Aegina c.500 BC_The Temple of Aphaea II, by Francesco Nevola (sketch 09)

by Venetia Kapernekas

 
photo @Francesco Nevola
Francesco Nevola, a dear friend, writer and scholar of Piranesi, is contributing to the VK blog a series of sketches, this is the sketch 02. “The Temple of Aphaea II, Aegina c.500

Situated on the peak of the Saronic island of Aegina commanding a majestic view north across the sea to the Acropolis of Athens, the present 5th century BC remains of the Doric Temple of Aphaea were erected on a site previously occupied by earlier sacred sanctuaries dating back to the 14th century BC. Bronze age material remains suggest a Minoan connection for the shrine’s cult associated with fertility and the seasonal cycles.

The 2nd century chronicler Pausanias recalls that Britomaris – known in Aegina as Aphaea – was the daughter of Zeus and the Cretan Karme, whose grandfather Kharmanor purified Apollo after killing the Python that guarded the omphalos or centre of the earth – a place strongly associated with the sanctuary at Delfi. As a huntress, Britomaris was especially cherished by Artemis, so when she fled king Minos who lusted after her and cast her-self into the sea, Artemis made her a goddess. While her myth is of Cretan origin, the Aeginaetans claimed Britomaris revealed her- self to them, consequently the Goddess Aphaea was worshipped exclusively at this sanctuary in Aegina.

By the early 19th century the Temple of Aphaea had been singled out for its exceptional qualities of beauty and design by neoclassical and romantic artists on the Grand Tour. In 1811 – the same year the poet Byron was in Athens – the young Charles Robert Cockerell, a former pupil of the architect John Soane, and three decades later architect of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford – collaborated with Baron

Otto Magnus von Stackelberg to remove the fallen, fragmentary pediment sculptures, and at the suggestion of the architect Baron Carl Haller von Hallerstein they were shipped abroad and sold to Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria. The magnificent sculptures that originally ornamented the east and west pediments of the Temple of Aphaea were restored at Rome by the Danish neoclassical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldesn, considered the heir to the great Antonio Canova, and are now the masterpiece of the Munich Glyptothek. It was at Rome in 1817, returning from his seven year Grand Tour, that Cockerll met Ingres who took the young architect’s portrait.

The late archaic, early classical sculptures of the temple pediments, which are most unusual for being carved in the round with striking dynamism, celebrate the achievements of two of Aegina’s greatest heroes. The first Trojan war is represented in the east pediment: here Telamon – the second king of Aegina and father of the Homeric hero Ajax – fights alongside Heracles against the Trojan king Laomedon; in the west pediment, the Second Trojan war against king Priam is represented: here the Goddess Athena is positioned centrally, and Ajax features in the carved battle scene as prominently as he does in the Illiad.

Text © Francesco Nevola

Francesco Nevola, a fabulous scholar of Piranesi.

see here older post on life and work of Francesco Nevola https://venetiakapernekasblog.com/2015/06/11/italyteverina-mountains-cortona-deanna-maganias-and-franciso-nevola-house-and-studio/

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