aegean art: chapter 4

AEGEAN ART •Once upon a time, at the height of the Bronze Age, three successful civilizations arose in what is today

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AEGEAN ART•Once upon a time, at the height of the Bronze Age, three successful civilizations arose in what is today southern Greece…

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Cycladic: 3000-1600 BCE (Cycladic islands in the Aegean Sea)

*Produced stylized statuettes of nude standing females and nude males playing musical instruments

Minoan: 1900-1375 BCE (Island of Crete)*Built mixed-use palaces with complex ground plans

Mycenaean: 1600-1100 BCE (Greece)*Built massive citadels marked by cyclopean masonry and

corbelled vaulting

Aegean art’s three main civilizations:

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The Cycladic Islands

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[Map 04-01]

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Heinrich Schliemann 1822 - 1890

Arthur Evans (1851 - 1941

Who found all this stuff?

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Sir Arthur Evans with a dandy find

Evans (from England) and Schliemann (from Germany) dug through the ancient ruins of ancient Greece and the Greek Islands to find stuff

They say these men did more harm than good in the way they uncovered the sites (not very careful)

However, their names are still recorded as pioneering archaeologists

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ARCHITECTURE:•Used CYCLOPEAN MASONRY: placed minimally cut blocks of stone atop one another to create walls and buildings without mortar.•Excelled at the CORBELLED ARCH: a type of vaulted space in which the blocks of stone are gradually placed closer together as the building rises, forming an inverted V-shaped roof.


cyclopeanmasonry(no mortar)

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PAINTING•Back in Egypt, artists painted on a dry wall (“fresco secco”- dry fresco)•Fresco secco is not permanent = chipping paint

•Aegean artists used BUON FRESCO technique (“true fresco”)•Buon fresco = paint applied to fresh plaster = long lasting and durable•Buon fresco: requires quick brushwork and spontaneous work. This gives Aegean painting fluidity (not rigid like Egypt)

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SCULPTURE•Used REPOUSSE technique: fitting a thin sheet of metal (gold or bronze) onto a surface•The metal is shaped with small hammers from the backside •A design is beaten on the inside of the object, leaving a raised surface on the exterior (made in reverse pretty much)•Working the metal from the front is called CHASING

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Vapheio Cup c. 1650 – 1450 BCE

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Now let’s talk about the individual civilizations…..

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CYCLADIC ART•Found in grave sites on the Greek islands

•Figurines placed by the dead

•Women: always carved standing and nude

•Men: carved playing harps

•Men and women have heads tilted back

•Rendered in simple geometric shapes, which make them look modern

•Small traces of paint found on the figurines

Major works of Cycladic Art…

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•highly stylized nude woman

•arms folded around waist

•thin figure, prominent head

•feet too small to support the sculpture

•Meant to be placed on their straight backs, lying down, next to the deceased

•Wedge-shaped pelvis and body

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•triangular groin area

•modest breasts (nothing like Venus!)

•painted facial features

•head tilted back

•found in graves

•varied in size from large to small

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PAINTED DECORATIONCyclades. c. 2500-2200

BCE. Marble and red pigment

About 10” high

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Harpist, c. 2500, marble

•Male figures

•Simple geometric shapes

•Large flat planes

•Head tilted back

•Not playing harp- holding it

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Lyre Player c. 2000 BCE

•In the round sculpture


•Basic geometric forms

•Negative space

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MINOAN ART• Fluidity in figures (unique in art history at this point)

• Figures not “stuck” on ground line; they enjoy free movement and dynamic vigor

• Curved lines dominate compositions

• Slow, S-shaped curves very common

• Figures have small waists, frontal shoulders, profile bodies

• Men painted darker than women

• Introduced pure landscape- lush vegetation with no human presence

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MINOAN ARCHITECTURE•Unusual, complicated ground plan

•Rooms stretching out next to long corridors

•Spacious courtyards

•MEGARON= main audience chamber in Minoan palace

•Megaron has wooden columns that taper inward as they go down

•Columns painted red or white (to look nice, and to preserve wood)

•Capitals are bulbous and painted black

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Aerial view of Knossos today

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•Low ceilings, intimate rooms

•Terraces and open galleries

•Capitals painted black sit like cushions on top of columns

•Central courtyard with rooms attached around it

•Open-air chambers flood interior with light

•Labyrinth-like ground plan

•wood columns painted mostly red or white

•Columns smaller at bottom than at top

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Palace at Knossos was also

a center for…


“restorations” have obscured some of the original design

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•Murals done in FRESCO technique

•Large gaps filled in by modern restorers

•Extremely curvilinear and lyrical line

•Vibrant colors, smooth lines and sense of nature

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Toreador Fresco, c. 1400 BCE, fresco

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•Possibly a ritual showing two women and a man jumping over a bull

•Woman on left grabs horns

•Man jumping over bull

•Woman on right has just landed (ta da!)

•Man darker than women

•Extremely thin waists

•Groundbreaking! – figures in profile! Not frontal torso like earlier art, but still looks like Egyptian Amarna style

•Figures have floating quality- no ground lines

•Sweeping curved lines

•S-shaped curve of bull’s body and tail

•Bull appears decorative and non -threatening

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"SPRING FRESCO” (Landscape), c. 1650 BCE, fresco

How would you describe the subject matter?

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*Joyful patterns of undulating lines and fanciful plant forms dominate composition*Cheerful application of color*Geometrically simplified swallows fly through the air

One of the earliest pure landscapes in existence

next time you’re in Athens, go to the museum and check it out

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•Buon fresco

•In room dedicated to women’s initiation ceremonies

•Young woman picks saffron plant- used for dye, food, and medicine

•Girl wears typical Minoan flounced skirt

•Short sleeve shirt


•Hairstyle of a child

•Light blue color of scalp shows childhood shaved head is growing out

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Images of The "Flotilla Fresco" from Akrotiri c. 1650 BCE.

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Buon fresco

Minoans lived on the island of Crete.Thus, sea life was a popular theme

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gone fishin’

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Plant designs. Minoans love landscape!

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Alphone Mucha, from Europec. 1900



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….and let’s see some Minoan sculpture…

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SNAKE GODDESS, c. 1600 BCE,gold and ivory

•Goddess? Fertility image? Assistant to the goddess?

•Minoan thin waist, exposed breasts

•Flounced skirt in layers

•Apron layered on top

•Wide-eyed, astonished expression

•Cat image on head dress (crazy cat lady!)

•Holds snake in each hand

•Frontal, symmetrical

•No visible legs

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and she’s not the only one!

This one was made with the “faience” technique. Remember how they used that in Egypt too?

from Egypt

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Navajo Pottery

KAMARES WARE JUGc. 2000 BCE, ceramic


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Kamares Ware Jug

*Introduction of potter’s wheel in early 2000’s BCE!

*Extremely thin walls

*Graceful, stylized, painted decoration

*Beaked pouring spout

*Rounded contours compliment bold, curving plant forms painted on

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OCTOPUS FLASKc. 1500-1450 BCE.

Marine-style ceramic, height 11”

•“Marine Style”

•Depictions of sea life on surface

•Celebrates the sea

•Floating creatures

•Grace and energy of natural forms

•Stylized design in harmony with vessel’s spherical shape

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Harvester Vase c. 1650-1450 BCE4 ½ -inch diameter!

•Made of steatite (stone)•a RHYTON (vessel used for pouring liquids)•Egg-shaped•May have been covered in gold leaf (sheets of hammered gold, oooo!)•Rowdy procession of 27 men•Emotion shows in faces•March and chant to beat of rattle

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Look at this guy singing his heart out!

Men have large, coarse features

Muscular bodies with ribs sticking out

Festival? Religious procession? Dance? Warriors?Laborers?Who knows!

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Carved in low relief – note overlapping

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Bull’s Head Rhyton, c.1550-1450 BCE, Steatite with shell, rock crystal, and red jasper. Gilt-wood horns restored, 12” high

•Incised lines

•Found in Palace of Knossos

•Like an animal portrait

•Lightly engraved lines filled with white powder to make them stand out

•Short curly hair on top of head, shaggy strands on sides, circular patterns on neck

•Shell outlines nostrils. Rock crystal and red jasper for eyes

•Horns- wood covered in gold leaf

•Liquid poured into hold in neck and flows out mouth, cool!

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•Influenced by Minoan painting- figures have narrow waists and broad shoulders

•Overall movement away from delicate Minoan forms to a more realistic concept

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c. 1400-1200 BCE

•Cyclopean masonry, looks powerful

•Corbel vault

•Walls have massive appearance but hallway is claustrophobic

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Long entranceway

Let’s go inside!!!

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TREASURY OF ATREUSInterior View, c. 1300 BCE43’ high, limestone

*Misnamed in the belief it was storage for treasures (probably originally a tomb for THOLOS)*Corbel vaulted *Largest interior domed space until the Romans *Precision cutting of stone

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LION GATE, c. 1300 BCE, limestone

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• Triangular group over doorway

• An early PEDIMENT on a post-and-lintel gate

• Minoan column between two lions (heads fell off, oops!)

• Heads were turned to face observer

• Narrow, tall passageway leading to gate, built for defensive purposes- protected entrance of a Mycenean citadel.

• Stones grooved into place, no mortar


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LION GATE, MYCENAEHistoric photo showing

Heinrich and Sophia Schliemann.

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LION GATE from the other side

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Mycenae, Greece. c. 1600 BCE. Gold

•Gold, worked in REPOUSSE•Found in royal shaft grave•Mask placed on the deceased’s face (like Egyptian burial)•Curlicue ears•Eyes rendered as slits•Hair detailed with long, thin incised marks

Let’s not forget sculpture….

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Vapheio Cup c. 1650 – 1450 BCE