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Work Funerary band

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

Bandeaux funéraires

© 2009 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Author(s):
Marie-Bénédicte Astier

This thin gold band is an item of grave jewelry discovered between Athens and Piraeus in an Attic tomb of the 8th century BC. Its embossed decoration comprises geometric and animal motifs similar to those seen on Attic vases of the period. Lions, does, and stags are closely aligned, some grazing, others walking. The decorative vocabulary reveals the influence of Oriental forms and iconography on Athenian designs.

Grave jewelry

This thin gold band was discovered in 1872 during excavations at a sepulcher outside the walls of Athens, close to the Sacred Gate (near the port of Piraeus). It was bought from the collector Olivier Rayet for the Louvre the following year. Many similar items have been found in Attic tombs and in the Corinth region. Bands, diadems, and strips placed over the mouth of the deceased were clearly funerary objects of ritual significance. Bands such as this one were placed on the head of the corpse and attached with laces threaded through holes at the ends of the strip.

Embossed animal motifs

The sheet of gold has been hammered, and an embossed design in very low relief added by applying the strip to an engraved master pattern. The goldsmith has played on the repetitive character of the designs, using the same pattern for the two figured zones. A frieze of passant animals covers most of the piece, flanked with a hatched border. Does and stags pursued by lions are closely aligned, some grazing and others turning their heads in the directon of their attackers. Animal motifs are a favorite device on strips such as this; goldsmiths of the period also depicted scenes involving human and animal figures in combat, as well as purely geometric compositions.

An Attic artifact inspired by Oriental designs

The piece was made in an Attic workshop during the 8th century BC, and provides clear evidence of the close links between mainland Greece and the recently founded Greek cities in the Near East and Asia Minor. The decoration is very similar to animal friezes on contemporary Attic vases, but seems to have been inspired by contemporary Oriental designs, which would have been familiar throughout Attica, from imports. Bands such as this are thought by some to have been made by immigrant craftsmen in Athenian workshops. Funerary bands dating from the later decades of the Geometric period anticipate the popularity of the Orientalizing decorative vocabulary in the following century.

Bibliography

Grünwald Ch., "Zur frage der tradierung mykenischen Bildguts an die geometrische Kunst", Festschrift für Nikolous Himmelmann, 1989, p. 27-33, pl. 6, fig. 1
Ohly D., Griechische Goldbleche des 8. Jahrhunderts v. CHR., 1953, p. 20, n A5, pl. 2, 2, 7, 1

Technical description

  • Bandeaux funéraires

    Milieu du VIIIe siècle avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Attique

  • l. : 38,50 cm. ; L. : 3,50 cm.

  • Bj 93, Bj 94

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Bronzes room
    Room 663
    Vitrine C5 : Bijoux

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