Great God Pan


End of Semester: Time to Panic

Written in May 2005

Pan, a Greek deity half goat, half man (here he has goat ears and legs), was blamed by the Greeks for "panic" - sudden, extreme and irrational fear. Zamfir fans should thank him for the invention of the Pan pipes. Pan's association with Dionysus, Greek god of wine and sponsor of rowdy parties, may have been what led early Christians to particularly detest Pan. Satan's cloven hoofs and horns seem to be based on Pan's.

Alfred Corning Clark, a big name in the Singer Sewing Machine Company, was a patron of young George Gray Barnard. Clark's widow offered this statue to Central Park, but there was some difficulty finding a site for it - perhaps its pagan nudity seemed out of place among the frock-coated sculptures already in residence. In 1907 it was offered instead to its present owner, Columbia University. It seems appropriate to salute Pan in May, as finals approach.

George Gray Barnard

Barnard (1863-1938) designed the figures of Arts and History on the façade of the New York Public Library at 42nd St. and Fifth Avenue.

The Clark family donated his 1894 Struggle of Two Natures of Man (a work I particularly dislike, for philosophical rather than esthetic reasons) to the Metropolitan Museum, where it's usually displayed in the American Wing Courtyard.

Barnard's collection of medieval art, kept in Washington Heights, formed the basis for the Metropolitan Museum's Cloisters.

For more on Barnard, see here (a biography) and here (a TIME Magazine article of 2/11/1929, with Barnard's very odd definition of art).

Cross References