Tuesday, June 19, 2012

May 29, 2012. The Parthenon In Nashville.

 The Batman Building
AKA the AT&T Building
in Nashville.

On the Hawthornes' last trip out west,
we stopped in Nashville
to visit with the Zzzadigs
and they were kind enough to 
be our guides to Nashville's Parthenon.
Here's my post from September 22, 2010.

From my last post:
The Parthenon is the centerpiece of Centennial Park. It is a full-scale replica of the original Athenian Parthenon, considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. Unfortunately this Sunday, the Parthenon was closed and I was unable to shoot pictures of the re-creation of the 42-foot statue of Athena, the focus of this Parthenon, just as it was in the Athenian Parthenon. Both the Parthenon and the statue of Athena are full-scale replicas of the Grecian originals. Today, the Parthenon also serves as an art museum for the city of Nashville. The focus of the Parthenon's permanent collection is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists. Additional gallery spaces provide a venue for a variety of temporary exhibits and shows. 

Nashville's Parthenon is the world's only full-scale replica of the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece.  The ancient Parthenon was completed in 438 BC and was a temple to the Goddess Athena, protector and patron goddess of Athens.  It is widely considered to be the pinnacle of Classical Greek architecture, and today, nearly 2500 years later, it remains a symbol of the ideals of ancient Greek democracy.

Nashville's Parthenon was originally built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.  The previous year, Tennessee celebrated its hundred-year anniversary as a state, but the six-month Centennial Exposition was not held until 1897 so that the necessary funds could be raised.  Like other fairs and expositions of the Victorian era, Tennessee's Centennial Exposition emphasized progress and improvement, showcasing the latest developments in modern technology, trade, and culture in a series of temporary building representing different cities, states, groups, demographic, and organizations.  The Centennial Exposition was held in what is now Centennial Park, and Nashville's building, the Parthenon, was its centerpiece.  At the time, Nashville's nickname "The Athens of the South" celebrated the city's emphasis on education since the time of its founding.  Nashville chose the Parthenon to represent its self-image as a center of learning and democracy, much like ancient Athens.

This shot of the Parthenon was taken on our first visit.
At that time,
we were unable to go inside
to see the statue of Athena.

  This shot was taken during this visit.

And this time, the doors were unlocked.

Filling the naos of the ancient Parthenon stood the statue of Athena Parthenos.  Designed by the sculptor Phidias, Athena Parthenos was the focal point of the entire Parthenon.  When it was unveiled in the 5th century B.C., Phidias' statue was hailed as a masterpiece, the crown jewel of all the artistic decoration on the temple.

Begun in 1982, the re-creation of Phidias' work was commissioned by the metropolitan Nashville Board of Parks and Recreation and unveiled on May 20, 1990.  Artist Alan LeQuire, a native Nashvillian, was chosen from among those who submitted proposals for the commission.  While nothing survives of the ancient sculpture, LeQuire's work is based on the latest scholarship and archaeological data, as well as his own aesthethic judgment.

The modern version of Athena Parthenos, like the original, is forty-one feet ten inches high and stands in the same location as Phidias' statue did in the ancient temple.  The original statue was constructed in the chryselephantine technique, using a combination of cast gold and carved ivory, assembled in sections onto a wooden armature.  The modern statue has likewise been cast in sections and assembled on an armature, but using modern materials:  a compound of gypsum cement and chopped fiberglass bonded onto a structural steel framework.

Athena Parthenos was the title of the Greek goddess Athena made by Phidias and housed in the Parthenon in Athens.
The ancient historian Pausanias gave a description of the statue:
...The statue itself is made of ivory silver and gold. On the middle of her helmet is placed a likeness of the Sphinx... and on either side of the helmet are griffins in relief. ... The statue of Athena is upright, with a tunic reaching to the feet, and on her breast the head of Medusa is worked in ivory. She holds a statue of Victory about four cubits high, and in the other hand a spear; at her feet lies a shield and near the spear is a serpent. This serpent would be Erichthonius. On the pedestal is the birth of Pandora in relief.

Athena Parthenos is the largest indoor sculpture in the Western Hemisphere.

In Greek mythology, Athena is the goddess of wisdom and the useful arts, and the protector of cities.  Her title, Athena Parthenos, refers to her status as a maiden goddess; the name for the Parthenon is derived from this epithet and translates into English as "the house of the maiden."  Born from the head of Zeus, King of the Gods, Athena inherited much of her father's power and wisdom.  Athena's pre-eminent place in the myths depicted on the artwork adorning the Parthenon also reflects the pre-eminent position the city of Athens enjoyed in the mid-fifth century B.C.

The Frieze
The frieze across the front of the marble base depicts the birth of Pandora, whose name means "all gifts".  The figures, in order, from left to right are Helios, Hermes, Hera, Zeus, Nike, Dionysus, the three Horai (hours or seasons), Pandora, Hephaistos, Athena, Poseidon, Artemis, Apollo, Ares, Demeter, Hestia, Eros, Aprhodite, and Selene.

The Gilding of Athena

Sculptor Alan LeQuire completed building the Athena statue in May of 1990.  For twelve years, it was completely white, except for some gilding on the base.  In the summer of 2002, Master Gilder Lou Reed collaborated with Alan LeQuire to oversee the project of gilding and painting the statue.

Since Pheidias' original statue of Athena disappeared almost 2000 years ago, there are many questions surrounding how it looked.  Most scholars agree that the garments and accoutrements were made of gold plates, approximately 1/16"- 1/8" thick, that the ivory was painted to resemble skin, and that the eyes were inset with gemstones.

Plating Nashville's Athena with gold, even 1/16" thick, was not a realistic option.  However, the goal has always been to give the viewer an accurate understanding of the original Parthenon.  Therefore, our statue is gilded; that is, covered in tiny, thin sheets of 23.75 karat gold.  The gilding project began on June 3, 2002 and was completed on September 3, 2002.

The Gilding Process

1.  The statue was vacuumed to remove dust and dirt.
2.  All the areas to be gilded were coated in four coats of shellac to seal the surface.  
3.  When the shellac dried, size was applied.  Size is the clear, glue-like material that makes the gold adhere to the surface.  Artist's Indian Red oil pain is mixed into the size to give a red undercoat to the gold.  Size is applied to small areas and allowed to dry for twelve hours.  At this point the size is partially dry, but still tacky, so the gold will stick.
4.  The gold leaf is 23.75 karat gold and three times thinner than cigarette paper.  There are 500 sheets of gold in a package.  Each sheet is 3 3/8 inches square.
5.  Areas that are not gilded were painted by Alan LeQuire to simulate painted ivory.  The face and the shield have the most elaborate painting.

In Athena's outstretched right hand hovers Nike, the winged goddess of victory, preparing to crown Athena with the laurel wreath.  As the personification of victory, Nike was often associated with Athena in the art of this period, and the relationship between the two goddesses was a close one in the minds of Athenians in the 5th century B.C.  The Athenians believed that it was Athena who had protected them from annihilation and granted them their victory over the Persian Empire in 480 B.C.  The image of a triumphant Athena being crowned by Victory was also symbolic of the pre-eminence of Athens amongst other Greek city-states.

The Aegis
The armored breast plate Athena wears on her shoulders is said to have magic powers.  Given to her by Zeus, the Aegis makes Athena impervious to her enemies' weapons.  In the center of the breast plate is the Medusa's head, given by Perseus in return for Athena's help in killing Medusa.

The Sandals
Athena's sandals are decorated with a scene depicting the slaying of Centaurs, a reflection of scenes carved on the metopes of the Parthenon's doric frieze.

The Helmet
The three crests of Athena's helmet are supported by mythological creatures:  on the left and right a pegasus (winged horse) and in the center a sphynx (half woman, half lion).

The Shield
Athena's shield protects the snake, indicating her role in defending the people of Athens from harm.
Standing some fifteen feet in diameter, Athena's shield is a complex sculpture in its own right.  On the exterior, in high relief, is a depiction of Greek heroes and Amazons savagely contesting an unnamed Greek city.  In the Greek mind, the Amazons were symbolic of other cultures- especially the Persians, whom the Greeks considered barbarians.  In Greek myth, the Amazons lived in the area of eastern Anatolia, and the long robes and effeminate manners of the Persians were likened to those of the legendary women warriors.  In the center of the shield is the grotesque image of Medusa, slain by Perseus with the help of Athena:  As a thank-offering for her help, Perseus gave the gorgon's head to the goddess, who put it on her shield as a protective device.  The Medusa appears on Athena's breastplate.

The Serpent
Thought by some to represent Ericthonios, a legendary deified king of early Athens, the snake is also thought to symbolize the people of Athens themselves who, like this creature of the earth, arose, "from the soil of Attica."

Heh heh heh,

The sculptures above were created in the 1920s by Belle Kinney and her husband Leopold Scholz as a study model for the West Pediment of Nashville's Parthenon.  They based their designs on casts, located in the adjacent room, of the original sculptural fragments from the Parthenon as well as drawings by Jacques Carry made in 1674.

This grouping depicts the mythological contest between Athena and her uncle Poseidon to determine who would become the patron of Attica and its capital city.  Each deity gave the people a gift.  Poseidon struck the rock of the Acropolis with his trident and a saltwater spring arose, symbolizing a powerful navy and prosperous trade through the region's ports.  Athena struck the rock with her spear and an olive tree sprang up, representing olives, oil, and wood which had many uses.  The citizens felt that Athena's gift was the more valuable and voted to make her their patron goddess.

Athena and Poseidon are the central figures and each is flanked by a chariot, charioteer, and other supporters.  There is much controversy among scholars concerning the identification of most of the figures other than the central two.  In the Nashville pediment the two outermost figures are river gods and the mortals represent the two royal families of Kekrops and Erechtheus.  The outer figures are now missing from the maquetta and are listed in parentheses in the identification below.

Figures from left to right: (Illssos), Kekrops, Pandrosos, Herse, Erysichthon, Aglauros, Erectheus, Hermes, Athena, Poseidon, Iris, Amphitrite, Kalais, Oreithia, Zetes, Melicertes, Ino, Thalassa, (Callirrhoe), (Kephissos)

The sculptures above were created in the 1920s by Belle Kinney and her husband Leopold Sholz as a study model for the East Pediment of Nashville's Parthenon.  They based their designs on casts, located in the adjacent room, of the original sculptural fragments from the Parthenon as well as drawings by Jacques Carrey made in 1674.
This group of plaster figures depicts the mythological birth of Athena, who sprang as a full-grown female warrior from the head of her father Zeus, chief of the gods on Mount Olympus.  Nike, goddess of victory, flies across the center to place the victor's wreath on Athena's helmet, thus commemorating, in a mythological scene, Greece's recent real-time defeat of the Persians and making the temple an enormous votive (thank offering) to their patron goddess.
We see that Athena's birth occurred at dawn because Helios, god of the sun (left corner) is emerging over the horizon with four steeds that will pull his flaming chariot across the sky, while his sister Selene, goddess of the moon (right corner) is descending into the sea.
The central figures (those between Iris on the left and Hestia-Dione-Aphrodite on the right) were removed during the conversion of the Parthenon to a Christian church in the 6th century AD.  It is therefore nearly impossible to know exactly how many figures representing which gods and goddesses were in the original grouping and scholars often propose new identifications.  This version is one of several acceptable interpretations of the 1920s, but contains the contemporary identification of the group of three women to the right of Apollo.

Figures from left to right:  Helios, Dionysus, Persephone, Demeter, Iris, Poseidon, Hebe, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Zeus, Nike Athena, Ares, Artemis, Hera, Hermes, Apollo, Ganymede, Hestia, Dione, Aphrodite, Selene.

Battle of the Gods and the Giants

Big Athena!


Marilyn said...

That's a big woman! Pretty.

zzzadig said...

Nice tour guide and great shots considering the withering heat in there.

It's that cold oceanwater where they found that..........heh