Punch’s Handbooks to the Crystal Palace the Greek Court through Mr Owen Jones (1854)

Punch’s Handbooks to the Crystal Palace the Greek Court through Mr Owen Jones (1854) 1600 1200 REVICTO

The Greek Court is approached by a façade having three Grecian doorways of the Grecian Doric Order. The visitor is or may be arrested at the principal entrance by what to the inexperienced eye would appear to be some rather strange characters but the learned will recognise these characters as constituting a passage from Herodotus. The unlearned will at once enter the Court through the passage which if it is unfortunately above their comprehension is luckily so much above their heads that they can pass immediately under it. There is over each of the three entrances an inscription of the merest common place and they are so far appropriate to a doorway which is a very common place to have an inscription over it. Having nearly lost ourselves in admiration of the façade we find ourselves rapidly in the Central Greek Court which represents an agora market place. The names around are those of poets philosophers and artists but considering the place is a market the most appropriate names would have been those of butchers greengrocers and fishmongers. The list begins with Homer who may perhaps be admitted into a market by virtue of the accuracy of his measures. Hippocrates the father of physic a most disgusting relationship by the way which must have prevented the father from meeting his physical progeny with a pleasant face may have been introduced as the first man who made a business of medicine and who may have realised the commercial idea of a drug in the market. […]

The building of the Parthenon is said to have cost one thousand talents though its highest value is represented in the single talent of the architect. The Temple was built in honour of Minerva who was supposed to live in the cellar where her statue was deposited. The whole of the ornaments of the building are supposed to represent scenes in the life of Minerva the mistress of the mansion who with all her ancient wisdom seems not to have risen above the modern folly of filling her own abode with pictures of herself and of her own exploits. The Parthenon was in a comparatively perfect state until 1687 when the Venetians besieged Athens and threw in a shell which destroyed nearly all but the shell of the building. The Parthenon was on the top of the Acropolis and occupied what Dr Wordsworth called the finest site in Europe a distinction that has been sometimes claimed for Trafalgar Square where an almost unlimited sight of money has been employed in rendering the finest site in Europe remarkable for its extreme unsightliness. The frieze forms a striking portion of the building and an attempt has been made to give warmth to the frieze by painting it. This proceeding has been the subject of much discussion it being argued on one side that the frieze cannot be too cold in order to be correct and it being contended on the other side that those who would paint the frieze have a colourable excuse for coming to that conclusion. The result is that the advocates of the paint pot have prevailed though many artists allege that the colour should not have been applied till the subject had been thoroughly canvassed. It would be a tedious task to trace the progress of sculpture from the primitive efforts of the wood cutter who hacked the human form into a shape resembling the doll of our own days until the skill of the sculptor reached the culminating point in the genius and chisel of Phidias. This great artist literally played with the marbles that came into his hand and he died in the middle of a game for he did not live to complete his colossal statue of Minerva which was so lofty that it must have taken half the sculptor’s time to travel from the top to the toe or even to find his way across the bridge of the nose il he happened to be making for the Temple.

Extract from Punch or The London Charivari Volumes 26 and 27, covering 1854.

Featured Image: Greek Vestibule, between Egyptian and Greek Courts. Delamotte 1859. Source: https://sydenham.org.uk