Sculpture: Some Observations on Shape and Form from Pygmalion's Creative Dream
Johann Gottfried Herder
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Long recognized as one of the most important eighteenth-century works on aesthetics and the visual arts, Johann Gottfried Herder's Plastik (Sculpture, 1778) has never before appeared in a complete English translation. In this landmark essay, Herder combines rationalist and empiricist thought with a wide range of sources—from the classics to Norse legend, Shakespeare to the Bible—to illuminate the ways we experience sculpture.
Standing on the fault line between classicism and romanticism, Herder draws most of his examples from classical sculpture, while nevertheless insisting on the historicity of art and of the senses themselves. Through a detailed analysis of the differences between painting and sculpture, he develops a powerful critique of the dominance of vision both in the appreciation of art and in our everyday apprehension of the world around us. One of the key articulations of the aesthetics of Sturm und Drang, Sculpture is also important as an anticipation of subsequent developments in art theory.
Jason Gaiger's translation of Sculpture includes an extensive introduction to Herder's thought, explanatory notes, and illustrations of all the sculptures discussed in the text.
paintings, reliefs, apparel, costumes. That statues can be seen no one doubts. But we are entitled to ask whether the originary determination of the notion of beautiful form can in fact be derived from the sense of sight. Does the concept of form recognize sight as its origin and as its highest judge? This should not merely be doubted, but vehemently denied. A creature that is nothing but an eye, indeed, an Argus with a hundred eyes,17 may look upon a statue for a hundred years and examine it
into stone or blood into a plant. The youth who stood before the Greek heroes in the beautiful age of Greece enjoyed the possibility and hope of one day having his own statue. The gods and the heroes belonged to one race; the gods were ancestors to the heroes, and the heroes shared their characteristics. Success in the games or at battle could win the youth a place alongside them. The artist worked for his city, for his people, and for the name of Greece as a whole. So sang Pindar, lifting his
the “nominal” definitions of logic with a philosophy that traces our ideas back to their origins in sensation and experience. The senses do not provide merely raw data that is worked up through the operations of reason. Rather, they pro- 14. Herder’s fourth Critical Grove was written in 1769, but published only posthumously, in 1846. For Herder’s discussion of Baumgarten, see SW 4:22–27 and 4:132– 33. Baumgarten’s definition of aesthetics in terms of sensible knowledge is given in section 1 of
120) reports that “when Lysippus modelled his first statue of Alexander which represented him looking up with his face turned toward the heavens (as indeed Alexander often did look, with a slight inclination of his head to one side), someone engraved these verses on the statue, not without some plausibility: ‘Eager to speak seems the statue of bronze, up to Zeus it gazes: / “Earth I have set under foot: Zeus, keep Olympus to yourself!” ’ ” (Moralia, 335ab). This epigram also appears in The Greek
Metamorphoses. Trans. F. J. Miller. Rev. ed. 2 vols. Ed. G. P. Goold. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984. Pausanias. Description of Greece. 5 vols. Trans. W. H. S. Jones and H. A. Ormerod. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1919–35. Piles, Roger de. The Art of Painting [Abre´ge´ de la vie des peintres]. Trans. John Savage. London: Thomas Payne, 1744. ———. Dialogue upon Colouring. Trans. John Ozell. London: Daniel Brown, 1711. Pindar. The Odes. Trans. C. M. Bowra.