Reclining Pan in the St. Louis Art Museum
Reclining Pan in the St. Louis Art Museum

Reclining Pan in the St. Louis Art Museum

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  • Pages: 5 (2311 words)
  • Published: June 30, 2018
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The sculpture was owned by the powerful Barberini Family in Rome, then purchase by St. Louis Art Museum in1947. 1 Reclining Pan at the St. Louis Art Museum under discussion presents a commanding image of the satyr/god Pan, measuring approximately 2 feet tall and 4. feet long. Pan appears to have fallen asleep in a drunken stupor since he lies upon a wineskin amid four bunches of grapes that adorn his rocky bed. His left arm encircles his head, a gesture evocative of sleep, and his muscular right arm falls to the side, still clutching the syrinx or reed pipes he fashioned in frustration at his failure to win the nymph syrinx. He opens his mouth in a wide grimace, allowing his tongue to protrude slightly and thus animating his expression to connote the beginning stages of his transition from slumber to wakefulness.

The nebris he wears around his neck has been knotted on the his chest, its colored hooves resembling less an animal torso than some sort of decorative fashion accessory. His furry legs splay open, revealing a rather odd and unexpected bit of prudishness since his penis, an important attribute of Pan who is renowned for his sexual exploits, has been hidden by draped fabric that also separates his torso form the underlying stone platform. The aforementioned grape clusters, the woody truck of a grapevine, and single grape leaf embellish his stone perch while a salamander slithers in the crevices that have been cut into the marble. Pan is the son of Hermes and the nymph Dryope. He is not co

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mpletely human in form, but part man and part goat. He has the ears, horns and legs of a goat. His lovers included Echo, Selene, Cyparissus, Daphnis, and Olympus. Pan is a god of creativity, music, poetry, sensuality and sexuality, or panic and nightmares, who haunts forests, caverns, mountains, brooks and streams. His favourite time is noon when he seduces young men while teaching them to play the syrinx, or pan-pipes. These are named after a nymph that pan desired. Syrinx was devoted to Artemis and fled from Pan’s advances.

As she did, she transformed into a bed of marsh reeds. When the wind blew through these they made a sad but beautiful sound and pan was inspired to cut two of the reeds, fasten them together to make a pipe that he could play. Pan represents unbridled male sexuality, and is the equivalent of of a greek “green man”. He is also (along with Herm the Hunter) an early model for the images of the Christian Devil. As a phallic figure it’s easy to see why. Guanyin’s origin is debated among scholars. The root of this debate lies in the history of religion in China. China’s indigenous religion is Taoism.

It is possible that Guanshi’yin originated as a Taoist deity, the Queen Mother of the West. With the introduction of Mahayana Buddhism to China in around the fourth to fifth centuries AD, Taoism and Buddhism became religious rivals in China. The Buddhist tactic was to change, and even supplant, indigenous Taoist deities in favor of Buddhis

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deities. Over the centuries, this trend has had the effect that it is now virtually impossible to determine Guanyin’s true origin. The official Buddhist view is that Guanyin originated with the male Avalokitesvara, though Guanyin’s origin may be more complex than this simple, linear derivation.

While it is certain that the name “Guanshi’yin” is derived from the name “Avalokitesvara”. 5 According to Mahayana doctrine, Avalokitesvara is the bodhisattvas who has made a great vow to listen to the prayers of all sentient beings in times of difficulty, and to postpone his own Buddha hood until he has assisted every being on Earth in achieving nirvana. Mahayana sutras associated with Avalokitesvara include the Heart Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, particularly the 25th chapter, which is sometimes referred to as the Avalokitesvara Sutra.

Six forms of Avalokitesvara in Mahayana were great compassion; great loving-kindness; lion-courage; universal light; leader amongst gods and men; and the great omnipresent Brahman. Each of this bodhisattva’s six qualities of pity, etc. , breaks the hindrances respectively of the hells, pretas (hungry ghost), animals, asuras (demi god), men, and devas. After the introduction of Mahayana Buddhism to China in around the fourth to fifth centuries AD, he’s been named “Guanshi’yin” or “Guanyin” because it’s derived from the name “Avalokitesvara”. 6

According to Chinese accounts, Avalokitesvara was manifested in Guanyin, the third daughter of King Zhuang of the Spring and Autumn period (770-460 BC). Her father wanted her to get married but she wanted to become a nun. The old man punished her for her willfulness by making her clean out toilets in the temple but she would not relent. So he ordered her execution by sword. The sword broke into a thousand pieces so her father ordered her strangled to death while she was sleeping. This approach finally worked but Guanyin’s arrival in hell caused the underworld to turn into a paradise.

Yama, the king of hell, did not appreciate this renovation at all and sent her back to the land of the living. She was transported to the tiny mountain island of Putuo Shan off the coast of Zhejiang Province. Guanyin lived on the island for nine years, healing the sick and saving mariners from shipwreck. Putuo Shan is consequently one of the sacred mountains of Chinese Buddhism and still attracts pilgrims from all over Asia. While Guanyin was doing good deeds, her wicked father fell ill but the ever-compassionate Guanyin cut off her arms and plucked out her eyes to use as ingredients for a medicine that saved the old codger’s life.

To show his gratitude he ordered the construction of a statue in her honor telling the sculptor to make the statue quanshou quanyan meaning “with completely formed arms and eyes. ” The sculptor was probably from Henan and he misunderstood. He made the sculpture with qianshou qianyan “a thousand arms and eyes. ” From that day on, Guanyin has been represented with a lot of arms and eyes. 7 Representations of the bodhisattva in China prior to the Song dynasty were masculine in appearance. Guanyin’s image is depicted as a young man dressed in

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