Photos of the week: Two Cretan faces

The first picture shows the face of a woman’s statue found in Eleftherna, Crete, and dates from the 7th century BCE. It shows some of the characteristics of early Cretan sculpture: triangular face, prominent features, symmetrically arranged and stylized hair. The description of the human form is generalized and not at all naturalistic.

Daedalic sculpture, Eleftherna, Crete, 7th c BCE

This is the period (early archaic to archaeologists) when Crete emerged as one of the most prominent centers of artistic creation. Its sculptors adopted forms and elements from the art of the east and created their own regional style. They were the first to attempt working on stone, using porous limestone, since the island lacks marble. Their influence on later Greek sculpture was recognised by the Greeks whose later traditions speak of Daedalus, who carved the first statues ever and taught his art to local sculptors who later carried it to Greece. This tradition survived to this day, as archaeologists use the term “Daedalic style” to describe statues having these features.

Six centuries later, conditions are all too different. Crete is now part of the Hellenistic world, and its artists have fully assimilated the styles and forms which were predominant all around the Greek cultural commonwealth, which covered the entire Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Bronze head of young man, Ierapetra, Crete, 1st c BCE

The second picture shows the bronze statue of a young man who lived in Ierapytna, Crete (now called Ierapetra); it was a funerary monument on his tomb. The statue’s features, such as its posture and clothing are typical of the style that was common at the time. The most striking is the face, with its sorrowful expression, also typical of a period when realism and the expression of passion were foremost among artistic trends.


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