|Photograph Copyright ©2013 Loo Yen Yeo. All Rights Reserved.|
Description: 'The Rape of Polyxena' (1865) by Pio Fedi is a stunning sculptural group with a dynamic diagonal arrangement. It does not privilege a specific viewpoint. The sculpture alone is a masterpiece of dynamic tension, and it would have conveyed this on its own against a plain dark background.
So the philosophical question is, "is the image itself an example of dynamic tension, or is it simply a straight-ahead image of a subject possessing dynamic tension?" After all, if we imagine 'The Rape of Polyxena' on its own, we can see a complex of actual (body-line) and implied (eyeline) diagonals, and a single continuous spiral comprised of the two struggling female bodies - Queen Hecuba (below) and her daughter Polyxena of Troy - wrapped around the core of Neoptolomos, son of Achilles, standing over the slain prince Polites.
To answer that we'd have to look at the relationship of the subject with its environment. The regular pattern of the Uffizi's façade, positioned behind the sculpture on the right, provides a frame for Polyxena's outline to pull against. The brightly-illuminated arch over Via della Ninna on the left emphasises the desperate curve of Hecuba. From this angle, the strong directional chiaroscuro lighting emphasises the diagonals of form; and the intersection of the bottom frame with Polites' torso implies a continuation of that diagonal to infinity.
Title: Polyxena mine