Consciousness, Literature and the Arts
Volume 15 Number 1, April 2014

A Sublime Vision: Classical Concepts of Sublimation in Classical and Hellenistic Sculptural Goddess Images and Their Manifestation in Artworks by Two Contemporary Israeli Artists – Lea Avital and Ayala Serfaty



by
Nava Sevilla Sadeh
Tel Aviv University




“…when we had taken sufficient delight in the garden plants, we passed on into the temple. The goddess is set there in the middle of it – an exceedingly beautiful work of Parian marble – with a look of proud contempt and a slight smile which just reveals her teeth. The full extent of her beauty is unhidden by any clinging raiment for her nudity is complete except insofar as she holds one hand in front of her to hide her modesty. So strongly has the artist’s art prevailed, that the recalcitrant and solid nature of the stone has become adapted to each limb… the temple has two entrances, [the second being] for those who wish to see the goddess directly from the back, in order that nothing about the goddess should fail to be marveled at… To see the goddess in her entire splendor, we went around to the back. As the door was opened by the woman who was entrusted with the keys unforeseen amazement at the goddess’s beauty seized us…”

The goddess of love and beauty, sculpted by the Israeli artist Lea Avital (Figs. 1, 2), stands on a high podium as a Classical goddess combining the glamour of the 2nd century Venus of Melos with the grandeur of the 2nd century Nike of Samothrace.2 Avital’s work – the Unseen Venus, seems to capture the celestial and sublime nature of a goddess. This impression is reinforced by the lightness of the sculpture achieved through its material – the white, clear and shiny polystyrene, rather than marble, and its positioning on a high podium as a revered idol. The vision of a divine substance in mythology could be destructive, as in the case of the mortal Semele with her lover, the great Zeus himself. As a mortal, Semele was unable to withstand the powerful vision of the god, and was totally consumed.3 A mysterious vision was revealed, too, to the initiates during the rites in the mystery cult of the god Dionysus. The revelation of a mysterious vision was destined to promise eternal life after death,4 and the desire to undergo such a sublime experience was powerful in ancient times. The creation of a post-modern sculpture that evokes contexts of pagan cults and divine experience with a sublime vision raises questions about the relevance of the concept of the sublime and the role of art in creating a sublime vision in the 21st century. This article sets out to examine these questions by means of a comparative analysis of ancient artworks in relation to Classical concepts of the sublime on the one hand, and two contemporary parallel works relating to concepts of the Sublime on the other hand: the Unseen Venus by Lea Avital, and the installation SOMA by Ayala Serfaty (Figs. 3, 4).5

Analysis of the sublime in images of Aphrodite and Nike in Antiquity
The resemblance and the analogy of Avital’s statue to the previously mentioned ancient sculptures demand a discussion on the symbolism of the latter as sublime visions. The spiral composition of Avital’s figure resembles that of the 4th century image of Aphrodite from Knidos by the sculptor Praxiteles, and its derivatives in Hellenistic images of the goddess6 The citation from Lucian quoted at the beginning of this article reflects the spiritual experience that the worshipers underwent when they viewed the goddess’s idol in her temple. The sublime essence of Aphrodite was embodied in a statue by Praxiteles by means of its height (2m), its positioning on a podium, and its shinning translucent Parian marble. The round sanctuary in which the statue was placed symbolized the cosmos ruled by the goddess. The precinct of the temple at Knidos, where Lucian and his Corinthian and Athenian friends visited, was an orchard fragrant garden of myrtle trees, ivy and vines; the alluring sight of the goddess’s voluptuous curves seduced all observers, and even brought tears to the eyes of Lucian and his friends.7 This excitement derived from the goddess’s sensuality, which was considered neither as contaminated nor as a sin,8 stemmed from the concept of Eros in Platonic thought. Eros was held to be a mediator between the corporeal and the divine, as described allegorically in the Phaedrus dialogue. Before the soul was incarnated in a corporeal body, she dwelt among the divinities and witnessed their sublime beauty; however, when she entered the physical world and was incarnated, she forgot those glorious sights. Whenever the soul finds beauty in another being, she feels a dim memory of the sights that she had once seen, and this fills her with great emotion and passionate love for that being. This love stems from the longing for divine beauty and the wish to merge with it.9 The sublime was perceived also by Longinus as a manifestation of beauty and of a spiritual experience.10 The concept of Aphrodite Ourania reflects the celestial nature of the goddess and is connected to the 5th century majestic image on the eastern pediment of the Parthenon temple.11 This image displays the goddess reclining voluptuously against the knees of her mother Dione, while another maternal divinity, perhaps Hestia, is seated beside her.12 The shaping of the marble in Aphrodite’s image is mimetic - very naturalistic and refined, simulating a fine, translucent and delicate fabric that accentuates the goddess’s sensuality.13 A similar approach to the marble in order to imitate swirling draperies round the body is seen in the image of Aphrodite from the Agora (Agroakritos) by Kallimachos (ca. 420), which embodies the role of Aphrodite as pandemos – “of or belonging to all the people”.14 The mimetic character of these sculptures might be related to the comprehension of the Sublime by Longinus as manifested in mimesis.15 This purified physicality of the goddess of love in those sculptures reflects the earthly character of the goddess, on the one hand, and her celestial character on the other hand and thus parallels the definition of Aphrodite in The Symposium as Pandemos and Ourania.16 As a mediator between heaven and earth, Aphrodite is often portrayed in vase paintings descending a ladder in an Adonia scene. The ladder symbolizes her role as a mediator between the human realm and the divine.17 Aphrodite’s aspect as a mediator is also reflected in her association as a celestial being with the planet Venus that shines brightly during dawn or at twilight.18 In the Iliad Aphrodite is described as golden, bright and radiant, and has a link to Eos, the goddess of dawn.19 Aphrodite is thus a cosmic power, as described by Phaedra’s nurse in the play by Euripides.20

The abundant folds of the Parthenon Aphrodite’s bring to mind another cosmic feature of the goddess - the appearance of sea foam, which is the origin of the goddess according to the myth.21 Aphrodite’s birth itself is an immense and sublime event, as she is the creation of Ouranus’s semen mingled with the sea spume to form the leukos aphros - “white foam” from which the goddess emerged.22 According to another version, Aphrodite is the daughter of Dione, a divine being that shared a cult with Zeus at Dodona.23 As a feminine embodiment of Zeus (Dios, Dion), the two form together a celestial couple, and thus Dione is a sky goddess. However, Dione was also perceived as an Oceanid, one of the daughters of the Titans Oceanus and Thetis, and thus a sea goddess linked to the primordial deities of the deep waters.24 Based on those origins Aphrodite was defined as mixis, as a liminal goddess who dwells in the region between sea and sky. The anodos of Aphrodite – her divine birth – symbolizes her role as a mediator between these two cosmological realms. The moment Aphrodite emerges from the sea and ascends into the sky is a moment of sublime epiphany. This moment is reflected in the Aphrodite Anadyomene (“Rising from the Sea”) type, and is portrayed in the Ludovisi throne relief (dated to around 480-460 BCE).25 The crystalline garment enfolding the goddess’s body intensifies the aspect of sacred ritual bathing that is connected to Aphrodite. Immersion in the sea was part of the initiation rites in cults such as that of Demeter at Eleusis, and was also part of Aphrodite’s worship.26 The ritual bathing was intended to consecrate the initiates and instill in them the illusion of a sublime experience.

The Dionysian and Eleusian Mysteries were connected also to other marine deities, which sometimes escort Aphrodite - the Nereids.27 The Nereids were sea nymphs, and thus divine and immortal. Nymphs were identified, like Aphrodite herself, with abundance, vegetation, calm green meadows, and wild nature; and the sea nymphs with water. These latter nymphs reside in springs, rivers and lakes, supply fresh water, and therefore are healing divinities and symbolize immortality and eternal happiness. The charm and beauty of the nymphs may captivate the beholder, who becomes nympholeptos (“seized by the nymphs”).28 Nereids were displayed in architectural sculptures, like the Nereid from the akroterion in the Hephaisteion, who wears a diaphanous robe that seems to be billowing in the wind or perhaps moistened by the spring waters.29 The sensual nature of this Nereid is strengthened by the baring of one breast and the slight twist of the body as if in a dancing movement. Dancing was a preferred occupation of the nymphs, and intended to sanctify.30 The female akroteria (edges of pediments), as generic and archetypal images, symbolize happiness, charm, vitality and goodness. Nymphs and Nereids have a mediating role similar to that of Aphrodite, and thus bring to mind another mediatrix, aesthetically close to the Unseen Venus by Avital – the Nike of Samothrace. This sculpture, which was discovered in 1863, was located in a sanctuary dedicated to the great gods on the island of Samothrace, known for its mystery cults. The sculpture was part of a monument that stood on a hill facing to the sea. Nike’s image stood on a basin full with water in which she was reflected. The statue’s plinth is shaped like the prow of a vessel on which the goddess seemingly alights. The whole monument is a kind of installation composed of architectonic elements, sculpture and water.31 Nike is portrayed just having alighted on the prow, with the wind still blowing against her body. The statue is over life-size and, as indicated, elevated on a podium. The composition is vertical and slightly oblique, full of energy and vitality and expressing courage and valor. The swirling drapery seems to symbolize the sea foam and endows the image with a baroque quality. Pollitt assigns this work to the Hellenistic Baroque phase, which is theatrical, dramatic, pathetic and emotional in character.32

Those features are reflected in Longinus’ words; accordingly pathos is a major characterization of the Sublime, which abounds with power and energy.33 The energy and power of Nike’s image is a metaphor for the Greek victory over the forces of Antiochus III in 191 BCE.34 As an attribute of Athena, in Ancient thought Nike symbolized the supreme concept of victory.35 Images of Nike in 5th century Athens were placed on akroterias in order to proclaim the superiority of the Athenians over their enemies. Works such as the reliefs of Nike from the Acropolis parapet, the marble torso from the Palatine, and the image of Nike of Paionios from the Temple of Olympia, for example, are characterized by diaphanous, refined and sensual drapery carved in marble of a superb quality.36 Those images have been interpreted by Andrew Stewart as a metaphor of the victory of the spirit over materiality, and thus of the victory of the Athenians over their enemies and their image as wiser and braver, as Pericles had boasted.37 According to Stewart, such portrayal was meant to stimulate the spectators' desire, to make them identify the goddess with their city-state, and thereby implant patriotic feelings in their hearts. The sensual goddess attracts the viewer, giving him aesthetic pleasure and, accordingly, pride and love for his polis.38 Such a portrayal is consistent with Pericles' command to his citizens to become erastai – "erotic lovers" of Athens.39 Patriotism is thus placed on an erotic basis, as Paul Ludwig has shown, and beauty serves to enhance the erotic feelings toward the polis.40 Nike's lovely vision thus simultaneously embodies the benefits of both democracy and military victory, as Stewart puts it: 'Victory! Victory! Victory!’41

In sum, womanly images such as those of Aphrodite and Nike reflected highly esteemed values in the political, religious and spiritual realms and were considered as supreme and sublime in Antiquity. In light of the above, the question arises as to the relevance of the Sublime experience and of Classical concepts in post-modern art.

Manifestations of the Sublime in the Unseen Venus by Lea Avital
Lea Avital’s Unseen Venus is a feminine body image composed of white shiny polystyrene, which emphasizes the garment folds flowing in many directions. The work was created with a filament, a thin hot wire that cuts the polystyrene block and shapes the plane into a clear, pure white and shiny surface. Is such brightness intended to embody beauty?

Arthur Danto has declared that: “Nor was beauty the point of most of the world’s great art. It is very rarely the point of art today”.42 Danto asserted that beauty in contemporary art is not relevant, and is actually dethroned.43 Nevertheless, the Unseen Venus by Avital raises questions concerning the concepts of beauty in relation to the Sublime. A key question is – what is “beauty”? The essence of beauty is discussed by Socrates and his disciples in the Symposium dialogue. The mysterious woman Diotima, quoted by Socrates, describes a scale of beauty that begins with the beauty of the body, which becomes insignificant in comparison with the beauty of the soul’s spiritual loveliness, the beauty of laws and institution, the beauty of every kind of knowledge, beautiful thoughts and ideas and, finally, absolute beauty, beauty itself, which is an abstract essence.44 The nature of this abstract concept is discussed by Socrates, who confronts his pupil Hippias with questions on the nature of 'beauty', and finally concludes that beauty is what is good in its essence: the useful is good, the good is the intrinsic value of things, and the beauty derives from the good.45

However, in the Phaedrus dialogue, Socrates points out that since sight is the keenest of our senses, then if wisdom were to become visible it would arouse a mighty and great love.46 In Greek thought, therefore, there is recognition of the ability of physical beauty to attract and to please. Danto asserts that he believes in the connection between beauty and a feeling of happiness, regarding the episode that occurs in Ballbec in Proust’s Within a Budding Grove.47

As noted above, the Phaedrus dialogue deals with the influence of beauty upon the soul, manifested in its yearning for a beautiful being, in order to achieve an illusion of merging with the primordial being, the divine idea of beauty. This longing is a manifestation of the human desire to experience what is beyond the human and the corporeal - the sublime. The divine as an embodiment of the sublime appears in Plotinus Enneads as "the One" (Hen), with whom the soul yearns to unite by entering into a state of ecstasy through a mystery cult.48 The state of unification with the One is articulated in Barnet Newman’s title – ‘Onement’, for an oil on canvas painting from 1948; and five other paintings by Newman that followed it use the same title, as noted by Danto.49

Returning to Avital’s Unseen Venus, unification of the soul with the divine was on the artist’s mind, as she herself stated that while working on this statue she was thinking about a body in motion, and especially the Rebellious Slave by Michelangelo.50 Indeed, this latter Renaissance work was deeply inspired by neo-Platonic theories of the liberation of the soul from the corporeal body and its return to its divine origin.51 Avital’s work is indeed a paraphrase of the neo-Platonic concept of ‘One with the God’, or perhaps ‘Onement’. This Venus is “unseen”, as suggested by its title, which means that it is a representation of an image that no longer exists, but has left a strong mark. Even its material – polystyrene - is fragile and transient, as opposed to marble, and thus aptly references concept from an ancient past. This Venus is an embodiment of beauty, and a representative image that raises questions about Classical culture, to use another term by Danto – Aboutness.52 The Unseen Venus raises a discussion about beauty, about the religious object and about its significance today in relation to the distant past. And in speaking thus about beauty, the work reflects Venus as even whiter, more radiant and shiny (by means of the treated polystyrene), more ancient (through the deliberate lack of head and arms), and more sacred (by its elevation on a podium).

Manifestations of the Sublime in the Installation SOMA by Ayala Serfaty
The work SOMA by the artist Ayala Serfaty is made of lamp-worked glass filaments in a polymer membrane, together with a light source to produce manifold particles resembling neurons.53

SOMA in science is the part of a neuron that contains the cell nucleus. The Greek word SOMA can be translated as “body”, and thus alludes to nature as the source of inspiration for this work. The installation was exhibited in a dark hall and appeared to the contemplative beholder as a radiant revelation, like a divine epiphany. The components of the installation suggest elements such as cells, flames, celestial bodies, snowflakes and sea foam, as if they have metamorphosed into abstract images of natural and cosmic origins. These origins are those of water and heaven, the realms of Aphrodite: the Anodos - her divine birth, and the Uranus – her divine nature. The sense of a foaming installation can be compared visually to the foam of the translucent folds of the garment of the Parthenon Aphrodite and Avital’s radiant and shiny Unseen Venus; and can be interpreted as an abstract and purified image of sea foam, the origin of Aphrodite’s birth, and a refined vision of a celestial divine entity. The composition of the installation is rhizomatic, diffused and seemingly boundless. The perception is frontal, with the viewer facing the vision but unable to enter or be part of it, although invited to walk around it or sit on a padded surface and gaze at it. All these aesthetic characteristics have a precedent in ancient philosophy.

In his praise of Aphrodite as the ultimate ancestress of sea and sky in the poem De Rerum Natura, the Roman poet Lucretius describes the natural elements as “the seeds of things” or “the atoms”, which are infinite and originated the Creation.54 The particles of the installation constitute absolute objects, reflecting celestial and maritime sources. According to Plato, sublime beauty dwells in the abstract and pure forms, which are eternal and permanent.55 The indeterminate boundaries of the installation reflect Lucretius’s description of the particles as endlessly divisible, while the universe has no center: “It should be admitted that the universe has no boundaries, no frame”.56 The sublime was defined by Longinus as a heavenly substance that amazed the onlooker.57

The greatest desire of a human being, as defined by Plato’s Phaedrus, is the wish to merge with sublime beauty.58 Plotinus also considered the purification of the soul from corporeality as leading to a merging with the sublime divine, which is its origin.59

The yearning of the soul for the sublime is reflected in a spiritual experience that the artist Dganit Berest underwent when lying on her back in an open field, and shivered in awe and wonderment facing the starry sky. This moment of revelation was a defining one for Berest’s interest in “the latent links between art and science”.60 She embodied this interest in a series of photos of crystal balls shining with radiant light and color, and crystal glasses.61

Abstract light is a common characteristic in both Serfaty’s installation and Berest’s crystal ball photos. The sublime as an abstract and infinite substance is defined by Kant, who considers the discrepancy between the infinite object and the attempt to realize it as generating the sense of a sublime experience.62 Burk has defined the impression that arises in the face of a sublime substance as astonishment.63 In regard to the post-modern view of the Sublime, Philip Shaw has noted that the post-modern condition lays stress on the inability of art or reason to bring the vast and the infinite to account.64 However, contemplation of the installation SOMA arouses a sense of mystery and magic that embody, in a way, Lyotard’s outlook of “the unpresentable in presentation itself”.65 The contemplative mode elicited by the installation SOMA confronts what is a seemingly not representable – abstract form of brilliance and mysterious magic. This alludes again to Kant’s assertion: “Therefore, the sublime is not the object but the state of mind…”66 The contemplative and meditative experience is Classical in nature. The philosopher Pierre Hadot suggests that the main difference between ancient and contemporary philosophy is that the ancient one was a way of life, and interwoven tightly with every aspect of life, in contrast to the alienated and purely academic character of modern-day philosophy. According to Hadot, the act of contemplation played an active part in the Ancient thinkers’ lives.67 Serfaty’s installation is indeed meant to draw the spectators into a contemplative state of mind during which they will envision a beautiful sight that will elicit spiritual thought.

In sum, the premise of this article is that the works by the contemporary artists Avital and Serfaty have a strong connection to the Classical concept of the Sublime. The works aesthetically reflect those concepts, while at the same time providing a reconsideration of them and their relevance in contemporary art and thought. Indeed, it seems that the confluence of the spectator with these images in itself makes the Platonic Sublime memory more relevant than ever.






Bibliography


Ancient Sources
  1. Apollodorus, the Library, trans. James George Frazer, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1921.
  2. Euripides’ Hippolytus, Richard Hamilton, trans., Bryn Mawr, Pa.: Department of Greek, Bryn Mawr College 1980.
  3. Euripides, Ion, trans. K. H. Lee, Warminster, Eng.: Aris & Phillips 1997.
  4. Hesiod’s Theogony, Norman O. Brown, trans., New York: Library Arts Press 1953.
  5. Homer, Iliad, trans. Robert Fitzgerald, New York: Anchor Books 1974, 1984.
  6. The Homeric Hymni, Michael Crudden, trans., Oxford: University Press 2002.
  7. Longinus, On the Sublime, ed. D. A. Russell, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1964.
  8. Lucian, “Amores” 13-14, in: The Art of Ancient Greece: Sources and Documents, ed. Jerum J. Pollitt, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1990.
  9. Lucretios, On the Nature of Things (De rerum natura), trans. Martin Ferguson Smith, Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Pub. Co. 2001.
  10. Ovid, Fasti, trans. James George Frazer, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1989.
  11. Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Frank Justus Miller, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1984.
  12. Pausanias, Guide to Greece, trans. Peter Levi, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books 1971.
  13. Plato, Hippias Major, in The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Including the Letters, edited by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press 1963.
  14. Plato, The Laws, trans. Trevor J. Saunders, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1970.
  15. Plato, Phaedrus, ed. Harvey Yunis, Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press 2011.
  16. Plato, Protagoras, trans. C. C. W. Taylor, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.
  17. Plato, The Symposium, trans. Walter Hamilton, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books 1951.
  18. Plato, Timaeus and Critias, trans. Robin Waterfield, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2008.
  19. Plotinus, The Enneads, trans. Stephen Mackenna, London: Penguin Books 1991.
  20. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, trans. W. Blanco, New York, N.Y : W. W. Norton 1998.

References
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  8. Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, ed. J. T. Boulton, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1958.
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  10. Jean Charbonneaux, Roland Martin, Francois Villard, Hellenistic art (330-50 B.C.), New York: G. Braziller1973.
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  12. Walter Robert Connor, “Seized by the Nymphs: Nympholepsy and Symbolic Expression in Classical Greece”, Classical Antiquity 7 (1988), pp. 155-166.
  13. Monica S. Cyrino, Aphrodite, London ; New York: Routledge 2010.
  14. Arthur C. Danto, The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art, Chicago, Ill.: Open Court 2003.
  15. Walter Donlan, 'The Origins of Kalos Kagathos', American Journal of Philology, 94 (1973), 365-74.
  16. Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, trans.
  17. Willard R. Trask, San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1959.
  18. Evan R. Firestone, “Barnett Newman’s Onement I: The Way Up and Down is One and the Same”, Sources, XXIV (2004), 44-49.
  19. Paul Friedrich, The Meaning of Aphrodite, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1978.
  20. Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, trans. Michael Chase, Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2002.
  21. Christine Mitchell Havelock, The Aphrodite of Knidos and her Successors: a Historical Review of the Female Nude in Greek Art, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1995.
  22. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar, Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co. 1987.
  23. Jennifer Larson, Greek Nymphs – Myth, Cult, Lore, Oxford: University Press 2001.
  24. Paul W. Ludwig, Eros and Polis: Desire and Community in Greek Political Theory, Cambridge: University Press 2002.
  25. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1984.
  26. Irad Malkin, “The Odyssey and the Nymphs”, Gaya 5 (2001), 11-27.
  27. Marvin W. Meyer, ed., The Ancient Mysteries: a Sourcebook: Sacred Texts of the Mystery Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean World, San Francisco: Harper 1987.
  28. Martin P. Nilsson, The Dionysian Mysteries of the Hellenistic and Roman Age, New York: Arno Press 1975.
  29. John Onians, Art and Thought in the Hellenistic Age: The Greek World view, 350-50 B.C., London: Thames and Hudson 1979.
  30. Jerome J. Pollitt, Art in the Hellenistic age, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1986.
  31. Martin Robertson, A Shorter History of Greek Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
  32. Rachel Rosenzweig, Worshipping Aphrodite: Art and Cult in Classical Athens, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press 2004.
  33. Nava Sevilla Sadeh, “Illusions Woven in Fabric: Gender Aspects and the Sublime in Fifth Century Sculpted Female Victory Images”, History and Theory, Bezalel, 10 (2008). 
  34. Sarit Shapira, Soma: The Beauty of the Moon through Clouds, exh. Cat., Milan: Lorenzelli Arte Gallery, 2007.
  35. Philip Shaw, The Sublime, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2006.
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  39. Andrew F. Stewart, “History, Myth and Allegory in the Program of the Temple of Athena Nike, Athens”, Studies in the History of Art 16 (1985), pp. 53-74.
  40. Tali Tamir, “The Gondolier’s Enunciation or: The Moment of Dawning”, in: Dganit Berest – Four Chapters on Water, exh. Cat., Haifa: Haifa Museum of Art, 2004.
  41. Meira Yagid-Haimovich, ed., Ayala Serfaty, SOMA, Light Installation, exh. Cat., Tel-Aviv: Museum of Art, Tel-Aviv 2008.

Notes
  1. Lucian, “Amores” 13-14, in: The Art of Ancient Greece: Sources and Documents, ed. Jerum J. Pollitt, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1990, p. 86.
  2. Signed by [Alex] Andros of Antioch, Aphrodite from Melos (the Venus de Milo), ca. 100 B.C., Marble, Ht 2.04 m., Louvre, Paris. See photo in Andrew F. Stewart, Greek Sculpture: An Exploration, New Haven 1990, fig. 806. Nike of Samothrace, Parian marble, ca. 190 B.C., Ht. ca. 2 m. Louvre, Paris. See photo in Stewart, Greek Sculpture, fig. 729.
  3. Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Frank Justus Miller, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1984, III. 259-315.
  4. On the Dionysian Mysteries see: Ugo Bianchi, The Greek Mysteries, Leiden : E. J. Brill 1976, 3-7, 13-15; Walter Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cult, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1987, 12, 18-24; Susan G. Cole, “Landscapes of Dionysos and Elysian Fields”, in: Greek Mysteries: the Archaeology and Ritual of Ancient Greek Secret Cults, ed. Michael B. Cosmopoulos, London: Routledge 2003, 193-194, 197-199, 205; Marvin W. Meyer, ed., The Ancient Mysteries: a Sourcebook: Sacred Texts of the Mystery Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean World, San Francisco: Harper 1987; Martin P. Nilsson, The Dionysian Mysteries of the Hellenistic and Roman Age, New York: Arno Press 1975, 123, 130, 131.
  5. The Unseen Venus by the artist Lea Avital was exhibited as part of “The Rope Installation” at the Noga Gallery, Tel Aviv, 2008, and at the Helena Rubinstein Hall, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, as part of an art events in Tel-Aviv (ARTLV 2008), September-October 2008; curator: Andrew Renton. The installation SOMA by Ayala Serfaty was presented at the exhibition SOMA at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, November 2008 – February 2009; curator: Meira Yagid-Haimovich.
  6. Praxiteles, Aphrodite of Knidos, Parian marble, original ca. 350-340 B.C., Ht. 2.05 m., Vatican, Rome. See photo in Stewart, Greek Sculpture, fig. 503.
  7. Nigel Spivey, Understanding Greek Sculpture: Ancient Meanings, Modern Readings, London: Thames and Hudson 1997, 180.
  8. Paul Friedrich, The Meaning of Aphrodite, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1978, 140-141.
  9. Plato, Phaedrus, ed. Harvey Yunis, Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press 2011, 251. Plato, The Symposium, trans. Walter Hamilton, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books 1951, 203a. See: Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, trans. Michael Chase, Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2002, 47.
  10. Longinus, On the Sublime, ed. D. A. Russell, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1964, 8, 9, 12, 28.
  11. Parthenon Aphrodite, eastern pediment, marble, 438-432 B.C., 1.30 M., British Museum, London. See photo in Stewart, Greek Sculpture, fig. 350.
  12. Stewart, Greek Sculpture, 153.
  13. Spivey, Greek Sculpture, 182.
  14. Rachel Rosenzweig, Worshipping Aphrodite: Art and Cult in Classical Athens, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press 2004, 13-28. Kallimachos, Aphrodite from the Agora (Agroakritos), marble, ca. 420 B.C., 1.83 m., National Museum, Athens. See photo in Stewart, Greek Sculpture, fig. 425.
  15. Longinus, On the Sublime, 13, 22.
  16. Plato, Symposium, 180.
  17. Rosenzweig, Worshipping Aphrodite, 78-80.
  18. Monica S. Cyrino, Aphrodite, London ; New York: Routledge 2010, 117. Plato, Timaeus and Critias, trans. Robin Waterfield, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2008, 38d; Plato, The Laws, trans. Trevor J. Saunders, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1970, 821c.
  19. Homer, Iliad, trans. Robert Fitzgerald, New York: Anchor Books 1974, 1984, 5.370, 9.390; Michael Crudden, trans., The Homeric Hymni, Oxford: University Press 2002; Cyrino, Aphrodite, 115.
  20. Richard Hamilton, trans., Euripides’ Hippolytus, Bryn Mawr, Pa.: Department of Greek, Bryn Mawr College 1980, 443-50.
  21. Norman O. Brown, trans., Hesiod’s Theogony, New York: Library Arts Press 1953, 188-206.
  22. Hesiod’s Theogony, 190-91.
  23. Cyrino, Aphrodite, 14. Homer, Iliad, 5.370-415; Apollodorus, the Library, trans. James George Frazer, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1921, 1.3.1.
  24. Cyrino, Aphrodite, 14. Hesiod’s Theogony, 353.
  25. Cyrino, Aphrodite, 104-114. Ludovisi throne relief, marble, ca. 460-450 B.C., 1.04 m., Palazzo Altemps, Rome. See photo in Stewart, Greek Sculpture, Fig. 306.
  26. Christine Mitchell Havelock, The Aphrodite of Knidos and her Successors: a Historical Review of the Female Nude in Greek Art, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1995, 23-25; Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, trans. Willard R. Trask, San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1959, 131. Ovid, Fasti, trans. James George Frazer, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1989, 4.136-39.
  27. Cyrino, Aphrodite, 112-113; Judith M. Barringer, Divine Escorts: Nereids in Archaic and Classical Greek Art, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1995, 150-151. Euripides, Ion, trans. K. H. Lee, Warminster, Eng.: Aris & Phillips 1997, 1074-1089. Pausanias, Guide to Greece, trans. Peter Levi, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books 1971, 2.1.8.
  28. Walter Robert Connor, “Seized by the Nymphs: Nympholepsy and Symbolic Expression in Classical Greece”, Classical Antiquity 7 (1988), 155-166; Irad Malkin, “The Odyssey and the Nymphs”, Gaya 5 (2001), 14-15; Jennifer Larson, Greek Nymphs – Myth, Cult, Lore, Oxford: University Press 2001, 3-14. On the connection of Aphrodite with vegetation, flowers and blossom see: Friedrich, The Meaning of Aphrodite, 74-75, 93-95. On Aphrodite en kepois see: Rosenzweig, Worshipping Aphrodite, 29-44. Where Aphrodite’s feet touch the ground green grass grows: Hesiod’s Theogony, 194-195.
  29. Nereid from the Akroterion of the Hephaisteion, marble, H 1.25 m, Athens. See photo in John Boardman, Greek Sculpture – The Classical Period, London: Thames and Hudson 1985, 146, fig. 116. Buitron-Oliver also identifies the figure as a Nereid, but claims that the statue seems too heavy to have been used as an akroterion, and thus it might have served as a dedication monument in the Agora. See: Diana Buitron-Olivier, The Greek Miracle: Classical Sculpture from the Dawn of Democracy: the Fifth Century B.C., Washington: National Gallery of Art 1992, 138.
  30. Connor, Seized by the Nymph, 171.
  31. [31] About Nike of Samothrace see: Margarete Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, New York: Columbia University Press 1961, 125-126; Jean Charbonneaux, Roland Martin, Francois Villard, Hellenistic art (330-50 B.C.), New York: G. Braziller1973, 182; John Onians, Art and Thought in the Hellenistic Age: The Greek World view, 350-50 B.C., London: Thames and Hudson 1979, 137-138; Jerome J. Pollitt, Art in the Hellenistic age, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1986, 113-116; Stewart, Greek Sculpture, 77-78, 215;
  32. Pollitt, Art in the Hellenistic Age, 111-114.
  33. Longinus, On the Sublime, 1, 29.
  34. Pollitt, Art in the Hellenistic Age, 116.
  35. Ruby Blundell, Helping Friends and Harming Enemies: A Study in Sophocles and Greek Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1989, 26-57.
  36. See: Andrew Stewart, Art, Desire and the Body in Ancient Greece, Cambridge: University Press, 1997, 148. Martin Robertson, A Shorter History of Greek Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982, 125-129, Figs. 169, 171, 172, 173. For an analysis of Nike’s 5th century Architectural sculptures see: Nava Sevilla Sadeh, “Illusions Woven in Fabric: Gender Aspects and the Sublime in Fifth Century Sculpted Female Victory Images”, History and Theory, Bezalel, 10 (2008)
  37. Robertson, A Shorter History of Greek Art, 127. On the marble's translucent quality, see: Stewart, Art, Desire, and the Body in Ancient Greece, 46. Athens as a mentor for all of Greece, see: Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, trans. W. Blanco, New York, N.Y : W. W. Norton 1998, II.xli.
  38. Stewart, Art, Desire and the Body, 148. See also: Andrew F. Stewart, “History, Myth and Allegory in the Program of the Temple of Athena Nike, Athens”, Studies in the History of Art 16 (1985), 53-73, 68-70; Stewart, Greek Sculpture, 166-167.
  39. Thucydides, Peloponnesian war, 2.43.1.
  40. Paul W. Ludwig, Eros and Polis: Desire and Community in Greek Political Theory, Cambridge: University Press 2002, 19, 350.
  41. Stewart, History, Myth and Allegory, 67, 70; Stewart, Greek Sculpture, 166; Stewart, Art, Desire and the Body, 148. See also Stewart’s words on Paionios' own triumph in analogy to the overall atmosphere: “Self-satisfaction was in the air, and he was not about to be excluded”, in Stewart, Greek Sculpture, 89-92.
  42. Arthur C. Danto, The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art, Chicago, Ill.: Open Court 2003, 35-36.
  43. Danto, the Abuse of Beauty, 25-30.
  44. Plato, Symposium, 210-212.
  45. Plato, Hippias Major, in The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Including the Letters, edited by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press 1963, 290, 291. The concept of beauty was embodied in the term kalokagathia that connects between kalos (beauty) and agathos (the good). This connection is fundamental to the Classical outlook on beauty, which considers its core to lie in the virtues of moderation, self-control (enkrateia) and self-knowledge (sophrosyne). See: Plato, Protagoras, trans. C. C. W. Taylor, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976, 356-357. Physical beauty was considered by Homer as a valuable and desirable quality for a warrior, and as part of his overall excellence (arête). In reality, the Greek aristocracy in the Archaic period desired its youth to have beauty of both body and spirit, and demanded a combination of a fine and cultured appearance. See: Walter Donlan, 'The Origins of Kalos Kagathos', American Journal of Philology, 94 (1973), 365-74. Proper education, according to Socrates, would combine the study of poetry and music with gymnastic training, in order to attain equilibrium between body and soul. See: Plato, Republic, in Hamilton, Collected Dialogues of Plato, including the letters, II.369-427.
  46. Plato, Phaedrus, 250. The superiority of the spiritual beauty over the physical in Platonic philosophy is fundamental, yet there is also recognition of the advantages of physical beauty, and a wish to integrate and balance the two qualities, as expressed by Socrates. See: Plato, Republic, in Hamilton, Collected Dialogues of Plato, Including the Letters, III. 401-402, 410-412.
  47. Danto, the Abuse of Beauty, 29, 33.
  48. Plotinus, The Enneads, trans. Stephen Mackenna, London: Penguin Books 1991, V. 8. 10, 11; VI. 9. 4; VI. 7. 34-35; VI. 9. 9-11.
  49. Danto, the Abuse of Beauty, 157. See also a a kabbalistic interpretation by Evan R. Firestone, who conceives the painting Onement I by Barnett Newman as an embodiment of the beginning and end of Newman’s two-year engagement with the Genesis theme. See: by Evan R. Firestone, “Barnett Newman’s Onement I: The Way Up and Down is One and the Same”, Sources, XXIV (2004), 44-49.
  50. This was told to me by the artist herself. Michelangelo, Rebellious Slave, marble, 1516, 2.28 m., Louvre, Paris. See photo in Peter Armour, “The Prisoner and the Veil: The Symbolism of Michelangelo’s Tomb of Julius II”, Italian Studies, XLIX (1994), 43, Fig. 4.
  51. Armour, The Prisoner and the Veil, 43, 46-47, 52-57, 67-68.
  52. Danto, the Abuse of Beauty, 65, 68.
  53. The thin transparently tinted glass rods are hand made by a glass artisan in Empoli, Italy. The polymer is an industrial product developed in the late 1940s by the US military for protecting ships. The elaborate SOMA process is carried out in Serfaty's studio. The glass rods are flame-worked one by one, to produce spatial glass structures which are then sprayed with the clear polymer to generate a skin-like crust, a membrane of sorts. For the making of SOMA see: https://ayalaserfaty.com/ See also: Meira Yagid-Haimovich, ed., Ayala Serfaty, SOMA, Light Installation, exh. Cat., Tel-Aviv: Museum of Art, Tel-Aviv 2008. Sarit Shapira, Soma: The Beauty of the Moon through Clouds, exh. Cat., Milan: Lorenzelli Arte Gallery, 2007.
  54. Lucretios, On the Nature of Things (De rerum natura), trans. Martin Ferguson Smith, Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Pub. Co. 2001, I.1-12; I.54-61; I. 500-502, 539, 545-550, 611, 627, 952.
  55. Plato, Symposium, 210-211.
  56. Lucretios, On the Nature of Things, I. 615-622, I.964, 976, 982, 1001-1013, 1050-1051. The universe has no center: I. 1070-1076.
  57. Longinus, On the Sublime, I.
  58. Plato, Phaedrus, 203a.
  59. Plotinus, Enneads, V.8.11.
  60. Tali Tamir, “The Gondolier’s Enunciation or: The Moment of Dawning”, in: Dganit Berest – Four Chapters on Water, exh. Cat., Haifa: Haifa Museum of Art, 2004, 102-103.
  61. Tamir, 2004, 99.
  62. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar, Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co. 1987, 25.
  63. Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, ed. J. T. Boulton, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1958, 53.
  64. Philip Shaw, The Sublime, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2006, 115.
  65. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1984, 81.
  66. Kant, Critique of judgment, 25, 28.
  67. Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy, 64-70.