Athens Square (corner of 30th Avenue and 30th St.) is in Astoria, a New York City neighborhood with a sizable Greek-American population. Over the past twenty-five years, residents have partnered with Greek cities to erect bronze sculptures commemorating four famous Greeks. For more on the history of Athens Square, see this NYC Parks Department page and this article in a Queens newspaper.
By Anthony Frudakis. Bronze figure 6 feet high, granite base 7.5 feet high. More here. For the ancient busts of Socrates on which the head of this sculpture is based, see here. The expressive hands and the restless feet are the modern sculptor’s contribution.
Favorite Socrates quotes (or what Plato said Socrates said)
- Know thyself. (Inscribed in Greek and English on the base of this sculpture, but inscriptions on darkish granite are difficult to read and even more difficult to photograph.)
- An unexamined life is not worth living.
- Wisdom begins in wonder.
- Be as you wish to seem.
By Spiro Goggakis: an adaptation of the Piraeus Athena (c. 350 BC). Bronze figure 7.75 feet high, granite pedestal 4.5 feet high.
Two other more-than-life-size bronze Athenas in New York
Can one describe sculptures of gods as “life-size”?
- Athena at Herald Square: the Bennett Memorial, described on the Forgotten Delights site, in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan and the Monuments of Manhattan app, whose “more” page is here.
- Athena in the Greenwood Cemetery. Is she waving to the Statue of Liberty?
Sculptor: George V. Tsaras. Roughly life-size bust. For more, see Sewell Chan in the New York Times City Room blog (quoting me!) and the NYC Parks site. The bust of Aristotle attributed to Lysippus on which this bust is based is here. Lysippus and the bust of Aristotle are also mentioned in Innovators in Sculpture.
I often react quite differently to a sculpture depending on the angle I’m seeing it from: see last year’s Rocket Man post for an example. That’s true with this Aristotle as well. Here’s a photo that shows the details well, but at this angle, the eyes look blank. (Incidentally, I’m not averse to drilled pupils, although the Greeks of the fourth century B.C. didn’t do them.)
I like three-quarter view painted portraits and three-quarter view photos of portrait sculptures: they tend to show more of the sitter’s bone structure than a full-frontal view such as the one above.
I like the photo below even more, simply because it’s taken at closer to eye level.
The photos above were taken around 5:30 p.m. in June; the sun was just high enough to cause glare at the top of Aristotle’s head. My favorite photo is the one below, taken at 4:30 p.m. on a January afternoon. The sun has almost set, so there’s no glare, and the color of the bronze and all the details show up beautifully. Ant the angle is off-center just enough to make it less boring that a straight frontal view.
Favorite Aristotle quotes
These are translations and the identification of the sources are by Carrie-Ann Biondi; see also the notes at the end of this post.
- “All human beings by nature aspire to know (or “stretch out toward knowing”)” (Metaphysics, Book 1, 980a21)
- “Happiness (or “flourishing”) is some sort of activity” (Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1, chap. 10, 1100a14)
By Chris Vilardi. Bronze, 7.5 feet high on a 2-foot granite pedestal. This is the last sculpture planned for Athens Square. More on the sculpture here. There are … peculiarities about this sculpture’s anatomy and drapery. As with many modern works, I can’t tell if the artist lacked knowledge or if he was trying to make a statement by not applying his knowledge.
On the base:
- “For kindness begets kindness evermore” – Ajax
- “One word alone repays you for the labor of our lives – love.” – Oedipus at Colonus
Favorite Sophocles quotes
- I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating. (Hey, that’s from Philoctetes! I just read that: will comment in an upcoming Sunday recommendations post. Email to be added to the list: DuranteDianne@gmail.com)
- The gods plant reason in mankind, of all good gifts the highest.
- All a man’s affairs become diseased when he wishes to cure evils by evils.
- A wise doctor does not mutter incantations over a sore that needs the knife.
- There is no witness so terrible and no accuser so powerful as conscience which dwells within us.
- You should not consider a man’s age but his acts.
- Anthony Frudakis, who sculpted Socrates, is the nephew of Zenos Frudakis, whose Darrow and Hamilton I’ve mentioned on this blog. See also Zenos’s comments on artists and models.
- Not far from Athens Square is the Socrates Sculpture Park, which celebrates the modern and the weird. You can see examples in their publication celebrating their 30th anniversary.
- Thanks to Carrie-Ann Biondi, who corrected the Aristotle “quotations” that originally appeared in this post. She also points out that two quotations I originally included in this post, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance” and “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit” are not Aristotle, but Will Durant’s summary of Aristotle in The Story of Philosophy, pp. 59 and 87. Another quote is not Aristotle at all; “We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best” is from Philip James Bailey, “Festus – V.”