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In English it appears in 1599 in the phrase “classical and canonical”, which was used to mean “of the first rank and authority”. Its meaning expanded to include anything which has order, balance or restraint in the fields of art, architecture or literature. The word then shifted meaning to denote anything pertaining to certain periods of Greek and Roman cultures that were recognized as having an authoritative excellence, i.e., the “Classics”. In the nineteenth century with Goethe and Byron, “Classical” referred to a style that was measured, balanced, restrained, as opposed to the more effusive “Romantic” styles. With the publication of Henrich Wolfflin’s study Classical Art in 1899, the term became an art-historical reference to the arts of the Cinquecento during the High Renaissance in Italy. Here Classical art refers primarily to the use of elementary vertical and horizontal major axes of direction, and to the primitive full-face and pure profile aspects. Secondly, it uses the fundamental principle of effect by contrast and the clarity of presentation where multiplicity can be seen as a coherent unity in which the parts fuse into an inevitable whole30. In the field of African art, Margaret Plass offers a restrictive definition of Classical Art. For Plass, only African art that is pure, i.e., unaffected by non-African influences, can be called Classical31. As such, it must derive from a tradition in which each artist expresses only the aesthetic and religious values of his own tribe, never trying to escape from its influence. William Fagg considers all of African art to be Classical, as opposed to Romantic, in the sense that it is accepted by its society, whereas the Romantic artist pursues his vision as a revolt against society. William Rubin,32 on the other hand, defines Classical African sculpture as highly refined, often with intricate workmanship, beautifully polished or patinated surfaces, and a restrained stylized realism. He includes Luba and Baule sculpture as examples of this category and contrasts it with the rawness, geometry and more extreme invention of form seen in the Mumuye, the Songye or the Mbole styles. More recently, the art critic Adam Gopnick defined the art of the Dogon as “Classical” since it is among the most familiar to the Western eye33. The next step is to identify the factors that define Classicism in fifth century B.C. Greek art and see if they can apply to Bibendum style of the Lega ivory statuary. Oddly enough, finding an in-depth analysis of Classicism in Greek art history is not easy. It is a word widely used but seldom explained by art historians. One of the most penetrating analyses of Classicism can be found in Pollitt’s Art and Experience in Classical Greece (1972). Since we are analyzing human statuary, we will focus mainly on classical Greek sculpture, as opposed to other achievements in architecture, painting or literature. Among the main achievements of Greek Classical sculpture was the representation of movement such as Myron’s Discus-thrower), and the contrapposto, with the harmony of counterbalancing forces suggested by the arrangement of the parts of the body in a chiatic scheme (as in the Doryphoros of Polykleitos). This is in strong contrast with the hieratism of Lega statuary. Although the sculptor Phidias must be credited with the creation of the prototypical standards for the representation of divinities that balanced the sense of being emotionally disengaged from, but at the same time conscious of, the human condition,34 it is the sculptor Polykleitos, however, who seems conceptually closer to Lega artists. Indeed, Polykleitos is remembered as the foremost exponent of the principle of symmetria; “commensurability of parts” in art. He wrote a treatise known as The Canon, in which he sought to demonstrate that such philosophical qualities such as “the perfect, the good or the beautiful” can only be expressed through the harmony of parts in sculptural forms and geometrical proportions. He started with the human figure organically differentiated into torso, limbs and parts of limbs, and tried to ascertain how these parts related to each other and to the whole. As Pollitt

30 Heinrich Wolfflin, Classical Art, New York, 1959, P.256 31 Margaret Plass, The Classical Art of negro Africa, Duveen-Graham, New York, 1957 32 William Rubin, ed., Primitivism in Twentieth Century Art, New York, 1984, vol. I, p.17 33 Adam Gopnick, Out of Africa, in The New Yorker, 22 march 1993, p.100 34 Jerome Pollitt, Art and Experience in Classical Greece, Cambridge, 1972, pp.99-100

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LEGA - Bernard de Grunne - 2013  

The Lega inhabit a forested area of irregular polygonal shape of the Kivu region of the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an...

LEGA - Bernard de Grunne - 2013  

The Lega inhabit a forested area of irregular polygonal shape of the Kivu region of the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an...