Sunday, January 8, 2017


"Some of these alterations are sublime. They add an involuntary beauty, associated with the hazards of history, which is the result of natural causes and of time. Statues so thoroughly shattered that out of the debris new work is born; a candid hand; a bent knee which contains all the speed of the footrace; a torso which has no face to prevent us from loving it; a breast or genitals in which we realize more fully the form of a fruit or a flower; a profile in which beauty survives with a complete absence of human or divine anecdote; a bust with eroded features, halfway between a portrait and a death's-head...

The entire man is there--his intelligent collaboration with the universe, his struggle against it, and that final defeat in which the mind and the matter which supported him perish almost at the same time. What he intended affirms itself forever in the ruin of things."

"Still others owe their beauty to human violence: the push toppling them from their pedestals or the iconoclast's hammer has made them what they are. The classical work of art is thus infused with pathos: the mutilated gods have the air of martyrs. Sometimes, the erosion of the elements and the brutality of man unite to create an unwonted appearance which belongs to no school or time: headless and armless, separated from her recently discovered hand, worm away by all the squalls of the Sporades, the Victory of the Samothrace has become not so much woman as pure sea-wind and sky. The psyche in the Museo Nazionale of Naples with her skull cut cleanly off, horizontally cloven, has the appearance of a Rodin; a decapitated torso turning on its base recalls a Despiau or a Maillol. What our sculptors today imitate by willful abstraction, and moreover, with the help of cunning artifice, is there intimately bound to the fate of the statue itself. Each wound helps us to reconstruct a crime and sometimes even to discover its causes." 


"The forms and gestures the sculptor gave them proved to be only a brief episode between the incalculable duration as rock in the bosom of the mountain and their long existence as stone lying at the bottom of the sea. They have passed through this decomposition without pain, through this loss without death, through this survival without resurrection, as does all matter freed to obey its own laws. They no longer belong to us.  They have suffered a sea-change into something rich and strange."

"The great lovers of antiquities restored out of piety. Out of piety, we undo what they did. But possibly we are more accustomed to ruins and wounds. We are suspicious of any continuity of taste or of human spirit which would permit Thorvaldsen to repair Praxiteles. We more easily accept that this beauty, so remote from us and lodged in museums rather than in our homes, should be a dead beauty or a beauty made of fragments. Our sense of the pathetic is gratified by these bruises; our predilection for abstract art causes us to like those lacunae and fractures which tend to neutralize the forceful human element in this statuary. Of all the changes caused by time, none affects statues more than the shifts of taste in their admirers."

"A world of violence turns about these calm forms."

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