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)
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
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