Both the Zeus and the Diskobolos break through the barrier that separated kouroi from their beholders. In so doing he cleaves to Modernist orthodoxy. Seen in a front three-quarters view, for instance, it becomes vigorously three-dimensional, its gesture toward the beholder explicit.
The right arm recedes, the left arm projects; in a moment, the toss of the discus will reverse these relative positions. A new geom- etry of arcs and angles also becomes apparent in this view. The sweep of the arms now carries without interruption into the left leg, while the torso and the right thigh come together at something close to ninety degrees.
A distinctive doubleness has been lost. Like the shining ray of the thunderbolt, the hurtling discus has ceased to engage the space of the beholder. The statue shares these qualities. Textbooks often evoke the Diskobolos to exemplify a broad preference in Clas- sical Greek art for the depiction of a pregnant moment—catching a gesture that seems to include both the immediate past and the immediate future. Standardly one connects the strong evocation of narrative time with the allegedly intrinsic Greek narrative impulse.
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As we have seen, however, that impulse is too vague to have any explanatory value. What the Diskobolos evokes, irresistibly, is the invisible: a movement, a gesture, that has ei- ther just now slipped into the past or will, any second, come to be. Rhythmos is a real phenomenon, but one comprehensible according to the logic of the synapse and the rhetoric of wonder. Temple Pediments and Movement in Marble The technical constraints on dramatic movement in marble sculpture do not per- tain in an architectural setting. Thus the history of the Classical pediment tracks that of bronze statuary in a way that the history of freestanding marble does not.
Here again, the overriding tendency is toward a dramatic address to the beholder. Flanking the central group are large panthers, their faces also turned toward the beholder. Yet such thematic coherence is clearly subordinate to an overriding demand for confrontational frontality. The dominant feature is the mask of Medousa. Circa bce. Be- sical replacement ca. After Olympia- of Aphaia at Aegina ca. Parthenon at Athens ca. Robin Osborne has argued that the purpose of this arrangement was to guide theMarble. Before bce. Sculpture guides not just the eye but, as it were, the whole body of an ambient beholder.
But there has got to be more to the matter. Pediments may be good signposts but, after all, was such expensive signage really necessary? It is this aspect that stands most in need of explication. Positioned centrally, facing the viewer with a monstrous grimace and a pet- rifying gaze, Medousa is at once alien and confrontational. Thewest pediment of the temple Knielauf pose is, as we have seen, a characteristically Archaic device for the simulta-of Aphaia on Aegina: assault neous suggestion of motion and stasis.
After Ohly The Corfu pediment,east pediment of the temple in short, conforms perfectly to the Archaic thematic of the joint or synapse. It mayof Aphaia on Aegina: assault not be radiant, but it is confrontational and dramatic—which, in the hands of Greekon Troy. Circa sculptors, is very nearly the same thing. Later pediments elaborate this theme without changing it fundamentally. The mortals takePyrgi: Seven against Thebes. In such instancesTerracotta.
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Photo: pedimental space, the sculptors focus on a single event. Often overlooked, however, is a correlate disjunc- tion between the axial deity and the surrounding actors to whom the epiphany is invisible. For the break between narratives, these pediments substitute a break within narratives. Knitting the pediment together in this way entails the omission of non-narrative elements like felines and serpents.
The goddess stares out at us, the beholders; the warriors to either side concentrate on killing one another, taking no notice of the immortal in their midst. But that dramatic unity corresponds to an equallyof the east pediment of the emphatic disjunction between the axial epiphany and the action to either side.
Circa Maintaining this correspondence is a tricky business. Non-narrative elementsbce. Purging them naturally increases the prominence of the subsidiary actors. The centrally placed deities of Classical pediments do not burst through the frame like the Corfu Medousa, nor do they dwarf the other actors though they are invariably taller. The compositions are, in short, more bal- anced. Innovations in pose provide a solution. The Corfu Medousa does break out of her frame, coming as it were at us, but her main line of movement is to exit stage right. Again, what matters is the contrast between the central epiphany and everything else.
The old temple of Athena on the Athenian Akropo- lis showed a Gigantomachy: Athena strides and smites with far greater dynamism than, say, the earlier Zeus of Corfu; her opponent, likewise, twists dramatically as he falls, and looks away from the beholder. Where similar innovations in freestanding bronze sculpture may be seen as an attempt to overwhelm the beholder, in pediments these new poses are part of a larger system of contrasts.
The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture
That counterpoint becomes more96 c h a p t e r t wo. This relation had al- ways had its place in pedimental compositions. The Corfu pediment, for instance, laid heavy emphasis on the petrifying stare of the Gorgon: not only did we see her, but she was to be imagined as seeing us as well. The Greeks and Centaurs of Olympia are oblivious to the Apollo in their midst, just as the various combatants at Aegina and Eretria are oblivious to Athena. What is visible to the au- dience is not visible to the characters in the drama.
Agamemnon and the other Greeks disbelieve her, but the audience in the theater knows that she speaks truth: what is visible to her, hence in a way to us, is not visible to them.
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Shortly after bce. Mu-nich, Glyptothek Circa— bce. For itof the east pediment of the occurs in and through the contrast between center and sides, between full frontalityParthenon. If seeing a god that others do not see is— bce. After Palagia amazing or wonderful, then the Classical pediment is a veritable machine for the Used by kind per- production of thauma.
All that hap-of the west pediment of the pens in the following two centuries is the assaying of these antitheses into separateParthenon. In the Classical pediment, the central deity is— bce. Used by kind per- from side to side, and ignore the beholder. The entire pediment becomes as amazingmission. The story is the contest of Athena and Poseidon for dominion of Athens, but neither deity occupies the central posi- tion.
Instead, each recoils from a central element, now lost. Erika Simon has argued convincingly, on the basis of parallels in vase-painting, that this explosive force was a thunderbolt: Athena and Poseidon recoil as Zeus separates them with a blast from the sky. As sculpture, however, the thunderbolt is a sign in the sense that does not depict a meteorological phenomenon, but rather denotes it.
The thunderbolt is, in Greco-Roman art criti- cism, a byword for that which is beyond depiction. Parthenon West, in short, distills the repulsion, shock, amazement, and won- der of the sixth-century Gorgon masks into a visible sign. Pella, Pella Museum, inv. Just so, the active poses of Classical pediments do not, in themselves, engage the beholder in the manner of their bronze counterparts. They frame the central epiphany, and thereby establish the crucial visual contrast.