In fact, the very reason why nearly all the famous statues of the ancient world perished was that after the victory of Christianity it was considered a pious duty to smash any statue of the heathen gods. The sculptures in our museums are, for the most part, only secondhand copies made in Roman times for travellers and collectors as souvenirs, and as decorations for gardens or public baths. We must be very grateful for these copies, because they give us at least a faint idea of the famous masterpieces of Greek art but unless we use our imagination these weak imitations can also do much harm. They are largely responsible for the widespread idea that Greek art was lifeless, cold and insipid, and that Greek statues had that chalky appearance and vacant look which reminds one of old-fashioned drawing classes. The Roman copy of the great idol of Pallas Athene, for instance, which Pheidias made for her shrine in the Parthenon (Fig. 50), hardly looks very impressive. We must turn to old descriptions and try to picture what it was like: a gigantic wooden image, some thirty-six feet high, as high as a tree, covered all over with precious material-the armour and garments of gold, the skin of ivory.
The story of art - E. H. Gombrich