Again, continuing to post information so my students can review what we have been doing in class…here is the ancient art from the area around the Aegean Sea.
The first art that we encounter was produced by the Cycladic people (3,000-1100 BC) who inhabited the Cycladic Islands. They were excellent seafarers and farmers. They had established trade with Egypt and other early civilizations in the Near East. One of the hallmarks of this society was the use of Bronze, an alloy made from copper. They had to import the metal ores needed to mix with the copper.
Because we have not been able to figure out how to read all of their writing, their art has become a major source on information about them. Among the most unusual products of the Cycladic artist were strange, unidentifiable objects made of terra-cotta. They were ornamented with stylized designs and either painted or incised before firing. The example pictured is from 2500-2200 BC. The incised panel is called a ‘frying pan’ not because it was used for that purpose, but because it is descriptive of it’s shape.
“This piece consists of a wide, geometric border encircling a scene showing a boat on a sea of waves depicted as linked spirals. With its long hull and banks of oars, the boat resembles those seen in Neolithic Egyptian art. The large fish to the left might be a carved prow ornament.” pg. 92 of Art History by Marilyn Stokstad.
The Cyclades had an ample supply of white marble which was used by sculptors. In this piece we have a seated harp player who is fully developed in a sculpture in the round. It’s body shape is reduced to geometric figures, but retains those elements essential to an actual musician. The harpist sits on a high-backed chair with a splayed base, his head is tilted back as if singing, and his knees and feet are separated for stability. The harp is braced on one arm, with the other left free to pluck.
Another unique kind of sculpture found in the Cyclades were nudes that could range in size from a few inches to 5 feet tall. The sculptures were generally of females and were often found laying on graves. The figures are fairly flat, simple geometric features and bodies, and by the angles of their feet it is apparent that they were laid flat as they could not be displayed standing. Their arms are shown crossed on their bodies, toes pointed as if they are asleep or dead. Originally these statues were painted black, red, and blue. Besides having facial features painted on they would also have had hair added.
Although we cannot know the precise purpose or use of these statues one interpretation has been that they were used for worship in the home and then buried with their owners. This would explain why many are found around graves. According to this theory, the larger statues were set up for communal worship, either to represent the supernatural deities, or as votive figures.