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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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Page 2

The field, bordered by a double fillet, is divided horizontally into two parts. The upper part is filled with an ingeniously contrived system of running spirals. Below is a battle-scene: a man in a chariot is driving at full speed, and in front there is a naked foot soldier (enemy?), with a sword in his uplifted left hand. Spirals, apparently meaningless, fill in the vacant spaces. The technique is very simple. The figures having been outlined, the background has been cut away to a shallow depth; within the outlines there is no modeling, the surfaces being left flat.

It is needless to dwell on the shortcomings of this work, but it is worth while to remind the reader that the gravestone commemorates one who must have been an important personage, probably a chieftain, and that the best available talent would have been secured for the purpose. The famous relief above the Lion Gate of Mycenae, though probably of somewhat later date than the sculptured gravestones, is still generally believed to go well back into the second millennium before Christ. It represents two lionesses (not lions) facing one another in heraldic fashion, their fore-paws resting on what is probably to be called an altar or pair, of altars; between them is a column, which tapers downward,[2] surmounted by what seems to be a suggestion of an entablature.

[2] Cf. the columns of the "Treasury of Atreus"


The heads of the lionesses, originally made of separate pieces and attached, have been lost. Otherwise the work is in good preservation, in spite of its uninterrupted exposure for more than three thousand years. The technique is quite different from that of the gravestones, for all parts of the relief are carefully modeled. The truth to nature is also far greater here, the animals being tolerably life-like. The design is one which recurs with variations on two or three engraved gems of the Mycenaean period, as well as in a series of later Phrygian reliefs in stone. Placed in this conspicuous position above the principal entrance to the citadel, it may perhaps have symbolized the power of the city and its rulers.

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