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Main Building’s Third Floor Grayed Greek Statues Show Signs of Old Age After 25 Centuries of Life
(Editor’s Note–The following is the first in a series the Texans will run this year on collections and items of cultural interest on the campus. The series will be co-ordinated by Jim Clark, Art Editor.)

Located on the third floor of the Main Building is a treasure house of Greek sculpture–dirty, pencil-marked, chipped, and displayed ineffectively. Giving mute testimony of an interesting period of history–the Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Centuries BC–they are, nevertheless, enough to attract a constant flow of appreciative visitors.

One of the most interesting casts is known as the Goddesses of the Three Fates. The original is undoubtedly one of the greatest pieces of modeling ever produced by man. A magnificent work of the Fifth Century BC, the model was taken from the last pediment of the Parthenon. The original is presently located in the British Museum.

Present in all of the statuary is symmetry of system and balance, a characteristic which seems law among Grecian art products.

Representing outstanding works of art, the University’s collection falls not two classes. The first is what may be called works substantive art–statues or groups made for their own sake and to be judged by themselves. Such are the cult-statues of deities from temples and shrines, honorary portraits of rulers or of athletes, and dedicated groups.

The second is decorative sculptures, made, usually in relief, for the decoration of temples and other buildings, and were intended to subordinate to architectural effect. Some of them are bronze-coated, others are plaster.

Included in the collection is a reproduction of Hermes and the infant Dionisus by Praxiteles. Completed during the Fourth Century BC, the original is almost the only marble statue which can be assigned positively to one of the great sculptors. It was found in 1877 and is now located in the Museum of Olympia.

The entire group of statuary skillfully represents and irresistible inclination to idealize and to represent what was genuine and typical.

The vast achievements made by the Greeks were largely because of the concentration on limited objectives and to a sense of proportion. The subject of sculpture was more often the human figure. Until the Sixth Century BC, the sculptors seemed content to study structure. After the Fifth Century BC, there is dignity and restraint in expression and pose. The Fourth Century BC finds Greek art containing more superficial charms of emotion and movement.

Critics have said that Greek sculpture is an example which has never been equaled since, neither in actual beauty of the form nor in the intelligence shown in the composition. It is full of simplicity and thorough rationality.

Some feel that the custom of studying and copying the forms of the finest of the muscular athletes, combined with the Greek habit of complete nudity during the sports, lies at the bases of the Greek excellence in sculpture.

Commonly recognized by almost everyone is Aphrodite from Melon or Venus de Milo, a work of the Second Century BC.

There are, also gravestones, grave statues, temple cornices, urns, vases, scrolls, table supports, columns, heads and busts of gods, giants, rulers, and athletes, and a horses head in the gallery collection.

Of particular interest because of its background, as well as its beauty, is a Dying Gaul. The original stature, found in Rome, has long been thought to be a gladiator. It was celebrated by Byron in Childe Harold in a copy of the work set up during the Third Century BC in Asia Minor as a memorial to Attalus I’s victory over the gauls who had invaded his country.

Other statues of interest are Hercules, a work greatly admired by Michelangelo; Niobe, whose children were slain by Apollo and Artenis; Venus Gentrix, which resembles the statue chosen by Caesar to represent the goddess from whom he claimed to be descened: Satyx, Hawthorne’s marble faun by Praxiteles; and various reproductions of objects from the Parthenon.

Begun in 1894 by Dr. William James Battle, professor emeritus of classical languages, casts were added to the gallery yearly until recently. They have not been purchased in several years because of lack of display room. Greek heads and busts are also located on the twenty-seventh floor. In the library on the second floor there are casts of Diana, Apollo, Sophocles and Demosthesis.

The third floor gallery is open daily except Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Daily Texan. September 17, 1953.
Article by: Jim Clark

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3 May 1999
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