Style and "Substance"

Orestes energeia

During our trip to the Getty Villa in Malibu, I was drawn to a ceramic storage jar with a scene from one of my favorite plays, The Oresteia. The jar depicts the moment when Orestes attempts to kill his mother, Clytemnestra, to get vengeance on Clytemnestra for killing his father Agamemnon. In the top corner of the jar, a fury can be seen holding a snake. This symbolizes that Orestes, having committed matricide, has upset the Furies and is now subject to their torment, forcing him to flee from the palace. 

Upon seeing the jar, I was immediately reminded of the piece with the two lovers we looked at while examining Hellenistic art. Just like the lovers, Clytemnestra and Orestes have locked eyes that freezes them in a separated embrace. It made me think about how the lover’s potential (sex) is not realized as the pot depicts them frozen in embrace but not in the act of sex. The energeia of the two individuals as lovers is recognizable. The activity that will allow them to fulfill the energia and have entelechy is not.
Orestes’ energeia is represented in this scene as someone capable of murder. But, he does not achieve entelechy because the moment does not show the knife slaying Clytemnestra’s breast. He has not fulfilled his active potential, and the entelechy cannot be realized. Furthermore, this gaze cements them in their world, as their eyes are only on each other and pay no regard to the viewer. As Aristotle argued, it is the individuated beings that anchor the world, and in the case of this jar, it is the individuals that anchor the story and give the jar meaning. 

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