Friday, November 14, 2003

'The Centaur's Smile': Finding the Beast Within, and Portraying It Without

"The centaur, the mythic being with the body of a horse and the head and torso of a man, is the star of a new exhibit at the Princeton University Art Museum, but satyrs (part horse, rather than goat, in early Greek art), sphinxes (winged lions with human heads), sirens (half bird) and gorgons (who had serpentine hair) also have leading roles. Those we know by their proper names also have cameo parts, like the bull-headed Minotaur, the goat-man Pan and Typhon, the embodiment of wind and fire, who had wings and a serpent's lower body.

"Given how vividly composite beings have been represented in art and literature over the centuries and how they continue to thrive in our imaginations, some viewers may be disappointed at first by how fragmentary and modest much of the material here is. The exhibition focuses on the years 750 to 450 B.C., centuries in which art evolved from a primitive geometric style to representations anticipating the heroic human image-making of the Classical era."