Sunday, October 22, 2006

Greek Painting

Paestum Wall Painting

Few paintings on walls survive from ancient Greece. This scene of men drinking and lounging at a banquet was painted on a tomb at Paestum, Italy, between about 490 and 470 bc. The painting has since been removed from the tomb and is now housed in Paestum's Archaeological Museum.Scala/Art Resource, NY

Except for a few fragments, Greek wall paintings and panels have not survived. The naturalistic representations of mythological scenes on Greek pottery, however, may

shed light on what this large-scale painting was like. In the Hellenistic era, scenes and designs represented in mosaics are probably also echoes of lost monumental paintings in other media.

Vaphio Cups

The Vaphio Cups (15th century bc) were found in a tomb at Vaphio, near Sparta. Their origins, which are not certain, are either Minoan or Mycenaean. They are made of two sheets of gold fastened together. One sheet is left smooth for the inside; the other is done in repoussé relief for the outside. The scenes on the cups depict a ritual involving bull catching.

Rhea and Cronus
In Greek mythology, Cronus was the ruler of the universe. Here, his wife Rhea hands him a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes in place of their son, Zeus. The portrayal, created between the 1st and 3rd centuries, is on the base of a stone statue at the Museo Capitolino in Rome, Italy.

Bust of Zeus
In Greek mythology Zeus was ruler of both the Olympian gods and the human race. Sometimes he is portrayed as a just and merciful defender of the weak. At other times he appears to be passionate, inconstant, and vengeful. This ancient Greek bust of Zeus is in the National Museum in Naples, Italy.

Hermes Holding the Infant Dionysus
Hermes Holding the Infant Dionysus (about 340 bc) is attributed to the Greek sculptor Praxiteles. Dionysus, the god of wine, had two distinct aspects—ecstasy and violence. The followers of Dionysus often worshiped him in drunken revelry. This statue of him as an infant with Hermes, the messenger of the gods, was originally made for the Temple of Hera at Olympia.

Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs
In Greek mythology, the centaurs were notorious for uncivilized behavior. When the Lapiths—neighbors of the centaurs—invited them to a wedding feast, they attempted to carry off the bride and other women. The resulting battle is a favorite theme in classical Greek art.

Dionysus, Greek God of Wine
Dionysus, also known as Bacchus, was the Greek god of wine and was celebrated in annual festivals. In Bacchus and Ariadne, painted between 1518 and 1522 by the Venetian artist Titian and hanging in the National Gallery, London, Dionysus is shown with Ariadne, whom he married.

The Sirens
In Greek mythology sirens were sea nymphs who lured sailors with their sweet singing, causing their ships to founder. Odysseus overcame the temptation by tying himself to his ship’s mast as shown in this painting by Leon Belly in the Musée de l’Hotel Sandelin in Saint Omer, France.

Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt
The Greek goddess Artemis was associated with hunting and wild animals. She was also connected to childbirth, nature, the harvest, the moon, and the protection of young women. She is seen here in an early 17th-century painting by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens.

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