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Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, 12e. Chapter 4 Minos and the Heroes of Homer: The Art of the Prehistoric Aegean. The Prehistoric Aegean. ** Cyclades ** Knossos ** Thera ** Phaistos ** ** Hagia Triada ** Tiryns ** Mycenae**. Identify the geographic area known as the Aegean.

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gardner s art through the ages 12e

Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, 12e

Chapter 4

Minos and the Heroes of Homer:

The Art of the Prehistoric Aegean

the prehistoric aegean
The Prehistoric Aegean

** Cyclades ** Knossos ** Thera ** Phaistos **

** Hagia Triada ** Tiryns ** Mycenae**

Identify the geographic area known as the Aegean.

Discuss the visual aspects and possible context of the Cycladic sculptures.

Discuss Minoan society and architecture.

Understand visual aspects of Minoan art.

Relate significant aspects of archeological excavations at Mycenae.

Understand the link between culture and architecture of Mycenae

Discuss the relationship between Minoan and Mycenaean art and culture

important names
Arthur Evans: British archaeologist who uncovered the palace at Knossos, Crete, in 1900. He named the people who built it the Minoans, after the mythological king Minos.

Homer: Composed the Iliad c. 750 BCE, one of the finest epic poems ever created. It describes the Trojan wars.

Heinrich Schliemann: German businessman-turned-archaeologist who uncovered Troy (Hissarlik, Turkey) between 1870-1890. He discovered that the site held a number of fortified cities built on top of the remains of each other.

Important Names
the greece of homer
Originally thought the world described in Homer’s epic poem the Iliad was mythological.

But in the late 1800s. Heinrich Schliemann proved that belief wrong with the discovery of Troy and a fire that dated to the time of Homer’s epic.

Next to be moved from fiction to history was King Minos of Knossos, Crete – more recent Minoan remains found on Thera [now Santorini]

Example of Linear A

The Greece of Homer
the early cycladic figures
Made of the abundant local marble, found on Naxos & Paros.

Most were statues of nude women with their arms folded, like many Stone Age examples.

Traces of paint are found on several.

Believed to be funerary offerings.

Male figures include the lyre player from Keros. 2700-2500 BCE

The Early Cycladic Figures
cycladic art 2700 2500 bce
Stylistic characteristics of the Bronze Age statuettes from the Cyclades:

a. strikingly abstract

b. human body rendered in highly schematized manner

c. originally painted in bright colors

Cycladic Art– 2700-2500 BCE
cycladic art
Resemblances with 20th cen. works

Wilhelm Lehmbruck 

 Henry Moore

Cycladic Art …
minoan culture and art
Minoan Culture and Art

Aerial view and plan of the palace at Knossos 1700-1400 BCE

minoan culture and art11
Middle Minoan palaces destroyed around 1700 BCE—earthquake?

Knossos is a Late Minoan palace.

Famed for the Minotaur's labyrinth– Theseus battled the bull-man with help from Ariadne

Labrys = double-ax: found everywhere in Knossos as a sign of sacrifice.

Palace made of rough fieldstones covered in clay.

Minoan Culture and Art
minoan culture and art12
Architectural characteristics of the Palace at Knossos:

a. Grouped around large rectangular court.

b. Two long corridors separate rooms of different functions.

c. Well-constructed with thick walls of rough, unshaped fieldstones embedded in clay.

d. Terracotta pipes provided drains and light wells in staircases provided air and light.

Minoan Culture and Art
minoan culture and art13
The problem with Arthur Evans

We owe a lot to him, BUT

His reconstruction strays far from the original, even when there were appropriate fragments.

Approached the reconstruction as a Victorian gentleman – note the hairstyles!

Minoan Culture and Art
minoan culture and art palace frescos
The Bull Leaping Fresco at Knossos.

Fair/Dark skin convention for female/male representation.

Elongation and pinched waists- show more movement than previous paintings.

Minoan Culture and Art: Palace Frescos
minoan culture and art thera cyclades
Akrotiri: Miniature Ships Fresco. – survived because buried by a volcano– thus not “mis-restored”

17” high/at the top of 3 sides of a room.

Provides information about sea-faring practices.

Figures represented according to their role.

Reminds us of Homer’s Iliad. ca. 1650 BCE

Minoan Culture and Art: Thera [Cyclades]
minoan culture and art thera cyclades16
Akrotiri: Spring Fresco– Nature is the sole subject

Intended to express joy.

1st known example of a pure landscape painting.

Lacks humans and narrative element.

Frescos are now “wet” or true frescos. Painted into wet plaster. Long lasting.

Minoan Culture and Art: Thera [Cyclades]

ca. 1650 BCE

minoan culture and art pottery crete
Sea Life on Pottery – Kamares ware -- Phaistos

Used potters’ wheels [new] creamy white & reddish brown. 1’ 8” hight

Inspired octopus vase from Palaikastro ca. 1500 BCE 11” high

Minoan Culture and Art: Pottery Crete
hagia triada southern coast of crete
Overview of the site.

Hagia Triada was just to the west of Phaistos

Hagia Triada [southern coast of Crete]
hagia triada
Late Minoan sarcophagus: 1450-1400 BCE

Illustrate Minoan funerary rites.

Reminiscent of the early Cycladic lyre player.

Also Hu-nefer's Last Judgment. Egypt ca. 1290-1280 BCE

Hagia Triada
the development of minoan pottery
The Harvester Vase: finest surviving example of Minoan relief sculpture. ca. 1500 BCE

Only have the upper half and neck of the vase

Mostly profile/frontal with the exception of the man beating time.

Obvious study of human anatomy.

The Development of Minoan Pottery
the development of minoan sculpture
Goddess or Priestess? “Snake Goddess” Knossos 1600 BCE

No large temples found in Minoan Crete.

Made of faience [glazed earthenware]

Bare breasts suggest fertility function– leopard on head suggests power over nature. So evidence is ambiguous.

The Development of Minoan Sculpture
the development of minoan sculpture22
Sculpture in gold and ivory – probably imported from Egypt.

Another serpent woman

Young “god” from Palaikastro1500-1475 BCE

The Development of Minoan Sculpture
decline of minoan civilization
Mycenaeans may have moved into Knossos, Crete at end of the new palace period around 1400 BCE

Knossos destroyed around 1200 BCE

Focus moved to the mainland: Distinctive Mycenaean culture existed by 1300 BCE

Giant citadels were built—Mycenae was only one.

Best preserved are Tiryns & Mycenae, started around 1400 BCE [Homer knew of Tiryns]

The heavy walls contrasted with the open Cretan palaces.

Decline of Minoan Civilization
mycenean art and architecture
Architectural innovations included the corbelled arch.

Composed of lintels, no mortar is used

Compare with barrel vault at Ctesiphon, p.51.

Mycenean Art and Architecture
mycenaean culture and art

King Agamemnon – House of Atreus

ca. 1300-1259 BCE

A few generations before the Trojan War.

Mycenaean Culture and Art
mycenean art and architecture29
The Lion Gate: forced attackers into a narrow channel.

Formed of 2 monoliths and a lintel with the triangular relief of lions and columns with a corbelled arch above

This kind of guardianship goes back to Egypt & Assyria.

Mycenean Art and Architecture
mycenean art and architecture30
Treasury of Atreus:

A “beehive” or tholos tomb. 1300-1250 BCE


Made of a series of stone corbelled courses, ending in a lofty dome, 43 ft high.

Mycenean Art and Architecture
gold mask from mycenae

Funerary mask from Grave Circle A–1600-1500 BCE

  • A beaten gold mask.
  • An attempt to render the human face at life size.
  • Different ages and features were found on other masks.
  • NOT Agamemnon
Gold Mask from Mycenae
female head from mycenae ca 1300 1250

Flesh tone indicates a female.

  • Facial paint or tattoo
  • 6 ½ inches high
  • May be from goddess cult.
Female Head from Mycenae ca. 1300-1250.

The watchful eye of Argos?

last but not least

Warriors’ Vase – Mycenae ca. 1200 BCE

  • Form is a ”krater”, a bowl for mixing wine and water.
  • No indication of settings and a return to the repetitive forms of earlier eras.
  • Harbinger of a more abstracted style to come.
Last, but not least!
discussion questions
What do you think are possible functions for the Cycladic sculptures?
  • Compare the Egyptian Old Kingdom and New Kingdom [Armana period] styles of wall painting with Minoan wall paintings.
  • What was the focus of Minoan art? Did they emphasize the afterlife?
  • Why do you think the Minoan civilization declined? Give reasons for your ideas.
Discussion Questions