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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

This group tells a part of the story of Dirce


[Illustration:

FIG. 51.--THE LAOCOON GROUP.]

In the Laocoon group it appears that the eldest son will save himself, and in certain minor points the sculptors seem not to have followed the account of Virgil; but we see that it must be the same story that is illustrated, and we know that it was told with some variation by other poets. This group is a wonderful piece of sculpture, but it is not of the highest art, and it is far from pleasant to look at. The same is true of another famous group which is in Naples, and which is also from the Rhodian school.

I mean the Farnesian Bull, or the Toro Farnese. This group was made by APOLLONIUS and TAURISCUS, who are believed to have been brothers. It was probably made at Tralles, in Caria, which was their native place, and sent by them to Rhodes, the great art-centre; from Rhodes it was sent to Rome, where it was in the possession of Asinius Pollio. This splendid group, which is probably the original work, was found in the Baths of Caracalla, in 1546, and was first placed in the Farnese Palace, from which it was removed to the National Museum in Naples, in 1786 (Fig. 52).

This group tells a part of the story of Dirce, who had incurred the hatred and displeasure of Antiope, the mother of Amphion, who was King of Thebes and the husband of Niobe. In order to appease the wrath of his mother, Amphion, with the aid of his twin-brother Zethus, bound Dirce

to the horns of a wild bull to be dashed to pieces. All this takes place on Mount Cithaeron, and it is said that after Dirce had suffered horrible agonies the god Dionysus changed her into a fountain, which always remains upon this mountain.

In this piece of sculpture, dreadful as the idea is, there is less of horror than in the Laocoon, for the reason that the moment chosen is that just before the climax of the catastrophe, while in the Laocoon it is in its midst. The latter group is made to be seen from but one side, and was probably intended for a niche; but the Farnese Bull is perfect, and presents a finished aspect on all sides and from every point of view. There are numerous accessories and much attention to detail, while the rocky base represents Mount Cithaeron and the wildness of the scene in a manner not before known in sculpture. The group has been much restored, but its excellences support the theory of its being the original work of the Greek artists, and the skill with which the various figures are brought into one stupendous moment is such as commands great praise and admiration; it is doubtful if any other work of sculpture tells its story with power equal to that of this celebrated group.

[Illustration: FIG. 52.--THE FARNESE BULL.]

[Illustration: FIG. 53.--GALLIC WARRIOR. _Venice._]

After the art of Rhodes that of Pergamon was important. When Attalus I., King of Pergamon, gained his victory over the Gauls, in B.C. 229, the Greek artists were aroused to new efforts to record in sculpture the great deeds of Attalus and to place him on a level with the glorious heroes of their nation who had preceded him. It is recorded that the conqueror himself offered four groups of statues at Athens, and that they stood on the southern wall of the Acropolis. The subjects were: "The Battle of the Gods and Giants," "The Battle of Athenians and Amazons," "The Battle of Marathon," and "The Destruction of the Gauls in Mysia by Attalus." Thus the different epochs of Greek history were represented, and Attalus placed himself near the other great warriors who had preserved the honor and freedom of their nation. These groups consisted of many figures, and are estimated to have been from sixty to eighty in number. It is believed that at least ten of them are now in European collections--that is, three in Venice, four in Naples, one in Paris, one in the Vatican, and the last in the Castellani collection in Rome. This picture of one of those in Venice seems to represent a warrior who has been suddenly thrown down; his weapons and shield--which last was probably held in the left hand--have been dropped in the violence of the shock which has prostrated him (Fig. 53). His face and hair are of the barbarian type, and the power and elasticity of his powerful frame are manifest even in this moment of his defeat. He is yet unwounded, but the weapon of his adversary may be before his eyes, and in another moment he may sink back in the agony of death.


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