An extract from Greek Myths and Legends
Pan was the Greek god of shepherds, flocks and fertility and he is portrayed in this composition together with his sacrificial animal — a ram. This mythological character played such an important role in the Ancient Greek pantheon that he influenced not only the development of Hellenic culture, but also the cultural heritage of the world.
Russian artist Mikhail Vrubel, for example, placed his Pan in a typical Northern Russian landscape against the background of a birch forest and a river. As the god of mountain wilds, he is depicted as a wrinkly and sinewy old man with horns, a curly beard and a black lower body. All of this makes him similar to Leshy — a male woodland spirit in Slavic culture. Both Leshy and Pan were known for their cheerful and lively dispositions. They never hurt people intentionally but their pranks could at times be a little aggressive.
In this composition, influences from Vrubel’s image of Pan can be spotted in his posture and appearance, as well as in the general dynamics and colours of the sculpture. However, this stone sculpture emphasizes his animal nature through the hooves and one of his characteristic attributes — a ram. His primitive and unpolished nature is revealed with the helpof arborescent crystals, which draw attention to Pan’s head and hands. It is no coincidence that the word ‘panic’ in many European languages originated from the name Pan; he terrified anyone who dared to disturb his postprandial nap.
Ancient Greeks offered sheepas a sacrifice to their god, hoping for his benevolence in return. This sculpture features Pan lifting shears in his hand, which makes the composition more dynamic. Additional dramatic effect is achieved through an unexpected contrast between the ram’s fiery orange colour and the dark figure of Pan. Pan’s body has been carved out of a single piece of stone. The artisan’s meticulous and careful work revealed hidden potential, turning the natural imperfections of the stone into a unique feature.
The story behind this ram is a great example of a certain magic that hard stone carving has about it. When the craftsman was working on the figure of the ram, an animal started to emerge and the natural stone crust was a perfect representation of the skin. A special kind of talent is required to reveal the unique qualities of the material, including favourable colour transitions. The most interesting thing, however, happened when the craftsman was about to start working on the teeth — an unusual white inclusion suddenly showed through. It was as if the material was intended for this very composition and was just waiting for the right craftsman.
Pan was often seen amongst Dionysus’ entourage. When the great Pan was born, his mother — nymph Dryope — looked at her son and ran away, terrified. He was born with goat’s feet, horns and a long beard. His father Hermes, however, was glad to have a son and brought him to the Gods of Olympus. The gods were extremely joyful about Pan’s birth and laughed when they looked at him.
Pan did not stay with the Olympian gods but left for the forests and mountains, where he looked after the herds and played his pipes. As soon as the nymphs hear the beautiful sounds of Pan’s pipe, they run to him, surround him and their merry circle moves across a remote valley to the accompaniment of Pan’s pipe. Pan likes to take part in nymphs’ dances. When Pan enjoys himself, the forests on the mountain slopes fill with a merry noise, as the nymphs, satires and the loud goat-hoofed Pan run about. As soon as it gets hot in the afternoon, Pan retreats to the thick forest or a cool grotto and rests. It is dangerous to disturb him at this time because he is quick-tempered and he can send intruders into a deepsleepor suddenly appear in front of a traveller who has disturbed him and frighten him. He can also cause panic fear — a kind of fear that makes a person run away without looking where he is going, across forests and mountains, along cliff tops, without realising the danger. On several occasions, Pan managed to instil this overwhelming fear into a whole army and they took flight. It is best not to annoy Pan because when he is angry as he can be very menacing. Otherwise, he is good-natured and benevolent. A cheerful dancer and a frequent companion of Dionysus, Pan looks after the shepherds and their herds.