27 June 2007

Stone versus Clay

The latest issue of The New Republic has a fascinating review by Jed Perl of the Greek and Roman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York.

What struck me was Perl's speculation, which he attributes to a scholar named John Onians, that the Greek sense of volume, mass, and weight -- the sense that underlies their pottery, architecture, and sculpture, follows from their creation myths.

Onians explains, says Perl, "that in Greek creation myths there is an idea that mankind was made from stone, and contrasts this with the thinking of people who" lived on flooded plains, and conceived of humans as created from something softer -- mud or clay.

The Renaissance inherited, or revived, the Greek sense of creation as distinct from that Mesopotamian alternative.

Onians' theory is, Perl writes, "a convincing prologue to the art of Michelangelo and Bancusi, in which the emphasis is always on the centeredness of the masses, on the gravitational pull of the forms, on the sense of the work of art as a massing of energies that displaces other energies in the world."

No comments:

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.