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Work Tall-stemmed Mycenaean cup

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: The Origins of Greek Art, the Bronze Age, and the Geometric Style (3200-720 BC)

Tall-stemmed Mycenaean cup

© 1994 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
The Origins of Greek Art, the Bronze Age, and the Geometric Style (3200-720 BC)

Author(s):
Kardianou-Michel Alexandra

This vase, formerly described as a "champagne cup", is a Myceanaean cup of the "Zygories" type. Its elongated form comprises a tall stem on a flat disc-shaped foot supporting a deep bowl with thin sides and two round handles. The near-abstract decoration combines a stylized representation of an octopus and a floral motif. Stylized representations of sea creatures are found on numerous vases, testifying to the infuence of Cretan artists on Mycenaean art.

Naturalism in Cretan pottery

More than their counterparts elsewhere in the Aegean, Cretan artists displayed a paticular affinity with the natural world in their murals, reliefs and vase-paintings. The vase paintings of this period are the most graceful and elegant in Antiquity, featuring a lively play of orange, red, yellow and white pigments against the dark ground. Their abstract decoration is derived from animal and vegetable motifs.
Cretan pottery reached its height during the Late Minoan period (around the time of the new palaces,1600-1450 BCE). The vase painters' decorative vocabulary (in the Naturalistic style and later the Marine style) was clearly influenced by Minoan fresco painting; the resulting objects, with their ornate forms and inventive designs, are truly resplendent, featuring contiguous decorative friezes, freely drawn around the body of the vase.
Around 1450 BC, the first signs of a new style began to emerge. The Palace style (taking its name from the palace at Knossos) shows a tendency to contain these exuberant, naturalistic designs in more symmetrical arrangements, reflecting the influence of Mycenaean art. The style is characterized by orderly patterns of double-headed axes, papyrus and flowers.

Mycenaean pottery

The influence of Cretan artists remained very strong throughout the flowering of Mycenaean art. Natural motifs became increasingly stylized, geometrical and abstract, while not yet subject to the severely symmetrical arrangements of later work in the eighth century BCE. Mycenaean pottery is delicate in appearance, and consists mainly of small domestic vases, cups of various shapes, alabastrons and jugs as well as large pithoi amphorae.
The various vases discovered at Mycenae are similar to Creto-Cycladic models, with decorations comprising double-headed axes, sacred knots, vegetable motifs and octopuses. But a new representational motif is also found, especially on pieces from the province of Argolid, depicting figures on chariots and known as the Pictorial style. The export of these motifs to Cyprus and the Orient was to have a profound influence on the indigenous ceramic production in these regions.

Decline

Gradually the naturalism and sources of inspiration of earlier work became increasingly impoverished and degenerate, signaling the end of the figurative period and its replacement by the linear motifs of the Attic style. This stylistic impoverishment would seem to reflect the political and economic fortunes of the Mycenaean kingdoms during the twelfth century BCE. The great palaces were abandoned around 1100 BCE, with the collapse of the entire Mycenaean hegemony. The arrival of the Dorians, an Indo-European people, brought new techniques and customs, and Mycenaean script fell into disuse.

Bibliography

Martine Denoyelle, Chefs-d'oeuvres de la céramique grecque dans les collections du Louvre, 1995, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, p. 14
R. Treuil, P. Darcque,J.-C. Poursat, G. Touchais, Les civilisations égéennes du néolithique et de l'âge du bronze, 1989, PUF

Technical description

  • Tall-stemmed Mycenaean cup

    Late Helladic Period III B1, c.1300-1250 BCE

    Mycenae or Rhodes (Greece)

  • Clay with red-brown painted decoration

    H.19.8 cm; Diam. 16.2 cm; W. 21.4 cm.

  • Purchase, from the former Parent collection, 1880

    A 273

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Salle des Sept-Cheminées
    Room 74

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