Compare, on this point of finish in sculpture even where it is invisible, Stones of Venice, vol. i. ch. i. §§42, 43, where Ruskin denounces the heartlessness of the sculptor who stayed his hand in the portrait on a tomb, as soon as he reached a side of the face invisible from below. The “Lamp of Sacrifice” lighted the Greek sculptors of the best time. In the sculptures of the Parthenon the backs which were set against the wall and could never be seen by human eye are nevertheless finished hardly less carefully than the other parts. This practice is notable, whether it were due to a feeling that the truth of the visible could only be secured if the whole work were sculptured, or to “the true love-sacrifice of a genuine artistic soul.” This is the explanation of the sculptor Kietschl, who says: “It has always filled me with a feeling of tender admiration, that the figures of the Parthenon are as carefully finished behind as before. The artist knew that when these statues had left his hands and studio, no mortal eye could ever see the charming work which his love and diligence had created and cherished. And now, after 2000 years, we are permitted, rather by a happy accident than by historical necessity, to discover the true love-sacrifices of a genuine artistic soul. Why did the artist do that, in doing which he seemed to lose so much time and labour? He did it from a truly godlike creative impulse to call his work into being in full perfection, and for its own sake, as the flower springs up on the lonely uplands to bloom in the wilderness unvisited by man or beast. It serves no animal for food, and yet it is as perfectly developed as the most sumptuous flower in an ornamental garden” (W. C. Perry's Greek and Roman Sculpture, p. 271). For other illustrations of this subject from ancient art, see E. T. Cook's Popular Handbook to the Greek and Roman Antiquities in the British Museum, pp. 30", 451, and cf. the passage from Renan's “Prayer on the Acropolis” cited below, p. 53. It is interesting to reflect how much of the great art of the world was spent in places where it was never intended to be seen at all, or where it could only be seen with difficulty.
Last modified 13 July 2010