Scanned text contains errors.
article Painting in the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.
The improvements which Polygnotus effected in painting are described by Pliny very briefly and unsatisfactorily. (//. ./V. xxxv. 9. s. 35.) Among these improvements were, opening the mouth, showing the teeth, and varying the expression of the countenance from its ancient stiffness. He was the first who painted women with brilliant (or transparent) drapery (lucida veste), and with \Tariegated head-dresses (mitris versicoloribus) ; and, generally, he was the first who contributed much to the advancement of painting (plurimumque picturae primus contulit}. Lucian also selects his figures as models of excellence for the beauty of the eye-brows, the blush upon the cheeks (as in his Cassandra in the Lesche at Delphi), and the gracefulness of the draperies. (De Imag. 7, vol. ii. p. 465). These statements of Pliny amount to saying that Polygnotus gave great expression to both face and figure, and great elegance and variety to the drapery. How these matters were treated before his time we may judge from many of the ancient vases, where the figures are in the most constrained attitudes, the faces hard profiles, with closed lips and fixed eyes, often looking sideways, and the draperies standing, rather than hanging, in rigid parallel lines. That the expression which Polygnotus gave to his figures was something more, however, than a successful imitation of real life, and that it had an ideal character, may be inferred from the mariner in which Aristotle speaks of the artist. Thus he calls him an etldc painter (ypafavs 7}0i/c</s), a good etho-grapher (dyaOos yBoypatyos), terms which denote his power of expressing, not passion and emotion only, but also ideal character. (Polit. viii. 5. p. 267, ed. Gottling, Poet. vi. 5, ed. Herm., 11, ed. Hitter.) In the second of these passages he contrasts him with Zeuxis, whose painting, he says, has no tfdo? at all; and his meaning is. further shown by what he says on the subject, of which these allusions to painting are in illustration, namely fidos in poetry. 44 Tragedy," he says, 4t could not exist without action, but it could without ideal characters (r\Q(av} ; for the tragedies of most of the recent poets are without character (a^flets), and, in general, there are many poets of this kind ;" words thoroughly exemplified in some of the tragedies of Euripides, and in the account we have of others of the later tragedians and dithyrambic poets, where the expression of ideal character is sacrificed to the exhibition of mere emotion, to the energy and complication of dramatic action, or even to lower sources of interest. In another well-known passage, which forms a sort of landmark in the history of art (Poet. 2), he says: 44 But since those who imitate, imitate men in action, and it is necessary that these be either good or bad (for characters, 7J077, almost always follow these distinctions alone : for all men differ in their characters by vice and virtue), they imitate persons either better than ordinary men (?) Koff rj/ms), or worse, or such as men really are, just as the painters do: for Poly-ynotus represented men as better than iliey are; Pauson worse than they are; and Dionysius like ordinary men" And so, in the passage respecting T)0Tj, first quoted from the Politic (where the whole context deserves careful reading), he says that "the young ought not to study the works of Pauson, but those of Polygnotus, and whoever
else of the painters or statuaries is ethic." In the Poetic, Aristotle goes on to explain his distinction by reference to various imitative arts, and especially poetry,»in which, he says, 4i Homer represented characters better than ordinary men, but Cleophon like ordinary men, but Hegemon, who first composed parodies, and Nicochares, the author of the Delias, worse ;" he then quotes Timotheus and Philoxenus as examples of the same thing in the dithyramb, and adds the very important remark that 44 this is the very difference which makes the distinction between tragedy and comedy ; for the one purposes to imitate men worse, but the other better, than men as they now actually are.*" (Comp. Hermann's Notes, and Les-sing's Hamburaische Dramaturgie.}
The parallel which Aristotle thus draws between Polygnotus and Homer (and the poets of Homer's spirit) seems, from all we know of Polygnotus, to be an exact illustration, both of his subjects and of his mode of treating them. It should never be forgotten that Grecian art was founded upon Grecian poetry, and took from it both its subjects and its character. Pheidias and Polygnotus were the Homers of their respective arts ; they imitated the personages and the subjects of the old mythology, and they treated them in an epic spirit, while Lysippus and Apelles were essentially dramatic: the former artists strove to express character and repose, the latter action and emotion ; the former exhibited ideal personages, the latter real ones; the men of the former are godlike, the gods of the latter are ordinary men; Pheidias derived the image of his Zeus from the sublimest verses of Homer, Apelles painted his Venus from a courtezan, and Zeuxis could find no higher model for the queen of Olympus than a selection from real and living beauties, "The limits of this article do not permit any further exposition of this essential and fundamental point of aesthetic science. We must not, however, omit to state a fact, in illustration of the parallel between Homer and Polygnotus, namely, that the painter's works in the Lesche at Delphi were commonly known as the Iliad and Odyssey of Polygnotus; though it must be admitted that most of those who used that phrase were thinking of the subjects of the paintings, and little or nothing of their character, and that very few had any notion of the sense in which Polygnotus is placed beside Homer by the great philosopher, who is rightly regarded as the father of aesthetic science. The subjects of the pictures of Polygnotus were almost invariably taken from Homer and the other poets of the epic cycle.
With respect to the more technical and mechanical improvements which Polygnotus introduced into painting, the statement of Pliny concerning his female draperies is admirably illustrated by Bottiger, to whose section on Polygnotus, in his Ideen zur Geschichte der Arch'dologie der Ma-lerei, we here refer once for all, as one of the chief authorities for the present subject, and as one of tHe most valuable contributions to the history of ancient art. Bottiger (pp. 263 — 265) remarks that the descriptions of Polygnotus's paintings prove that female figures were introduced by him far more freely than we have any reason to suppose them to have appeared in earlier works of art ; and that he thus gained the opportunity of enlivening his pictures with the varied and brilliant