Pater on the Temporality of the Classical Ideal in Art
In part responding to Lessing’s theory of the ‘pregnant moment’ in pictorial art, Pater defined the artistic ideal of classical Greek sculpture as a ‘delicate pause’ that nonetheless has constituted a tranhistorical possibility persisting into the present, an ‘eternal moment’ as it were. The essay explores the temporal dynamics implied by Pater’s suggestive but elusive notion, first by considering it dialectically in relation to Winckelmann’s history of cycles of emulation in classical sculpture and Hegel’s history of the supersession of classical by romantic art, and second by considering it philologically as Pater’s attempt to represent the Greek aesthetic of rhythmos, that is, to use the Greek aesthetic category for the purposes of a modern criticism of their art. Throughout it is crucial to recognize the interplay between animate (but ephemeral) human prototypes and inanimate (but lasting) sculptural figurations.
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