‘Pierre aux Dames’, ‘slab cemetery’ of Geneva’s Museum of Art and History, 30 May
These feminine shapes are alleged to have been carved in the Geneva area in the Roman period; however, I shall not answer the questions of loci argumentorum (i.e. classical rhetoric): quis, quid, quando, ubi, cur, quem ad modum, quibus adminiculis [who, what, when, where, why, in what way, by what means].
Suffice is to say that after my disappointment at how the museum’s Prehistoric, Celtic and Gallo-Roman collections are presented (I had not visited this room for years; the collections have since moved from the ground floor to the basement and there are now fewer items on display compared with my teenage years from what I can recollect) I was delighted at my coming across by chance of this erratic stone unearthed in the canton of Geneva in 1819 which I immediately recognised as the ‘Stone with Ladies’ (‘Pierre aux Dames’) – unfortunately, this item (which was part of a megalithic structure some 4,000 years ago) is not even considered worthy to merit a placard and is used as a kind of gardening rack in the courtyard of Geneva’s Museum of Art and History.
To me, the ‘Stone with Ladies’ was a belated ‘answer’ to my visit to Laténium to see a prehistoric artefact in April of this year (‘In search of the prehistoric feminine’). This is because I have always found this period of my country’s history to be simply fascinating:
Portrait of Caius Octavius (Augustus), Museum of Art and History, Geneva, 30 May
That is not to say that I no longer respond to the beauty of Roman sculpture. On the contrary, I find this portrait of Caius Octavius (the real name of the emperor Augustus) in his younger years (he was born in 63 BC) as fascinating: somehow the sculptor managed to convey the psychological scars Rome’s first emperor was left with in his latter years as a result of the loss of three legions (roughly 10% of Rome’s fighting forces) in the Teutoburg forest in Germany in 9 AD.
Yet I fully respond to the suggestiveness of Celtic statuary, too; the Celtic civilisation was a subtle* civilisation – far more than we are willing to acknowledge, even today.
* OED: Old French sutil, so(u)til from Latin subtilis, which I believe is derived from the Latin words sub and telum (behind/under and spear), two words which together I reckon mean ‘at the core’, ‘in essence’ (i.e., literally ‘beneath the shine’ as telum also means sunshine as well as lightning).
PS To me, the claim that the annihilation of these three legions ultimately brought about two worlds that would clash again and again throughout history (the Germanic versus the Latin/Romance/Gallic worlds) because Rome after the Teutoburg disaster had to scrap its former ambition to incorporate Germany into the Roman empire is simply historical speculation gone amok.