candle.  What do those mean, exactly?  Exactly?  Their pleasure in adorning something for that saint.  The embellishment of reverence.  And what about all the teddy bears and the like brought and left for Princess Diana and, for that matter, all those who died at the World Trade Center?  How would we analyse and define all the sentiments, and group action, of these things?  The coroplasts provided the full range of what was demanded, what pleased, what sold.  The art historian is interested in how he surpassed the requirements of piety.
That is what I think, but I may need to read, or read again, the authors of antiquity.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Other Great Achaemenid Palace: Susa

Louvre, from Susa.  Like the glazed brick wall visible behind the people for scale, this beautifully mounted  typical addorsed capital on vertical volutes (used in Traditional Art History blog to illustrate, as usual, the Achaemenid type), comes from the OTHER Apadana, that at Susa.
In the age of Information Technology, the ministries long housed in the long wings on the north side of the Louvre no longer needed to be in the center of Paris—and, I daresay, they also needed more space. I have been given to understand that we owe to François Mitterand the museum's bringing its great Near and Middle Eastern treasures into the brightest naturally lit galleries in the Louvre.  Of course, excavating to reveal the medieval palace and the unique opportunity afforded by excavating down to bedrock in the courtyards before erecting the glass pyramids made the late 20th century one of the great periods in the whole history of the Louvre.
In my youth I had seen the Susa procession of the Darius's Ten Thousand but in photos in grayscale.  On my last visit and with my first digital camera I saw and photographed with everything a 2 megapixel Nikon 775 could do, I saw why the Susa Darius inscription mentioned the Babylonian contribution to this palace.
Yes, the columns are of stone with crossing cedars of Lebanon for the ceiling of the apadana, but all the figural reliefs on the walls are of molded glazed brick.
I do not know whether at Persepolis the reliefs had added color; I think not, since getting paints to adhere was difficult or impossible.  In any case, as at Babylon's Ishtar Gate there can be little doubt that color was desirable.  Also, the cobalt blue of Babylon evidently was unavailable in Achaemenid Persia ('Iran' designates the larger area and for all periods).
Remarkably, the style, the formal, disciplined, highly designed Achaemenid version of Babylonian prototypes corresponds exactly to the glyptic (cut stone) work at Persepolis, both in the animals and in the draped, pleated garments of the processions.  As in the architecture, the remarkable combination of traditional Persian and Elamite building traditions with Egyptian and Ionian elements is the uniform and disciplined creation of the architects and sculptors that Darius had brought to work for him.  No such perfect synthesis is known elsewhere, and its importance is only greater for the Achaemenids and Greeks having carried it east, where it became an essential component of early Buddhist art and architecture.
The more delicate colors on the glazed brick relief at Susa surely is due to their use of their own metal elements.  I'll add a footnote if I can find a laboratory analysis.

There are rooms full of these armed bodyguard.  Also dating from the end of the 6th c. BCE, these exhibit the pleated hems of their full sleeves and of their shirts.  I do not doubt that this detail comes from Late Archaic Greece (Darius says he employed Ionians, after all).  Great pains are taken to match the preserved ancient glaze.  Who would have guessed that their garments were so richly embroidered?
As at Persepolis, where the procession goes upstairs, so does the frieze..
In the center, where right-processing guards meet left-processing guards, there  is a legend, in cuneiform (since the Achaemenids use the writing that is by now as much as 3,000 years old and was devised for wholly foreign Sumerian language.
Our thinking of sphinxes as feminine is late (probably due to the grammatical gender of the Greek word), but the Greek ones of the Late Archaic period also look backward when they guard tombs.

These are lion-griffins.  Notice the careful spiral of the tails.  As I recall, the upper image is more accurate for color.

Saving the best for last, compare both the Assyrian male lions  and the Babylonian ones.  Here we have a feast of design for its own sake but with no loss of fierceness.

The Louvre also has an earlier, Assyrian lion official weight, but I don't have a digital photo of it.    The comparison in all media is similar.  When the Assyrian weight was made, money was not yet widespread, but by the time of Darius I, the Ionians and Lydians were minting a lot, and one or both of them minted Darics for Darius.