Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Parthenon Sculptures - East Pediment

The Horse of Selene, East Pediment, the Parthenon

This is as much of a portrait as I think we ever get from Greek art in the Classic period. The horse is a vivid individual, albeit almost scarily mythological as well. If ever anything was moonstruck it was this horse, one of the two that draw Selene's chariot as she makes her dark way across the sky, following in the nighttime after the daytime passage of her brother Helios - he whose cattle are slain by the luckless crew of Odysseus. Selene, the moon goddess, is here as represented by her nervous horse.

It is, as I say, a true portrait of an exhausted horse, panting and skittish, almost snorting from its extended nostrils, its eyes staring out of its head as its tense muscles draw in tight over the jaw. I think it was originally set at one of the pediment corners - wonderful invention for those tricky spots, if true - and would have, like so much else of the sculptural program, picked up light and developed its ghostly physique from its own shadows. It is a horse Stubbs or Fuseli must have known.

Schoder: The bulging eyes, flaring nostrils, drooping mouth, and pulsing veins under the sagging skin unerringly achieve the effect of weariness, while retaining a sense of the horse’s noble spirit and proud physique.