Art of Ancient Greece

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Art of Ancient Greece
With the bodies of the fallen at Chaeronea the freedom of Ancient Greece was buried, but its culture survived. The Macedonians spread Greek ideas and artistic traditions all over the ancient world. Even today, the influence of the great civilization can be clearly seen in various aspects of a modern life. Michael Wood calls the Greek culture a fountainhead of the western tradition. “These people (the Greeks) established the disciplines of history, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, poetry, drama, and music” (Wood M., Art of the Western world from ancient Greece to post-modernism, p.3). More importantly, the Greeks “established” a modern mindset. The survived works of art and literature show us that unlike the Egyptians, the Greeks were not possessed with the idea of an afterlife. For them the domain of Hades was nothing but a gloomy and boring place; the Greeks were more interested in the world of the living. They admired human intelligence, courage, and physical strength and beauty. It was an era when “the man had become the measure of all things”. Not surprisingly that these ideals found their expression in the Ancient Greek art. Most scholars divide history of Ancient Greece into three periods: Doric, classical, and Hellenistic. The Doric period was preceded by dark ages, a period of a cultural stagnation that followed the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization. It lasted from c. 1100 B.C. to c. 800 B.C. Janson & Janson call that time a “formative phase of Greek civilization” (Janson H. W. & A. F. Janson, History of art: the Western tradition, p. 107). The oldest Greek artistic style, geometric, was formed during that period. The style was represented by pottery paintings and “small scale sculpture”. “The two forms [were] closely related. The pottery was often adorned with the same kinds of figures found in sculpture” (Janson & Janson, 107). Large stone statues and buildings probably were not created at that time. The style gained its name from the pottery ‘s ornament; most of the vessels were decorated with geometric figures. However, “toward the 800 B.C. human and animal figures began to appear within a geometric framework” (Janson & Janson, 108).

The Dypilon Vase from the Athenian Dypilon cemetery is a fine example of the Geometric style. The vase was made in the eighth century B.C. Its height is forty and a half inches (102.9 cm). The pictures decorating the vase are situated into several registers and show the funeral. The illustration tells us that funerals were an important and elaborated ritual in Ancient Greece.

The deceased, probably a noble man, is lying on some sort of a high stand and is about to be cremated. The funeral site is surrounded by figures of mourning people. One of the mourners stays much closer to the dead body than the rest of the group; he (or she) might be a relative. Another figure is sitting on the chair by the opposite side of the cremation site. This personage is holding a long rod in his hand; this man could be a priest. By the feet of the dead man we can see two very small strange human figures. Also, there are bodies of dead animals under the funeral stand.

A picture in the middle register shows warriors: foot soldiers and charioteers. People and animals are pictured very symbolically; they are barely a part of the ornament. “The [picture] on the vase does not refer to an afterlife. Its [only] purpose is to commemorate the dead” (Jnson & Janson, 108). The next step in the developing of the Greek pottery painting was the orientalazing style, which was wide spread in the country between c.725 B.C. and 650 B. C. The style was created under a strong “influence from Egypt and Middle East” (Janson & Janson, 109). Its main characteristic was a wide use of animal motifs. The artists decorated their works with pictures of both real animal and mythological beasts. There were two branches of the style:...
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