Monday, August 31, 2015

Early Greek Geometric Style Pottery

These vases were found in a cemetery.  They share in some of the qualities of the proto-geometric style however it is clearly more of a representation of a scene. In this case there are variety of scenes that depict funerary processions as well as a funeral pyre.

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Formal Analysis
Overall the design exhibits a similar horror vacui to the vases from Knossos in that every empty space on the vase has been filled with geometric patterns and ornaments. The more figurative registers depict the bodies as flat, geometrically stylized forms that are pushed up against the front of the picture plane. There is no overlapping and no sense of deeper space. The figures represented on the vases are stylized in a geometric way. They are painted as if they are flat silhouette’s combined with a sort of stick figure design. You can identify who each of the figures genders are by small notations that represent breasts and male genitals. This takes us into the iconographic realm.

The scenes on most of the vases found at the cemetery depict a funerary parade or procession as well as a type of platform on which the body is laid out and prestige items and gifts are laid out underneath the body. Each figures' sex is denoted by their role and ornamentation. The figures to the left and right of the funerary bier (platform) have two small bumps under the armpits that represent breasts. These figures represent females whose arms are raised in mourning or are literally pulling their hair out in grief. This denotes the role and response expected from the female in this culture. Beneath this register are the soldiers. Protruding from their thighs are small bumps which represent their penises.

Context: The Dipylon vase is an example of Greek geometric art that was found in the city's Dipylon cemetery. The pot documents funerary practices and particularly the newer practice of cremation in Athens. This vase was used as a grave marker which had a hole in the top of the vase and one in the bottom, which upon pouring oil in the vase, this would feed the souls that lay underneath or it would serve simply to drain the water. There are divisions of laborers making these pots. There
were potters, who made the pots and there were painters who painted the scenes on the pots. The style that we call the geometric style was not just reserved for at the portrayal of funerary events. This vase from the Cantor center is somewhat shorter and probably used for household items.

You can see that it has a lot of the same qualities as the vases from the cemetery and even the horses are depicted in a similar way. So the iconography of this phase while sharing in some of the elements, such as the horses and small animals, was probably decorated for a different purpose. It also appears that one of the things about Greek art and probably Roman art by extension is the idea of schema and correction. The concept of schema and correction is something that an art historian named Ernst Gombrich made popular in the 1930s to 1950s. The concept is basically that there is a “schema" that is the plan that another artist will copy. We saw some examples of this in the Minoan civilization where the Mycenaeans admired the Minoan culture so much that they copied or imported some of their art. However when later artists copy an earlier theme or design they corrected it or change it to improve on it for what they need. It’s a little bit like Darwin’s theory of evolution, in that things change over time to suit the needs of the environment that they are in.