Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 192


This was also the work of Phidias. It stood in the Parthenon, or temple of Minera at Athens. The goddess was represented standing. In one hand she held a spear, in the other a statue of Victory. Her helmet, highly decorated, was surmounted by a Sphinx. The statue was forty feet in height, and, like the Jupiter, composed of ivory and gold. The eyes were of marble, and probably painted to represent the iris and pupil. The Parthenon in which this statue stood was also constructed under the direction and superintendence of Phidias. Its exterior was enriched with sculptures, many of them from the hand of Phidias. The Elgin marbles now in the British Museum are a part of them.

Both the Jupiter and Minerva of Phidias are lost, but there is good ground to believe that we have, in several extant statues and busts, the artist's conceptions of the countenances of both. They are characterized by grave and dignified beauty, and freedom from any transient expression, which in the language of art is called REPOSE.


The Venus of the Medici is so called from its having been in the possession of the princes of that name in Rome when it first attracted attention, about two hundred years ago. An inscription on the base records it to be the work of Cleomenes, an Athenian sculptor of 200 B.C., but the authenticity of the inscription is doubtful. There is a story that the artist was employed by public authority to make a statue exhibiting the perfection of female beauty, and to aid him in his task, the most perfect forms the city could supply were furnished him for models. It is this which Thomson alludes to in his Summer.

  "So stands the statue that enchants the world;
  So bending tries to veil the matchless boast,
  The mingled beauties of exulting Greece."

Byron also alludes to this statue. Speaking of the Florence
Museum, he says:

  "There too the goddess loves in stone, and fills
  The air around with beauty;"

And in the next stanza,

"Blood, pulse, and breast confirm the Dardan shepherd's prize."

This last allusion is explained in Chapter XX.


The most highly esteemed of all the remains of ancient sculpture is the statue of Apollo, called the Belvedere, from the name of the apartment of the Pope's palace at Rome, in which it is placed. The artist is unknown. It is supposed to be a work of Roman art, of about the first century of our era. It is a standing figure, in marble, more than seven feet high, naked except for the cloak which is fastened around the neck and hangs over the extended left arm. It is supposed to represent the god in the moment when he has shot the arrow to destroy the monster Python (See Chapter II). The victorious divinity is in the act of stepping forward. The left arm which seems to have held the bow is outstretched, and the head is turned in the same direction. In attitude and proportion the graceful majesty of the figure is unsurpassed. The effect is completed by the countenance, where, on the perfection of youthful godlike beauty there dwells the consciousness of triumphant power.