The Cycladic Islands are in the Aegean Sea, North of Crete and South of the European mainland. Much of what is known of Cycladic art comes from objects that were not carefully excavated. There is no known written language of the Cycladic culture, so any assumptions we make about the culture or the objects from this period, must be made very carefully.
Distinct features of the art:
Composed of Idols small, simple sculptures used for funerary purposes.
Most of these were found in the horizontal position.
Most of these figures are female and range from 1 to 5 ft tall.
Only facial features were a protruding nose; some have been
Found with paint remnants on them that suggest they were
brightly decorated. If these figures were men, they were shown playing musical
instruments, e.g., harps and flutes. Fewer male statues were
done than female. Few ceramics were done during this time.
Female Figurine , from Syros, c. 2500-2300 B.C. Male Lyre Player from Keros, 2700-2500 B.C.
Ch.4 Minos and the Heroes of Homer (Aegean, Mycenaean Art) 1. Define vocabulary on handout. 2. Identify: Cycladic, Minoan, Mycenaean 3. List 3 stylistic characteristics of the Early Bronze Age statuettes from the Cyclades and state 2 ideas regarding their purpose. 4. List 4 characteristics of the of the palace at Knossos. 5. In what way did the shape of a Minoan column differ from that of other columns? 6. List two types of subjects the Minoans liked to paint and give 4 adjectives that describe their style. 7. Which characteristics of Minoan ceramic decoration are apparent in The Octopus Jar ? (fig.4-12)? 8. Describe the structure of a beehive tomb.
The gorgeous Kamares-ware pottery dates to this period and the style is named after the cave of Kamares where it was first discovered. Kamares-ware is exquisitely made pottery with polychrome motifs of rosettes, spirals and hatching vibrantly painted on a shiny black background, and was produced in a variety of vase shapes . Kamares Pitcher, 1800-1700 B.C.E. Kamares Amphora, 1800-1700 B.C.E.
It was earlier believed the Minoan civilization was destroyed by the earthquake that erupted on the island of Santorini (Thera), but today we know the eruption took place in 1628 BC and the Minoan civilization lasted past the time of the eruption. It is belived that the myth of Atlantis sprung from the events that occurred on Santorini due to the damage created by the eruption. A portion of the island blew off and into the Aegean. In the year 1900, Sir Arthur Evans, a British Archaeologist, began reconstruction on the Palace of Knossos. Earlier, he had a hunch that under a large hill he would find something special on Crete. He began to dig, and the Palace of Knossos emerged. From digging at Knossos, he discovered the Minoans were a highly developed civilization with such creature comforts like running water. Palace Of Knossos, 1600-1400 B.C.E. MINOAN ART
Distinct features of the art: Knossos- most famous archaeological site on Crete and has the best remains.
Heyday of the civilization -1750-1450 BC
Palace of Knossos was the hub of Cretan society
Some writing has been discovered from this time period: Linear A and Linear B. Both were found on clay slabs and date back to Pre-Homeric Greek. Unfortunately, only Linear B has been deciphered. It was translated in 1952.
MINOAN ART Late Minoan Palace Architecture and Wall Painting at Knossos Palace of Minos at Knossos , c. 1700-1400 B.C.
5 stories high, very large for the time period
was centered around a court yard
Structure appears maze-like. Possibly gave rise to the minotaur myth. It was believed the minotaur was locked in a labyrinth on Crete by King Minos. The Palace of Knossos resembles a maze and may be the basis for this myth.
The palace sits on a hill top overlooking the sea, and has no defensive wall
Megaron: rectangular hall with an open two columned porch
Dolphin frescoes on wall
patterned, stylized borders, traces of redecorating by change in patterns
HOW THE MINOANS PORTRAYED PEOPLE IN ART: Men were painted in a darker flesh tone than women. All had a perky nose Small wasp waist Elongated body THE BULL The primary Minoan religious symbols were the double-headed ax (Greek word "Labrys") and the bull. Unfortunately, not much is known about Minoan religion. The Toreador Fresco features a bull thought to be a special animal to them. The human figures in the fresco are animated and performing various feats and activities that lend the impression of a dangerous but fun game. There may exist some sort of religious connection. The composition is well-balanced and beautifully graceful curves. Bulls' horns were found on all Minoan altars. Frescoes and artifacts of bulls, wild, charging, being captured, destroying fields and walls were found throughout the Palace. The bull was obviously a powerful and revered creature. And what of the fresco of the bull somersaulting acrobats? A fantasy? Western American steer wrestlers, as the English called them, we call them cowboys, were asked if such somersaults were possible. "No way," was their response. "You could never lift yourself over the head of a charging bull by grabbing its horns." Procession Fresco , Knossos, c. 1500 B.C. detail. The Toreador Fresco , c. 1500 B.C. (Late Minoan I) La Parisienne , Knossos, c. 1500 B.C. detail.
On the nearby island of Santorini... The first known European landscape was done. The fresco showed rolling hills and plants. This piece of art predates the Roman landscapes by 1,500 years. The Springtime Fresco , Room 2, Knossos, c. 1500 B.C Nature scene with rolling hills, graceful lilies, and darting swallows….lovely landscape for pure decoration.
The so-called “Flotilla Fresco,” dated to about 1550 BC,1 consists of a series of scenes of large, medium-sized, and small manned ships passing by three coastal villages, showing the rocky coastal topography, as well as small harbors in which boats are moored or pulled up onto the beach. Casual arrangement of figures unlike those we saw in Mesopotamian repetitive scenes. Definitely more attentive to depicting nature and more active and “free” looking. Young Fisherman , c. 1500 B.C. Santorini A painting of a young fisherman and his catch is another indication of the Minoan artists’ keen attention to natural appearances. This is important, because it foreshadows the later Greek interest in the male nude as their main subject in art. It also emphasizes the importance of the sea in their daily lives.
Dynamic Swirling Organic Playful Rhythmic Decorative Colorful Marine life as dominant motif Characteristic Qualities of Minoan Art The Octopus Jar , Palaikastro, c. 1500 B.C. The marine style of pottery developed with flowing elements including stylized octopuses and seaweed. Surviving examples include ridged cups, small, round spouted jars, and large storage jars (pithoi), on which combinations of abstract curvilinear designs and stylized plant and marine motifs are painted in white and tones of red, orange, and yellow on black grounds. The pottery of this period is characterized by an exuberant joy in nature; the motifs are more naturalistic and there is a greater sense of movement. There is no three-dimensional illusionism, rather the impact of the painting comes from the shapes of the motifs and their relationship to the vessel's shape and contours. The marine elements, like the octopus (cuttlefish), work well because their shapes are simple, irregular and sinuous, and thus allow a ready transition to two dimensional form. The marine style is also characterized by horror vacui (a need to fill every available space with some ornamentation).
Snake Goddess , faience figurine, c. 1600 B.C. Two famous faience Snake Goddesses from Knossos belong to the New-Palace period (about 1600 BCE). Besides the ritual function, they are among the best examples of the Minoan art with its dominant features - naturalism and grace. They are presented as the ladies of the palace court, dressed in the typical Minoan clothes with a long skirt (flounced, or with an apron) and a tight open bodice. The snakes crawl around the body of one the goddesses and appear in each hand of the other. These statuettes are interpreted sometimes as the goddess and her votary, the mother goddess and her daughter, or the human attendants of goddess, as well as the women personified the goddess . Since the figurine is only found in houses and in small shrines in the palaces, we believe that she is some sort of domestic goddess or goddess of the house (a kind of guardian angel–in many regions of the world, including Greece, the household snake is worshipped and fed as a domestic guardian angel). But the household goddess also seems to have taken the form of a small bird, for numerous shrines are oriented around a dove-like figure. Most scholars believe that the principle female goddesses of Greek religions, such as Hera, Artemis, and so on, ultimately derive from the Minoan goddesses. Since we have only ruins and remains from Minoan culture, we can only guess at their religious practices. We have no scriptures, no prayers, no books of ritual; all we have are objects and fragments all of which only hint at a rich and complex religious life and symbolic system behind their broken exteriors. The most apparent characteristic of Minoan religion was that it was polytheistic and matriarchal, that is, a goddess religion; the gods were all female, not a single male god has been identified until later periods
A masterpiece of stone carving, the Harvester Vase shows a priest leading a group of men on their way home from harvesting. Ritual acts usually celebrated a renewal of the harmony between human society and the natural world. Priests and priestesses led ritual processions and sacrifices, either out in sanctuaries or in the closed courts of palaces.
Whether festivities took place outside or in, they required use of ritual objects. One such object is the harvester’s vase.
On this object we see a banded relief image of a precession of celebratory figures. There are 26 men following another man dressed in a scaly cloak with long hair. The men are carrying long sticks, which could be for harvesting grain or sowing the soil.
On the other side are four figures singing, one is also carrying a rattle. These figures are dressed in a kilt – a costume interpreted by some as that of the warrior class. Because there is no text explicitly telling us what we see depicted here, the scene has been interpreted as a sowing festival, and harvesting celebration, and a military victory parade. Regardless of what the scene depicts, it is clear that we have an event in a certain space, in which a variety of players took part. This is a situational narrative.
1500 B.C.E. steatite, 5” w
450 BC -- The Minoan civilization started declining rapidly. Mycenaean begins to take over. Their height overlaps the end of the Minoan civilization for about 200 years. The walls around their city were so thick (20 feet) and amazing that centuries later during the height of Athens, scholars thought only Cyclopses were strong enough to have created them. These walls, then, are also called cyclopean walls. Lion Gate , Mycenae , c. 1300 B.C.
20 tons The Lion Gate: very important feature of the Mycenaean citadel. Showed the power and prestige of the city, and modern coats of arms also feature regal beasts flanking a central design like the gate. Why did they put the lion statue there? Well, the way the walls were designed, they needed something to lessen the weight on the lintel. Using a triangular shape with designs was a lighter alternative. ( Comparison to Hittite “Lion Gate” or Babylonian Lamassu!)
The Megaron design is also very important to note because many art historians believe it evolved into the temple format used by the later Greeks at Athens and elsewhere. The central feature of the Mycenaean palace is the megaron , a building complex consisting of a porch preceding a vestibule, which led into a long, wide room that contained a throne and a hearth. The long room of the megaron at Mycenae measures roughly 35x50 feet. Unlike the Minoan central court, the megaron typically stood as a separate unit within the palace (i.e. not connected to other types of buildings).
Most Mycenaean palaces were built on hilltops, which both aided the defense of the palace as well as set it apart from the common villages below. The location of the palace on a hilltop, as well as the presence of fortification walls described below, help distinguish between those Mycenaean "palaces" that were truly palaces and those that were merely citadels (i.e. military fortresses, but not actually places of royal residence).
The walls certainly served for defense, but they also could have been a means of establishing a distinction between the royal and the public realm. At the Mycenaean palaces, villages were usually clustered around the foot of the hill on which the palace stood, or at the palace's outermost boundaries if not on a hill.
Tholos Tombs These tombs , which accompany the palaces, are huge domes. That Mycenaean architects figured out the mathematical precision necessary to build them is an architectural wonder. The well-preserved tholos tomb at Mycenae is called the Treasury of Atreus and stands 45 feet high. Approached by a long passage, or dromos, the beehive shaped tomb, or tholos, was achieved with corbeled courses of stone laid on a circular base. Largest unified space in antiquity until the Pantheon.
Corbeling = Roofing technique in which each layer of stone projects inward slightly over the previous layer, until all sides meet . The corbelled gallery at Tiryns may have been a part of a defensive structure or part of a complicated ceremonial path leading through a porch, vestibule, and finally to the megaron. The large corbelled stone form a primitive arch. Reconstruction
Side walls are cut out of natural rock, and lined with ashlar
Door is over 16 feet high, tapers inwards towards top
There is a short corridor covered by 2 giant lintel blocks- leads to corbel domed interior space
Above doorway lintels is relieving triangle
Same kind of entrance, but smaller leads into smaller side chamber.
Against outer side of main doorway is pair of "engaged" half-columns (split in half, flat side against wall) in green marble Above either side of the reliving triangle has pair of columns in red marble. The larger columns were decorated with a chevron pattern and spiral motif. A chevron pattern also decorated the Minoan-like pillow capitals.
Inlaid dagger blades from Shaft Graves (royal tombs), Mycenae, c. 1600-1500 B.C. Some of the daggers are inlaid with figured scenes rendered by means of "painting" in a variety of differently colored pure metals and their alloys. These scenes include both hunting episodes and scenes of nature (familiar from Minoan art and possibly influenced by Mesopotamia). The costume are Cretan and the spirited movement of hunters and animals are characteristically Minoan. Funeral mask , from Shaft Graves (royal tombs), Mycenae, c. 1500 B.C. American businessman turned amateur archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann dug at Mycenae, where he found further rich remains, including a set of funeral masks in a circle of graves within the citadel walls ("Grave circle A"). Repousse’ mask (beaten gold) attached to the faces of mummified individuals/princes. The Vaphio Cups , 1500 B.C.E., gold with repousse’ decoration, 3 ½ “ high A pair of gold cups of Minoan workmanship, probably dating from c.1500–1400 B.C. Shaped like teacups and about 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm) high, they were formed by fastening together two plates of gold, the inner one smooth, the outer in low-relief repoussé. The designs represent a bull hunt; on one the bulls are grazing, on the other they are captured in nets. Found in a grave at Vaphio in Laconia, the cups are preserved in Athens. The Vaphio Cups , from tholos tomb in Laconia, c. 1500 B.C.
Pictorial Style krater. Unique for this period for it's "narrative" armed warriors marching to the right in single file. Kraters used to dilute wine.
Warrior Vase Mycenae 16 inches high
Differing from the characteristic flora-and-fauna decoration of the Minoans, whose safety was insured by their island location, the war motifs of this vase reflect the more militaristic aspects of Mycenaean life. Although not realistically drawn, the decoration of the Warrior Vase provides a document of ancient defensive arms and armor. Stylistically, these figures also suggest the influence of Egyptian and Minoan formal canons. They are stylized and repetitive, lacking the earlier character and liveliness. This is a step backward in the development of art. Shortly after its creation, the Dorians invade using iron weapons. The Mycenaeans with their soft bronze weapons were no match. Their civilization essentially disappears.