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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
 

F. B. Tarbell, A History of Ancient Greek Art

Prehistoric Art in Greece

Sculpture in stone

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Painting in the Mycenaean period seems to have been nearly, if not entirely, confined to the decoration of house-walls and of pottery. Similarly sculpture had no existence as a great, independent art. There is no trace of any statue in the round of life-size or anything approaching that. This agrees with the impression we get from the Homeric poems, where, with possibly one exception,[1] there is no allusion to any sculptured image.

[1] Iliad VI, 273, 303.


There are, to be sure, primitive statuettes. (...) Images of this sort have been found principally on the islands of the Greek Archipelago. They are made of marble or limestone, and represent a naked female figure standing stiffly erect, with arms crossed in front below the breasts. The head, is of extraordinary rudeness, the face of a horse-shoe shape, often with no feature except a long triangular nose. Excavations on Mycenaean sites have yielded quantities of small figures, chiefly of painted terra-cotta, but also of bronze or lead.

Of sculpture on a larger scale we possess nothing except the gravestones found at Mycenae and the relief which has given a name, albeit an inaccurate one, to the Lion Gate. The gravestones are probably the earlier. They were found within a circular enclosure just inside the Lion Gate, above a group of six graves – the so-called pit-graves  or shaft-graves of Mycenae.


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