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Babette Babich

Friedrich NIETZSCHE, Human, All-too-Human I 258
Friedrich Nietzsche, KSA 10,7 [151], p. 292
Martin HEIDEGGER, Phenomenology and Theology
1111111 .. 111 hat follows proposes a hermeneutic and phenomenological inquiry
into the ethical and political role of life-sized (or roughly so) bronz-
es in ancient Greece, although I will also be raising more general
aesthetic and philosophical questions. In particular I call attention
to the significance of the claims the ancients make regarding the
sheer number of such statues in Greek cities such as Rhodes, Athens, Olympia,
etc., claims contemporary scholarship does not dispute so much as diminish. Just
HX!S1J:'NTIA vol. XVII. pp. 423-471. 2007.
(j) 2007 Socielils Philosoplzia Classica. Printed in 1 fungary.
as we are often reminded that people in ancient days, or even a few hundred
years ago, were much smaller than they are today, so too it is suggested that the
ancient Greeks, for all their technical prowess, and so too the Romans, for all
their economic savvy, had trouble counting. But, if we assume that the figures in
question-such as the thousands per city the elder Pliny tells us still remained
after the conquest of the same Greek cities-have any substance, the question to
be posed asks why? Why so many large, life-scale bronze statues or other statues
of painted stone or else of polychrome or gilded wood? To ask this question is to
ask another and related question: what was it like to live among so many, so very
many statues? For one would, by any count of it, be living amongst a ready-made
citizenry: an already populated polis ( nol.ts ).
Given the role of life-size statues in our public spaces today, in civic centers or
public squares, one might be inclined to suppose that the effect of living among
so many statues in ancient Greece would have been aesthetic, however surreal
or exceedingly so: a life in the midst of 'art,' like the life of a night-watchman in
a museum. Related to this is the supposition that just as we surround ourselves
by billboards (and on a smaller scale, by magazine images) showcasing beautiful
people, the young and desirable models used for advertising and selling every-
thing from soup to cars to stereos and real estate, so too the ancient Greeks
surrounded themselves with bronze ideals. Modernist readings are distinguished
by their tendency to find such commonalities between antiquity and modernity.
This is also at work in the contemporary scholarly question of desire: perhaps the
effect of so many statues was intended to be erotic, part of the same cult or fertil-
ity rite that stood behind nothing less than Greek tragedy, if we remember-and
we should-what Nietzsche tells us about the birth of tragedy from the spirit of
the Dionysia and its rites. The role of desire seems plain enough given the politi-
cal importance of Eros (E,xus) in antiquity (this contention is both well attested
and well analysed).
In addition to the studies of Eva Keuls and Kenneth Dover, Jan Elsner's recent Roman
Eyes takes its point of departure from this conventional conviction regarding "fantasies of (and
apparently, according to our sources, even attempts at) sexual intercourse with statues so beauti-
ful as to be better than the real thing." Elsner also includes a footnote referring "to the ancient
literature on aya.A/Aa.w<PtALa. (making love with statues)." J. ELSNER, Roman Eyes (Princeton:
University of Princeton Press, 2007), p. 2. See too and most importantly, Andrew STEWART, Art,
Desire and the Body in Ancient Greece (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) as well
as Karin Moser VON FILSECK, Kairos und Eros. Zwei Wege zu einem Neuverstiindnis griechischer
Bildwerke (Bonn: Habelt, 1990). With respect to epw> and the city, I thank Andrew Stewart for
drawing my attention to R.R. SMITH, "Pindar, Athletes, and the Early Greek Statue Habit," in
Simon Hornblower and Catherine Smith (cds.), Pindar's Poetry, Patrons, and Friends (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 83-139 in addition to Tonia HoLSCHER, "Images and Political
Identity: The Case of Athens," in: D. Boedeker- K. Raaflaub (eds.), Democracy, Empire, and
the Arts in Fifth Century Athens (Cambridge, Mass. 1998), pp. 153-183, and, with refen.:nce to the
role of ,'Ef)<D" and the hunt, see Alain ScHNAPP's Le chasseur et La cite: chusse ct erotique en Grccc
anciennc (Paris: Albin Michel, 1996). See further Norman Bryson's Lacanian studies in art his-
tory as well as more philosophically and much more broadly, Alexander NEHAMAS, The Promise
of Happiness (Princeton: University of Princeton Press, 2007).
The following inquiry follows the tradition of phenomenological reflection on
historical objects in particular. This will involve the kind of attuned or circum-
spect intentionality or "deliberation" [Uberlegung] that has for Heidegger ,the
existential meaning of a making present."
If Gegenwdrtigen may be rendered
as sensing or perceiving, Vergegenwdrtigung has to do with either perception,
whether circumspective attention to an object as given to perception or else a
recollected or imagined perception, as attuned re-presentation, or else to use
Heidegger's more solicitous terms: a letting-be-involved-in an object for atten-
tive inspection which can also include a past object, recalled as what was and
hence not present before us or what is otherwise absent, qua ideal, etc., but in
each case actively representing that object as it would be if it were present to us
and as it would be if we ourselves were available for such a concernful becom-
ing involved. Thus in Being and Time Heidegger speaks of Vergegenwdrtigung as
a modality of making present [gegenwdrtigen ], a rendering present. In this way,
Heidegger is able to attend to presentation as such, emphasizing that such ,mak-
ing present [Vergegenwdrtigung] does not relate itself to 'mere representations
[Vorstellungen ]'."
Heidegger thus describes the "rendering present" [ Gegenwar-
tigung] of made things or artifacts (equipment) as a kind of letting be involved in
(or with) things as things as such and that is to say as self-standing presence in
the world: "As the self-subsistency [Selbstand] of a self-susbistent [Selbstdndigen]
the thing distinguishes itself from an ob-ject [Gegenstand]. A self-subsistent can
become an object when we place it before us, whether it be in direct perception
or in recollected re-presentation [Vergegenwiirtigung]."
Invoking the example of
Martin HEIDEGGER, Sein und Zeit (Erstveroffentlichung: Edmund Husserls, hrsg., in Jahrbu-
ch fur Philosophic und phiinomenologische Forschung 8, Halle an der Saale: Niemeyer, 1927,
Einzelausgabe: Ti.ibingen: Niemeyer,
1979, Gesamtausgabe Band 2, Frankfurt am Main:
Vittorio Klostermann, 1977); idem, Being and Time, trans. by John Macquarrie- Edward Robin-
son, (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 69; p. 410 I SZ, p. 359. [Emphasis corrected. Hereafter
cited as SZ (Einzelausgabe) I BT followed by respective page numbers.] Macquarrie and Robin-
son render Vergegenwiirtigung as "envisaging" but this can cloud Heidegger's reference to making
present, that is to the presentation (or presentification) variously, of the present or of presence as
such. Eugen Fink has also written on Vergegenwiirti,t,:rungwith respect to imagination and memory
This conception of Vergegenwiirtigung can also be heard in Eugen FINK's Vergegenwiittigung und
Bild. Beitriige zur Phiinomenologie der Unwirklichkeit (1930), part of his I 929 inaugural disserta-
tion at Freiburg, first published in thelahrbuchfiir Philosophie und phiinomenologische Forschung
and in his Studien zur Phiinomeno/ogie 1930-1939 (Den Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966). Fink
was to inspire Maurice Merleau-Ponty in aesthetics in addition to Jan Patocka and through him,
Jacques Derrida. See in adition, Dieter JAHNIG, Welt-Geschichte: Kunst-Geschichte. Zum Verhiilt-
nis von Vergangenheitserkenntnis und Veriindenmg (Koln: DuMont Schauberg, 1 975).
SZ, ~ 6 9 , p. 3591 BT, p. 410.
Martin Heidegger, Einblick in das was ist, p. 5. See for a useful discussion of the object
character of things as things that "stand" in themselves (,Das Dingliche, das in sich stehen
bleibt..."), Gunter Figal's Freiburger Antritsvorlesung, ,Die Gegensti:idlichkeit der Welt," in
lnternationales Jahrbuch.fiir Hermeneutik, Band 3 (Ti.ibingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), pp. 123-136.
Figal's reflective theme is reminiscent of the conclusion of Hans-Georg Gadamer's own allusion
to Holderlin and to Goethe in his The Relevance of the Beautiful.
"archaeological excavation"
as an instance of this kind of careful deliberation or
Vergegenwiirtigung, Heidegger engages a specifically art-historical reflection illus-
trated by the "antiquities preserved in museums (household gear for example)."
But Heidegger asks us to attend to the conceptual dissonance involved in speak-
ing of antiquities as such, that is to say, he asks what makes such objects of histor-
ical significance for archaeologists: what is it about these manifestly still-present
objects that counts as 'past': "by what right do we call this entity 'historical' when
it is not yet past?"
The specifically "historical" character of such objects is not their fragility or
ruin-like character for this friability continues in objects preserved or conserved
in the museum-as the visitor is well aware with all the museum's climate controls
and warning protections. Nor does this "historical" quality reside in that such
objects are no longer used, for even in use they would retain this same quality,
which Walter Benjamin famously named an aura and which Heidegger explores
in terms of the being of (the presence of) a world in time. What is past about
such objects is thus a world, a lost world "within which they belonged to a context
of equipment" and within which they "were encountered as ready-to-hand and
used by a concernful Dasein who was-in-the-world. That world is no longer."
this sense the "antiquities which are still present-at-hand have a character of 'the
past' and of history by reason of the fact that they have belonged as equipment to
a world that has been-the world of a Dasein that has been there-and that they
have been derived from that world. This Dasein is what is primarily historical."R
And this same "primary historicality" of human there-being is our theme.
Daedalus, the inventor, is known to us from the tragic story of Icarus. Readers
of Plato also know him as a sculptor of a particularly fantastic legacy inasmuch
Socrates claims him as ancestor, a genealogy consistently maintained in Plato's
Indeed and like Daedalus, Socrates was a skilled artisan, and Euthy-
phro accuses him of having the same capacity to cheat in argument as his forbear
cheated his customers with his moving statues (Meno 97d-98a). Socrates coun-
tered that such a power to dislodge the words of others was too fabulous to be
true. Where Daedalus 'only made his own inventions to move,' Socrates-shades
SZ, p. 358/ B l ~ p. 409.
SZ, p. 380 I BT, p. 431.
SZ, p. 380 I BT, p. 432.
SZ, p. 381 I BT, p. 432.
Beyond Plato, Pausanias tells us that Socrates sculpted the figures of Hermes and the Grac-
es on the Acropolis. Xenophon for his part suggested that it was this technician's experience that
led Socrates to urge the sculptor Kleiton to permit the inner form of the soul to shine through
the outward form of the body. A further study, not concerned with sculpture, rewards attention:
Indra Kagis McKEWEN, Socrates' Ancestor: An Essay on Architectural Beginnings (Cambridge:
MIT Press, 1993).
of Baron von Mi.inchhausen-would have the power to 'move those of other
people as well' (Euth. lld).
What is interesting in the wake of this Platonic mystification is Diodorus
Siculus's demystifying (very enlightened, indeed, very 'modern') analysis of the
precise nature of the renowned
sculptor's technical skill: "Daedalus was an
Athenian by birth and was known as one of the clan named Erechthids, since he
was the son of Metion, the son of Eupalamus, the son of Erechtheus .... In the
sculptor's art he so far excelled all other men that later generations invented the
story about him that the statues of his making were quite like their living models
Jtpt auwv tn6tt ta twv
tois vnciPXu]; they could see, they said, and walk and, in a word,
exercised every bodily function so that his handiwork seemed to be living beings
]" (Diod., IV 76).
Fig. 1.
Statues of the Kouros siblings Cleobis and Biton by Polimede, ca. 590 BCE. 1.976m.
Archaeological Museum, Delphi, Greece. Photo Credit : Borromeo I Art Resource, NY.
'Renowned,' it is salutary to recall here, also translates mythic. Yet and as Nietzsche reminds
us, it is sometimes necessary, for the sake of science, to demystify demystification.
Diodorus Siculus, Librmy of Histo1y, Books IV 59-VII; C. H. Oldfather, trans. (Cambridge:
Cambridge Massachusetts, 2000 [1939]). Apollodorus (Library, B-15.8-9) writes that 'Daidalos
is the son of Eupalmos, son of Etion and Alkippe' and names him the 'best builder and the first
inventor of statues.'
Thus, and like the Diskobolos attributed to Myron, the Doryphoros of Poly-
cleitos (Figs. 2, 3, 4, 5) is a frozen study of 'motion'. So far from actual move-
ment-seeing and walking and otheiWise having the aspect of 'living beings'-
Diodorus explains that Daedalus's statues 'move,' as it were, from the more rigid
poses of earlier statues (e.g., Fig. 1): 'with closed eyes and hands hanging down
and cleaving to their sides' (Diod., IV 76) to the inventive stylization (following
the logical consequence of the argument) of statues that are now said to be 'Dae-
dalian', that is to say, stylistically characterized by 'open eyes, and parted legs and
outstretched arms' (ibid.). In this context it is relevant to recall Alice Donohue's
caveats to art historical analyses in her discussion of the modernist assumptions
haunting the ascription of evolutionary development to aniconic statues (the
'wooden', non-imagistic character of wood statues) as so many 'progressive'
forms, advancing to more representational statues.
Fig. 2.
Doryphoros (Spear Bearer).
Modern bronze reconstruction by Georg Roemer of the original ( 440 BCE by Polykleitos). 6'6" (2m).
Formerly in Munich, destroyed in 1944. Photo Credit. Foto Marburg I Art Resource, NY/
See A.A. DoNOHUE, Xoana and the Origins of Greek Sculpture (Atlanta: Scholars Press,
1988). The presuppositions built into the convention of 'stylistic advance' is the subject of her
recent Greek Sculpture and the Problem of Description, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
Accordingly, the standard image with which so many art historical discussions of
the Greek revolution in sculpture traditionally begin invokes the archaic K o v ~ as
a kind of object example, illustrating the famous departure from columnar rigid-
ity to the (stylized) movement and flexibility of life. (Thus art history students are
taught to contrast Figs. 1 and 2.) In this same conventional or allegorical sense, the
so-called 'movement' of Daedalus' statues is explained in a manner familiar now
to readers for nearly two thousand years, as no more than a figure of speech. In
this way, the reader understands that when the ancient Greeks write that a sculp-
tor gave his statues the power of movement they did not mean (not really) that
their statues moved. One has likewise assumed, given the unmistakably metallic
look of modern bronze, that ancient authors were similarly figurative when they
affirmed that such bronze statues appeared to have the 'look' of life.
Like other Greek statues (of oxen and of horses, or of winged sphinxes or gry-
phons), these life-sized and life-like statues were also striking, as I have already
noted, by sheer dint of their abundance. Not just in gardens and courtyards, status,
especially bronze statues but also statues in wood and marble (and sometimes
combinations of a variety of materials) abounded in public places as well as private
domains. One could find them at the gates, on the walls, delimiting the margins of
city precincts, in the market, on temple steps and within, all about, and together with
reliefs, set up upon the great mystery that is the mystery of the temples themselves.
And the Romans famously and to repeat the standard story of art history (a story
traditionally assumed to be the story of decadence, especially if we believe Nietzsche
on Alexandrian Hellenicism), copied these same Greek statues, not only in bronze,
but also in marble in the Roman fashion (exact copies could be made in marble),
Jean Charbonneaux recalls a directly representative tradition, such that a statue depicting
'a modest young girl ... was said to be a more or less direct portrait of a living model.' Archaic
Greek Art (London: Thames and Hudson, 1971), p. 249. Charbonneaux' quote is the point of
departure for Mary Stieber's study of ancient realism, The Poetics of Appearance in the Attic
Korai (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004 ). In this case one has to consider the art historical
tendency to find the Romans (or else the Hellenized Greeks and at times the Egyptians) capable
of realistic representation but, all the stories of Zeuxis to the contrary, not the Greeks who were,
of course, inevitably inclined to idealism.
These temples are another issue again, as indeed are the monumental representations of
the deity and other colossal statues and the basic technical questions which continue to chal-
lenge us. Not only are we unable to rebuild the Parthenon with ancient techniques today but, as
Manolis Korres has emphasized, even with modern machinery and techniques, it could not be
built in the length of time needed for its original construction. SeeM. KORRES, The Stones of the
Parthenon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
See Margarete BIEBER, Ancient Copies: Contributions to the History of Greek and Roman Art
(New York, 1977) as well as Brunilde RIDGWAY, Roman Copies of Greek Sculpture: The Problem
of the Originals (Jerome Lectures 15, Ann Arbor, 1984). Charbonneux, who draws upon an anal-
ogy with Etruscan techniques (as well as European bronzesmiths of the Renaissance) to point
out that the method of indirect lost wax casting ("eire perdu [casting on the negative]") allows
the preservation (and re-use) of the original model also reminds us that the Greeks themselves
copied bronze status in stone. See CHARBONNEUX, Greek Bronze, trans. by Katherine Watson,
(New York: Viking Press, 1962), pp. 30 and 32sqq. See for a discussion of Roman copies in
Bronze, Carol Mattusch, "The Bronze 'TI1rso in Florence: An Exact Copy of a Fifth-Century B.
C. Greek Original," in American Journal of Archaeology 82/1 (Winter, 1978), pp. 101-104.
arguably engendering the very pure ideal of still and noble grandeur, but also
setting the color of white in our imaginations. This too, as Nietzsche would
say, is still tyronism and error, but no mistake has had more durable influence.
Although we have still more evidence of color, the color of white, indeed of white
marble, endures as the image of Greece today. In 1870 Nietzsche warned us
against the classicizing tendency "to over-Hellenize the Hellene and to conjure
up for ourselves a work of art that was never at home in all the world."
Fig. 3. Fig. 4. Fig. 5.
The Doryphoros (Polycleitos) The Doryphoros Museo The Doryphoros Minneapolis
Vatican Museum, Rome Archaeologico, Naples, 212 cm
Institute of Arts, 198 em.
The tendency to such "over-Hellenization" is hardly absent today, and although
every classicist and every art historian will say that it is well-known that statues
were colored, they are often hard pressed to say what they mean by that Hence
Brunilde Ridgway can begin her 2004 review of the Museum catalogue for the
Munich and Copenhagen and Rome exhibit entitled Bunte Gotter. Die Farbigkeit
antiker Skulptur by remarking: "Not only do Museums and exhibitions fail to stress
sufficiently the role of color in ancient sculpture and architecture, but apparently
many archaeologists today continue to ignore or deny the reality of its import."
Friedrich NIETZSCHE, ,Das griechische Musikdrama", in Kritische Studienausgabe (Berlin:
de Gruyter, 1980), vol. I, p. 518 [Hereafter cited as KSA followed by the page number].
Polykleitos of Argos (5th BCE) Doryphoros (Spearbearer). Roman copy of Greek original (c.
440 BCE). Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, Italy. Photo Credit: Scala I Art Resource, NY.
See Brunilde RIDGWAY's review of Vinzenz Brinkman, Raimund Wi.insche (eds.), ,Bunte
Gotter. Die Farbigeit antiker Skulptur. Eine Ausstellung der Staatlichen Antikensammlungen
und Glyptothek Mi.inschen in Zusammenarbeit mit der Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Kopenhagen
und den Vatikanischen Musseen, Rom (Munich: Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glypto-
thek, 2004)," in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2004.08.07.
arguably engendering the very pure ideal of still and noble grandeur, but also
setting the color of white in our imaginations. This too, as Nietzsche would
say, is still tyronism and error, but no mistake has had more durable influence.
Although we have still more evidence of color, the color of white, indeed of white
marble, endures as the image of Greece today. In 1870 Nietzsche warned us
against the classicizing tendency "to over-Hellenize the Hellene and to conjure
up for ourselves a work of art that was never at home in all the world."
Fig. 3. Fig. 4. Fig. 5.
The Doryphoros (Polycleitos) The Doryphoros Museo The Doryphoros Minneapolis
Vatican Museum, Rome Archaeologico, Naples, 212 cm
Institute of Arts, 198 em.
The tendency to such "over-Hellenization" is hardly absent today, and although
every classicist and every art historian will say that it is well-known that statues
were colored, they are often hard pressed to say what they mean by that. Hence
Brunilde Ridgway can begin her 2004 review of the Museum catalogue for the
Munich and Copenhagen and Rome exhibit entitled Bunte Gotter. Die Farbigkeit
antiker Skulptur by remarking: "Not only do Museums and exhibitions fail to stress
sufficiently the role of color in ancient sculpture and architecture, but apparently
many archaeologists today continue to ignore or deny the reality of its import."
Friedrich NIETZSCHE, ,Das griechische Musikdrama", in Kritische Studienausgabe (Berlin:
de Gruyter, 1980), vol. I, p. 518 [Hereafter cited as KSA followed by the page number].
Polykleitos of Argos (5th BCE) Doryphoros (Spearbearer). Roman copy of Greek original (c.
440 BCE). Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, Italy. Photo Credit: Scala I Art Resource, NY.
See Brunilde RIDGWAY's review of Vinzenz Brinkman, Raimund Wunsche (eds.), ,Bunte
Getter. Die Farbigeit antiker Skulptur. Eine Ausstellung der Staatlichen Antikensammlungen
und Glyptothek Munschen in Zusammenarbeit mit der Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Kopenhagen
und den Vatikanischen Musseen, Rom (Munich: Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glypto-
thek, 2004)," in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2004.08.07.
As Ridgway herself is careful to emphasize, this point is nothing like a recent
discovery and Nietzsche himself invokes it as an important-to-keep-in-mind cor-
rection of a stubborn scholarly/popular prejudice, declaiming in his Basel lecture,
Greek Music-Drama, "Was it not until recently seen to be an unconditional artistic
axiom that all ideal plastic art had to be colorless, that ancient sculpture did not
permit the application of color. Very. slowly, and only under the strongest resis-
tance of these same hyper-Hellenes, did the polychrome vision of ancient statues
advance according to which these were no longer naked but were to be consid-
ered clothed with a colorful overlay."
That this prejudice continues to endure
is itself significant. Indeed we continue to lack the resources for a Heideggerian
Vergegenwiirtigung with respect to such colors including not only the significance
of these colors but also the clothing (and kind of clothing) thereby depicted.
The habit of copying Greek bronzes in stone has a long history from Greece
to Rome and even to the current day, in plaster or bronze composite such that
a case in point might be seen in the imposingly different aspect of the now
destroyed bronze composite reconstruction (Fig. 2) of Polykleitos's much copied
original bronze Doryphoros. The tradition of reflection on the canon provided by
such exemplary copying is perhaps best to be seen by invoking the Doryphoros,
perhaps the most iconic of canons: examples of which are to be seen in Naples
(found in Pompei, Fig 4) and Rome (Fig. 3, found in Trastavere), as well as Min-
neapolis (Fig. 5, found 'in the early 1930's in the sea off Italy")
and plaster cop-
ies to be seen in Lyon, G6ttingen,
Tiibingen, and in Munich now including the
new replacement of the statue that had been destroyed in 1944 (Fig. 2).
My argument here does not turn on the claim that Daedalus' statues actually
moved. Still it is worth noting that Pin dar poetically attests to this possibility in his
seventh Olympian Ode (alluding to 'works' lining the roads: 'like unto beings that
lived and moved').
In addition to Pindar, we recall Nietzsche's repeated (and
KSA 1, p. 518.
See further Hugo MEYER's discussion, "A Roman Masterpiece: The Minneapolis Dory-
pharos," in Warren G. Moon ( ed. ), Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and Tradition (Madison: Wiscon-
sin, 1995), pp. 65-115, here p. 65. Meyer includes a useful comparison of copies. Different from
Bieber, Ridgway and Mattusch, Meyer's question is the question of copies "carved centuries
after the original" in order to reflect on "tradition and its dissolution."
The University of Gottingen collection is online:
The OdesofPindar, trans. by John Sandys (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1915), The
Olympian Odes, VI 52. Sandys, on p. 71, explains that Pindar alludes 'to the mythical
the wizards of Rhodes, who worked in brass and iron and made images of the gods.' J. Douglas
Bruce suggests an alternate translation: 'Works of art like unto living and moving creatures
used to go about their streets.' Bruce, "Human Automata in Classical Tradition and Medieval
Romance," in Modern Philology 10/4 (Apr., 1913), pp. 511-526, here p. 513, citing Wilhelm Christ
in support who adverts, in his 1896 edition of Pindar, to Homer's description of 'handmaidens of
gold ... the semblances of living maids' (Iliad, XVIIsqq.) as aiding Hephaistos. W. J. VERDENIUS,
melancholy) emphasis that the Greeks were already in possession of the techni-
cal know-how to match the mechanical achievements of the life-sized automata
that so inspired Descartes in the 17th century.
1f one is inclined to be amused by
tales of mechanical or dancing dolls (think of Offenbach's Contes d'Hofmann) or
the flight (and return!) of the wooden eagle crafted by Regiomontanus, the tech-
nical prowess of the Greeks goes beyond such tales in the famous Antikythera
mechanism: a complex putatively watch-work mechanism, machined gears and
all, presumably designed to map the cosmic year, fashioned in bronze and very
romantically retrieved from the sands of history and which in the fifties and six-
ties was examined with X-Ray imaging and which now has been further explored
not only with the MRI technology but also and beyond the reconstructive efforts
of an earlier generation, reconstructed with newer schemata for more contempo-
rary sensibilities.
Beyond the marvelous allure of Daedalus' wandering statues and apart from
the debates about Pindar's allusions to such wonders, I have invoked herme-
neutic phenomenology as it is perhaps the single most appropriate method
for aesthetics and in this case for questioning the role of the statue in ancient
Greece. Heidegger himself gives this hermeneutic explanation of phenomenol-
ogy in terms of its Greek etymology: " ... phenomenology means<Pa{vc:a8m
Ta <Pmvol-!c:va-to let that which shows itself from itself be seen from itself in the
very way that it shows itself .... But here we are expressing nothing else than the
maxim ... 'To the things themselves!"'
Pindar's Seventh Olympian Ode. A Commentary (Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing Co.,
1972) concurs with the notion of movement and gives us "they went their own way" and more
recently M. WILLCOCK, Pindar. Victory Odes. Olympians 2, 7, & 11, Nemean 4, Isrhmians 3, 4, &
7 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) has given us "Figures like living and moving
things went along the roads." Ten years later, Patrick O'Sullivan has exhumed the standard and
deflationary translation of KEAEU8ot <j>ipov, arguing that the statues were simply "set up along
the roads." O'Sullivan contends that as he stresses "the lifelike character" of the statues made
by "the Rhodian craftsmen" Pindar means exactly the opposite (such argumentation is no trick
at all in a reading of Pindar): "In telling us that these craftsmen produce works similar to living
creatures ( ~ w o { m v pn;6vnam 8' OI!Ota), Pindar subtly underscores the fact that these crea-
tures were not living or moving." O'Sullivan's smooth use of the disjunction is a nice touch: thus
the author's argument that Pindar declares the creatures as "not living" effectively goes without
saying or indeed argument. O'SULLIVAN, "Pindar and the Statues of Rhodes," in Classical Quar-
terly 55.1 (2005), pp. 96-104.
Derek de Solla Price notes that Descartes himself had 'planned to build a dancing man, a
flying pigeon [like the mechanical dove attributed to Archytas of Tarentum], and a spaniel that
chased a pheasant. Legend has it that he did build a beautiful blonde automaton named Fran-
cine .. .' p. 23 in PRICE, "Automata and the Origins of Mechanism and Mechanistic Philosophy,"
in Technology and Culture 511 (Winter, 1964 ), pp. 9-23. See too, among more recent studies, A. G.
DRACHMANN's The Mechanical Technology of Greek and Roman Antiquity (Madison: University
of Wisconsin Press, 1963).
Price's early efforts were featured in an illustrated article on the device ''An Ancient Greek
Computer" published in The Scientific American (June 1957), pp. 60-67. Recent articles draw
upon more modern methods of detective science than Price had available to him but the new
technologies of exploration leave the question of reconstructing the function of the mechanism
open. Current conclusions do not depart from Price's 1957 assessment.
SZ, p. 34 I BT, p. 58.
A phenomenological analysis concerns 'that which shows itself in itself'
because this is entangled in semblance and error as well as what we fail to see, phe-
nomenology is fundamentally a method, indeed, the science of paying attention. In
this paying attention the focus is on 'letting see,' as Heidegger says, where for the
most part what is to be seen is what does not manifest itself in what is manifest but
'belongs to it so essentially as to constitute its meaning and its ground.'
The art historian Rainer Mack has observed that it is 'a phenomenological fact
that the image looks back, that it succeeds in instantiating the effect of a gaze.'
This point is accord with the account of phenomenological aesthetics cited above,
yet Heidegger also reminds us that 'phenomenology' as a formal expression
'signifies primarily a methodological conception. This expression does not char-
acterize the what of the objects of philosophical research as subject-matter, but
rather the how of that research'.
This 'how' corresponds for Heidegger and for
Fink to reflective questioning and a great deal is already gained once we begin to
raise-or even: once we begin to see-the question of Greek Bronze as a ques-
tion to be asked.
We are told that the Greeks seemingly endowed their statues with the capacity
to interact with passersby or even with the sculptor himself. This is a matter of
form, and, if we are to believe myth, this is also a matter of voice (Daedalus, we
are told, devised a quicksilver-driven mechanism to give his figures the capacity
to speak), of movement, and most commonly, an erotic allure and it is this last
aspect that has been most celebrated in the past few decades (or centuries, to
recall Winckelmann's inauguration of art history and whom we discuss below).
This capacity for interaction is also given explicit expression in inscriptions on
the base (and sometimes on the surface of the statue itself): for even lacking
Daedalus' Hermes-technique or gurgling mercury, the statue, precisely in an oral
SZ, p. 28 I BT, p. 51.
SZ, p. 35 I BT, p. 59.
Rainer MACK, "Facing Down Medusa (An Aetiology of the Gaze)," in Art History 2515
(2002), pp. 570-604, here, p. 571. Mack offers a provocatively psychological exploration of the
Medusa's apotropaic force, an emphasis not irrelevant to if it is different from the approach I
am taking here. See also Jean Paul VERNANT, "Death in the Eyes: Gorgo, Figure of the Other,"
in Froma Zeitlin ( ed. ), Mortals and Immortals (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991 ), pp.
~ SZ, p. 27 I BT, p. 50.
See, for one key example, Andrew STEWART, Art, Desire, and the Body in Ancient Greece
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). On Winckelmann, see Alex PoTTs, Flesh and
the Ideal: Winckebnann and the Origins of Art History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994)
and Simon RICHTER, Laocoon's Body and the Aesthetics of Pain: Winckelmann Lessing Herder
Moritz Goethe (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992). See, for a signal and critically
different emphasis, Donohue, Greek Sculpture and the Problem of Description, op. cit., pp.
~ .
! ~
culture where the skill of reading can be compared to sight-reading music and to
read an inscription is inevitably to read it aloud
would address passersby.
There are a number of stories illustrating the interaction and relationship had
(or imagined to be had) with statues. The tale of the mythic sculptor Pygmalion
and Galatea is iconic as is the story of Hephaistos the craftsman god and his clay
creation, Pandora, or else and more marvelously, of the bronze automaton, Talos
who could heat his chest to a deadly brazier's fire and killed his enemies by clasp-
ing them to his chest, an automaton who could bleed to death himself (Fig 6).
Fig. 6.
Death of Talos, with Polux and Castor. Attic volute krater. 5
h BCE.
Museo Jatta, Ruvo di Puglia, Italy. Photo Credit: Scala I Art Resource, NY.
This complex point exceeds the bounds of this essay. See Jesper SVENBRO, Phrasikleia: An
Anthropology of Reading in Ancient Greece (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), who writes
entirely in Nietzsche's spirit of what I elsewhere analyse as Nietzsche's enduring philological
discovery, that "Greek writing was first and foremost a machine for producing sounds" Svenbro,
Phrasikleia, op. cit., p. 2. For Nietzsche's "musical" or acoustico-phonetic "discovery," see B.
BAI3ICH, Words in Blood, Like Flowers: Philosophy and Poetry, Eros and Music in Holderlin, Nietz-
sche, Heidegger (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007), Chapter 1. For a discussion
of the techniques/technologies of reading (silently and not, spiritually/sensually and not) Ivan
ILLICH, Im Weinberg des Testes (Miinchen: C.H. Beck, 1991). See for a useful discussion of the
archaeological issues of the technology of writing, David GABBARD, "Sensual Literacy: Ivan
Illich and the Technologies of the Text," in Interchange 26/3 (1995), pp. 297-303.
Thus speaking of the artful delight of a ruse (note well that Nietzsche here makes an
emphatic point of the specific harmlessness of the ruse [to wit:, ... auf eine unschadliche Weise'])
as one of two sources of art as such, Nietzsche refers to the case of 'Architecture as if the stone
spoke (from an inhabitant of the house or temple)' KSA 9, 11 [51], p. 459.
Talos, the bronze man set to guard Crete by throwing stones from shore, and hence a
mechanical defender or kind of robot (hence the fondness for him in the pastische mythologies
of internet gaming communities) appears in the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes. Said to
have been a work of Hephaestos or else to have been the last of the Hesiodic race of bronze,
xaAKEwv yw)<;, Talos is also shown with wings on the coins of Phaestos. Apollonius describes
Talos as a creature that moved yet had only a "kind" of life. Talos however would not be broken,
as a machine might be, so much as "killed" with a wound to the ankle, like Achilles (or like Robin
Hood), draining the ochre that flowed in his veins. The image of Talos dying in this way is depict-
ed on several Etruscan bronze mirrors as well as here in Fig 6. See further: Martin ROBERTSON,
"The Death of Talos," in The Journal of Hellenic Studies 97 (1977), pp. 158-160.
In myth and philosophy, the statue plays an exemplary role. To qualify this
exemplary ideal for the ears of his contemporary nineteenth century audience,
ears like our own, Nietzsche cites Plutarch's reflection that "no noble-born youth
would himself, upon seeing Zeus in Pisa, have the desire to become himself a
Phidias or else Polyclitus on seeing Hera in Argos" and goes on to point out that
for "the Greeks, artistic creativity was as much to be subsumed under the undig-
nified category of work as any banausic handcraft."
Rather than aspiring to be
the artist himself, one is to become a work of art in the sense of crafting oneself
and one's life, as Nietzsche speaks of becoming "the poets of our lives."
In this
sense one was to be like the statue, hence agonistically matched, to the statue
Such exemplary glorification also plays in Alcibiades' alluringly elliptical
comparison of Socrates to a cleverly crafted statue of a satyr, the d.ya/...Jlata found
in sculptors' shops. Alcibiades' comparison of Socrates to such OLArJVOt functions
as an object allegory for Socrates' hidden qualities, an emphasis needed given
Socrates' constantly-celebrated lack of such excellencesY
Although statues of a wide variety of sizes, from the very small to the very large,
play a number of different roles in a long tradition in antiquity, I have here been
raising a particular question about the nature and working power of so many
Nietzsche, Der griechische Staat, in KSA 1, p. 766.
Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 299.
Epictetus takes for granted the pride and nobility of the statue as exemplifying itself (as well
as its maker) to encourage and to praise, by contrast, the wonders of the human being and its
divine maker. 'Why, wert thou a statue of Phidias, an Athena or a Zeus, thou wouldst bethink thee
both of thyself and thine artificer; and hadst thou any sense, thou wouldst strive to do no dishon-
our to thyself or him that fashioned thee, nor appear to beholders in unbefitting guise. But now,
because God is thy Maker, is that why thou carest not of what sort thou shalt show thyself to be?'
Golden Sayings of Epictetus (Cambridge: Harvard Loeb Classics, 1910-1914), vol2, no. 2, p. LXI.
I am grateful to Suzanne Sterne-Gillet for her kindness in reminding me that Plotinus uses the
metaphor of the statue for self-cultivation: "act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made
beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a
lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that
is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease
chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendour of virtue",
On Beauty from The Enneads, 1. 6 [1] trans. by Stephen Mackenna (Hassocks: Penguin, 1991), p.
54. The self-culturing parallel to the sculptor recurs in Michelangelo's discussion of his craft and is
applied to physical culture in Arnold Schwarzenegger's youthful analysis of bodybuilding.
C.D.C. Reeve has recently added to a long tradition, observing that 'a common term for statue,
is etymologically related to the verb dyci.A.A.uv, meaning to glorify or to honor something,
"A Study in Violets: Alcibiades in the Symposium" in J. Lesher et a!. (eds.), Plato's Symposium:
Issues in Interpretation and Reception (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006) and credits Ruth
Blondell for the etymology. But see Gerald L. CoHEN, "Etymology of Greek agalma, agallo, agal-
lomai." In Berkeley Linguistics Society: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting 2 (February 14-16, 1976):
pp. 100-104, in addition to his The Semitic Origins of Greek agalma, agallo, (Columbia:
University of Missouri Press, 1975). See too Hans Jorg BLOESCH, Agalma. Klcinod, Wcihgcschcnk,
Gotterbild. Ein Beitrag zur friihgricchischen Kultur- und Rcligionsgcschichtc (Bern: Bentelli, 1963).
life-sized bronze sculptures and I began by referring to Pliny's account that 3000
such statues (still!) remained in his day at "Rhodes, and no smaller number are
believed still to exist at Athens, Olympia and Delphi."
This abundance (indeed
other sources give a staggering 73,000)
reflects their popularity and this same
abundance should invite our reflection. At the very least, Pliny's report would
mean that one could go nowhere in the Greek world without encountering
statues in bronze-and it is important to add that this would be in addition to
marble and wood, as similarly attested by Pausanias, a legacy that continues
however fantastically in romantic illustrations of landscapes dotted with fallen
statues and Hollywood recreations of antiquity, even if these last tend to be more
Roman than Greek. Again we need to ask: Why so many statues? What did they
look like? What would have been the effect, political and otherwise, of walking
amongst so many?
The abundance of statues in the ancient Hellenic lifeworld contrasts with the
absence of extant examples. One has tended to take Pliny's report of the number
of such statues an exaggeration (this is a common response) or else, more matter
of factly, one simply repeats the number Pliny cites without remark. Thus the
question of the meaning or effect of this same abundance goes unasked, reflect-
ing a typically modern and overly neutral tendency to flat objectivity (the flatter
or balder the description, one seemingly supposes, the more objective ).
I am not (how could I be?) taking physical inventory-although it is worth not-
ing that archaeological evidence apparently does not contradict the high numbers
Pliny lists.
The question for me is much rather a critically scientific question,
provided indeed that one understands science as a philosophically questioning
science of the Feyerabendian but also Adornoesque and Nietzschean, Marxian
and Kantian kind. Such a critical and philosophical reflection on science also
Pliny, Natural History. Books 33-35, trans. by H. Rackham (Cambridge: Harvard Univer-
sity Press, 1999 [1952]), 34.36 [Hereafter NH]. Pliny writes that making bronzes (statuaria) "has
flourished to an extent surpassing all limit and offers a subject that would occupy many volumes
if one wanted to give a rather extensive account of it-as for a completely exhaustive account
who could accomplish that?" (Ibid.)
Claude RoLLEY, Greek Bronzes, trans. by Robert Howell (London: Chesterton Publica-
tions, 1989) notes that the range of huge numbers listed would be difficult to corroborate (or and
indeed: to refute) just because bronze is so "easily melted down and reused." p. 31.
See Donohue, Greek Sculpture and the Problem of Description for David Summers herme-
neutic (both Nietzsche and Heidegger make this same scholarly and reflective point) observa-
tion that 'the language we are using is not neutral but rather implicitly interpretive.' Donohue,
op. cit., p. 17. Donohue refers to neither Nietzsche nor Heidegger nor indeed Gadamer or
Ricoeur for this hermeneutic point.
Following my presentation of a short version of this thesis at a meeting of the Ancient Phi-
losophy Society on April 12, 2007 at Boston College, John M. Camp offered a much more cel-
ebratory report of the excavations during his tenure as director of the American School of Clas-
sical Studies in Athens and took a question from a student who had heard my lecture and who,
to my horror, ask if the claims I had made concerning the sheer number of bronze statues could
be supported on the basis of archaeological evidence. Sitting in the audience, I was relieved to
hear Camp's firm reply that he had no trouble believing such a high number given the number
of bases and inscriptions uncovered. I do not thereby take Camp to endorse every aspect of the
argument I here propose, only that archaeology does not as such exclude Pliny's claims.
questions the limitations posed by science and scholarship upon itself by the
entrenched expedient of knowing better or knowing already and in advance of
inquiry and debate.
In the received and that is to say mainstream and dominant,
academically well-respected tradition, only certain questions appear to count
(in other words: only certain questions manage to be posed, only certain themes
receive attention) and only certain investigators seem to be heard (only certain
authors are printed). The assumption is that these are the only 'good' scholars
there are, but it is an assumption that also decides that certain question are 'good'
or valuable and that other questions simply do not need to be asked. It is a direct
corollary that scholars and scientists so far from exploring or researching the
coherence of the 'received' scientific worldview, blithely ignore whatever does
not conform to a preexisting paradigm.
Nietzsche can be said to have dedicated his career to challenging the scientific
tendency to ignore dissonant aspects (of antiquity but also of physics, biology,
history, etc.) by the above technique of simply declaring them, in Nietzsche's
words 'fundamentally irrelevant.'
Thus Nietzsche could mock the famous clas-
sical scholar, Christian August Lobeck, for his (from this distance embarrassing)
contention that the 'Greeks, when they had nothing else to do, used to laugh,
jump, race about, or as a human also sometimes feels a desire for this, they used
to sit down and cry and moan ... '
The reductive (simplest) explanatory project
passed in Nietzsche's nineteenth century (as it continues to pass, especially in
analytic philosophy) for objectivity. In Nietzsche's effort to take the Greeks 'seri-
ously', he undertook to leave such professional or scholarly diffidence behind.
To return to the civic question, consider the statues of today set up in public
places. Many of these are monumental and looking at a contemporary statue,
perhaps in a city square, the size alone, quite apart from the material or form,
can be the imposing thing, and this can inspire patriotic pride or give the impres-
sion of power for a visitor, or else one might feel invited to clamber on a giant
animal-the bronze lions in London's Trafalgar Square or else in Munich offer
particularly apt opportunities for such play and I am sure the reader can think
of others. But let us ask here: what if we today, as in Pliny's account of Rhodes
(and Athens and Olympia), walked amidst thousands of life-sized, classically
human-formed statues-and I will argue that to encounter these in bronze would
be something else again-set up into and about the public spaces of our cities? It
I explore academic politics in contemporary philosophy in several discussions of Nietzsche's
and Heidegger's philosophies of science, particularly "On the Analytic-Continental Divide in
Philosophy: Nietzsche's Lying Truth, Heidegger's Speaking Language, and Philosophy," in C. G.
Prado (ed.), A House Divided: Comparing Analytic and Continental Philosophy (Amherst, NY:
Prometheus/Humanity Books, 2003), pp. 63-103, most recently in B. BABICH, "Continental Phi-
losophy of Science," in Constantin Boundas (ed.), The Edinburgh Companion to the Twentieth
Century Philosophies (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 2007).
Nietzsche thus reports as Lobeck's judgment:" ... eigentlich habe es mit allen diesen Curio-
sitaten nichts an sich." Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 'Was ich den Alten verdanke' 4, KSA 6,
p. 158. In other words, for Lobeck, the ancients did what they did "just because ... "
Ibid. Nietzsche cites: "Lobeck,Aglaophamus I [1829], 672."
seems clear that at a minimum we would be setting up the conditions for at least
a few-double takes. This is already food for thought: one might well, at first and
passing glance, take the statues to be human beings. Form alone can do this, thus
duck hunters use decoys.
Fig. 7.
Interior gallery, Pergammon Museum.
Berlin, September 2004; Author's photograph.
We are perhaps more like ducks than we think, at least to the extent that we
may be acquainted with the postmodern urban sculptors who have managed to
be commissioned to place statues, say, of a man on a bench reading a newspaper
as a decorative sculpture in a park amidst public benches, or a statue of a waiting
patient set amidst waiting patients in a hospital waiting room (such sculpture,
just as it self-quotes, means, indeed, less to evoke any kind of classical tradition
than to be taken as 'postmodern'). Opportunities to 'encounter' such statues
can mean, and this is part of the point about decoys, to fail to notice them at first
glance. Indeed, J. Seward Johnson's Double Check, the seated statue of a Wall
Street business man checking the contents of his briefcase, only became notable
(in a post-postmodern context) after it was photographed covered with dust and
rubble following the attack on New York City's twin towers, only to be refur-
bished post 9/11 and restored to public display (and a certain amount of inatten-
tion). (Fig 8)
New accounts of mirror neurons (popular in philosophy across both sides of
the analytic-continental divide) might well support an elaboration on the project-
ed echoing of sensibility inspired by human-sized statues. Yet the effect of meet-
ing a statue on the street or in an airport or finding ourselves sitting beside one
in some other public space, like Johnson's Double Check (Fig. 8) is not at all the
same as encountering a department store or shop window dummy or manikin,
nor is it the same as our experience of statues in a museum or at an exhibition.
(E.g., fig. 7) For in these cases, we contemplate the object as an object for inter-
ested inspection (exhibiting clothes in the case of a shop window display) or and
in a different sense than Kant ever intended, with a very 'disinterested' awareness
of being alongside a manifestation of 'art' (in the case of public works of art). In
part we respond as we do because we know in advance how we are expected to
see them-and public mimes, ala Marcel Marceau, play off such expectations on
our parts.
Fig. 8.
J. Seward Johnson, Double Check, 1982, restored 2006. NYC, August 2007.
Photo Credit: Tracy B. Strong.
I have been asking what would it have been like to live amidst a standing popu-
lace of bronze statues-or, and for the sake of my reflections here, this will be
the same: stone or wood statues gilded or painted to seem or to look 'like' life?
To pose such a question is difficult because a number of aspects simply cannot be
established-how were they placed? Lining the roads, like so many free standing
columns, as some renderings of Pindar suggest, or all about, as other accounts
have it? Some on plinths or pedestals or bases? Low or high? Ancient authors
including Pliny distinguish between statues with bases and statues standing freely
on their own feet, a distinction which means that there must have been a differ-
ence between the two, an important detail we shall see below. Did they some
feature some mechanism (the Archytas of Tarentum phenomenon) for move-
ment, like Swiss and German mechanical clocks? Still more fundamental is the
question of their appearance as I have been her emphasizing this as a question:
what did they look like? This is not a simple question, so archaeologists and clas-
sicists, anthropologists and art historians will tell us, for it involves the culture as
a whole. The look of a thing, how we see our world, reflects what we are. What
is the color of ancient bronze? What color, what colors, were these statues as the
Greeks saw them? Indeed, perhaps another question: what was the color of 'life'
in ancient Greece? Would we see such bronzes as life-like?
That such statues were all about, enhanced in number if we consider the struc-
tural elements of architectural design in temples and so on, adds to the complexity
of such considerations. But to walk amongst such bronzes, even the very idea of
it, seems to the contemporary mind (and perhaps this is the reason we have not
thought much about it) a matter of aesthetic overkill. One imagines that everyone
(and not just art historians) would have to have lived their lives overwhelmed by so
much and such very homoerotic-we are after all, at least for the most part, talk-
ing of statues of naked bronze men-' art,' as it were. Much of our image of Greek
antiquity follows something like this vision of a life set amidst 'art'-classic statues
and temples and their sculpted reliefs, Greek vases, Zeuxis's paintings, tragedic
performances that went on for days (and had the entire populace in attendance,
the very thought of which apparently sent Richard Wagner into paroxysms of
envy), epic poems memorized by heart in all their length and recited, seemingly at
the drop of a hat. Other art historians have corrected this classistic image by add-
ing erotic details, other classical historians, here including Nietzsche, but notably
Marcel Detienne, by adding sacrifice, blood and frenzy and so on.
Here, following Nietzsche (in part) and Heidegger (in part), I submit that far
from a plaster image of 18th century aestheticism (this is Athens as museum)
and far from an all-too-Christian-and all-too-modern-vision of 'desire,' but
and given the Greek culture of contest,
the Greek was not meant to desire (as
we today, pace Stewart et al., understand 'desire')
the statues standing about
him, perhaps with upraised hands, like the Piraeus Apollo (Fig. 9) or else, and
famously, carrying spears (Fig. 2), or poised like the Discobolos in the throw of
a discus or cleaning themselves calmly like the Apoxyomenos of Lysistratos (Fig.
10) or else methodically cleaning perhaps a strigil (Fig. 11) and so on. Rather
than desire, the tradition of agonistic measure (competitive contest, rather than
conflict, as Nietzsche emphasizes) suggests that the Greek would have been liter-
ally given to himself as Greek in these statues.
The Greek found himself against and in tension with such statues, his own
bodily being highlighted against an imaginary exemplar, just as he might find
The key reference here is Nietzsche's rhetorically complex preface (one among five written
for five unwritten books), "Homers Wcttkampf," KSA 1, pp. 783-792.
Stewart's Art, Desire, and the Body in Ancient Greece already cited above is just one example
of this. See again the other references in note 2.
himself agonistically reflected by and in an opponent. Such quasi-Lacanian imag-
ery may also shed new light on Homer's recourse to the hero's 'shining limbs'
(Iliad XVI 805] just as the Homeric epic celebrates agonistic tension together
with all its complexities and if the tradition Havelock recounts is right (as I am
inclined to suppose that it is),
that same competitive Homeric tradition gave
the Greeks nothing less essential than the mirror in which they could find them-
selves, as Nietzsche recalls this tradition to us: the song sings of what Greeks do
and so tells the Greek how to be Greek.
Fig 9.
Apollo from Pireaus, ca. 540-545 BCE, 1.92 m.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece.
Photo Credit : Scala I Art Resource, NY
Reflecting the Greek to himself (less to herself-but this would truly be another
paper, so that if I here use the masculine pronoun I do so in an exclusionary sense
and not because it has not dawned on me that it is not in fact inclusive) the statue
itself would serve an effectively formative function: a formation (in the French
See here Eric HAVELOCK, Preface to Plato (Cambridge: Belknap, 2005).
sense of the word) corresponding to what the Germans call Bildung, thus the
statue had an ethical and political function. In a particularly exemplary pose,
and most of the statues we have are so poised, the statue exemplified the 'look'
of the Greek-as athlete, as hero, as god-not only to the Greek citizen but also
to aliens and visitors in Athens, Rhodes, Olympia, and so on. Lacking a 'literate'
populace, as we understand the term, we may thus contend that one of the means
of civic formation (in addition to Homeric song and the contest culture of tragic
and athletic festival) might have been the very statues themselves. Like the epic
poem then and like tragic myth, the statue told the Greeks themselves.
The abundance of statues in antiquity is certainly not unique to Greece and
particularly in Assyria and Egypt, this abundance was complemented and inten-
sified in painting and bas-relief. Many of these sculptures, especially in the case
of Egypt, were monumental in size. Once again and to be sure, Greece also had
these monumental forms: in Rhodes (famously), in Samos, as recent discoveries
continue to show and, of course, as cultic statues. But my question here has not
been directed to colossal statues, for all their Ozymandias-like impact, inspiring
sentiments of awe and presentiments of doom or vanity. Nor have I been raising
the question of small-scale statues, some very small indeed and even jewel-like.
Instead I ask what it would have been like to live among an abundance of life-
sized, and I am not attached to a specific measure here, because in life, among
those we meet in "real" life (as we say), some are slightly or even much smaller
than we are ourselves, some slightly or even much larger.
To summarize thus far: I have been raising the question of the difference it might
have made for a city to have, as the Greek cities so impressed the Romans as hav-
ing, so very many life-sized statues? I have suggested that the statues served the
function of ethical and political formation. If I am correct in supposing that such
statues served an ethico-political function, the question of how to look at the Greek
statue as this has been traditionally posed is set on its head. Phenomenologically
regarded, simply moving in the company of statues would not only give one the
sense of being in the presence of an other being, and hence of not being alone,
but this same and simple presence amongst statues can also be enough to suggest
motion, the sense that the statue moves.
I myself have been embarrassed to find
myself excusing myself when passing too close to a statue in a museum, a statue
I knew perfectly well to be a statue. But I have also overheard others seemingly
surprised in the same way. Such a response entails the sense of at least the possibil-
ity that the statue itself might encounter the passerby. And it is this possibility that
makes all the difference for the agonistic work of the statue as exemplar.
The statue would thus be (and it may be impossible to say more than this) an
other to the Greek, a given or standard other, an exemplar to follow and to chal-
Thus although I am happy to accord with the modern demystifications of moving statues
I am committed to the claim that the enlightened tendency to demystify claims of this kind does
not automatically disprove them as such: these are empirical issues for which we lack adequate
evidence (one way or the other) and if we mean to be scientific, at least in Nietzsche's modest
sense of the word, we do better to leave the question open.
lenge (this is the point of an agon [ dywv ]). Indeed as we assume an abundance of
statues, such statues yielded a cadre of others at the height of excellence in the
case at least of victory statues, and thus a society of exemplars, and this on an
ideal plain that has now as much to do with the stillness of the statue as with its
form and the appearance (or possibility) of motion. I have already cited Epictetus
(and Plotinus) on this stoic point.
As distinguished from our all-too-modern preoccupation with 'desire' and the
care of the body/self, the Greek first 'discovered' or found himself in the statue,
literally as well as figuratively reflected. In this sense, the statue could give the
Greek his own aspect, ideal in form, resting or balanced in itself. In this sense,
one sees oneself in the statue and can dispose oneself to the same form. Thus the
claim of the statue works upon the Greek-and the nakedness of athletic compe-
tition, oiled bodies, gleaming like bronze, acquires still more sense (this aspect, as
noted, continues to be a disputed question in the literature). A phenomenologi-
cal reading tells us already that this reflective looking in was complemented by a
shining surface, the statue reflects the onlooker's gaze.
Fig. 10. Fig. 11.
Apoxyomenos. Lysippos, Vatican, 2.05 m. Bronze statue from Ephesos, 1. 92 m.
Photo Credit: Art Resource, NY. Photo Credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY.
In this way, the statue holds an agonistic mirror to life, and I mean this as Nietz-
sche speaks of d.yow in this context, and it seems that it does so in two ways. Gleam-
ing bronze is doubly reflective in this sense and it is inherent in the substance of
bronze (though it is essential to emphasize that this aspect is precisely what is in
question) and that polished and painted marble and polychrome wooden statues
as well as glazed terra cotta could perhaps also serve such a ret1ective function.
Yet the notion of the statue as mirror of life must also be heard in another sense.
Passing them by, the Greek did not regard such statues as so much 'art'
but instead
found himself as much set against or in contest with the same gleaming aspect. This
contest is a variant on what Nietzsche speaks of as a very politically keyed compe-
tition. 51 As Nietzsche explains, such competition was a matter of civic :n:moda and
thus to be distinguished from its contemporary meaning. For the ancients, the goal
of an "agonistic education" was "the welfare of the entirety, the society of cities.
Every Athenian was, e.g., to develop himself in competition as far as he might in
order to lend the greatest advantage, and do the least damage, to Athens.'
Above I suggested that we can get a sense of the ethical dynamic of living along-
side a great number of bronze statues yet it is essential not to minimize the elu-
sive question concerning the working aspect (the 'look') of such bronzes, and this
too is the point of a phenomenological ret1ection, because it is the look of such
bronzes that has been and that remains incorrigibly lost to us. 5
Given the relative
paucity even of such bronzes as remain, ancient texts are key to any phenomeno-
logical reflection, a lesson that corresponds to Nietzsche's scientific rigor. But
there are some empirical analogies that can help.
It is relevant to this discussion to include the claims that have been made for some time,
most recently by Michael Vickers and David Gill, that ancient pottery was made to represent,
and that is also to say, to give the aspect of gold (red) and silver (black) but also ivory (white).
Many aspects of this question depend, of course, on knowing how the pot originally looked:
unoxidized? glazed or not?, etc and include some considerations with respect to the look of
ancient silver and gold and this is really difficult to research because if bronze is rare, silver and
gold are more so. A number of scholars take exception to this (notably John BOARDMAN, "Silver
is white," in Revue archeologique 2 (1987), pp. 279-295), but see M. VICKERS D. GILL, Artful
Crafts: Ancient Greek Silverware and Pottery (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994 ).
Larry Shiner discusses this difference in 'The Greeks Had No Word for It,' the first chapter
of his The Invention of Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).
See Christa Acampora, "Demos Agonistes Redux: Reflections on the Streit of Political
Agonism," in Nietzsche-Studien 32 (2003), pp. 374-390.
Nietzsche, 'Homers Wettkampf,' KSA 1, p. 789 [my emphasis].
This look would have for its part been dependent on many things, including chemical
composition and as Earle R. Caley emphasizes in his 'Chemical Composition of Greek and
Roman Statuary Bronzes,' we know little about this. In Suzannah Doeringer, eta!., eds., Art and
Technology (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1970), pp. 37-49. There are also questions of taste, for it can
be supposed, at least on Pltny's authority, that the look of bronze may have echoed the look of
marble (or, and of course, as Pliny himself speaks from a Roman perspective, vice versa). Yet
the marble in question would not have been the Winckelmannian white associated with antiquity
but a polychrome statue the colour of 'life.' What colour would that be? F-or us? For the Greeks?
How can we even begin to parse the question: what would the 'colour of life' look like?
For one such analogy, Nigel Konstam, a sculptor who works in bronze, has
recently advanced, together with the scholar Herbert Hoffmann, the claim that
the Greeks modeled their life-size sculptures on life, that is to say: cast not from
clay models (which are to be sure already so many clay statues of their subjects)
but directly from 'plaster' casts of living athletes. 5
Konstam, traveling to Calabria
to see the Riace bronzes tells us he 'was immediately struck by the unusually close
correspondence between the bodily forms of the two figures.'
(Figs. 12 and 13)
Figs. 12 and 13. Bronze, early mid 5th c. BCE. Riace Warriors 'W' (2.06 m) and "B" (2.06m)
Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Reggio Calabria, Italy. Photo Credit: Scala I Art Resource.
Others have noted that these figures boast the same physique, same height, and
so on. 5
But for Konstam, the statues' feet were critical. 'The ball of the big toe and
the two toes next to it are flattened by being pressed against the ground ... The little
toe is curled under and in, exactly as in nature.'
To explain the significance of this
point-a telling elaboration on what it might mean to have 'feet of clay'-Konstam
clarifies the difference between casting from a clay form and casting from life, not-
ing first that 'when cast from a clay model, the bottom of a foot supporting a body
See Nigel KONSTAM Herbert HOFFMANN, "Casting the Riace Bronzes (2): A Sculptor's
Discovery," in Oxford Journal of Archaeology 23 (November 2004), pp. 397-402. Konstam brings
his own sculptor's experience to the question of reconstructing ancient technologies, see: "Cast-
ing the Riace Bronzes: Modern Assumptions and Ancient Facts," in Oxford Journal of Archaeol-
ogy 21 (May 2002), pp. 153-165. The technical questions remain to ask: what were these 'plaster'
casts? of what were they made?
>) Konstam and Hoffmann, Casting the Riace Bronzes (2), art. cit., p. 397.
Carol Mattusch notes such details in her discussion of these statues in her contribution to
the catalogue, The fire of Haephaestos, "The Preferred Medium," especially pp. 28-31.
Konstam and Hoffmann, Casting the Riace Bronzes (2), art. cit., p. 398.
will be open, just a rim of bronze.'
By contrast, a figure 'employing a plaster cast
taken from life' will 'have feet that are naturalistic in every detail-their tops as
well as their bottoms .... [S]uch details appear on the undersides of the feet of both
Riace warriors .... duplicat[ing] the footprint in the plaster mould.'
Although Konstam and Hoffmann do not advert to this, their claim may be
dated back to the very same Pliny whose Natural History makes an appearance
in the writings of nearly every art historian on the subject. And Pliny tells us that
Lysistratus was 'the first person who modeled a likeness in plaster of the human
being from the living surface (facie) itself, and established the method of pouring
wax into this plaster mould model and then making final corrections on the wax
cast.' (NH 35.153) Lysistratus thus 'introduced' the practice of rendering por-
traits with lifelike precision and 'the same artist also invented taking casts from
statues.' (Ibid.) The word I have given here as surface, facie, is usually translated
as face but facie also refers to the entire bodily surface.
The technique of modeling from life, as Konstam corroborates Pliny's account
from his own perspective (albeit without reference to Pliny), allows us both to
understand Pliny's descriptions as well as the very rubric of 'portrait statues'
for three-time Olympian victors. Further philologico-hermeneutic support for the
notion of casts taken from life is given in the report that the renowned Lysippus
shifted his own profession from a very banausic foundry worker-Pliny is fond of
such emphatic reminders of origins-to become a less base artisan or sculptor after
hearing the artist Eupompus name the master he had imitated. Replying with a
gesture toward a crowd of men, the artist declared 'nature herself and no artistry
was the true model' [naturam ipsam imitandam esse, non artificem] (NH 34.61 ).
This passage is famous beyond its context-art is to imitate life-and can be
interpreted as supporting the standard story of the Greek departure from a more
regimented tradition as we noted in our first account of Diodorus above, but Pliny's
context together with the kind of incidentally relevant point concerning Lysippus'
more subordinately banausic beginnings permits the alternative reading that has
life itself, the living human form, serve as the model for the artwork, all the more
plausible if we recall the related technical inventiveness of his brother, Lysistratus
in modeling facial and bodily surfaces of both humans and indeed statues.
For Pliny, the aesthetic achievement of Praxiteles' sculpture was in 'modeling'
the resulting casts (NH 35.158), and Lysippus likewise was said to have contrib-
uted greatly to the art of bronze statuary by 'representing the details of the hair'
(34.65) and in general by working the forms after casting them: in such supple-
mentary metalworking details, Pliny writes, lay the artistry. Adding Pliny's con-
tention that Lysippus made some 1,500 large-scale bronzes, it is at least plausible
that he was casting from life just because such a mechanical advantage would
indeed facilitate a sizable output (even if we were to assume he made less than
the round number Pliny attests).
"ex membris ipsorum similitudine expressa, quas iconicas vacant." Pliny, NH 34.9.
Beyond such textual evidence, art-historical studies of medicine in ancient rep-
resentations of the body highlight such empirical detail that they too lend support
to the possibility of casting from living models.
There is a further debate
cerning ancient techniques for the casting of bronze statues,
and a related
tion that emphasizes this casting as effectively mechanical reproduction, including
Margarete Bieber, Carol Mattusch, Brunilde S. Ridgeway, among others, studies
which, once again, go back to ancient authors like Pliny and like Pausanias.
Setting aside the ordinary, all-too-modern preoccupation with desire and the
body Gust where it is likely that a great deal of our attention to the erotic in antiq-
uity is tied to our own Western conventions as can be seen from a comparative
review of contemporary literature with the literature, say, of Wilamowitz's day: for
if the details differ, the obsession is the same),
the Nietzschean agonistic argu-
ment suggested above accords with (if it also goes beyond) Deborah Tarn Steiner's
account in her Images in Mind to say that the Greek would have first found himself
politically or civically in agonistic and active terms by 'looking in' (and, so I here
contend, looking back to himself) in the statue.
This same effectively reflective
'looking in' corresponds to the playing aspect of the shining surface of bronze.
See, for instance, Guy ME:TRAux's important, Sculptors and Physicians in Fifth-Century Greece
(Montreal: McGill Queens, 1995) in addition to Gregory V. LEFIWICH's essay, "Polykleitos and
Hippokratic Medicine," in Moon (ed.), Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and Tradition, pp. 38-51.
See, BIEBER,Ancient Copies as well as RIDGWAY,Ronum CopiesofGreekSculpture and her Hel-
lenistic Sculpture, Volume One: The Styles of ca. 331-200 (Madison: U niv. of Wisconsin Press, 1990).
For an overview of the question, see chapter five, 1\ Greek Bronze Original?' MAITUSCH, Classical
Bronzes: The Art and Craft of Greek and Roman Statuary (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1996), pp. 141-190.
See, again, MEYER's discussion, 1\ Roman Masterpiece' in Moon (ed.), Polykleitos, The
Doryphoros, and the Tradition. Mattusch's reflection by contrast centers on the absence of a
canonic original.
See, for example, STEWART, Art, Desire, and the Body in Ancient Greece. Stewart notes that
the ideal of the Doryphoros 'as the epitome of Measure {to 1-uhpov) or the Mean {to 1-doov)'
is anecdotally (we may modify this, after Lacan, as metonymically apparent in Stewart's account
of seeing'[the Doryphoros] used as a model in Muscle and Fitness, as a Berkeley tailor's dummy,
and as a gay icon.' Stewart duly includes a photo by Jim French (French produces gay erotica
for calendars and cards) STEWART, 'Notes on the Reception of Polykeitian Style: Diomedes to
Alexander,' in: Moon {ed.), Polykleitos, The Doryphoros, and Tradition, pp. 246-261, here p. 247.
See Deborah Tarn STEINER, Images in Mind: Statues in Archaic and Classical Greek Litera-
ture and Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).
Stewart articulates this for contemporary erotic sensibilities when he writes that the 'oiled
gleam of an athlete's body, dark tanned in the sun, was well served by the tense reflectivity of bur-
nished bronze.' STEWART, Greek Sculpture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), p. 39. I have
already noted that this shining surface could also have been polished and painted marble or indeed
gilded and painted wood. Some of this reflecting 'gleam' was doubtless but also manifestly for dif-
ferent reason and to different effect also at work in the chryselephantine statues to which P.dusanias
devotes special attention. The word can mystify some scholars, derived from xpuom, gold, and
D .. ivory: these would be ivory statues inlaid or entirely covered with gold. See for a discussion,
Kenneth LAPATIN, Chryselephantine Statuary in the Ancient Mediterranean World (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2001). We would need to reprise the terms of the current inquiry to ask what a
grand scale chryselephantine statue of a god would have looked like? Thus to ask this question is not
answered by what a reconstruction might tell us. Brunilde Ridway however does invoke one such
reconstruction of Athena made by A Lequire for the Parthenon in Nashville in her work in several
places, including her review of Bunte Gotter [see citation in footnote note 12 above].
The excellence of bronze in addition to the modeling capacities of ancient bronze-
casting techniques, about which we continue to learn more,
is that it ret1ects the
body not only figuratively (as modeling the form or colour or details of the body)
but quite literally as a mirror. Beyond the shining qualities of bronze (we will
have cause below to refer to the specific material of bronze mirrors), it is impor-
tant to consider the difference made by colour with respect to the claims that
ancient bronze could appear to have the aspect of living human flesh. We have
noted the tendency to pass over this assertion but there is a difference between
today's bronze statues and the 'bronzed' flesh of even a well-muscled youth with
a perfect-Mediterranean or Aegean-tan. To get the look of a bronze statue
today, if one were doing a commercial photo shoot, one would need rather more
than oil: one might add powdered metal to the makeup applied to living models.
The point is that we take the look of metal less to resemble flesh than we take it
to 'gild' (or 'bronze') flesh.
Fig. 14.
Bronze Cast. Pergammon Museum, Berlin.
September 2004, author's photograph.
See, again, Rolley but also Jean CHARBONNEAUX, Greek Bronzes, trans. by Katherine
Watson (New York: Viking Press, 1962) and others, some cited below and including the con-
tributions to Carol Mattusch ( ed. ), The Fire of Hephaistos: Large Classical Bronzes from North
American Collections (Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 1996 ).
Ancient tradition emphasizes that bronze could, depending on the alloy, be
made in a variety of colours.
Thus Pliny details a wide array of bronze types
(NH 34.94-100), pointing to the difference between Roman and Greek bronzes,
as well as Etruscan and other bronzes. More significantly here, he also details
some of the compositional differences and in particular the proportions of 'what
is called [a blend for making molds] of bronze of a very delicate consistency,
because a tenth part of black lead is added and a twentieth of silver-lead; and
this is the best way to give it the colour called Gnecanic' (NH 34.98). The prob-
lem, were we inclined to an empirical check, notwithstanding the limitations of
modern metallurgical analysis, is that Pliny lists no main ingredient in this case:
unlikely to have been copper alone, what was it?
Colour differences would have been produced through the use of relevant
additives. Like our own sculptors today, the ancients worked with patinas. Pliny
mentions salts and verdigris and even organic materials (egg white in particu-
lar) but also alloys in the composition of the bronze as the first volume of Kurt
Kluge's study of casting techniques in ancient large-scale bronzes argues as a
claim routine in his day, some eighty years ago.
Where Kluge's sources detailed
the significance of additions like tin, zinc, and nickel, in addition to lead, iron,
silver, gold, and even mercury, today's more refined methods detect antinomy,
arsenic, bismuth, cobalt and manganese.
To this complex question of composi-
tion, add the presence (or absence) of gilding (Vitruvius speaks of Etruscan
gilded bronze), amalgamations of other metals and stone inlays but also like pol-
ish and indeed like wax and oil, not just as an artifact of the copying process but
also to protect against corrosion and oxidation or else to add colour.
Modern reconstructive thought has disputed this claim on the basis of modern rather than
ancient techniques of casting. Carol Mattusch summarizes metallurgical analyses which attest to a
degree of sophistication casting individual alloys in one piece in Mattusch, Greek Bronze Statuary,
op. cit., pp. 70-71, and nevertheless, and although in her introduction to her edited catalogue, The
Fire of Hephaistos, she cites Pliny's testimony that different alloys give different colours, arguing that
contemporary experience with bronze alloys does not confirm this. See, in particular, pp. 26-7. See
too Brunilde RIDGWAY, Hellenistic Sculpture Ill: The Styles of ca. 100-31 BC (Madison: Wisconsin
University Press, 2002) for her discussions of colored inlays in bronze as well the Laocoon. Denys
Haynes argues for an inlay and overlay method, pointing out that 'copper-rich alloys' were 'cast
separately' such as the 'nipples of male statues.' HAYNES, The Technique of Bronze Statuary (Mainz:
Philipp von Zabern, 1992), p. 110. We have yet to begin to parse Pliny's meaning on a plainly philo-
logical level as we shall see below in a discussion of Bernard ANDREAE's attention to Pliny's Latin in
l1is Laokoon und die Griindung Roms (Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 1988).
~ Kurt KLUGE, Die Antike Grossbronzen Vol. 1: Die Antikeerzgestaltung (Berlin- Leipzig: Walther
de Gruyter, 1927), p. 45-47. This first volume of Kluge's folio-sized, three volume study also details
the characteristics of silver-copper alloys, pointing out that silver mixed with more than one third
copper retains its light silvery colour, becoming red only after 40%. See p. 32. In a recent survey,
Kluge's study and supporting sources dating from the 1900's and before are not cited. See Henry
Lie and Carol C. Mattusch, "Introduction to the Catalogue Entries and Technical Observations," in
Mattusch ( ed. ), The Fire of Hephaistos, op. cit., pp. 162-179, here, p. 171. For a reading that takes
account of Kluge and earlier work, see Charbonneaux, Greek Bronzes, op. cit., esp. pp. 19-32.
Lie and Mattusch in their Introduction to the Catalogue, op. cit., p. 173 in Mattusch's The
Fire of Hephaistos, emphasize the advantages of modern metallurgical (such as plasma mass
spectrometry and electron microprobe) analysis.
To address the question of bronze and in the process to raise the question not
only of the status of Roman copies but to go beyond such considerations of origi-
nals and copies (this is not the theme of the present paper), we may consider,
if only because of its familiarity, the Laocoon Group celebrated by Pliny, who
tells us that he saw it in the house of the Emperor Titus. (NH 36.37-38)
Laocoon's reception echoes throughout the Renaissance and the Romantic era
complete with erotic fascination (and contemporary accounts hasten to qualify
this fascination as 'homoerotic,' an appellation supposed because one is also sup-
posed, as reader or viewer, to be male ).
Significant for me here will be Bernard
Andreae's important claim (already cited and to be further discussed below), that
the statue to which Pliny refers was originally cast in bronze,7
rather than being
carved by three sculptors from a single block of marble, an origination which and
to be sure does not preclude any number of marble or indeed bronze copies.
The Laocoon group as Winckelmann would have seen it.
Roman copy after Agesander, Athenodorus, and Polydorus of Rhodes. 1st c. CE. Marble, 2.1 m.
Vatican Museums, Vatican State. Photo Credit: Alinari/Art Resource, New York.
Scholars note that the location of the statue found does not fit Pliny's account. And the
discussion on the issue of fixing the original cite is far from closed. I thank Bruni! de Ridgway for
informing me that a new discussion of this theme is the subject of a recent catalogue by Chrystina
Hauber put out by the Vatican Museums to commemorate the discovery of the famous sculpture
and dedicated to the Pope.
The nature of this homoerotic fascination is the focus of Potts, Flesh and the Ideal and
Richter, Laocoon's Body and the Aesthetics of Pain. See Donohue, Greek Sculpture and the
Problem of Description, op. cit., pp. 165sqq. for a differently weighted reading of Winckelmann's
aesthetic influence with respect to sculpted or veiled outline or contour.
See ANDREAE, Laokoon und die Griindung Roms (Mainz a. Rh.: Philipp von Zabern, 1988).
Laocoon, a priest of Troy, had profaned Apollo's altar by having sexual con-
gress with his wife in its vicinity and the statue depicts the destiny of blasphemy.
Apollo himself is at work with all the violence characterizing Marcel Detienne's
descriptions of him.
As a punishment for the priest's impiety, two serpents
surge up from the sea, engulfing and crushing him along with his sons, an event
confirming for the onlooking Trojans the sacred character of the wooden horse
Laocoon had just warned them against and who consequently sought to appease
divine anger by dedicating the gift to the deity, and went on to breach their own
walls to bring the statue inside their city.
The Laocoon group, said to follow an original made by sculptors of Rhodes,
can seem to show one boy escaping (which accords with Arktinos's version),
depicting Laocoon and one son head on in their struggle (and it is worth recall-
ing the convention that a sculpted figure so depicted does not survive) whereas
the other son turns his face to his father and brother in profile (the side-angle
is characteristic of the living), and we see him stepping out of the snake's coil
much as one might step out of a very cumbersome pair of trousers, with one hand
firmly on the coil of the snake that had him entangled, watchful that both snakes
remained occupied with the other victims, his father and brother.
Fig 16.
Marco Dente, Laocoon detail. Eching, 1520.
The emotions and gestures said to be depicted by the statue has always depend-
ed on how the interpreter likes to read tragedy. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's
famous study, Laokoon oder Uber die Grenzen der Malerei und Poesie (1766)1
gives an overview of these disparate readings but ultimately laying the ground-
work to oppose Joachim J. Winckelmann's depiction of 'quiet grandeur and
noble simplicity.' For Winckelmann, Laocoon's anguish is silent, as is evident in
Marco Dente's 1520 etching. (Fig 16) However, as Lessing, and following Lessing
on this, as Nietzsche will emphasize, the Greek felt yet more passionately, still
more sensitively than we do today. Instead of a silent gasp of Stoic or Christian
agony, one hears the keening scream of suffering from the parted lips of the dying
See DETIENNE,Apollon le couteau ala main. Une approache experimentale au polytheism grec
(Paris: Gallimard, 1998).
Gotthold Ephraim LESSING, Laokoon oder Uber die Grenzen der Malerei und Poesie (Stutt-
gart: Reclam, 1964). There are no shortages of analyses of Lessing's Laocoon, but see for one
such, David WELLBERY, Lessing's Laocoon: Semiotics and Aesthetics in the Age of Reason (Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).
priest. This reading is manifest in the current reconstruction of the statue with
the right arm bent back in horror or desperation rather than raised in defiance.
Among a number of recent studies, Simon Richter has traced the Renaissance
passion for preservation essential for the ecstatic effect of the Laocoon group.7
passion indirectly affected Winckelmann's interpretation of the statue-and not at
all incidentally the fortunes of art history in the process. Yet the Renaissance concern
for conservation (not all that different from our own) would mean that the statues
were enclosed in wooden boxes for more than two centuries (1565 to 1770), a period
that lasted through the entirety of Winckelman's life-he died in 1768, a short two
years before they would have been brought out of their enclosures. Phenomenologi-
cally this is key for both Winckelmann and his times. The Renaissance experience of
this statue and others echoed in effect the moment of encounter, first found in dark-
ness, underground, in caves or catacombs or excavated from the earth, the flickering
torches repeat the moment of discovery, as an encounter of revelation.
By including Marco Dente's etching above, I suggest that the same passion for
preservation would be one for illustration in sketches, etchings, and engravings.
For the scholars and enthusiasts of the day, this folio constitution amounted to a
"Musee sans murs," a "museum without walls" to appropriate Andre Malraux's
language in Les Voix du Silence.
The catalogue itself was a paper model for the
For Winckelmann, and the cover of his own book illuminates this ideal
(Fig. 17), such images gave scholars and collectors visual access to things they had
never seen in person.
A "paper" museum, a collection of the mind, codified in the print or the etching,
such as Dente's (Fig. 16), or as illustrations in the expert's catalogue (Fig. 17), can-
not but make a difference for our encounter with the work of art. Do we discover
what we have seen before? More importantly still, can we see beyond it?
See, again, Richter, Laocoon's Body and the Aesthetics of Pain, op. cit.
Apart from the specifics of the current context, this point profits from a review of Maurice
Merleau-Ponty's discussion of Andre MALRAUX in "Le language indirect et le voix du silence's
in Merleau-Ponty," in Signes (Paris: Gallimard, 1960).
Donohue raises this question from an informed and critical perspective specifically with
regard to Winckelmann in her "Winckelmann's History of Art and Polyclitys" in Moon (ed.),
Polykleitos, The Doryphoros, and the Tradition, op. cit., p. 320.
Indeed, Winckelmann would also publish his own collection of such prints, commissioned
from Battista Casanova, whom he named the "finest draughtsman in Rome." Johann Joachim
WINCKELMANN, Monumenti Antichi Inediti Spiegati ed Illustrata (Rome: Autopublication, 1767).
And it is further relevant for Winckelman's account of the Laocoon that Marco Dente made an
etching dating back to the early 1500's, and drawings of the group appeared almost immediately
after it was unearthed on 14 January 1508.
The physician social-historian of science, Ludwik Fleck offers the illuminating example of
textbooks of anatomy that featured "long chapters describing and enumerating the so-called ossa
sesamoidiae which are disposed of in a few sentences in today's textbooks." It's not that they are not
there, it is rather that they are now utterly insignificant, where once they were of crucial importance
because of certain ancient myths according to which from one of such bones there will develop 'sicut
planta ex semine' the complete body to appear at the last judgment." FLECK, "Scientific Observa-
tion and Perception" in Robert S. Cohen and Thomas SCHNELLE, Cognition and Fact: Materials on
Ludwik Fleck (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1986 [1935]), pp. 59-78, here p. 76 [translation modified].
ings or illustrations, it might be said, give us more detail, indeed more sculptural
detail than photographs and almost all of Winckelmann's sculptural encounters
were adumbrated in advance and preserved-this commemoration is perhaps
even more noteworthy in retrospect-by such engravings.
Fig 17.
Titlepage, Johann Joachim Winckelmann,
Gedanken iiber die Nachahmung der Griechischen Werke
in der Malerei und Bildhauer-Kunst, 1755.
At the same time, the debates about the location of the Laocoon as indeed of
the provenance of the statue, whether a Hellenic copy or a Renaissance fabrica-
tion copy, point to our tendency to focus only on such objects as a preexisting
textual account allows us to identify.
This indeed and by definition makes such
There is great merit to this, and this paper is just such an instanciation. See too Andrew
STEWART, "Nuggets: Mining the Texts Again," in American Journal of Archaeology 102/2 (Apr.,
1998, pp. 271-282.
studies historical ones but it presumes that all the texts we have and all that we are
able to read and understand are all that we need. Here too we need Nietzsche's
reminder that in the matter of the texts themselves, for example, Greek lyric: 'we
stand in a field of shards.'
Just as we bring what we know to our perception of
things as Nietzsche has reminded us and as Heidegger emphasizes with regard to
the work of art, we likewise import our prejudices in our visits to the ancient work
of art both in situ and in museums.
I would further argue, though this will not be the main point I wish to make, that
knowing what one sees, knowing that an object is what it is (and what it means) cir-
cumscribes what one can see as much as the more obvious physical conditions of
observation, as today's psychologists (especially criminal psychologists) but also as
our philosophies of perception make all too clear. Like translation for Heidegger,
seeing is interpretation, which is why Nietzsche urges that we need to learn to see
precisely against our assumption that seeing is simply a matter of taking a look.
Fig. 18.
Bronze Statue. Pergammon Museum, exterior.
Berlin, September 2004; author's photograph.
,Wir stehen auf einem Trummerfeld; sparliche Reste," in Griechische Lyriker, 8, KGW
II/2, p. 393
I have elsewhere explored this point with regard to Heidegger's discussion of the work of art,
as it may be extended to the conservation of antiquity and its contemporary geographies. See B.
BABICH, ,Die Wahrheit des Kunstwerkes: Gadamers Hermeneutik zwischen Martin Heidegger
and Meyer Schapiro," in lntemationales Jahrbuch fUr Hermeneutik 3 (Tiibingen: Mohr and Sie-
beck, 2004), pp. 55-80, et idem, "From Van Gogh's Museum to the Temple at Bassae: Heidegger's
Truth of Art and Schapiro's Art History," in Culture, Theory and Critique 4/2 (2003), pp. 151-169.
Although it is essential to consider the historical, textual, and engraver's
framework that constitutes as much as it accompanies Winckelmann's path-
breaking discoveries of the history of art, a chance to have seen a famous statue
in the full light of day would have been shattering for him. This is not a matter
of the fascination of marble statues shielded in the darkness of Renaissance
sensuality but rather the possibilities of a phenomenologically oriented aesthet-
ics of art. If it is significant that Winckelmann, never saw his statue by the light
of day but only in darkness lit by torchlight (Fig. 15), our own limitation is dif-
ferent. We have no statues today as they might have been seen in their original
aspect just because an essential characteristic of bronze, precisely as a metal,
entails that even the statues that have survived the passage of time or that are
retrieved, as they continue to be, from the sea, can never give us the "look" of
ancient bronze.
Nevertheless, it will have to make all the difference in the case of the 'look' of
Greek bronzes to encounter them under the open sky (Fig. 18), met in the living
light of an experience we can at best imagine at an approximate remove. Thus
if Heidegger will emphasize appearance as the shining forth of what shows itself
from itself (both substantiality of metal or of stone or of flesh and form),
are sobered by the recognition that ancient bronzes simply cannot be brought
to-much less 'allowed'-to show themselves (from themselves) in this way. Like
Heidegger's absent tool, or like Sartre's protractedly failed cafe rendezvous with
his missing friend, Pierre, the irremediable lack of an original aspect turns out
to highlight the importance of that very aspect as it 'would have' looked-and
we cannot even begin to catalogue all the other assumptions we cannot know as
these would have to be found in a world lost to us despite our passion for claim-
ing it as 'our' past.
In his discussion of the Laocoon and the founding of Rome, Bernard Andreae
reviews what he argues to be the erroneous parsing of the generic term, sculpture
for statuaria ars.
Continuing the now-long-standing habit of challenging Giu-
liano de Sangallo's immediate recognition cum identification of the group of stat-
ues as they were unearthed,
Andreae argues that in Pliny's Latin, statuaria ars
This shining through presents the substance of and from which the work is made: "metals
come to glitter and shimmer, colors to glow, tones to sing, the word to say." Martin HEIDEGGER,
On the Origin of the Work of Art, in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. by A. Hofstadter (New
York: Harper, 1970), pp. 17-82, here p. 42.
ANDREAE, Laokoon und die Grundung Roms (Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern,
1988), pp. 146-147.
The architect Giuliano da Sangallo brings Michelangelo along to the excavation, adding
support to the array of largely financial arguments (among others) that Lynn Catterson has
assembled to support the claim that Michelangelo himself forged the Laocoon. See CATIERSON,
"Michelangelo's Laocoon?" inArtibus et Historiae 52 (2005), pp. 29-56.
refers to 'bronze.'
Andreae's interpretation has the great advantage of clarifying
Pliny's identification, often glossed over or elided in citations, of three different
sculptors working from a common plan-if, and this remains a considerable
obstacle, it does not quite resolve the question of Pliny's key, but stock, claim
that the statue was made from one stone: ex uno lapide, although, and of course,
the Laocoon as we have it was not.
If we are indeed talking not of a single block
of marble but rather of a large scale bronze, newer discussions of the casting of
such bronzes, like Konstam and Hoffmann's, also serve to make more sense of
this plurality (three sculptors, one plan).
Here and following Andreae: if the
statue of Pliny's description was in fact bronze (or, and this too, to be sure, only
displaces the question: if the original was a bronze), the question still remains for
us: what did it look like as such a bronze? If we know that copies of the Laocoon
rendered in bronze are extant (as Carolyn Mattusch tells us, detailing indeed
the colors to be had), modern casts of this sort do not answer this very aesthetic
Fig. 19.
Replica of Croatian
Apoxyomenos, Photo Credit:
HILS Gilding Zagreb
Fig. 20.
Head of Croatian
Apoxyomenos, recovered
1999, 192 em.
Fig. 21.
Statue on Seabed.
Photo Credit: Croatian
Conservation Institute, Zagreb.
I have not here been arguing that all we have are so many copies of romanti-
cally missing originals and Mattusch has summarized the arguments attesting to
the meaninglessness of such terms in the absence of a correspondingly singular
original, a point I underscore (while also emphasizing her own point concerning
Brunilde Sismondo RIDGWAY's 2003 address to the American Philosophical Society "The
Study of Greek Sculpture in the Twentieth Century," in Proceedings of the American Philosophi-
cal Society 45/1 (March 2005) adverts to the debate between identifying the statue as a "late
Republican original or copy of a Hellenistic bronze" (p. 67), as a current issue (although, to be
sure, Ridgway's lecture concerns dating as such).
The claim that the statue is of one block of stone remains problematic in several senses (it
is in fact said to be carved from five blocks) but so too is the comparison Pliny makes to 'any
bronze.' (ibid.)
Konstam and Hoffman offer a technical criticism of the standard interpretation based on
the Berlin foundry cup in their "Casting the Riace Bronzes," as cited above.
the plural character, amounting almost to a mass manufacture of such copies)
nor am I claiming that we have no such bronzes today. This point does not
oppose the very notion of an 'original' as in today's rather commercial sensibility
for 'original works of art' -one artist, one masterpiece, a handy ideal especially
for today's conception of creative copyright and intellectual property-as if that
were ever true of art, even today, much less in antiquity. Much rather I have been
arguing that we are hard pressed even to reconstruct the objects we discuss and
we are hardly better off than our nineteenth century counterparts even if our
own efforts seem more measured. Thus we might consider the difference made
by restorative reconstructions of the recently recovered Croatian Athlete or
Apoxyomenos (quite apart from the sand-encrusted statue on the sea-bed [Figs.
The so-called 'original' looks more 'authentic' but this is because, as any
art historian worth his or her salt will chide us: we love the patina of age: heirs of
late-modernity we are still, like Byron, in love with ruins.
Yet and as little as the
corroded first find, the 'restored' statue cannot give us the look of the bronze as
it was first made.
We cannot know the 'look' of such works of art because we do not have access
to the work when it was first made, first set up, or first dedicated, just as these
inceptions correspond to different events in the life-history of a Greek statue.
Nor can we reconstitute the bronze, a point that is important for any possible
reconstruction today, as such efforts are sometimes made to different ends in
the history of science.
Analyses, to be sure, of the metallurgical composition of
ancient artifacts have been made, as noted above, yet what such analysis cannot
tell us is how the Greeks constituted their bronze (and there were, as already
indicated above, any number of kinds of Greek bronze). What we know of their
methods is 'fairytale,' to repeat Konstam's words with respect to the question
of the technique of casting (and although a technician himself, even Konstam
does not raise the question of composition). We cannot recreate the bronzes of
I have not discovered the recipes for the varieties of Greek bronze, nor have
I the secret of the cement or gum Robert Boyle called 'diachylon'). Like the
See Mattusch, The Fire of Hephaistos, op. cit.
For an account of such restorations in the case of the Apoxyomenos brought up in 1999
from the waters of the Adriatic between the islands of Losinj and Orjule off the coast of Croatia,
see catalogue to the exhibition in the Florence Medici Palace, Sept 2006 through January 2007.
Maurizio Michelucci (ed.), Apoxyomenos: The Athlete of Croatia (Giunti: Florence, 2006). The
Croatian athlete compares to the Ephesus athlete in Vienna: in both cases, the heads are cast
separately, consistent with a cast from life.
See for an interesting discussion of such ruins, albeit in the context of a non-Benjaminian
but Palladian reflection on the auratic power of space, Giuseppina MONETA, "Profile," in B.
Babich ( ed. ), From Phenomenology to Thought, Errancy, and Desire: Essays in Honor of William J.
Richardson, S.J. (Kluwer: Dordrecht, 1995), pp. 205-207.
See, for example, Steven SHAPIN and Simon SCHAFFER's Leviathan and Air Pump. Leviathan
and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1985) and Lawrence PRINCIPE, The Aspiring Adept (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
latter, the details of the ingredients may have been less a secret than all-too-
commonplace at the time,
among all kinds of other complexities. Instead, I have
emphasized the difference such differences from contemporary experience with
contemporary bronze might have made to the Greek encountering their own
variously styled and variously coloured bronze statues.
To take an additional example here, our knowledge of Greek bronze and the
limitations thereof has informed the traditional reading (and supposed prejudic-
es of) none other than Aristotle, with respect to women and their effects on the
world around them. These disputes, on either side of the debate, arguably ascribe
an all-too modern misogyny to him which he may not in fact have shared with his
contemporary commentators (this difference would not make him a feminist).
Regarding the eye, Aristotle observes that
[T]he organ of sight is not only affected by, but also acts upon, its object. For in
extremely clean mirrors, when women look into them during their menstrual period,
the mirror surface takes on a sort of blood-red cloud. In fact, if the mirror is a new
one, it is not easy to get the stain out, although it is easier with an old one.
Aristotle is typically mocked for this judgment (we know more today) but com-
mentators fail to attend to the relevant and contextual issue of materiality.
Fig. 22.
Argive mirror with a support in the form of a draped woman.
Mid-5th c. B.C. E. Bronze, 40.41 em. Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971,
Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Like the bronze we have been discussing, details of the composition of the gum in question
go without saying. See Shapin and Schaffer's discussion of Boyle's 'special cement called dia-
chylon, a mixture 'which ... would, by reason of the exquisite commixtion of its small parts, and
closeness of its texture, deny all access to the external air.' ... Boyle did not provide the recipe for
diachylon, but it was probably a mixture of olive oil and other vegetable juices boiled together
with lead oxide. He [also] described how the stopcock was affixed and made good so that it did
not leak, using a mixture of 'melted pitch, rosin, and wood ashes." Leviathan and Air Pump, op.
cit., p. 29.
Aristotle, Parva naturalia II 459b23-460a23. D. Gallop (ed.),Aristotle on Sleep and Dreams
(Ontario: Broadview, 1990), pp. 89-91.
Thus (and this is remarkable in an empirically minded era such as our own)
absolutely nothing is made of the historically specific matter of fact that Greek
mirrors were commonly made of metal (Fig. 22) (as were Etruscan and Roman
mirrors although the Romans also used glass backed with gold). Made of bronze
alloy (they could also be made of silver alloy), ancient Greek mirrors began to
oxidize (as metals do) from the moment they were first fashioned. (For this rea-
son, Kluge emphasizes the relevance of taking a polish and of scratch-resistance
in his analysis of the composition of so-called mirror-bronze. )
Hence it is rel-
evant indeed that Aristotle specifically mentions brand-new mirrors in addition to
adducing the protection against subsequent oxidation provided by a preexisting
tarnish. But, and to my knowledge, what no scholar has done is to undertake an
empirical check of Aristotle's claim.
Such an empirical test would be difficult given that we cannot reproduce (as
argued above) the particular kind of mirror-bronze to which Aristotle refers, and
there were, as Pliny recounts, many kinds. The same limitations of our under-
standing of ancient metallurgy should suggest restraint. For what Aristotle speci-
fies presupposes just such details. What is in question is how such mirrors would
have looked in pristine circumstances and how oxidation rates correspond to
ambient factors, such as the person using the metal mirror, but that means hold-
ing it in hand and breathing on and around it.
An empirical speculation (inves-
tigation is out of the question for all the reasons already noted) on the scope of
Aristotle's claim seems to lend at least a grain of support. And while enlightened
scholars doubt the ancients' claim that experts would be able to tell the differ-
ence between ores by smell,
new research into the supposed qualities of metal
coins (the 'smell of money', 'filthy lucre') has confirmed a very physical and very
olfactory basis for just this phenomenon. The oil and sweat on our hands instantly
reacts with metallic coins.
Menstruating women living in close proximity to (but
without interacting with) one another, e.g., in college dorms, tend to synchronize
their periods.
Most explanations advert to physical influences such as the envi-
Kluge offers an analysis of the properties and composition of mirror-bronze. See Kluge,
Die Antike Grossbronzen, op. cit., pp. 46-47.
A<> further corroboration, the caves of Lascaux have been closed to visitors since 1963 owing
to such factors as acidity and humidity, etc. Scientific efforts to preserve the cave paintings have
been counter-productive in part for these reasons.
D. Emanuel suggests that when 'Martial and Petronius suggest that some of their contempo-
raries thought they could recognize genuine Corinthian bronze by its smell' the reference at best
might refer to salts crystallized in the patina but argues that 'more likely Martial (9.59, consuluit
nares an olerent area Corinthon) and Petronius (Sat. 50, ego malo mihi vitrea, certe non olunt) meant
to satirize the notion of olfactory authentication.' Corinthium: Fact, Fiction, and Fake' in
Phoenix 43/4 (1989): pp. 347-58; here, p. 354. I note that the satire in question could well be on the
pretender to a talent. Not every one can taste wine or tell the scent of fine oil from a counterfeit.
We would thus be, and in Pliny's sense of the term, our own 'touchstones.' See D. GLINDE-
MANN, A. DIETRICH, H.-J. STAERK and P. KuscHK, "The Two Smells of Touched or Pickled lron-
(Skin) Carbonyl-Hydrocarbons and Organophosphincs," in Angewandte Chemie International
Edition 45/42 (October 27, 2006), pp. 7006-7009.
The classic study here is Martha McCLINTOCK, "Menstrual Synchrony and Suppression,"
in Nature 229 (22 January, 1971), pp. 244-245.
ronmental milieu that is also part of our bodily being in the world including hor-
monal changes in perspiration and the acidity of respiration and the microscopic
abundance of bodily debris that all of us (male and female) constantly shed from
the whole of our very human (and very animal) bodies everywhere we go.
We assume that Aristotle is voicing his own prejudices not solely because he
often does so but not less because this conviction happens to accord with our
equally enlightened perspective on ourselves, a perspective which has thus far
managed to do without sacrificing the seductive ideal that it is to be created
imago dei. That we believe this ideal of ourselves is clear for we imagine ourselves
as hermetically sealed, discrete subject-perceivers contemplating a comparably
discrete, objective world. The modern advance consists in including women (and
I am not denying that this is a very great advance indeed) together with men as
sharing the same potential for 'immaculate perception'-or observation or inter-
The very idea of the neutral observer in science as in legal and political affairs,
a 'transcendent' observer who has no inf1uence or effect upon the observed, is
derived from this capacity for non-contaminating or purely 'objective' percep-
tion. It is to counter this presumption that we can understand not only the mar-
velous convention of 'immaculate knowledge' which I have just now borrowed
from Nietzsche's discussion of the same in Thus Spoke Zarathustra but the point
of Nietzsche's teasing remonstration, urging us to catch ourselves in our own
vanity when like Harry Potter fantasies or like the Disney cartoon imagery sur-
rounding Snow White, we imagine that we hear Nietzsche's bird twittering to us
'"You are more! Your are higher! You are of another origin!"'l0
We have been exploring the political difference that an abundance of statues would
have made in ancient Greece as this is Nietzsche's question as we find it in his The
Birth of Tragedy where he invokes not only Memnon's column-or statue-but
Apollo, as the sculptor god, and indeed and precisely as civilizing form. (Fig. 23)
What would it have been like to be surrounded by forms of excellence and to find
oneself in them? To hold oneself in tension, as Nietzsche argued, with those same
figures, arched against a literally iconic exemplar, is distant to us today. What shall
we make of the Pindaric imperative to become the one you are and what of the
ideal of measure? And what of the ideal of the ideal, the ideal of beauty?
I discuss this further in B. BABICH, "From Fleck's Denlo'lil to Kuhn's Paradigm: Conceptual
Schemes and Incommensurability," in International Studies in the Philosophy of Science Till
(2003 ), pp. 75-92, csp. pp. X3-X4. For an important discussion of the organism's constitution of
its environment, sec Richard LEWOI'iTIN, Biology as ldeolo,cy: The Doctrine of DNA (New York:
Harper, 1991 ).
BGE *230.
Like the painting that 'spoke' for Heidegger,
we have seen that the statue
has the capacity to 'stand' and so to hold us, to keep us in its 'hesitant stay' to
use the language Hans-Georg Gadamer borrows from Holderlin to conclude his
essay The Relevance of the Beautiful-a Holderlinian echo Gadamer always heard
through on the terms of Plato's Phaedrns.
It is this uncannily metaphysical
'hesitant tarrying' that justifies Gadamer's recollection of Rilke's expression of
the sculpture's imperative: 'There is no place, there that does not see you. You
must change your life. '
(Fig. 24 ). In such a bodily encounter, one is as much
regarded by the sculpture as one is also the one who sees. Gadamer's reading of
Rilke's poem only works on a phenomenological level: you have to 'do', as this is
said, phenomenology to confirm (or, indeed, to refute) his interpretation. Before
a marble torso, one sees, one feels, as the poet muses, that the sculpture needs no
head to see you or claim your response.
Fig. 23.
Apollo from the pediment of the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, 5th c. BCE.
Archaeological Museum, Olympia, Greece. Vanni/ Art Resource, NY.
Heidcgger, Holzwege, op. cit., p. 20/24.
Hans-Georg GADAMER, The Relevance of the Beautiful and other Essays, trans. by Nicholas
Walker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 53.
Gadamer, The Relevance of the Beautiful, op. cit., p. 34.
If we have no opportunity today to encounter Greek bronzes in their original
aspect (even without the important difference the culture that we do not share
would have to make for such an encounter),
I have been asking throughout the
above considerations of the nature and quality of Greek bronze, how we might use
a hermeneutic phenomenology for the sake of learning, as Nietzsche would say in
just this context, to see (to feel, to hear)? How in particular can we deliberately own
or explicitly appropriate our 'position of looking,' especially if we bring in Heide-
gger's reflections on beauty for Nietzsche's Greeks and indeed for Nietzsche's
own very physiological, that is to say, specifically carnal thinking of the beauti-
ful? As we recall, for Heidegger reading Nietzsche on art, such bodily thinking is
expressed precisely as a matter of feeling and in terms of enhancement and pleni-
tude, intoxication and enjoyment, corresponding to the Stendahlian 'promise of
happiness.' In his account, Heidegger follows Nietzsche as Nietzsche takes himself
to stand against Kant's 'disinterested interest.' But Heidegger's phenomenological
point here turns on the insight that 'every bodily state involves some way in which
the things around us and the people with us claim us or do not do so.'
Fig. 24.
Marble torso. Pergammon Museum. Berlin,
September 2004; au tor's photograph.
I discuss the relevance of the absence of the Greek cult for Heidegger in B. BABICH, "From
Van Gogh's Museum to the Temple at Bassae: Heidegger's Truth of Art and Schapiro's Art His-
tory," in Culture, 1heory & Critique 44/2 (2003), pp. 151-169.
Martin HEIDEGGER, Nietzsche. Volume 1: The Will to Power as Art, trans. by David Farrell
Krell (San Francisco: Harper, 1979), p. 99 [translation altered; my emphasis].
Thus Heidegger interprets Nietzsche's discussion of the life-enriching or life-
intensifying effect of the beautiful. 'What pleases one, what speaks to one,
depends on who that one is whom it is to cor-respond with and speak-to.'
Heidegger's further expression of this affective affinity echoes the beginning of
Rilke's Duino Elegies ' ... we call "beautiful" whatever corresponds to what we
demand of ourselves. Furthermore, such demanding is measured by what we take
ourselves to be, what we trust we are capable of, and what we dare as perhaps the
most extreme challenge, one we may barely withstand.'
It is in this sense that Heidegger quotes Nietzsche's very erotic and very Greek,
very agonistic, Nachlaf3 note: "'To pick up the scent of what would nearly finish us
off if it were to confront us in the flesh, as danger, as problem, temptation-this
determines even our aesthetic "yes."'
Thus Nietzsche takes himself to refute
Kant's disinterested interest as characteristic of the aesthetic judgment. So far
from such a judgment, for Nietzsche, the declaration '"That is beautiful" is
an affirmation'
, that is, indeed, an excitement, an intoxication, the promises,
as Alexander Nehamas very delicately reprises Stendahl, of happiness.
Heidegger sets Nietzsche's reflection in connection with Rilke's differently aes-
thetic (but similarly) erotic reflections on the beautiful, Heidegger argues that for
Nietzsche, the beautiful "the beautiful is what determines us, our behaviour and
our capability, just to the extent that we are claimed supremely in our essence, to
the extent that we ascend beyond ourselves."
But for this to work on us one must to be in the presence of the work, images
and stories will not do, this text will not do, because much more is involved: the
matter changes the form, working backwards on the form as informed substrate.
Bringing himself before the 'archaic torso of Apollo', the poet felt this claim as
Gadamer repeats the same claim for us in his own hermeneutic reflections on the
work of art. But what Gadamer says is not enough, one must find oneself before
the work, as one must catch oneself up in the world-but even then, so Nietzsche
reminds us
no amount of beauty can touch us unless we ourselves are attuned
to it.
Just as the method of phenomenology can teach us to 'see,' as for Nietzsche we
need to learn to see, so too in the case of Greek bronzes, one needs the physical
presence of the work to feel the full weight and shining smoothness of the metal
form, the gleam of bronze-and this is also true of the white curve of marble or the
polished lustre of wood (to list Brancusi's well-known material variations on a single
form). For the phenomenologically haptic point is that sculpture involves more than
seeing but feeling. Heidegger's hermeneutic phenomenology always takes care to
Heidegger, Nietzsche. Volume 1, p. 11 L Translation altered; emphasis added.
Ibid., p. 112; Heidegger explicitly refers to the first line of Rilke's Duino Elegies later on
p. 116.
Ilo KSA 12, 10 [168], p. 556.
Ill Ibid.
2 Nehamas, Only a Promise of Happiness, op. cit.
Ibid., p. 113.
GS, p. 339.
emphasize (a touch contra Jacques Taminiaux's reading):
that matter, earth (and
this was always Michel Haar's emphasis)
alters form, working backwards on the
form as informed substrate. In bronze, chrome, stone, the working power of the
work of art changes as it works on us and this backwards and forwards working of
the work-that is also the setting up of a world-is the evipycta. of the artwork.
What does this mean for us in raising the question of sculpture, if we can take
over some of the hints of the past that remain for us using the example of human-
scale Greek bronzes? Surely such sculptures may be called beautiful, uncannily
so, as exemplified in the Croatian Apoxyomenos until recently on display in Flor-
ence, or else in the balanced form of the Delphic charioteer or the Piraeus Apollo
(Fig. 9) or as exemplified by the Doryphoros of Polykleitos (Figs. 3-5), the same
sculptor, according to Pliny, who also made a statue called the 'Canon,' (which
Pliny emphatically distinguishes from the Doryphoros as such [NH, 34.55]), as a
standard for bronze art.
But is this no more than fetishism? We are taught that
the Greeks are canonic even before we turn to art history. Does not this deter-
mine what we find 'classically' beautiful?
This is an old problem and one might argue that I risk perpetuating an old
prejudice: Greek sculpture's the thing, one only need substitute the warmth of
bronze for the cool of marble, Nietzschean color (Dionysus!) in place of Wink-
kelmannian white (Apollo!). By contrast, I have sought to show that Nietzsche's
reading, like Heidegger's and like Holderlin's reminds us that the old familiar
image of Greece is otherwise than we have assumed. This claim cannot be taken
for granted even as we continually slip back into its old convictions. And a great
part of the point is acknowledging the foreignness of the past as something that
cannot be recalled to life however we long for it precisely because we only seek to
recall a vision less of antiquity than of ourselves dressed up in its image. Nietzsche
repeats this frustrated ambition as he quotes Holderlin in his early notes: ' ~ n d
I, with my doing and thinking, with complete good will, I only grope my way about
in the world, in what I attempt and in what I say, as I reach for these rare humans
beings (the Greeks), and I am often merely still more uncouth and unrhymed,
standing like a splay-footed goose in modern water, powerlessly plying my wings
in the aspiration of Greek skies."
The point here has not been to pretend to recreate the experience of antiquity,
a world, as Heidegger already in Sein und Zeit, tells us is 'lost' to us, but to suggest
that we can come to our own experience of our own world, if we take the time
to consider the statue, in the form of Greek bronzes as these remain, but also, in
Jacques TAMINIAUX offers a useful discussion of Heidegger's aesthetic phenomenology in
"The Platonic Roots of Heidegger's Political Thought," in European Journal of Political17;eory
6/1 (2007), pp. 11-29.
See Michel HAAR, Lc Chant de La Terre. Heideggcr ct les Assises de L'lfistoire de L'Etre
(Paris: l:Herne, 19S5).
See Herbert Becket al., eds., Polvklet. Dcr Bildhauer der griechischen Kfassik (Frankfurt arn
Main: Liebighaus, Musueum alter Plastik, 1990), especially Hanna Philipp, ,Zu Polyklets Schrift
Kanon<' pp. 135-156 and Moon's collection, Polykleitos, The DOtyphoros, and the 1/mlition.
I!R KSA 7, p. 681.
the spirit of phenomenology, if we are able to encounter the statue, even a copy,
be it bronze but also in stone, and I will add this here-because I can only think
world in a stubbornly physical manner as u m ~ far beyond the closed human
worlds of contemporary culture and changing fashion-this also means the 'real'
world, the outside world under an open sky. The experience of earth and world in
Heidegger's sense is hardly limited to sculpture and we can add the shaping that
Wallace Stevens expressed using nothing more "classically" formed than a jar set
upon, set into a hillside,
I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.
The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.
It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was grey and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.
Wallace STEVENS, Anecdote of the Jar
If the poet's fanciful jar set up in our mind's eye into the raw, un-cultivated
nature of a vision of an old Tennessee none today can have seen is able to do
this for us, what would a statue do in the Greece we likewise and to be sure
have never encountered? What would hundreds and thousands of them do? On
the reading I have proposed above, the Greek would be set against, would find
himself arched in opposition to the measure of the precisely visualized bronze
statues cast in abundance (and so argued above), sometimes even cast from life,
but in any case set against statues erected as so many mirrors of life. Serving the
purpose neither of contemplation nor indeed of evoking desire, the work of the
statue would invite the Greek to become, as it were, what he was.
It is in this
same sense that the dynamic of the statue invited the Greek to imagine himself
'as a statue.'
Nietzsche adds a complicated tension with chaos and change, so
that the statue is exemplary precisely in its standing in itself, its self-possession, its
stillness. The statue stamps the image of being on becoming.
Thus Nietzsche and his friends dedicated a small statue they named 'Nirwana' as they
concluded their studies, exemplifying in this practice the same imperative claim: become lhe one
you are. For references and further discussion, see Babich, Words in Blood, Like Flowers, op.
cit., pp. 81-82.
See Steiner's helpful discussion in her bnages in Mind, chapter four.
Cf. Heidegger's discussion of this phrase from Nietzsche's Wille zur Macht,, Dem Werden
den Charakter des Seins aufzupriigen - das ist der hachste Wille zur Macht." in Nietzsche E'rster
And in the same way, if very literally, if Nietzsche always attended to the stoni-
ness of statues-a versteinerte stillness he compared to the Stoic imperative (we
have already cited Epictetus' praise of the statue), and which Nietzsche identified
with the Apollonian, he heard this stoniness as a matter of contest, especially
in difficult times: 'Petrification as a corrective contra suffering and all the high
names of the divinity of virtue henceforth attached to the Statue'
In this con-
text of stress and tension: "Greek virtue became an affair of the dywv: each was
jealous of each other. Immovability as ideal: in a time where one had already
become too sensitive and sufferings and reversals too great (age of Thucydides)
to become a statue: whereas the tragedians made allowed the statue (of the god
or the hero) to come human.'
But the ideal of stillness and impassivity was at
the same time a matter of beauty from the start and Nietzsche never separates
the Apollonian and the Dionysian despite the common conviction that he aban-
dons the Apollonian, as mistaken a viewpoint as the belief that he abandons the
project of his first book on tragedy. Hence in a notebook fragment from 1884
entitled On the means of Beautification, he writes ,the greek philosophers did not
seek "happiness" otherwise than to find themselves beautiful, thus to make
of themselves the statue, the look of which did one good (inspiring neither fear
nor disgust)'

Fig. 25.
Athens, Temple of Hephaistos, Peristyle,
June 1998; author's photograph.
What we have lost in our day is not the sense of beauty, that we still have, even if we
almost never permit ourselves the time for it. We have rather lost both the depth and
Band, op. cit., p. 466.
KSA 9, 15 [54], p. 652.
KSA 9, 7 [101 ], p. 338; cf. KSA 7, 25 [1 ].
KSA 11, 25 [101], p. 36.
the tension that brought that beauty into being as well as the meaning or significant
form of these ancient statues or temple structures. Nothing of what is left speaks to us,
with or without Daedalus's art, and not indeed because the spirit has flown, because
the gods have abandoned us, but and much more because the language of such tem-
ples, for example 'is displaced from us'l25 as Dieter Jahnig writes of the 'temple of
Apollo at Bassae, the most "lonely of all Greek temples,"'l26 so distant are we from
them. 'It is neither a protective nor indeed a gathering space. It is no more than 'the
house of the godhead'. But this 'indwells' 'in it' (in the cella), so that it is interior to
the course of the columns, throughout the array of the foundation, columns, and pedi-
ment, emerging in the play of the built-work and the image-work"l27 We are so dis-
tant from this architectural articulation that we do not mark it as a distance. Indeed, for
Jahnig, we do not 'feel this distance even when we emphasize the art and art-historical
distance."l28 Nietzsche points to the same notion of a language that can no longer be
heard when writes in an early aphorism on the petrification of past architecture, 'Stone
is more stone than it once was', and very like the lost music of speech, we seem to
have outgrown 'the symbolism oflines and figures, just as we have weaned ourselves
from the sound-effects of rhetoric, and no longer imbibe this kind of cultural mother's
milk from the first moment of our lives. Everything in a Greek or Christian building
originally signified something and indeed something of a higher order of things: this
feeling of inexhaustible significance lay about the building as a magical veil. Beauty
entered this system only incidentally, without essentially encroaching upon the fun-
damental sense of the uncanny-exalted, of consecration by magic and the proximity
of the divine; at most beauty softened the dread-but this dread was everywhere the
To reflect historically on the 'built life' or world of the ancient Greeks as the mod-
eling of upright form and rectitude (in both ethical and political senses), we return
to Nietzsche's columns. This as we have noted is not only the sculptural figure of
the statue Nietzsche identifies as Memnon's 'column', echoing his early study of
the intermingling of the metaphors for light and sound
-but also the columns
that frame the conclusion of his first book on tragedy, where he sets up an
architectural parallel to the music of harmonious voices and rhythmic gesture:
"Walking under lofty Ionic colonnades, looking up toward a horizon cut off by
pure and noble lines, finding reflections of his transfigured shape in the shining
marble at his sides, and all around him solemnly striding or delicately moving
Dieter JA.HNIG, ,Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes' und die Moderne Kunst, in Walter Biemel
and Friedrich-Wilhem von Hermann (eds.), Kunst und Technik. Gediichtnisschrift zum 100.
Gebwtstag von Martin Heidegger (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klosterman, 1989), pp. 219-254,
here p. 231.
Jahnig, ,Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes' und die Moderne Kunst, op. cit., p. 230. I discuss the
contemporary fate of this temple in Babich, Die Wahrheit des Kunstwerkes, op. cit., pp. 76-80.
Jahnig, ,Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes' und die Moderne Kunst, op. cit., p. 231.
HH 1, 218.
See Babich, "Songs of the Sun: Holderlin in Venice," in Worm in Blood, Like Flowers, op.
cit., pp. 117sqq.
human beings."
A 'horizon' sketched by 'pure and noble lines' is an explicitly
architectural frame of existence, a wholly sculpted world. These same 'tenderly
moving humans' in Nietzsche's allusive conclusion might well have been so many
bronze statues: upright and exemplary, and these statues in turn would have been
themselves so many mirrors of sculptured columns, and the space of the volumes
between them.
In Heidegger's discussions of the work of art it seems not to matter, and com-
mentators usually take this badly, whether the instantiations for his reflections
correspond to a poem dedicated to a dancing fountain, a lamp, or indeed a
poem to memory or to beauty in the persons of Socrates and Alcibiades, or if he
invokes the temple at Paestum or else the cathedral in Bamberg, or speaks of the
marvelous architecture that is the time-space intersection of life and death built
into a traditional mountain hut, or if, turning from poetry and sculpture and the
architecture of dwelling, to painting, if we consider the mysterium of Christian-
ity expressed in Raphael's depiction not of the Transfiguration Nietzsche invokes
in his Die Geburt der Tragodie but Raphael's calling forth of the mystery of the
incarnation, the Madonna and child, as Heidegger writes about it in his 'On the
Sistine Madonna.' In each case, Heidegger's claim is always a crucially, critically
local claim, a claim of place, of the world-historical playing together of time and
space (Zeit-Spiel-Raumes).
Heidegger found himself writing a restrained critique contra Theodore Hetzer,
whom he tells us was an admired schoolmate, who for his part meant to praise
the timeless a-locality of Raphael's Sistine Madonna by claiming that the Sistine
Madonna 'was not bound to a church',
and hence did not require a specific
installation. Heidegger however could only emphasize the importance of place
or locality as a matter of history but, and as in the case of his more well-known
analysis of the world of a Greek temple for the Greeks who lived their lives
around that temple, set up on earth, in stone and under the sky, also as a matter
of cultural formation.
The Greek temple depends on the Greeks who dedicate it and live their lives
in accordance with that dedication. We cannot know that world apart from that.
In this same sense, a painting, in particular, Raphael's painting, can only be seen
by one for whom the painting can matter as a painting and this is a question of
BT 25.
m See, again, Joseph Rykwert, The Dancing Column, op. cit.
m Martin HEIDEGGER, Ober die Sixtina [1955], inAus die Erfahrungdes Denkens [1910-1976]
(GA 13, Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1983), pp. 119-121, here p. 119.
See Babich, From Van Gogh's Museum to the Temple at Bassae, op. cit.
formation, of what the Germans call Bildung, but it is above all a matter of pres-
ence and the possibility of presence. Thus and contra museum curators and their
art-historical consultants, Heidegger writes ,The Sistine Madonna belong in the
church of Piacenza, not in a historico-antiquarian sense, but with respect to its
pictorial essence. In accord with this, the picture will always long to be there.'
The painting for Heidegger needs the church, as the church is called forth,
brought to its presence as the place of mystery and sacred ritual in the painting:
,The picture is the shining of time-play-space as the place in which the sacrifice
of the mass is celebrated.'
If Eva Judith Gyuro, who translated Heidegger's essay into English, chose to
render both Hetzer's ,Kirche" and Heidegger's use of ,Kirche" with the word
'temple,' her option can be regarded as underscoring important resonances with
Heidegger's invocation of the temple and its place and its history in his essay on
the work of art.
But Kirche means church, indeed and in this case, a Catholic
church. Hence Heidegger emphasis in this essay is the claim he makes when he
speaks of the sacrifice of the mass and the difference this sacrifice makes to the
possibility an experience of, an encounter with what is given through Raphael's
Sistine Madonna. "Maria brings the Christ-Child thus, that she is first brought to
him in her advent, which is in itself always brings forth the hidden saving of its
Indeed, Gyuro emphasizes Heidegger's religious orientation throughout her
commentary, "The Secret of the Sistine Madonna,' highlighting the explicit lan-
guage of the mass in an alternate translation: 'the transformation enowns itself
as the most authentic in the holy mass."
Thus she quotes Tom Sheehan's linguis-
tic contention, a point that turns exactly on the question of translation, that the
"basic lines of Heidegger's doctrine of temporality (Zeitlichkeit) issued not from
his reading of the Greek but from his interpretation of early Christianity. "
To understand this requires the religious culture of the sacrifice of the mass.
The locality of the painting is accordingly of the essence for Heidegger: "The
place is ever an altar of a church. This belongs in the picture and the other way
around. "
Heidegger, Uber die Sixtina, op. cit., p. 70: ,Die Sixtina geh6rt in die eine Kirche zu
Piacenza, nicht in einem historisch-antiquarischen Sinne, sondern ihrem Bildwesen nach. Ihn
gemal3 wird das Bild stets dorthin verlangen."
Heidegger, Uber die Sixtina, op. cit., pp. 119-121, here p. 120.
Martin HEIDEGGER, "On the Sistine Madonna I Uber die Sixtina," translated into English
with a postscript by Eva Judith Gyuro, Existentia XVI/5-6 (2006), pp. 322-325.
Heidegger, Uber die Sixtina, op. cit., p. 120: ,Maria bringt den Jesusknaben so, daB sie
erst durch ihn gebracht wird in ihre Ankunft, die in sich jeweils das verborgen Bergende ihre
Herkunft mit-er-bringt."
Gyuro, "The Secret of the Sistine Madonna," art. cit., pp. 326-340, here p. 337.
Th. SHEEHAN, "Heidegger's Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion 1920-21,"
in The Personalist 60 ( 1979), pp. 312-324, cited on p. 336 in Gyuro.
Heidegger, Ober die Sixtina, op. cit., p. 120: ,Der Ort ist je ein Altar einer Kirche. Diese
gehort in das Bild und umgekehrt."
As we saw at the outset of this paper, Heidegger invokes 'the statue of Apollo
at the museum in Olympia' in his 1927 essay, 'Phenomenology and Theology.' In
this early text, Heidegger was concerned with manifestation, but writing on the
Sistine Madonna a good generation later in 1955, he also invokes the mystery of
religion as what comes to presence, as what comes before us in the picture: "The
bringing, in which Mary and the Christ-Child hold sway, culminates as an event
in that winking gaze."
One can look at the life Jesus in the same way as one can
consider the statue of Apollo, or indeed the work of art, as such, as 'an object of
natural-scientific representation' or else as a museum object. But Heidegger's
conclusion remains the same: "this objectifying thinking and speaking does not
catch sight of the Apollo who shows forth his beauty and so appears as the visage
of the god.''
For what is shown in such a manifest presence, be it before Raphael's painting
or before the statue of Apollo, we have to be present ourselves, exposed to pres-
ence. Such an exposure is also what Nietzsche meant once by the agon and we
have only to be present, but this only means to say, to vary Heidegger's language
in his Introduction to Metaphysics, that we have really to be present.
For another conclusion, consider what an applied phenomenology might 'look'
like, in ordinary modern practice, far from the bodily mirroring of a bronze
statue? Take yourself down an urban street lined with windows, such as one can
find anywhere, perhaps in mid-afternoon, or any time when reflective conditions
are right. Or remember such an experience as you may have been taken by sur-
prise on occasion. To 'do' this experiment: watch yourself the next time you catch
sight of yourself in this way whether accidentally or accidentally-on purpose:
i.e., phenomenologically. Consciousness, we recall, is always consciousness of
something, and it is worth reflecting on the question of what it is that takes us by
surprise in such incidental mirroring encounters. For thus we can catch sight of
and so almost 'meet' the aspect of ourselves as we might be bringing-forth our
own appearance, our 'look' as we are in the world, as we show ourselves forth and
are given to another's gaze. The incidental sight of ourselves can 'catch us up,'
bringing us as we-appear-in-the-world to ourselves and that also means, though
exactly this is not evident, as we might be seen by others.
What catches us up in the sight of ourselves in a mirror is not that we recognize
ourselves as ourselves in the mirror: for the mirror gives us no more than the
'look' of our own recollected reflected image of ourselves. Thus we can, by the
Ibid., p. 71: ,Das Bringen, worin Maria und der Jesusknabe wesen, versammelt eine
Geschehen in das blickende Schau en ... "
Martin HEIDEGGER, Phenomenology and Theology, in Pathmarks, trans. by James C. Hart
and John C. Maraldo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 58.
same token, be surprised past any first recognition, like Paul Feyerabend's wry
recollection of a motley figure he first noticed as odd, then contemplated with
some contempt in the library stacks at the University of California at Berkeley,
only to realize that he was himself the same disheveled figure. Caught up to our-
selves, to our look in the world, we rectify our posture, adjust clothing, touch up
hair, despair of ourselves in disgust, as Feyerabend tells us that he did, or feel
a rush of pride, and so on. The mirror glance shows us ourselves neither as we
appear to ourselves-our forgotten memories of images past-or to others-
their perspective never takes the same angle or even its reversal-but as we
reveal aspects of ourselves we cannot master.
The early Heidegger writes, "This material thing in space which offers itself to
possible sensations from different directions always shows itself as being-there
only from a certain side and indeed in such a way that the aspect seen from
one side flows over in a continuous manner into other aspects sketched out in
advance in the spatial gestalt of the thing ... "
This tells us, as the above and
everyday example of a phenomenological reflection on reflection also illustrates,
when it comes to our own angles of appearance, that we are always aware of the
relevance of points of view, especially as such perspectives are always already
cascading to angles unseen but in sight, even at first glance.
And that is, but only in part, what Rilke meant when he said with uncanny and
beautiful precision: ,denn da ist keine Stelle, die dich nicht sieht'-'there is no
place there, that does not see you.'
You, but that means: I, but that means: we-all of us, we, have to change.
Martin HEIDEGGER, Ontology: The Henneneutics of Facticity, trans. by John van Buren
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999 [c. 1923]), p. 68.
I draw for parts of this essay from the lecture presented in Maynooth in November of 2006,
a version of which appears in The Yearbook of The Irish Philosophical Society (2006), pp. 1-30.
I am most grateful to Brunilde Ridgway as well as to Andrew Stewart, Guy Metraux, and John
Cleary for helpful comments and corrections.
Babich Greek Bronze
George Blackall Simmonds (1843-1929), Falconer, Bronze, with The Gates, Central Park, New York
City, February 22, 2005; authors photograph taken level with the roughly 6-7 foot tall statue (11
feet with outstretched arm and falcon). Taking the photograph from this perspective required
minor rock scaling (the statue is set on a pediment, and the whole is elevated some fifteen feet
above the roadway). Simmonds rather larger than life-sized Falconer was cast in a single piece in
1870 (using the classic lost wax process) by Dr. Clement Papi, the Italian scholar and bronze
founder. As Simmonds was himself a passionate falconer, the statue is arguably a self-portrait.
Commissioned for Trieste in 1875, a copy was made from the plaster mold and dedicated in New
York in the same year. The current statue has been restored over the years and the falcon is
entirely new.