Today, I’d like to take a look at an image by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt. This painting is called Pallas Athene, and is a late Nineteenth century interpretation of the Greek goddess of war and wisdom.
Athene - or Athena - faces the viewer, staring at the spectator with piercing grey eyes. Her expression is carefully guarded.
The goddess wears the aegis, which is here depicted as a breastplate composed of shimmering golden scales. The tassels described in Homer’s Iliad have been transformed by Klimt into decorative whorls of gold. In the center of the aegis we see the face of a Gorgon - referred to as a Gorgoneion - glaring balefully.
In addition to the aegis, Athena also wears a helm and grasps a spear. This golden spear becomes a vertical focal point, framing the right side of the painting.
Athena holds a diminutive female figure in her other hand. This figure represents Nike, the goddess of victory. It is worth noting that this image of Nike shares much stylistically with another work by Klimt, called “Nuda Veritas”.
Pallas Athene is in the collection of the Historisches Museum der Stadt, Vienna.