Friday, April 06, 2007

Bronze Apollo Group

...and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs [5] and vultures, for so was the will of Zeus fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another. And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel? It was the son of Zeus and Leto; for he was angry with the king [10] and sent a pestilence upon the host to plague the people, because... Iliad, Bk. 1

Dating from 700 BCE or thereabouts, these figures are presumed to represent a grim Apollo, taking center stage, with his implacable mother Leto and sister Artemis at his flanks. The group was found at the Dreros Temple to Apollo, on Crete. They are early bronzes, made by beating the metal into shape. Most bronze sculptures from the classical period were long ago melted down, presumably for instruments of war.

The women here are not only smaller but relatively cylindrical. The artist took some care, though, with Apollo's legs, which are shaped and modeled with fine sensitivity. We will have occasion to notice in countless figures that come afterwards how thighs and abdomen are joined, and the creation of hips, an articulation that becomes far more interesting when the artists finally get around to discovering the female body. As in earlier representations of the human figure in both painted pottery and figurines, the triangle predominates, here stemming from the groin and extending up to the sloping shoulders. The neck is long and powerful, and sets into position Apollo's face, which is probably the most compelling feature of this group.

It's the eyes that get to us.They stare. They look at anything but us. I assume that they are watching on our behalf, somehow, and that the otherworldliness they convey is supposed to make us sit up and take notice, and to feel something, somehow. Osborne says that "Apollo visually accosts the viewer," which is exact.