University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume IV (1876-1877)

Stuart, J. R.
The harmonic method in Greek art,   pp. 44-49 PDF (1.8 MB)


Page 44


44      Wisconsin Academy of icjences, Arts, and Letters.
     THE HARMONIC METHOD IN GREEK ART.
                      BY MR. J. R. STUART.
  A great deal is -said in a -vague way of the ideal in Greek art,
as if that ideal were a fixed form or pattern, by which the artist
worked out his statues. Were this possible, the art would become
a manufacture and we should have statues turned out by the lot,
like so much furniture, of the correct pattern. Whereas, the work
of the Greek sculptors was the result of constant, earnest study
and observation. A lifetime was sometimes devoted to a single
work, and, among the thousands of statues produced, there was an
infinite variety in the model. The massive muscle of Hercules,
the superhuman grace and greatness of Apollo, the matronly Juno
and lovely Venus are each a distinctive type. To combine these
types, to place the head of Hercules on the body of Apollo, for
instance, we feel at once would produce a monster. Each statue
must be in harmony with itself, and this leads us to what Walker,
in his ' Analysis of Beauty,' has called the " harmonic -method
"
of
the Greeks.
  There are certain general, proportional measures used by artists
in constructing their figures, such as eight heads to the whole
height, which was sometimes varied as low as seven and a half
heads. Six feet (lengths of the foot) to the height, as Vituvius
tells us, was the practice of ancient artists. A man standing with
arms extended; the extreme extent of his arms is equal to his
height. So, also, the measure from the centre of one mamma to
the centre of the other, equal to the distance from each to the pit
above the breastbone.
  There is something needed, however, beyond these rules of gen-
eral application, and we now approach the chief difficulty, which evi.
dently found a stumbling block to even Leonardo da Vinci. That
harmonic method which, strange as it may appear, will be found
to afford rules that are at once perfectly precise and infinitely vari-
able. Says Walker. The harmonic method of the Greeks -that


Go up to Top of Page