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T. of Apollo, West Ped., Recumbent Giant: view from right

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T. of Apollo, West Ped., Athena: view facing pediment

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T. of Apollo, West Ped., Quadriga: right horse

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T. of Apollo, West Ped., Male figure with animal skin: from right

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T. of Apollo, West Ped., Athena: left leg and foot

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T. of Apollo, West Ped., Quadriga: left horse

Collection: Delphi Archaeological Museum
Title: Temple of Apollo, West Pediment
Context: From Delphi
Findspot: Excavated at Delphi (in 1894 and 1895 around the monuments of the Sacred Way)
Summary: Gigantomachy
Sculptor: Suggested attribution to Antenor
Material: Limestone
Sculpture Type: Architectural
Category: Statuary group
Placement: West pediment
Style: Late Archaic
Technique: High relief
Original or Copy: Original
Date: ca. 513 BC - ca. 500 BC
Dimensions: L. of pediment: 19.35 m, H. at apex of pediment 2.30 m
Scale: Over life-size
Region: Phocis
Period: Late Archaic
In Group: Temple of Apollo sculpture

Subject Description:

According to Euripides' Ion (Eur. Ion 190 ff.) the subject of the West Pediment of the Temple of Apollo was the Gigantomachy. This is borne out by the few figures which survive. They include a fighting female, a nude male in prone position, a standing male wearing a robe and an animal skin, and relatively small fragments of two horses. The chorus of the Ion, describing what they see in the pediment, mention Herakles, Iolaos, a figure on a winged horse, Athena, Enkelados (her opponent), Zeus, Mimas (his foe), Dionysos and several monsters. The full reconstruction of the pediment offered by the French excavators is, as they say, only hypothetical. The attribution of the figures is secure, since they are easily distinguished from the East Pediment sculpture by their material: poros covered with stucco and paint, rather than the marble of the East Pediment.

The figure of a fighting female, moving left, wears a chiton (much of the painted decoration of the dress is still visible) and short himation. At the top of the fragment a mass of stone which appears to protrude beyond the folds of the himation is usually identified as an aegis, and thus the figure as Athena. No part of its surface remains, but the mass suggests that it covered both shoulders and extended behind her. Drilled holes have been interpreted as points of attachment for the snakes. The second substantially preserved figure must be that of a giant. His torso is represented in three-quarter view while the extended right leg is in profile. He knelt on his left knee, in pose much like the giant from the roughly contemporary Peisistratid Temple in Athens (see Athens,Old Temple of Athena). The third figure, preserved only partially from the waist down, is said to be a male. He is represented in three-quarter view from the back, moving left. He wears a pleated chiton of mid-calf length, and an animal skin (a paw hangs over the left-most pleat). As for the identity of the figure, both Apollo and Dionysos have been suggested. Finally, there are fragments of horses: the neck of one and the chest of the other.

The reconstruction places these figures with some certainty. It is clear that the giant belongs near the left corner. Athena's height puts her about midway back on the left side. The figure with the skin is probably close behind her. Since the carving of his right side shows that he was placed against another figure or object, he is restored as one of a pair. The horses are restored as a frontal quadriga, like that on the East Pediment. Presumably the chariot belonged to Zeus. Beyond this, the composition can only be surmised.

Despite the technical difference in the execution of the two pediments and the fact that only the marble pediment is specifically attributed to the Alkmeonidai by Herodotus, most scholars agree that both pediments should be attributed to the same designer and workshop. The inclusion of the frontal quadriga in the center of the composition, the design similarities between Athena and the Nike akroterion, similar technical features in the treatment of the drapery and the carving of the figures to create the impression of free-standing sculpture support the impression of a unified program of sculptural decoration for the entire temple.

Form & Style: On first impression, the greater use of profile views and action poses appears to distinguish the sculpture of the West Pediment from that of the East Pediment. However, examination of individual figures reveals many points of similarity. As has often been noted the figure of Athena is most like the Nike akroterion, but specific details of her drapery — the wide paryphe, the broad spaces and sharp ridges of the chiton where it is stretched over the legs, the tubular folds of the himation — all find parallels in the East Pediment as well. The same treatment of the drapery characterizes the striding male figure. The recumbent giant finds no parallel on the East Pediment, but the torsion of the figure represents a development not seen in slightly earlier sculpture, e.g. on the North Frieze of the Siphnian Treasury, and so appears in keeping with the date proposed for the East Pediment by Antenor. This suggests that the sculpture of both pediments as well as the akroterial sculpture should be assigned to one workshop, under the direction of Antenor, and that it can all be dated to the same period, in the years around 510

Condition: Fragmentary

Condition Description: The figure of the giant from the left corner, the torso of Athena, the lower torso of a male figure with animal skin, and fragments of two horses are the only substantial fragments preserved. The surface is heavily weathered. On the figure of Athena, some of the painted design on the drapery is preserved.

Material Description: Poros

Technique Description: Technically high relief, since the figure, the tenon which held it to the back wall, the wall block itself and a heavy plinth appear to have been carved from a single piece of stone (FdDelph 4.3, 16). But the figures are worked so far back that they appear to have been carved in the round.

Associated Building: Delphi, Temple of Apollo

Sources Used: GuideDelphMu 1991, 54ff.; Stewart 1990, 60, 86ff., 249f.; Boardman 1978a, fig. 203; Ridgway 1977, 205ff.; Robertson 1975, 161ff.; SchefoldFest 1967, 105ff. (Dörig); Agora XI, 7ff.; FdDelph 4.3, 16ff.