='data:blog.isMobile ? "width=device-width,initial-scale=1.0,minimum-scale=1.0,maximum-scale=1.0" : "width=1100"' name='viewport'/> The Crawford Arts Review: The British Museum's blockbuster

Saturday, 23 June 2018

The British Museum's blockbuster

Is one visit to an exhibition ever enough? Well, not if it's Rodin and the art of ancient Greece. For £64 for a year's membership (one adult only, by Direct Debit) you can go as many times as you like. Each time you will discover more.


I've shot this Parthenon sculpture (Ilissos, the river god (about 438432BC), figure A from the corner of the west pediment), from the back to show the way the sculptor has transformed a massive chunk of marble into rippling water eddies at the base, then flesh as Ilissos rises from the watery depths to rest on the river bank.
     The British Museum, scholarly to a fault, does not give a sculptor's name to any of these figures. They were carved 'in the time of' Pheidias.



Pheidias is thought to have designed both the Parthenon itself, as its architect, as well as its sculptures. The matter of who did the carving is not resolved. Sculptors, in ancient and modern times, often made sculptural drawings, clay casts or small models. Their assistants then did the actual carving. Rodin did this; Pheidias almost certainly did this. The image left is of a 'flying' sculpture, always on the move. It's Iris, messenger of the gods (about 438432BC, figure N from the corner of the west pediment). As the legend will tell you, the sculptor not only shows her in flight but captures the air rushing against her diaphanous tunic.


Iris' right side showing some of the flowing drapery carved in marble. Over the 2500 years she has been in existence, her head, arms and lower legs have disappeared. As will be made plain by the rest of this exhibition, the energy, power and emotion invested in even such incomplete figures are what captivated and inspired Rodin when he first saw them during his visit to the British Museum in 1881.






Iris from the backthis view shows the drilled out slots where once her bronze wings (which she needed to give her the power of flight) would have fitted. The wings are missing, plunder being an ancient practice.
The British Museum
Great Russell Street
London WC1
Enquiries about Membership+44 (0)20 7323 8195friends@britishmuseum.orgMembership pageaMembership FAQs

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