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A Roman Minor Sculpture

A Roman Minor Sculpture

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Published by Pino Blasone
Whatever concept we may have learnt on an ancient Roman grandeur, monumentality was not the only nor the main form of expression. There was a widespread Greco-Roman sculpture, influenced by Hellenistic more than by Classical art, which was closer to everyday - or everytime - and everyone's life. Often, it was not devoid of an emblematic sense, anyway. Even when those artworks were copies after Greek originals, not seldom they became "variations on theme" better than mere replicas. Nor all modern restorers altered them, in an arbitrary way. Nay, a few of these artists virtually collaborated with the copyists and the authors of the past, in a kind of long lasting creative "joint venture".
Whatever concept we may have learnt on an ancient Roman grandeur, monumentality was not the only nor the main form of expression. There was a widespread Greco-Roman sculpture, influenced by Hellenistic more than by Classical art, which was closer to everyday - or everytime - and everyone's life. Often, it was not devoid of an emblematic sense, anyway. Even when those artworks were copies after Greek originals, not seldom they became "variations on theme" better than mere replicas. Nor all modern restorers altered them, in an arbitrary way. Nay, a few of these artists virtually collaborated with the copyists and the authors of the past, in a kind of long lasting creative "joint venture".

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Published by: Pino Blasone on Feb 15, 2014
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06/05/2014

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 De même que, dans l’histoire des événemens de ce monde, les faits arrivés dans un temps sont les causes, et pour ainsi dire les germes, des faits qui arrivent dans les temps suivans, ainsi dansl’histoire des Arts les formes emblématiques employées dans les premiers âges devinrent les principes ou les germes, qui dans les siécles suivans développèrent, par des formes plus ingénieuseset plus savantes, les idées rendues primitivement par des formes plus grossières.
Pierre-François H. d’Hancarville
1
Pino Blasone
Intimate and Emblematic: A Roman Minor Sculpture
1 – Polyhymnia, “The Pensive Muse”, ar!ial vie"s# $e!!y %illa,Mali&u, 'ali(ornia )(rom !he ancien! 'remna, in !oday’s Tur*ey+a&ou!  . /.0+ and 'ai!oline Museums, 'en!rale Mon!emar!ini,ome. elia&ly, &o!h coies descend (rom !he same los! ori2inal,ascri&ed !o Philiscus o( hodes1“3i*e in !his "orld his!ory !he even!s "hich haened are !he causes and, so !o sea*, !he 2erms o( !hose "hich "ere 2oin2 !o haen, !hus in !he his!ory o( ar! !he em&lema!ic (orms ado!ed in an early a2e &ecame rinciles or 2erms, (rom "here in la!er cen!uries !he ideas rimi!ively and rou2hly e4ressed "ill develo in!o more in2enious and conscious (orms” )in
 echerches sur !"#$%&%'() !"(+$%- (- !(+ $#&$+ /(+ 0$-+ /( !0 1$2(333
, 3ondon# B. leyard, 1567+ . 890. 8! is eviden!, accordin2 !o !he French ar! his!orian, (ine ar!s "ere a&ove all a mimesis o( ideas, as "ellas his!ory o( ar! "as a his!ory o( ideas, lon2 a(!er Pla!o &u! no! lon2 &e(ore :an! and He2el.
1
 
The “Pensive Muse”
;o many !imes "e have read !ha! !hese e4!an! ar!"or*s are <us! simly coies o( $ree* ori2inals, moreover mos!ly los!. =ha! seems !o &e !rue, &u! only in ar!. 8( "e consider !hema!!er "ell, "e shall reali>e !ha!, ra!her, !hey are varia!ions on !hemes su22es!ed &y aHellenis!ic ar!. 8n !he his!ory o( ar!, rarely ree!i!ion and di((erence reached such a mu!ual &alance. Those ro!o!yes "ere on !he "ay !o &ecome oular arche!yes, and $reco-oman ar!is!s – in our case, !he scul!ors o( !he imerial a2e – "ere !he o(!en anonymousau!hors o( !his !rans(orma!ion. They "ere crea!ive ar!is!s, no! mere imi!a!ors, any"ay. ?ven"hen imi!a!ion or !he “varia!ion on !heme” "as !heir main ac!ivi!y, no! seldom !his "as sodi((eren!ia!ed and re(ined, as !o &e no! necessarily valued as a minor level o( e4ression.=ha! a *ind o( !hemes@ Their (avoured su&<ec!s, o( course as "ell as !hose o( !heir Hellenis!ic models, "ere &orro"ed (rom a daily li(e. Then, !ha! "as an in!ima!e and nearlyimmu!a&le "ay o( li(e, no! needin2 !o &e (reAuen!ly uda!ed or re-con(i2ured as i! mi2h!occur !oday, "hen rhy!hms and (orms o( li(e i!sel( may easily chan2e year &y year.! !imes, anyho", !he su&<ec! could 2ro" em&lema!ic. For ins!ance, i! mi2h! haveassumed a my!hic or reli2ious aearance. This is !he case o( !he so called “Pensive Muse”.l!hou2h her $ree* name Polyhymnia )CDEGI0 means “!he one o( many hymns”, amon2!he Muses she is !he mos! inde!ermina!e+ nay, her loo* is a &i! mys!erious. /iscrean!!radi!ions "an! !ha! she is a 2odli*e a!ron o( !he sacred hymns, o( !he lyric oe!ry, o( !he an!omime... 8n a side relie( o( !he “;arcoha2us o( !he Muses” in !he 3ouvre Museum a!Paris )17-1J . /.0, "e can see !he scene o( ;ocra!es, sea!ed in conversa!ion "i!h as!andin2 Muse, lis!enin2 !o !he hilosoher "hile res!in2 her le(! el&o" on !he !o o( a smallcolumn. 8( "e loo* a! !he (ron! o( !he same ar!"or*, "here !he nine Muses are deic!ed, in!he middle "e may no!ice a li*e (i2ure o( youn2 "oman, leanin2 on!o a shor! illar in a!hou2h!(ul a!!i!ude. Her el&o"s are res!in2 on !he illar. Kne hand is suor!in2 her chin.;he is Polyhymnia.  di((erence "i!h !he Muse o( ;ocra!es – ano!her alle2ory, (or hisin!ima!e “daemon”@ – is a veil ar!ly coverin2 her head, "hereas !ha! o( !he (ormer is &are.
=ha! does i! mean@ 8s Polyhymnia !o &e re2arded as a Muse o( hilosohy !oo@ Moreli*ely, she came !o reresen! an inner re(lec!ion, recedin2 !he e4ecu!ion o( a "or* o( ar! or li!erary comosi!ion, as much as – even !hou2h e4ce!ionally – a !hin*er’s s!ruc!uralreasonin2. 3e! us read !he $reco-?2y!ian Lonnus o( Panoolis, in !he 7
!h
 &oo* o( hismy!holo2ical eic oem
 Dionysiaca
, "hen he descri&es a er(ormance o( Polyhymnia a! !he"eddin2 o( 'admus and Harmonia# “;heN "aved her arms, and s*e!ched in !he air anima2e o( a soundless voice, sea*in2 "i!h hands and movin2 eyes in a 2rahic ic!ure o( silence (ull o( meanin2” )early 7
!h
 cen!. '. ?.+ !rans. =. H. /. ouse0. Ondou&!edly, !here!he re(erence is !o a mimic dance. 8! is also !rue, !ha! “ima2e o( a soundless voice” may readli*e allusive !o some!hin2 !aci! "hich rises inside !he soul, or "i!hin our minds, &e(oreado!in2 !he (orm o( any seech, (i2ural e4ression or musical score. 8n sum, Polyhymnias!ands (or !he insira!ion i!sel(, ho"ever ar!is!ic or secula!ive i!s ou!come mi2h! &e. Lever!heless, alon2 "i!h her sis!ers, !he “Pensive Muse” "as a dau2h!er !o Memosyne,
8n !he
4ymposium
 &y Pla!o, indeed "e read a di((eren! oinion a&ou! Polyhymnia, "ho !here is  laced a(!er Orania in a sym&olic comarison and oosi!ion. 8n (ac! Orania, more conven!ionally !he Muse o( as!ronomy, "as held as !he mos! lo(!y and siri!ual amon2 her sis!ers. e! !his hyer&ole – in reali!y, an e4cess o( Pla!onic idealism – "as ascri&ed !o !he  hysician ?ry4imachus, no! !o ;ocra!es, "ho is also a charac!er in !he same dialo2ue.
 
!he 2oddess o( memory. ;o, "illin2ly she "as deic!ed "hile holdin2 a scroll in one hand)o!her !imes, !his is a lyre0, almos! !o remind !ha! her (inal !as* "as !o ma*e us !rans(use our  ossi&le insira!ion in!o a "or* o( ar! or li!era!ure, "hich is !ransmissi&le (rom 2enera!ion !o2enera!ion and susce!i&le !o render !he au!hor "or!hy o( raise and (ame# o&viously, i( onlyhe is *no"n.
Q
 e! !he mos! "idesread icono2rahy o( Polyhymnia remains !ha! one, carvedand illus!ra!ed on !he (ron! o( !he “;arcoha2us o( !he Muses”, in !he 3ouvre. s a nice 2irlin !he same os!ure and a!!i!ude, !here "e can admire also a s!a!ue o( her, a oman coya(!er a Hellenis!ic e4emlar. 8n !he
5elebrated 6ravels and 6ravellers
, a non-(ic!ion eisodein his roduc!ion, Rules %erne haened !o "ri!e a&ou!# “mon2 !he an!iAue s!a!ues o( "hich !he 3ouvre is (ull, !here is one o( Polyhymnia, "hich is cele&ra!ed a&ove !he res! (or an e4ression o( melancholy ensiveness no! usually (ound amon2 !he ancien!s”.
S
l&ei! inciden!ally reor!ed &y !he French science (ic!ion novelis!, !his oinion ishi2hly relevan!. c!ually, i( "e o&serve ano!her coy o( !he same scul!ure, curren!ly in !he'ai!oline Museums'en!rale Mon!emar!ini a! ome, even &e!!er "e "ill 2e! a"are !ha! !hee4ression o( her (ace is a valid mo!ive (or !he modern de(ini!ion “Pensive Muse”. ;hes!ares in!o !he dis!ance, as i( medi!a!in2 uon some!hin2 &eyond an ordinary ran2e o( vie".s !o melancholy, indeed i! seems !he re(lec!ion in her eyes o( !he consciousness o( our o"nimo!ence !o 2a>e (ur!her, ra!her !han a real (eelin2 in !he mar&le hear! o( !he Muse )desi!esome resem&lance, she is no! !he
 7elancolia
, much la!er ersoni(ied and en2raved &y ./Urer0. The more !his divine Polyhymnia loo*s li*e a common, musin2 2irl, !he more her (i2ure may aear some"ha! disconcer!in2.  s!ran2e de!ail is a ri2h! closed hand, "hichshe u!s under her chin. Tha! (is! is covered &y !he clo!h o( a lar2e $ree*
him8tion
, "hichs"a!hes her vir2inal &ody !oo. ! !he same !ime, her lon2 hair is accura!ely !ied u in a &unon !he &ac* o( her head. ?very!hin2 is so s!udied, as !o ma*e s!and ou! an essen!ial &eau!y.The “Pensive Muse” "as one o( !he mos! imi!a!ed, and emula!ed, in ancien! !imes.May a coy &e &e!!er !han !he ori2inal@ The (ull round scul!ed s!a!ue in !he 'en!raleMon!emar!ini su22es!s i! !o &e ossi&le, even more !han !he dama2ed one in !he 3ouvre,rein!e2ra!ed in 156 &y !he 8!alian 2os!ino Penna. Bu! ours "ould remain a 2uess, "i!hou!an ori2inal !o comare "i!h. By con(ron!in2 !he coies in !oday’s museums, "e can res!orean ima2e o( such a los! ro!o!ye.
7
 &le !o 2ive rise !o so many, more or less (ai!h(ulrelicas, !ha! had !o &e an ideal mas!eriece a! leas!. ;ome have a!!ri&u!ed i! !o Philiscus o( 
QMore rarely, she may &e deic!ed "hile holdin2 her inde4 on her chee* or mou!h, such as in a  Leoclassical s!a!ue !oday in !he “$arden o( !he Muses” a! !he chilleion Palace, 'or(u, $reece. 8! is in!eres!in2 "ha! !he comoser 82or ;!ravins*y "ro!e a&ou! in
 An Autobiography
, in 1VQJ# “Polyhymnia, (in2er on lis, reresen!s mime. s 'assiodorus !ells us# WThose sea*in2 (in2ers, !ha! eloAuen! silence, !hose narra!ives in 2es!ure, are said !o have &een inven!ed &y !he Muse Polyhymnia, "ishin2 !o rove !ha! man could e4ress his "ill "i!hou! recourse !o "ordsX”. Be!!er !han !o a mimic silence, indeed, !ha! 2es!ure seems re(era&le !o a 2eneral musin2 a!!i!ude.S8n R. %erne,
5elebrated 6ravels and 6ravellers
, Par! 888# “The $rea! ?4lorers o( !he Line!een!h 'en!ury”+ 'ha!er 88# “French 'ircumnavi2a!ors” )!rans. L. /’nvers0.7For e4amle, in !he %a!ican Museums a! ome+ in !he Lales rchaeolo2ical Museum+ in !he l!es Museum a! Berlin+ in !he $e!!y %illa a! Mali&u, 'ali(ornia+ in !he rchaeolo2ical Museum o( /elos, $reece )!he oldes! e4emlar# ca. Q
rd
 cen. B. '.+ al&ei! maimed, i! ma*es ro&lema!ic !he a!!ri&u!ion o( !he “ori2inal” !o Philiscus o( hodes0.  cas! (rom a s!a!ue resuma&ly o( !he same !yolo2y, !he (ra2men! o( a (ine head, is also (ound in !he Push*in Museum a! Mosco".
Q

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