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Aegean Art 2000-1000 BC. The Artist as Record Keeper. New Vocabulary: Idol Megaron Fresco. Aegean Civilizations flourished before Greek Civilization Includes Cycladic, Minoan, Mycenaean cultures Written about in Homer’s Iliad and from Greek myths

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Aegean Art 2000-1000 BC

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Aegean Art

2000-1000 BC

The Artist as Record Keeper


  • New Vocabulary:

  • Idol

  • Megaron

  • Fresco


  • Aegean Civilizations flourished before Greek Civilization

  • Includes Cycladic, Minoan, Mycenaean cultures

  • Written about in Homer’s Iliad and from Greek myths

  • Knowledge of these cultures is a lot less than of Egypt and Near East

  • No aid from written records

  • Linear B- 2000 BC developed in Minoan culture-usually palace inventories and records- has not helped decipher religion and art


  • Cycladic Art- 2600-1100 BC

  • Have left hardly any trace apart from modest stone tombs

  • Large marble idols buried with the dead-earliest life-sized sculpture of the female form

  • Idols are nude female figure with arms folded across the chest-hints of sexuality

  • Were painted (traces of color found)

  • Have not seen anything like it before- not like earlier fertility figures

Cycladic Idol, 2500-1100 BC


  • Minoan Art -

  • Culture named by an archeologist after legendary King Minos

  • Very fractured style- as if sudden change came to the civilization more than once- external forces?

  • But artwork reflects a culture that is peaceful and playful with no hint of threat

  • Until 2000 BC. Still living at Neolithic level- then created an urban civilization with palaces and trade (with Egyptians)

  • Most information comes from Knossos, the Palace of Minos- vast enough to survive in Greek legends as the home of the Minotaur

  • Did not speak Greek or worship Greek Gods- WERE NOT GREEK!


Palace of Minos, Knossos, Crete c.1500 BC

  • Carefully planned, sprawling palace- includes storerooms, ceremonial rooms, living quarters, theaters, grand courtyard

  • Includes intricate plumbing system

  • Minoan columns are similar to Greek Doric, but have wide top, narrow base


The Queen’s Megaron, Palace of Minos, Knossos

  • Rulers were probably not ruler-gods like Near East and Egypt

  • Military subjects are absent from the art

  • First real fresco-painted on wet plaster


  • Little known about religious life

  • Centered on sacred places

  • Chief deity was female snake goddess

  • No temples, lacked cult statues

  • Few religious subjects in art

  • Snakes associated with male fertility

  • Secular looking- fashion

  • Crete has few snakes, so the snake idea was probably imported- but no snake goddesses have been discovered outside of Crete

Snake Goddess c.1600 BC


The Toreador Fresco, C. 1500 BC

  • Marine life is seen in all artwork- fluid movement is more important than drama

  • Shows a game, not a bull fight- two of the figures are female-figures are Minoan style-pinched waists

  • playful like dolphins-

  • Bull is a sacred animal

  • Ambiguous meaning- not sure if one scene, or three different actions


  • Pottery-

  • Newly designed potters wheel!

  • Relationship between shape and decoration

  • designs drawn from plant and animal life- fish, shells, octopuses- very similar to the wall paintings- flowing and rhythmic

  • Swirling lines are reminiscent of the sea

Octopus Vase, c.1500 BC


  • Slim, muscular men carrying farming tools-first real depiction of muscles in action

  • Narrative not as important as the rhythm

  • Energetic and physical

  • Humorous in nature-figures are singing and shouting- most animated so far!

Harvester Vase, 1550-1500 BC


  • Mycenaen Art- (invaded and occupied Minoan culture)

  • Southeast shores of Greek mainland (1600-1100 BC)

  • first thought to have come from Crete because of similar art characteristics, but probably were early Greek tribes

  • Tombs were central to the culture

Treasury of Atreus, 1300-1250 BC


  • 1600 BC, began to build elaborate tombs- buried dead on deep shafts covered with beehive structures

  • More elaborate tombs were only found in Egypt from around the same time period

  • Largest known vaulted space in antiquity until the Roman Pantheon (1500 years later)

Interior, Treasury of Atreus


  • Alongside royal dead, were masks of gold and silver

  • Similar in purpose to Egyptian death masks

  • Lots of personal equipment found such as vessels, jewelry, weapons

Rhyton in the shape of a lion 1550 BC


Vaphio Cup, 1500 BC


How do we tell the difference between Minoan and Mycenaen?

Vaphio Cup c. 1500 BC


  • Hilltop fortresses, defensive walls of huge stone-

  • quite unlike Minoan

  • Lions Gate of Mycenae- massive stone relief over doorway-

  • guardians of the gate- tense muscular, symmetrical design suggests influence from Near East

  • Center of the palace at Mycenae was the audience hall called the Megaron- not much remains but looks back to simple house plans of earlier times

The Lion Gate, 1250 BC

  • Hilltop fortresses, defensive walls of huge stone- quite unlike minoan

  • Lions Gate of Mycenae- massive stone relief over doorway- guardians of the gate- tense muscular, symmetrical design suggests influence from near east

  • Center of the palace at Mycenae was the audience hall called the megaron- not much remains but looks back to simple house plans of earlier ti


    • There is no Mycenaen temple architecture that remains (or was even suggested)

    • Palaces did contain small shrines

    • Religion was probably influenced by Minoan, Greek- but its hard to figure this out

    • Not sure who this group of deities is

    • The divine child is a popular ancient myth

    • A familiar view of deities is seen here for the first time

    Three Deities, 1500-1400 BC


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