The Sculptures of the Parthenon (Hardcover)

Aesthetics and Interpretation

By Margaretha Rossholm Lagerlöf

Yale University Press, 9780300073911, 212pp.

Publication Date: January 11, 2000

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This generously illustrated book provides a complete overview of current knowledge about the sculptures of the Parthenon and suggests new interpretations of the ancient temple's sculptural creations.  Margaretha Lagerlöf steps back from viewing the fragments of the sculptures that remain today to focus more clearly on their meanings in the light of classical Athenian knowledge and society.  She considers what the sculptures reveal about the Greek sense of democracy and how they characterize women's lives in a warrior culture.  Using Plato's philosophy and the visually oriented similes of his myths, Lagerlöf offers a new decoding of the aesthetic structure of the Parthenon's entire sculptural ensemble.

The book compares the sculptures of the pediments to those of the metopes and the frieze, uncovering subtle differences in both the nature and the content of their images.  Whereas the pediments represent divine elements, for example, the frieze is seen as the domain of human beings, representing events and also the stage of history when humans no longer have direct access to the presence of the gods.  The frieze can be interpreted as an invocation of this presence, a means of regaining closeness with the gods.  Using a multifaceted and imaginative approach to the sculptures of the Parthenon, Lagerlöf finds powerful new meaning in them as well as an enhanced appreciation of their Athenian creators. 

About the Author

Margaretha Lagerlöf is professor of art history at Stockholm University.  She is the author of Ideal Landscapes, published by Yale University Press.