Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable
Page: 242The same judgment may be extended to the Farnese Bull, the work of Apollonius and Tauriscos, artists from Tralles who lived at Rhodes. This group represents the punishment of the cruel Dirke at the hands of the sons of Antiope. The beautiful queen clasps the knee of one of the sons praying for grace, while the other boy is about to throw over her the noose which is to bind her to the bull. Antiope stands in the background, a mere lay figure, and scattered about are numerous small symbolical figures. Like the Laocoon the Farnese Bull exhibits surprising mastery of technical obstacles, but, like the Laocoon, it falls short of true tragic grandeur. In a greater degree than the Laocoon it trenches upon the province of painting. It is more complicated in its subject-matter; and the appearance in the group of many small subsidiary figures, which in a painting might have been given their proper value, being in the marble of the same relief and distinction as the major characters, give a somewhat absurd effect. The little goddess who sits in the foreground, for instance, is smaller than the dog. Again, there is less of the motive shown than in the Laocoon. The group is seized at the moment preceding the frightful catastrophe, but that moment is as full of agony as the succeeding ones, and in addition there is the feeling of suspense and oppression that comes from the unfinished tragedy. Altogether, the group, in spite of the marvellous technical skill shown in details, is a failure when judged on general lines. Its interest lies in momentary and apparently ummotived suffering, not in any truly serious conception of life.
With the conquest of Greece by Rome, the final stage of Greek art begins. But the vigor and originality had departed. The sculptors aimed at and attained technical correctness, academic beauty of form, sensuous feeling, perfection of details, but they lost all imaginative power. A good example of the work of this period is found in the Apollo Belvidere now in the Vatican. This famous statue is an early Roman copy of a Greek original. It represents the god advancing easily, full of vigor and grace. It is marvellously correct in drawing, but quite without feeling of any kind.
Another work of this period is the sleeping Ariadne of the Vatican. This represents a woman reclining in a studied sentimental attitude, her arms thrown about her head, her body swathed in its protecting drapery. To the same period also belongs almost the last notable work of Greek art, the degenerate and sensuous conception of the Venus de Medici. In this statue the goddess stands as if rising from the sea, her attitude reserved, yet coquettish and self-conscious. The form is technically perfect, graceful, and soft in its refinement, but compared with the earlier Aphrodites it is an unworthy successor.
Still another famous statue is the Borghese Gladiator, of Agasius of Ephesus, now in the Louvre. The statue is merely a bit of display, an effort to parade technical skill and anatomical knowledge. The gladiator throws his weight strongly on his right leg, and holds one arm high above his head, giving to his whole body an effect of straining. The figure is strong and wiry. Agasius was distinctly an imitator, as were most of the artists of this age, among whom must be reckoned the skilful sculptor of the crouching Venus, also in the Louvre. The goddess is shown as bending down in graceful curves until her body is supported on the right leg, which is bent double. The form is strong and healthy, graceful and easy in its somewhat constrained posture.