Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/364

This page has been validated.
350
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

house of Pharaoh was to Egypt, that was the house of Athene to Athens.

The gods, indeed, have done almost more for the expansion of the aesthetic faculty than even the kings. If the savage decorates the living chief and his house, how much more must he decorate and beautify the image and the house of that greater dead chief, the god—that ancestral ghost whom even the living chief dreads and venerates exceedingly! Hence, from the very first, while the ornaments of the king and the god are the same in kind, those of the god are the finest in degree. As the ghost gradually expands into the vaguer grandeur of the deity, his worship is surrounded with increasing magnificence. It is the temples of Heliopolis and Benares which naturally occur to our minds when we think of Egyptian or Indian architecture. It is the pyramids and mausoleums that form the initial stage of ecclesiastical buildings. All the world over, the shrines of the gods are the most splendid of all erections: only where faith is on the decline do we find the palace or the mansion outvying the cathedral and the chapel. In architecture, in sculpture, in painting, in music, the homes of the gods are the highest expression of national aesthetic feeling. Passing from the painted pillars of Karnak to the temples of Khorsabad and the mosques of Agra, we find the same care everywhere bestowed upon the service of the deities. In Hellas, we have the Parthenon and the Theseum; we have the chryselephantine statues of Phidias, and the votive tablets of Praxiteles. The marbles of Pentelicus or Paros permitted the Hellenic Aphrodite to assume a graceful and natural pose, which would have been impossible with the stiff granite limbs of a Pasht carved out from the quarries of Syene. At Rome, we have the Capitoline Jove, yielding place at last to the palace of the Divus Cæsar and to the basilica of the Christian apostle. All classical architecture, all classical sculpture, the larger part of classical painting, and no small part of classical poetry, are directly due to the influence of the old Helleno-Italian religions. And whatever little information we can gather of the æsthetic status of the Hebrews is to be derived from the story of the hangings and vessels of the tabernacle, and the molten sea, the pillars, the bases, the lavers, and the cedar ceiling of Solomon's temple. Hebrew poetry is almost without exception devotional.

In Christian times, the connection between art and religion has been even more noticeable. Our music is directly affiliated upon the Gregorian chant, and derives its notation from ecclesiastical usages. Masses and oratorios still compose its masterpieces. Our painting has come down to us from Byzantine and early Italian models, and found its home during the whole mediæval period in the great cathedrals and churches of Italy, whence it spread to the palaces of the Florentine Medici, of the Venetian doges, and of the Genoese merchant princes, and so ultimately to northwestern Europe. The whole character of