Sunday, February 21, 2016

Early Greek and Aegean Art

For all the videos in order with a textbook and study guides please visit:
http://art-and-art-history-academy.usefedora.com/
 


   
 

Aegean Art and the Cyclades     2800 BCE - 1100 BCECrete     1700 BCE - 1300 BCE

 


Cycladic Figures
c2500 BCE
Syros,Cyclades
Form:  These marble sculptures of women vary in size from very small to life size.  They are stylized much in the same way the "Venus of Willendorf" is.  The essential forms are emphasized while other elements are de-emphasized.  These figures were probably  painted.  Like the "Venus," the arms are engaged against the body, most likely to compensate for the marble's lack tensile strength or flexibility. Iconography:  The majority of such figures found are female.  It is not really known what these figures may have meant to the people who made them but many seem to have used them as gravemarkers.  It is possible that they represent idealized versions of the individuals whose graves they mark.  The body types: usually thin with small breasts and thin hips are stylized versions of the female form.  Possibly they are idealized forms in the same way that the statue found at Willendorf is.
Context:  It is believed that they were votive figures or funerary offerings.  The marble quarries where the material for these statues was found are the same quarries where later Greek artists found the marble blocks for their master pieces.  These pieces were carved with obsidian and polished with stones of emery.

 


Male Lyre Player
c2500 BCE
9" tall
Keros Cyclades
Form:  This stylized male figure is sitting on a chair playing a lyre.  It is very stylized and about 9" high.   It is a sculpture in the round.Iconography:  The meaning of such a figure is still unknown.  Gardner's "Art Through the Ages" suggests that these may be representations of the god Apollo.  Perhaps as a votive figure.
Context:  This figure may also have been a funerary offering, someone to play for the dead in the after life.  Some have been found in females' graves and this indicates that they may have been offerings for the dead.  Some have been found in a different context.  Stokstad suggests that the larger versions may have been used as parts of groups of statues for worship.


Aegean Art And The Cyclades

 

Aegean Art and the Cyclades     2800 BCE - 1100 BCECrete     2000 BCE - 1375 BCE
The Palace at Knossos
2000 BCE - 1375 BCE
Old Palace period c1900-1700
Second Palace c1700-1375

The Palace at Knossos
2000 BCE - 1375 BCE
Old Palace period c1900-1700
Second Palace c1700-1375
Knossos, Crete
Form:  The palace at Knossos is actually a large warren of complex and confusing passageways, rooms, and patios that cover approximately six acres of space.  It was originally laid out on a grid plan but because of earthquakes and rebuilding the complex in some areas has deviated from its original plan.
The overall plan includes loving quarters, gathering spaces and storage areas.  Some of the planning and technologies used in the complex include underground terra-cotta pipes, bathrooms and toilets, submerged food storage areas and airshafts and internal courtyards which allow for cool air to circulate throughout the structure.
Much of the complex is built with dressed stone (mud bricks and rubble faced with local cut stone), ashlar masonry (alternating courses of masonry) and trabeated (post and lintel) masonry.  The columns used to support the structure were originally made of wood however, modern restorers have decided to replace the lost columns with concrete or stone.  Much of the complex was brightly painted with frescoes and some encaustic paint.  It is not known if Sir Arthur Evans' reconstructions and the colors he chose are completely accurate.
Iconography:  Aside from the obvious size and opulence of the buildings we are not quite sure how the palace at Knossos have been views or perceived by the people of Crete; However, we do know that the ancient Athenians viewed Knossos as a place of horror and the home of the inventor Daedelus, his son Icarus, and the monstrous and foreign Minotaur (see the Legend of the Minotaur in Stokstad page 134). or go here : http://www.bulfinch.org/fables/bull20.html
Context: The people of Knossos seem to have been a peaceful, wealthy and self sufficient culture.  They possessed a writing system.  We can assume that they had engineers, artisans and a similar distribution of labor that we have.  We do not know what kind of government or religion they had. 

We do know that the palace was legendary to the ancient Greeks of the mainland who saw the Minoans as ancient enemies who were responsible for committing treacherous acts against the ancient Athenians (see the Legend of the Minotaur in Stokstad). The motif of a double headed ax exists throughout the decorations at Knossos and through a series of historical games of "telephone" the term labyrinth (the Greek term for double ax) has been passed down to us through the Greeks and come to mean maze.

Around 1900 Sir Arthur Evans, a British archaeologist and treasure hunter discovered, excavated and renovated much of Knossos.  Much of what we see today may not be accurate because Evans replaced and rebuilt sections according to whims and aesthetic choices based on his opinion rather than careful research.  It is unfortunate that Evans took some of the liberties he did because archaeological sites are finite resources and once they have been explored they are left depleted.
Today, archaeologists and art historians follow a much stricter code of conduct and rules that govern how a site is excavated and in what order.  This preserves the site and allows a much better picture of the culture based on scientific method.

 

Stairwell In The East Wing
1700 BCE - 1400 BCE
Knossos, Crete

 
Form: This is one of the internal airshafts that allowed for light and air to circulate.  This type of structure is referred to as trabeated or post and lintel.  The columns serve as the posts and the wood or stone that spans the space is called the lintel.  The original columns were made of wood and were designed to have an inverted style.  The thin end is at the bottom and the shaft of the column grows thicker near the top or capital.  This is very different compared to similar columns from Greece and Egypt. 
Iconography:  These columns unique shape is iconic of Knossos. 

Context:  The unique shape of the columns is unique to the structure of Knossos but there is a sculptural representation of this column on the mainland at Mycenae and this may indicate some kind of trade between the mainland Greek culture and the Minoans.

 

The Queen's Megaron
c1500 BCE
Knossos, Crete
Form:  The central scene is a maritime scene that does not appear to have a central focus.  The paintings of the dolphins are done with contour lines that are then filled in with color.  All of the fishes are done in profile and there is no attempt to show any kind of pictorial depth or space.  Instead the fishes bodies are scattered about as a type of wallpaper pattern.These paintings were done in a technique called fresco.
 

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (1)
fres.co n, pl frescoes [It, fr. fresco fresh, of Gmc origin; akin to OHG frisc fresh] (1598) 1: the art of painting on freshly spread moist lime plaster with water-based pigments 2: a painting executed in fresco -- fresco vt

Iconography:  It is also possible that the Minoans viewed dolphins in a similar way that we do.  Seeing them as intelligent and friendly and possibly entertaining creatures.
 
Context: These frescos are restored versions of the originals.  On the lower left of the fresco you can see how the frescos were layered over time and that the designs changed over time.  The use of porpoises or dolphins in a marine motif probably is indicative of the Minoan's familiarity and reliance on the sea. The curvilinear wave like patterns at the borders of the image may also be based on Minoan observation of nature.  The function of these frescos was probably just for entertainment and not didactic or religious in nature.  The subject matter while similar in the fact that it is a genre scene serves a very different function to its Egyptian counterpart.  (See the fresco from the tomb of Nebamun.)
According to the Brittanica,
 

Fresco is a method of painting water-based pigments on freshly applied plaster, usually on wall surfaces. The colours, which are made by grinding dry-powder pigments in pure water, dry and set with the plaster to become a permanent part of the wall. Fresco painting is ideal for making murals because it lends itself to a monumental style, is durable, and has a matte surface.Buon', or "true," fresco is the most durable technique and consists of the following process. Three successive coats of specially prepared plaster, sand, and sometimes marble dust are troweled onto a wall. Each of the first two rough coats is applied and then allowed to set (dry and harden). In the meantime, the artist, who has made a full-scale cartoon (preparatory drawing) of the image that he intends to paint, transfers the outlines of the design onto the wall from a tracing made of the cartoon. The final, smooth coat (intonaco) of plaster is then troweled onto as much of the wall as can be painted in one session. The boundaries of this area are confined carefully along contour lines, so that the edges, or joints, of each successive section of fresh plastering are imperceptible. The tracing is then held against the fresh intonaco and lined up carefully with the adjacent sections of painted wall, and its pertinent contours and interior lines are traced onto the fresh plaster; this faint but accurate drawing serves as a guide for painting the image in colour.
A correctly prepared intonaco will hold its moisture for many hours. When the painter dilutes his colours with water and applies them with brushstrokes to the plaster, the colours are imbibed into the surface, and as the wall dries and sets, the pigment particles become bound or cemented along with the lime and sand particles. This gives the colours great permanence and resistance to aging, since they are an integral part of the wall surface, rather than a superimposed layer of paint on it. The medium of fresco makes great demands on a painter's technical skill, since he must work fast (while the plaster is wet) but cannot correct mistakes by overpainting; this must be done on a fresh coat of plaster or by using the secco method.
Secco ("dry") fresco is a somewhat superficial process that dispenses with the complex preparation of the wall with wet plaster. Instead, dry, finished walls are soaked with limewater and painted while wet. The colours do not penetrate into the plaster but form a surface film, like any other paint. Secco has always held an inferior position to true fresco, but it is useful for retouching the latter.
The origins of fresco painting are unknown, but it was used as early as the Minoan civilization (at Knossos on Crete) and by the ancient Romans (at Pompeii). The Italian Renaissance was the great period of fresco painting, as seen in the works of Cimabue, Giotto, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Correggio, and many other painters from the late 13th to the mid-16th century. Michelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's Stanza murals in the Vatican are the most famous of all frescoes. By the mid-16th century, however, the use of fresco had largely been supplanted by oil painting. The technique was briefly revived by Diego Rivera and other Mexican Muralists in the first half of the 20th century.

Spring Fresco
c1600-1500 BCE
Thera, Akrotiri
Cyclades
Form:  This is a garden scene that also does not appear to have a central focus.  The paintings of the plants and rocks are done with contour lines that are then filled in with bright color.  Although there is no overlapping or attempt to establish space, the scene itself, since the viewer is surrounded by it, unifies into a garden environment in which the inhabitant of the room is immersed.Iconography:  This garden scene represents a delight in the natural surroundings.  Beyond that the symbolism is probably not anymore deeper than that. 
Context:  Such frescos probably served the same purpose wall paper or murals serve in our culture.  Nevertheless it does let us know that the Minoans appreciated natural forms enough to think of them as beautiful. 
This particular fresco is not strictly Minoan because it was found on the island of Thera, (today known as Santorini) a small island on the border of the Cyclades near the coast of Crete.  Akrotiri is particularly important because it is small volcanic island that erupted and sealed the entire site with a layer of volcanic ash.  The ash preserved the frescos and have allowed historians the opportunity to review some of the earlier excavations on Knossos.  This has actually forced historians to revise some of their ideas concerning dating works and linking the styles of Crete to the Cyclades of the 1600 and 1500's.

 


Kamares Ware Jar
Old Palace Style
c2000-1900 BCE
10"
Phaistos, Crete

Kamares Ware Jars
c1800-1700 BCE
old palace style
20"
Phaistos, Crete

Octopus Jar
1500 BCE
11"
Palaikastro,Crete
Form: In all three vessels the central motif is an organic naturalistic maritime subject.  All share an over all decorative style of decoration sometimes referred to as horror vacui.  Created on a wheel the vase is decorated with fired engobe.   Engobe is a glaze made of thinned down clay sometimes called slip which has additives such as iron oxides which turn colors when fired.  The paintings are done with strong contour lines that are then filled in with color.  The plants or sea horse motif  in the first vessel tends to be fairly simple and it is the most stylized.  As the later styles develop they appear to become more naturalistic, but since all of the fishes are done in profile and there is no overlapping attempt to show any kind of pictorial depth or space is secondary. The most naturalistic of the three is the Octopus jar.
Iconography:  The maritime and or organic decorations, as in the frescos, represent a delight in their natural surroundings and their reliance and familiarity with the sea.  Beyond that the symbolism is probably not anymore deeper than that.
  


 


Bull Jumping Fresco
1450 BCE - 1400 BCE
Knossos, Greece
Crete
Form:  The Bull Jumping fresco is an active scene of three wasp waisted figures engaged in an acrobatic performance in which the lightest darkest skinned youth (probably the male according to standard conventions of skin color and sex).  The figures are all in profile and again, as in the other frescoes, there is no overlapping or a background which would create spatial depth.Iconography:  The overall scene might be a representation of a fertility ritual or an acrobatic display of prowess by some sort of entertainers.  The youthful figures all appear to be in ideal physical condition and the scene could represent either a ritual in which youths heroically triumph over a bull.  The female assistants aiding the male vaulter may be a symbol of male and female roles or all of the figures are taking turns.  Perhaps then these youthful figures represent the ideal conditions and pursuits to which the culture aspires. 
The bull, as in the story of the Minotaur, Mesopotamian art and literature, cave painting and even in Chatal Huyuk represents a powerful, almost divine creature full of male potent energy.  If one conquers such a creature it may demonstrate a mastery over these qualities.
Context: This painting is just one in a series of paintings that depict bulls in the palace's east section.

 


Bull's head Rhyton
from the palace complex at Knossos,
c1500 BCE
12" shell, rock and crystal
horns are restored (gilt-wood)
Knossos, Crete
Form:  The horns on this piece were added by restorers.  Carved from stone, this portrait of a bull in the round is polychromed (ornamented with many colors poly- many, chroma- color) with white shell around the nose and the eyes are painted jasper crystal.  The main portion of the head, made from a greenish black stone called steatite has been etched (this is sometimes called scraffito) with an awl (sharp nail like tool shaped somewhat like an icepick) to give it the appearance of hair or fur. Iconography:  The bull, as in the Greek story of the Minotaur, the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh, cave painting and even in Chatal Huyuk represents a powerful, almost divine creature full of male potent energy.  It is also a source of food.
Context:  Stokstad believes that this object was not meant as a votive or religious object and that in fact it was a kind of drinking cup along the order of the "beer bong."  Stokstad suggests that the cup was turned upside down and liquids were poured into the neck which then poured out the nostrils of the bull.  It is also possible that this was not the function of this object.  It may very well have been an art object.
Janson's "History of Art" makes the observation that the iconography of this rhyton relates to the possible cult surrounding bulls, suggested by the "Bull Vaulting" fresco.

  
 



Warrior Vase
c1500 BCE
Mycenae, Greece
Mycenaean
Form:  By the shape we know that this vessel was a mixing bowl for wine and water that the Greeks called a krater.  Created on a wheel the vase is decorated with fired engobe.   Engobe is a glaze made of thinned down clay sometimes called slip which has additives such as iron oxides which turn colors when fired. A single register of warriors complete with armor marching from left to right.  To the far left is a female figure waving at the figures as they move away.  As in the Minoan art, no attempt at pictorial depth is apparent.  The figures seem to be rendered in an attempt at naturalism and whatever stylizations occur they do not seem wholly intentional.  The figures are in a modified composite view for this reason as well.
Iconography:  The iconography of the vessel seems to fall in step with the overall plan of Tiryns.  The theme of the vessel is martial.  These are men going off to battle and the female to the far left is in support of their patriotic venture.  Therefore the iconography describes both male and female roles within the context of a militaristic society.
Context:  Since both Mycenae and Tiryns were built for defense and the fact that a household item, unlike the pottery from Knossos, contains such a martial theme indicates that the emphasis of the cultures at Tiryns and Mycenae were devoted to defense.  The positioning of the shield and spear in the arms of the individuals is also a clue as to how the walls and entranceway into the citadels was defensible.  Since an intruder would have to enter the main gateway (propylon) by turning right, the spear hand of the soldier would be blocked by the wall and the shield on the left would be rendered ineffective as the soldier turned.  A soldier inside the propylon would have the benefit of having no such obstructions.

 

Vapheio Cup (also spelled Vaphio)
c1500 BCE
found at Vapheio near Sparta, Greece
Mycenaean possibly Minoan 
Form:  This repousse cup features a double walled construction.  It was made out of two sheets of thin gold.  The outer sheet was molded and the details formed (some by engraving).  Then this ornamented sheet was attached to a thin sheet of gold so that the interior of the cup was smooth.  These joined pieces were then bolted to or riveted to a handle.
The details of the ornamentation show a surprisingly illusionistic and naturalistic scene of a youthful, thin waisted, broad shouldered young man wrestling with a bull snared with a rope.  In this scene there is some space created by the figures overlapping the scenery behind them.  The naturalism and stylization of the figures recall many of the frescos at Knossos.
Iconography:  The scene itself is a genre scene similar to those found in murals at Knossos.  The figures appears to be in ideal physical condition and the scene could represent the ideal of youthful strength and prowess as he heroically triumphs over a bull. The beautiful landscape and the fine animals are possibly reminders or symbols of the property one who is wealthy and strong may acquire.
The bull, as in the story of the Minotaur, Mesopotamian art and literature, cave painting and even in Chattel Huyuk represents a powerful, almost divine creature full of male potent energy.  If one conquers such a creature it may demonstrate a mastery over these qualities.
Context:  Perhaps the most interesting thing about this work is its context.  Although the work was found in a tomb on the Greek mainland, many scholars believe that this work is stylistically and iconographically linked to Minoan art.  Several textbooks and scholars suggest that this work was manufactured somewhere in the Cyclades or on Crete and then exported or that a traveler who visited this region brought it back as one of his or her treasures.

This is a rolled out or flattened view of the entire cup.

Glossary
 

Sculpture in the round:     Is a piece that is meant to be viewed from all angles.
 repousse:  To make an image or relief by taking thinly beaten sheet of gold  and hammering a design from the backside.
Engobe is a glaze made of thinned down clay sometimes called slip which has additives such as iron oxides which turn colors when fired.
high relief  A high relief carving is a carving in which the figures are "relieved" or pushed out from the surface to such an extent that they almost appear to not be part of the stone they were carved from.


 



Bull Jumping Fresco
1450 BCE - 1400 BCE
Knossos, Crete
Form:  The Bull Jumping fresco is an active scene of three wasp waisted figures engaged in an acrobatic performance in which the lightest darkest skinned youth (probably the male according to standard conventions of skin color and sex).  The figures are all in profile and again, as in the other frescoes, there is no overlapping or a background which would create spatial depth.Iconography:  The overall scene might be a representation of a fertility ritual or an acrobatic display of prowess by some sort of entertainers.  The youthful figures all appear to be in ideal physical condition and the scene could represent either a ritual in which youths heroically triumph over a bull.  The female assistants aiding the male vaulter may be a symbol of male and female roles or all of the figures are taking turns.  Perhaps then these youthful figures represent the ideal conditions and pursuits to which the culture aspires. 
The bull, as in the story of the Minotaur, Mesopotamian art and literature, cave painting and even in Chatal Huyuk represents a powerful, almost divine creature full of male potent energy.  If one conquers such a creature it may demonstrate a mastery over these qualities.
Context: This painting is just one in a series of paintings that depict bulls in the palace's east section.

 

Bull's head Rhyton
from the palace complex at Knossos,
c1500 BCE
12" shell, rock and crystal
horns are restored (gilt-wood)
Knossos, Crete
Form:  The horns on this piece were added by restorers.  Carved from stone, this portrait of a bull in the round is polychromed (ornamented with many colors poly- many, chroma- color) with white shell around the nose and the eyes are painted jasper crystal.  The main portion of the head, made from a greenish black stone called steatite has been etched (this is sometimes called scraffito) with an awl (sharp nail like tool shaped somewhat like an icepick) to give it the appearance of hair or fur. 
Iconography:  The bull, as in the Greek story of the Minotaur, the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh, cave painting and even in Chatal Huyuk represents a powerful, almost divine creature full of male potent energy.  It is also a source of food.
Context:  Stokstad believes that this object was not meant as a votive or religious object and that in fact it was a kind of drinking cup along the order of the "beer bong."  Stokstad suggests that the cup was turned upside down and liquids were poured into the neck which then poured out the nostrils of the bull.  It is also possible that this was not the function of this object.  It may very well have been an art object.
Janson's "History of Art" makes the observation that the iconography of this rhyton relates to the possible cult surrounding bulls, suggested by the "Bull Vaulting" fresco.

 


Young Fisherman
c 1650 BCE
53" fresco
Thera, Greece
Cyclades
Context:  This fresco,  pulls together some of the ideas discussed about the frescos depicting aquatic motifs, genre scenes, and idealized human bodies.  It was also found on the island of Thera, (today known as Santorini) a small island on the border of the Cyclades near the coast of Crete.  Akrotiri is particularly important because it is small volcanic island that erupted and sealed the entire site with a layer of volcanic ash.  The ash preserved the frescos and have allowed historians the opportunity to review some of the earlier excavations on Knossos.  This has actually forced historians to revise some of their ideas concerning dating works and linking the styles of Crete to the Cyclades of the 1600 and 1500's.This probably served the same purpose wall paper or murals serve in our culture.  It is a genre scene (a scene of everyday life) and would have been viewed just as entertainment.
Form:  The image, as in all the other frescos and pots we have looked at lacks depth.  The thin "wasp waist" and over all inverted "v" shape of the body is important to note because we can see similar forms in the "Bull Vaulting" fresco and suggestions of this in the Cycladic figurines.  The body is in a type of modified composite view, the eyes are a full frontal placed on a profile face, the torso is frontal and the legs are in profile.  The composite view we see here is probably the easiest or only way this artist knew how to render  such a scene.
Iconography:  The scene is a symbol of  "the good life" in much the same way that we look at paintings of sportsman or hunters.  Even in Chinese scroll paintings and poetry, the image of a fisherman is often an icon of a peaceful and happy existence.  The idealized youth figure ties into many culture's ideal of youthful beauty going about an honest profession or leisuretime activity. 


 


Snake Goddess 1600 BCE
faience, height approx. 12"
Knossos, Crete

detail of a Statue from Tell Asmar c2900-2600 BCE
gypsum, shell and black inlay
Mesopotamia
Form:  This small thin waisted figure is made of faience (glazed earthenware) shares some of the same physical characteristics as her fresco counterparts.  As in the "Bull Vaulting" fresco she is bear chested.  Her garments share in some of the geometric and patchwork designs that are in the border of the fresco as well and she is holding snakes in either hand and has a leopard or cat on top of her head.  Janson's makes the observcation that her facial characteristics are somewhat similiar to the features in some Mesopotamian art.  Her eyes and arched eyebrows look somewhat like the statues from Tell Asmar.Iconography:  The sculpture is either a representation of a deity or or an attendant or worshipper.  Most scholars appear to agree that snakes are a symbol of male fertility associated with the penis, however, this is a rather masculine and Freudian interpretation of this icon.  Stokstad suggests that the cat on her head serves an apotropaic purpose or is a symbol of royalty. 
The bared breasts, (this costume is also in several murals from Knossos) could be an icon of fertility or plenty.  Herbert Broderick, a professor at Lehman College, has suggested that the snakes and cat are symbols of danger.  By handling these animals, in a manner very similar to some American Christian groups handling of snakes, that this female is proving her spiritual power and therfore becoming initiated into a cult.Context:  It is interesting to note that these symbols are associated with the Greek god of wine, drama, and liberation, Dionysos (the Romans called him Bacchus).  There is a particular tale in which snakes and panthers appear on the deck of a ship on which Dionyosos is kept captive. (see the Exekias kylix)
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (1)
fres.co n, pl frescoes [It, fr. fresco fresh, of Gmc origin; akin to OHG frisc fresh] (1598) 1: the art of painting on freshly spread moist lime plaster with water-based pigments 2: a painting executed in fresco -- fresco vt
According to the Brittanica,
 

Fresco is a method of painting water-based pigments on freshly applied plaster, usually on wall surfaces. The colours, which are made by grinding dry-powder pigments in pure water, dry and set with the plaster to become a permanent part of the wall. Fresco painting is ideal for making murals because it lends itself to a monumental style, is durable, and has a matte surface.Buon', or "true," fresco is the most durable technique and consists of the following process. Three successive coats of specially prepared plaster, sand, and sometimes marble dust are troweled onto a wall. Each of the first two rough coats is applied and then allowed to set (dry and harden). In the meantime, the artist, who has made a full-scale cartoon (preparatory drawing) of the image that he intends to paint, transfers the outlines of the design onto the wall from a tracing made of the cartoon. The final, smooth coat (intonaco) of plaster is then troweled onto as much of the wall as can be painted in one session. The boundaries of this area are confined carefully along contour lines, so that the edges, or joints, of each successive section of fresh plastering are imperceptible. The tracing is then held against the fresh intonaco and lined up carefully with the adjacent sections of painted wall, and its pertinent contours and interior lines are traced onto the fresh plaster; this faint but accurate drawing serves as a guide for painting the image in colour.
A correctly prepared intonaco will hold its moisture for many hours. When the painter dilutes his colours with water and applies them with brushstrokes to the plaster, the colours are imbibed into the surface, and as the wall dries and sets, the pigment particles become bound or cemented along with the lime and sand particles. This gives the colours great permanence and resistance to aging, since they are an integral part of the wall surface, rather than a superimposed layer of paint on it. The medium of fresco makes great demands on a painter's technical skill, since he must work fast (while the plaster is wet) but cannot correct mistakes by overpainting; this must be done on a fresh coat of plaster or by using the secco method.
Secco ("dry") fresco is a somewhat superficial process that dispenses with the complex preparation of the wall with wet plaster. Instead, dry, finished walls are soaked with limewater and painted while wet. The colours do not penetrate into the plaster but form a surface film, like any other paint. Secco has always held an inferior position to true fresco, but it is useful for retouching the latter.
The origins of fresco painting are unknown, but it was used as early as the Minoan civilization (at Knossos on Crete) and by the ancient Romans (at Pompeii). The Italian Renaissance was the great period of fresco painting, as seen in the works of Cimabue, Giotto, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Correggio, and many other painters from the late 13th to the mid-16th century. Michelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's Stanza murals in the Vatican are the most famous of all frescoes. By the mid-16th century, however, the use of fresco had largely been supplanted by oil painting. The technique was briefly revived by Diego Rivera and other Mexican Muralists in the first half of the 20th century.

Helladic Art

 

Helladic Art
Art of Early Mainland Greece
Mycenae, Greece 1600-1200 BCE
Tiryns 1600-1200 BCE

 


Plan of the Palace
1400 BCE - 1200 BCE
Tiryns, Greece
Helladic Period/Civilization
 

Corbeled Gallery
1400 BCE - 1200 BCE
Tiryns, Greece
Helladic Period/Civilization
 
Form:  The city is laid out in an enclosed defensible districts or sections.  Some of the rooms were decorated with fresco murals and we believe that the largest rooms were audience halls of the kings referred to as the megaron (mega- big).  In fact everything about Tiryns is "mega."  The gigantic blocks of stone and tremendous wall of Tiryns are enormous. Iconography:  We do not know how the people of Tiryns and Mycenae viewed their own cities since there is know written account.  We do know that these cities were iconic for the Greeks and Romans who saw them centuries later.  The massive walls and masonry blocks of Tiryns were gigantic.  They are so massive that Greeks and historians imagined that giants moved and built the blocks.  The giants elected by the Greek imagination were the one eyed titans known as the Cyclopes.  That is why the term Cyclopean masonry is used to describe it.  In some ways, these citadels, for the Greeks of the fifth through first centuries, are roughly the equivalent of Teotihuacan in America for the Aztecs or the Anasazi cities for the Navajo. 
Context: The Citadel of Tiryns is located on the mainland of Greece off from the cost of Mediterranean Sea, it is 10 miles away from Mycenae. Unlike Knossos, Tiryns was built mainly to be defensive, since it did not suffer from the ravages of earthquakes like Knossos it did not have phases and grow in the organic manner as Knossos did; it was planned from the beginning.  There are heavy walls surrounding Tiryns and other Mycenaean palaces.   The entranceway to Tiryns is also designed to be defensive.  In order for the attackers to approach the palace they have to pass a series of long narrow ramps that forces the soldiers to turn to right to expose their unshielded sides.
Not much is known as to why Tiryns or Mycenae died, however, it is known that they were under constant attack and that Tiryns and Mycenae both ended, probably by fire, in 1200 BCE. 
The Greeks of later periods were quite taken with the ruins at Tiryns and even then it was a place of legend and fascination.  Hercules was said to have been born in Tiryns and second century CE Greek historian Pausanias even wrote a tour book about its gigantic towers and masonry.

 



Warrior Vase
c1500 BCE
Mycenae, Greece
Mycenaean or Helladic Period/Civilization
Form:  By the shape we know that this vessel was a mixing bowl for wine and water that the Greeks called a krater.  Created on a wheel the vase is decorated with fired engobe.   Engobe is a glaze made of thinned down clay sometimes called slip which has additives such as iron oxides which turn colors when fired. A single register of warriors complete with armor marching from left to right.  To the far left is a female figure waving at the figures as they move away.  As in the Minoan art, no attempt at pictorial depth is apparent.  The figures seem to be rendered in an attempt at naturalism and whatever stylizations occur they do not seem wholly intentional.  The figures are in a modified composite view for this reason as well.
Iconography:  The iconography of the vessel seems to fall in step with the overall plan of Tiryns.  The theme of the vessel is martial.  These are men going off to battle and the female to the far left is in support of their patriotic venture.  Therefore the iconography describes both male and female roles within the context of a militaristic society.
Context:  Since both Mycenae and Tiryns were built for defense and the fact that a household item, unlike the pottery from Knossos, contains such a martial theme indicates that the emphasis of the cultures at Tiryns and Mycenae were devoted to defense.  The positioning of the shield and spear in the arms of the individuals is also a clue as to how the walls and entranceway into the citadels was defensible.  Since an intruder would have to enter the main gateway (propylon) by turning right, the spear hand of the soldier would be blocked by the wall and the shield on the left would be rendered ineffective as the soldier turned.  A soldier inside the propylon would have the benefit of having no such obstructions.

 

Citadel c1500 BCE Mycenae, Greece Mycenaean   Form: The walls of Mycenae are 15 feet thick and probably stood to a height of 50 to 60 feet tall.  The citadel is built on a very defensible hill.  The square shapes in the center are the remains of the foundations of the megarons.  The round enclosed shapes at the lower left hand portion were the burial sites.  Several grave shafts are located there.Iconography:  Iconography:  We do not know how the people of Tiryns and Mycenae viewed their own cities since there is know written account.  We do know that these cities were iconic for the Greeks and Romans who saw them centuries later.  The massive walls and masonry blocks of Tiryns were gigantic.  They are so massive that Greeks and historians imagined that giants moved and built the blocks.  The giants elected by the Greek imagination were the one eyed titans known as the Cyclopes.  That is why the term Cyclopean masonry is used to describe it.  In some ways, these citadels, for the Greeks of the fifth through first centuries, are roughly the equivalent of Teotihuacan in America for the Aztecs or the Anasazi cities for the Navajo.
Context:  Given the location, on a defensible hilltop, and its location on the mainland many historians have used this information in conjunction with their knowledge of the Greek epic poem of the Iliad to identify this structure as the city of Mycenae.  The home of the legendary Atreus family.  (see "The Trojan War" in Stokstad)
One early archeologist who used these texts as his guidebook was Heinrich Schliemann.  Schliemann, a millionaire and amateur archeologist had memorized both the Iliad and the Odyssey, knew several languages. After making his fortune, the middle aged Schliemann went to Greece and married 16 year old Sophia Schliemann who later on became one of the first and most talented female archeologists of their day.  Their excavations of Mycenae and other sites were based on the epic poems of  Homer.   Their excavation and archeological style was groundbreaking but at times destructive in a similar manner to Sir Arthur Evans.  In some ways they were both glorified treasure hunters and dug up things wherever he felt the best.  They were not very careful, but later they improved their skills.  At times Schliemann like Sir Arthur Evans made up titles and dates according to each own's theories rather than fact. (See Stokstad "Pioneers of Aegean Archaeology" and MencherLiaisons 24-46 (Irving Stone: The Greek Treasure Mycenae!)).
Iliad: Trojan Wars- Achilles, Odysseus, Telemachus, Paris, Helen.  Troy vs. Sparta
Odyssey: Telemachus searching for Odysseus because he hasn't returned home from  the war, Odysseus’ adventure trying to get back home. Iliad and Odyssey were Schliemann's basis for how and where to excavate, archeology wasn't yet systematized, very sporadic
There is some debate about which culture had the strongest influence over the other.  For years, scholars, believed that Mycenae was a sort of satellite culture to the Minoans of Crete.  Here are some the facts concerning the influence of each.  The fololowing outline is quoted from,
http://www.portergaud.edu/cmcarver/myce.html

III. Development and Expansion of Mycenaeans -- 1600 B.C
A. Greater prosperity and trade -- built roads and fortresses
    1. Influenced by Minoans — prompted long scholarly debate [J. McInerney]


    1. Evans argued that the Minoans colonized the mainland and Mycenae was off-shoot of Crete
    2. Others disagreed — argued that Mycenaeans had an indigenous Greek culture influenced by Cretan style through trade and eventual conquest of Crete
    3. Debate resolved with decipherment of Linear B by Michael Ventris in 1954



      1. Linear B was Greek
      2. Around 1450 Minoan palaces destroyed — only Knossos rebuilt — flourished another seventy-five years
      3. Records of Knossos during last seventy-five years recorded in Linear B — not a script used previously in Crete (had used Linear A)
      4. Since Linear B is Greek — Greek speakers occupied Knossos in its last phase
      5. Thus, mainland Mycenaeans invaded and occupied Knossos and stayed for three generations, long enough to learn the practice of a centralized palace economy



        1. Other data confirming theory that Mycenaeans overwhelmed Minoans



          1. At Miletus and on Rhodes, Minoan colonies founded by Cretans shortly after 1600 BC had come into the hands of the Mycenaeans by 1400 B.C.
          2. Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur — possibly a distant memory of conflict between the Greek mainland and Crete
          "The Mycenaeans borrowed the techniques of wall painting, pottery decoration and seal-making from the Minoans. And contact between the two cultures may well have led to new trading contacts around the Aegean for the Mycenaeans."


            1. Key Differences between Minoans and Mycenaeans



              1. Mycenaeans definitely had a slave system
              2. Mycenaeans geared much more toward warfare
              3. Heavily fortified settlements
              4. Ostentatious tombs for Mycenaean kings — weapons in burials

              5. monumental sculpture — Lion Gate

              Lion Gate
              1300 BCE - 1250 BCE
              Mycenae, Greece
              Mycenaean or Helladic Period/Civilization
              Form: This gateway is the outer gateway to the stronghold.  Set strategically against a rock out cropping on its left and a man made wall on the right.  This forms an enclosed defensible 20 foot wide trench like entrance and the only way into the citadel.  The two walls that enclose the trench create a platform for defenders to throw things down on any enemy attempting to force their way into the narrow gateway at the end. The ashlar cyclopean masonry surrounds a post and lintel doorway.  Above the the lintel of the doorway is a carved 9 foot tall limestone plaque that contains two lion like creatures bracketing a column that mimics the form of the columns at Knossos.  All were carved in high relief.  A high relief carving is a carving in which the figures are "relieved" or pushed out from the surface to such an extent that they almost appear to not be part of the stone they were carved from.  The heads of the lion like creatures are gone and would have been fashioned from some other material and bolted to the limestone facade.
              Iconography: The gateway and trench leading to it would have been a symbol of civic pride and defense.  The two lions bracketing the column could serve an apotropaic purpose.  They are the mystical guardians of the citadel probably symbolized by the columns.  Perhaps the Minoan style column signifies some sort of link or even an alliance between Knossos and the mainland.
              Context:  The naturalistic columns are slightly at odds with the style of other artifacts found at Mycenae but this could be accounted for by the fact that very few artifacts existed in situ (in their original circumstances)  by the time it was excavated.  The naturalism of the lions and the shape of the column suggests there were communication between these two cultures. 

                
               


              Agamemnon's Mask
              c1500 BCE
              12" gold
              Mycenae, Greece
              Mycenaean or Helladic Period/Civilization
              Form: The mask is a stylized portrait of a mature male.  The arching eyebrows and straight nose are reminiscent of some of the objects found at Tell Asmar and Knossos.  The mask is made of a thinly beaten sheet of gold which was hammered from the backside.  This technique, known as repousse, is different from the other metal working processes, such as the cire perdue method (lost wax) and the piece mold methods of the Chinese cultures.Iconography:  The masks were most likely meant as royal portraits of the diseased they covered.  The beard and handlebar mustache (which Stokstad points out could have been faked) are emblems of maturity and wisdom.
              Context: Originally this mask would have been molded to form around the head of the corpse serving as a replacement or protection for the deceased features.  This mask and others like it were found in the unlooted shaft graves inside grave circle A.  The title or attribution that this is the mask of the legendary king from the "Iliad" Agamemnon is false.  Schliemann chose to name it this based on his conjecture and desire that he link this site and these graves to Homer's works.  (see Stokstad "The Object Speaks" "The Mask of Agamemnon.")

               

              Treasury of Atreus
              1300 BCE - 1250 BCE
              dome 43' tall 47' diameter
              Mycenae, Greece
              Mycenaean or Helladic Period/Civilization


               
              Form:    The beehive style tomb was entered into through a 20 foot wide and 120 foot long dromos (passageway) constructed of ashlars that was open to the sky.  The entrance to the dromos terminated in another 34 high entrance facade that contained an 18 foot tall door faced with marble and bronze.  The panel above the lintel, empty in this photograph, would have been ornamented with a similar style limestone or marble panel to the one above the lintel at the "Lion's Gate."  Inside the tomb, at 43 feet high, this dome or tholos (tholoi pluralwas the largest dome of its time.  The interior of the igloo style dome was constructed from a series of corbeled ashlars that terminated at the top in a pointed cone like shape.  These tombs were originally covered by large mounds of earth.Iconography:  The use of the technology itself is rather iconic of the advanced quality of the engineering and of the wealth of the individual who was buried inside.  This "conspicuous consumption" would have been symbolic of the power of the individual.
              Context:  Over 100 tombs like this have been found in the area of Tiryns and Mycenae.  However, these tombs, almost all which have been looted, were not the tombs in which Schliemann and others found their treasures.  The earlier shaft graves are the sources for the repousse masks.
              Again, as in the case with the mask, this tomb was misnamed the "Treasury of the Atreus" because archaeologists wanted to make the claim that this site was linked to the places and names in the "Iliad."

               

              Vapheio Cup (also spelled Vaphio)
              c1500 BCE
              found at Vapheio near Sparta, Greece
              Mycenaean possibly Minoan 
              Form:  This repousse cup features a double walled construction.  It was made out of two sheets of thin gold.  The outer sheet was molded and the details formed (some by engraving).  Then this ornamented sheet was attached to a thin sheet of gold so that the interior of the cup was smooth.  These joined pieces were then bolted to or riveted to a handle.
              The details of the ornamentation show a surprisingly illusionistic and naturalistic scene of a youthful, thin waisted, broad shouldered young man wrestling with a bull snared with a rope.  In this scene there is some space created by the figures overlapping the scenery behind them.  The naturalism and stylization of the figures recall many of the frescos at Knossos.
              Iconography:  The scene itself is a genre scene similar to those found in murals at Knossos.  The figures appears to be in ideal physical condition and the scene could represent the ideal of youthful strength and prowess as he heroically triumphs over a bull. The beautiful landscape and the fine animals are possibly reminders or symbols of the property one who is wealthy and strong may acquire.
              The bull, as in the story of the Minotaur, Mesopotamian art and literature, cave painting and even in Chattel Huyuk represents a powerful, almost divine creature full of male potent energy.  If one conquers such a creature it may demonstrate a mastery over these qualities.
              Context:  Perhaps the most interesting thing about this work is its context.  Although the work was found in a tomb on the Greek mainland, many scholars believe that this work is stylistically and iconographically linked to Minoan art.  Several textbooks and scholars suggest that this work was manufactured somewhere in the Cyclades or on Crete and then exported or that a traveler who visited this region brought it back as one of his or her treasures.

              This is a rolled out or flattened view of the entire cup.

              Glossary
               

              bas-re.lief n (low relief) [F, fr. bas low + relief raised work] (1667): sculptural relief in which the projection from the surrounding surface is slight and no part of the modeled form is undercut; also: sculpture executed in bas-relief Sculpture in the round:     Is a piece that is meant to be viewed from all angles.
              repousse:  To make an image or relief by taking thinly beaten sheet of gold  and hammering a design from the backside.
              re.pous.se adj [F, lit., pushed back] (1858) 1: shaped or ornamented with patterns in relief made by hammering or pressing on the reverse side--used esp. of metal 2: formed in relief ²repousse n (1858) 1: repousse work 2: repousse decoration 

              engobe is a glaze made of thinned down clay sometimes called slip which has additives such as iron oxides which turn colors when fired.
              haute relief (high relief)  A high relief carving is a carving in which the figures are "relieved" or pushed out from the surface to such an extent that they almost appear to not be part of the stone they were carved from.  The sculptures, although attached to the background, stand out from the back ground.