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Work Bronze Sheet Cutout: hunters

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Plaque découpée : chasseurs

© 2000 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Marie-Bénédicte Astier

This sheet cutout is one of the many bronze votive objects found in the Cretan temple of Syme Viannou. These offerings were hung on the branches of trees in honor of Hermes Kedrites, a local deity associated with the cedar. The incised detail in the decoration bears the mark of the Orientalizing style that was widespread in the seventh century BC. A bearded archer welcomes a young hunter who carries a chamois on his shoulders, an offering for the god.

A Cretan ex-voto dating from the seventh century BC

This bronze cutout, purchased by the Louvre in 1884, comes from the open-air temple of Syme Viannou in Crete located on Mount Dicte. It was made circa 670-650 BC and is among the oldest of the numerous ex-votos found on this site. Dedicated to Hermes Kedrites, a local deity associated with cedar, these offerings were hung on the branches of trees, in the manner of the offerings hung in the sacred oaks of the temple to Zeus at Dodona (in Epirus). They probably relate to a rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood.

Two chamois hunters

The decoration of this votive cutout is a hunting scene, in keeping with the theme most often featured on the ex-votos found at Syme Vionnou. Two hunters move toward each other. The two men are dressed in short tunics belted at the waist, and two narrow headbands hold their hair in place, in the Cretan fashion. The elder of the two, a bearded archer, seizes the arm of his young companion in a sign of welcome. On his shoulders, the young hunter carries his offering to the god, a chamois, the animal principally associated with Hermes Kedrites. The chamois was the second most sacred animal in the Cretan religion after the bull, which continued to be used for sacrifices until the seventh century BC. Priests used the bull's horns to make bows. Archaeological excavations of the temple have revealed several horn depositories. The chamois or ibex motif is known to us in Cretan imagery as early as the late eleventh century BC. Eighth- and seventh-century representations of the animal were, however, probably influenced by Oriental prototypes diffused in the Orientalizing period, such as those featured on the Lévy oinochoe in the Louvre (E 658).

The technique of bronze sheet cutouts

The figures of the hunters and chamois were cut out of a thin sheet of hammered bronze in light relief, then worked in repoussé. The detail of the faces, the embroidered motifs of the clothing and the muscles of the two men are traced with incised lines, using a Cretan technique used up to the classical period (fifth century BC), as seen in the many objects found in the same temple. This technique, which exploits the decorative effects of the drawn figures, is analogous to that of black-figure ceramics, developed beginning in 680 BC in Corinthian workshops. The holes visible under the figures' feet suggest that the cutout was fixed onto a wooden support at its base with three rivets.

Bibliography

Mer Egée Grèce des Iles, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1979, p. 138, n 76, fig.

Technical description

  • Plaque découpée : chasseurs

    Vers 670 - 650 avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Symè Viannou (Crète)

    Style crétois

  • Bronze

    H. : 18,30 cm. ; L. : 9 cm.

  • Collection Castellani, 1884 , 1884

    Br 93

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Bronzes room
    Room 32, temporarily closed to the public, works n
    Vitrine M2 : Grèce, époque orientalisante (fin du VIIIe - VIIe siècle avant J.-C.)

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