صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

legs, that the moment for his active interference had not yet arrived : this seems to be mere over-refinement; the interview of Jason and Medea was clandestine, and by night; and this is sufficient explanation of the symbolism of the torch; we may compare with it the pair of Loves or Geniuses who occupy either end of the composition of Selene visiting Endymion, each with folded legs and torch reversed. Another and concurrent motive for the introduction of the torch in the hand of Thetis may probably have been the remarkable relation in which she stands, although a water goddess, to Hephæstian legend. The fire-gods of the Cabiric worship, as coins attest, were in high repute in Thessaly, especially in Magnesia and the neighbourhood of Mount Pelion; and hence the importance that is attached in legend to the presence of the fire-god Prometheus, friend of Cheiron at the nuptials of Peleus. The name of the Thessalian city Pyrrha, indicates a seat of these worships; and not only was the Thetideion close to it, but Pyrrhaia was a title of Thetis herself,” as Purisoos of her son Achilles,” in allusion to her attempt to make her offspring immortal by placing them in the fire. She even takes the place of Athene in the legend that, either in flight from Peleus or to obtain armour for her son, she visited the forge of the fire-god, who, inflamed with desire, pursued her, and wounded her in her escape on the heel with his hammer.” The title of the goddess Pyrrhaia, is regarded in the name of the AEacid Pyrrhus. The slight inclination of the profile of Peleus is sufficient to show that he contemplates the reclining nymph, as Selene fills her gaze with the reclining Endymion. On the opposite side, the profile of Aphrodite is elevated just sufficiently,–and it is worth notice, by how slight a difference the contrast of expression is effected, to convey the impression, that she is immediately engrossed by interest in the hero. The scene is a substitute for his surprise of Thetis, according to the notice of Lactantius, retired from the mid-day heat; or his contemplation of her from Mount Pelion, as described by Philostratus. It is observable, as another instance of adaptation of established types, that his attitude is in the main arrangement, that of the reclined and expectant bridegroom of the Aldobrandini marriage, as the column beside him reminds us of the same composition. The expressiveness and piquancy of the figure of Aphrodite, as she watches the plot, are beyond all praise and all description. Equally absorbed and alert, the movement in her left hand and leg convey a feeling of her excitement and interest, while the motionless lines of those of her limbs that are on the side of Thetis, by whom she is to be considered as unseen, give the impression of ambush and intent watchfulness. The complete expression contrasts not only with the repose of the unconscious Thetis, but with that of Peleus, in whom sudden surprise, shown by his left hand still retaining the folds of his drapery, is fast settling into the fixedness of an enamoured gaze. For the appearance here of the Queen of smiles, it is scarcely necessary to quote either parallel or precedent. Scenes like this are her established sphere; and whether gods or mortals yield to her soft suggestions, she equally looks on and “laughs that pleasant sight to see.” So on the painted vase she is present at the encounter of Poseidon and Amumone ; and on the chest of Cypselus, she completed a group with Jason and Medea, which was probably a parallel to that before us, it would be gratuitous to infer that it was the same. It bore the inscription— Míðstay 'Idaoy Yayási, zéketal d' Appodra,_ a line which in fact, with the substitution of the names Peleus, Thetis, and Eros, expresses the argument of the principal front of the Portland Vase. The fig-tree that shadows the recumbent Thetis has a recognised connubial import,” which may account for its introduction here, as well as on the other front behind Poseidon. Similar trees occur in the parallel compositions, which again are as little destitute of architectural ornament, though treated differently to the porch through which Peleus enters. I have already assumed the chief scene to be by the sea, and with this the olive in the centre is quite in accordance. Like

* Hesych. in r.

mer in hand, to be called Thetis? If * Tzetzes on Lycoph. v. 178. the Gorgon breast-plate is decisive for * Is the armed female on the terra Athene, the other coincidences at least

cotta published by Panofla (Antiken- illustrate the exact parallelism of the

kranz,) pursued by the fire-god, ham- myths.

* Böttiger, Kleine Schristen, III. 319; gemeines Symbol der Honigmonate in Uebrigens war die Feige gleichsam all- und ausser der Ehe.

the olive of the acropolis, tended by the dewy Pandrosos, it is a type of the fertility of which Poseidon, in one of his most remarkable forms, was a patron, and still farther pertains to the symbolism of a Naiad's cave on the beach, as described by Homer, followed very distinctly by Ovid in his description of the adventure of Peleus:

[ocr errors]

scription might authorize us to connect it with the cave of the goddess, or its sacred precinct:

Est specus in medio, natura factus an arte

Ambiguum, magis arte tamen, quo sape venire

Frenato delphine sedens, Theti, nuda solebas.
Metam. XI. 235.

The observation, however, of the introduction of portals in other sculptures of this age, with evident relation to that mystic significance of the soul's migrations that literature bears out, inclines me to recognize the same motive here. I must content myself here with referring to the observations of Visconti,” (Mus. Pio-Clem. Iv. 16,) which will lay the enquirer on the track; and only further notice, that the relinquishment of his vesture by Peleus is not introduced without some feeling for symbolism of the same class, and popular in the same schools. ‘Attokotéow?pa to'); to João joiv Yitovac, távts parov točtov zai adox:voy, xoi oo); Ścobey upsequeba, topogeysigðvta; toi; 8spp.ativot; . Tugwol Y&p xai &Y'tove; āti to atolov &vasaivopsy Éti tī; 40Xī;’OXàuraz &yoytopeyot.”

As to the satyrs, whose heads decorate the handles, they befit a love adventure and a wooded scene. Like Thetis and Poseidon, they are powers of humid nature, and as followers of Dionusos, have a farther appropriateness, of which we shall see In Ore. The bottom of the vase is ornamented with a design in work of the same kind as the other figures, but less exact and elaborate. It represents a youthful male head of larger proportions and melancholy expression, attired in the Phrygian cap, and heavily draped; the back ground is occupied with foliage, again of the fig-tree. Here again is another indication that points far afield into the regions of mythological exploration. The head is the analogue of the heads, most frequently female, sometimes male and with a starred Phrygian cap, that are frequent on the funereal vases of Apulia, rising from the calyx of a flower, and surrounded by the symbols of luxuriant vegetation. Sometimes the head is replaced by a group, the ravishment of Kore or Oreithyia, or by a winged love or genius, but in any case, the import of the symbol is easily identifiable with that of the anodos and kathodos of Kore, descending or rising through the flowery meads, type of the eternal youth of nature, the highest fact in the natural theology of the ancients; and thence of the futurity of the defunct.” The head before us we may call Attys, or perhaps Ganymedes, exponents both, of the destiny of all that lives and is beautiful to death, and equally of the unquenchable eternity of life and beauty. The vase by this mark alone I would claim as specifically funereal; and this obliges us to entertain the question, what is the special propriety to a funereal monument of the mythus with which it is embellished ? There are sufficient indications of cosmogonical import in the mythus of Peleus and Thetis, the types of land and sea, and their mystic marriage, taken along with the significance of the portal and relinquished vestment, to afford an explanation on pure symbolical grounds, which would be farther supported by the not unfrequent occurrence of the mythus of Thetis on sarcophagi; but while I admit and indeed urge the existence of this feeling, I prefer in the present instance to rely chiefly on a motive less recondite. Pindar, in the last of his Isthmian odes, celebrating the glories in the games of a relative of the victor no longer surviving, adverts to the funereal honours, especially the threne of the muses, accorded by divine decree to his national hero Achilles, and introduces the account of them, by what was probably regarded as a main theme of the funereal song, the celebration of his glory, as exhibited not only in his exploits, but in his divine descent, the detail and circumstance of the marriage of Peleus with his goddess mother. There seems to be a propriety of the same kind in the enrichment of our funereal vase with the same subject, when we find ground for concluding that the personage whose ashes it contained, made pretensions to the character or qualities of an AEacid. The design at the back of the sarcophagus is certainly the ransom by Priam of the body of Hector. In front, Otto Jahn has lately argued with great force in favour of the discovery of Achilles at Scyros, while others adhere to the earlier opinion in favour of the quarrel of Achilles and Agamemnon; and to these conjectures I am inclined to add, that the subject may be the eagerness of Achilles for battle, after the reception of arms from Thetis and the restoration of Briseis. Divided as opinion seems likely to remain as to the exact interpretation of the several groups, no one appears to question that the hero in all is Achilles, though liberties are taken with the Homeric story as considerable as we have remarked upon the vase. But it is the coincidence of subject between the vase and the sarcophagus, hitherto apparently unremarked or neglected,— which must fix our attention. That the bas-reliefs represent the exploits of that hero precisely who sprung from the divinely ordered marriage represented on the vase, is a circumstance that we are bound to ascribe to something more than accident, from the well-attested fact, that in these works, the selection of even a single subject, much more therefore of a pair in harmony, constantly betrays personal allusion to the entombed occupant. Thus we find the geniuses of the nine Muses on the sarcophagus of a youth, whose effigy is surrounded with the symbols of rhetorical study, and in numerous instances, the head of the chief figure in the groups has been evidently in the first instance merely blocked out, to be fashioned afterwards, often by a very inferior hand, into a portrait of the dead. But independently of this, the vase itself as a separate work may be connected with the traditions of the hero of the Iliad still more interestingly. In a beautiful though gravely susPected portion of the last book of the Odyssey, the poet des.

* Fragt. Pherecyd. p. 77–80, ed. * Porphyr. de Abstin. I. 33; Cf. Sturz. ; Schol. Pind. Nem. Iv. 81. Plato, Gorgias, p. 523, ed. Bekker; * Lajard, Nour. Ann. II., p. 10 fs. Plut. de S. N. V. 92, Wytten; Por70 f.; Porph. de Ant. Nym. 23; Mac- phyr. de Ant. Nym. 14, and the comrob. in Somn. Scip. I. 12; Sat. i. 17, mentators. p. 306, Z.

* See the observations of Gerhard | Apulian Wases; and consult also Paon the general subject in the introduc- nofka, Testa di Ganymeda, in the Nation to his magnificent work on the ples Bulletino, July 1847.

« السابقةمتابعة »