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Understanding the development of Greek Art: A brief look at The Antimenes Painter

HYDRIA<br />
Antimenes painter<br />
530-500 B.C.<br />
Terra-cotta<br />
The John R. Van Derlip Fund
HYDRIA Antimenes painter 530-500 B.C. Terra-cotta The John R. Van Derlip Fund

The Ancient Greeks have continually influenced an extraordinary number of artists; particularly in sculpture, ceramics, and architecture. They are the creators of form, beauty, and the birth of humanism and are considered by most to be the cornerstone of western tradition.

The Greeks idealized humans, showing the strong and youthful depiction of men and women. The subjects in their vases reflect the importance of strength, athletic competition, and battles; their temples reflected their religious beliefs in the gods. Their work embodies much of what made the Greek civilization great, which is why people are so fascinated by their art.

One of the most difficult Greek art forms to place in history is the vase. The general public may not be aware of the subtle differences that mark the evolution of a new period of Greek art.

In order to understand the development of Greek art one must be able to place the works of art in a chronological period based on formal and stylistic characteristics such as technique, style, composition, and subject matter.

A simple visual analysis can help with placement within a few hundred years of history. Here are a few questions to assist you: What colors are used in the foreground and background? What is the shape of the vase? What story is depicted? Does it contain filler motifs? How naturalistic are the characters on the vase? Do the characters display movement or contortions in their bodies?

The Antimenes painter decorated a Hydria (a type of Greek pottery) with a story of Herakles and Athena, which can be seen at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. This vase can be placed between 530BCE and 500 BCE, considered the Archaic period.

So, how do we know the artists name? How was it placed in the Archaic period? What does that mean?

The Antimenes painter is identified only by the stylistic traits of his work. He was named after the inscription on a vase in Leyden. He decorated his vases with a wide range of mythological and genre scenes but seems to have favored the hero Herakles.

The Antimenes painter was also known to be one of the most prolific black-figure artists. Black figure painting is characterized by painting figures in black and incising them to create three-dimensionality and depth. Depth in this period of Greek art is shown only through overlapping, not through perspective.

The Archaic period can be classified by the use flat figures, zigzag drapery, rigid body proportions and poses, as well as awkward body positions. When looking at the Antimenes Hydria the viewer will notice Athena’s elongated body as well as the disproportions between humans and animals.

The Archaic period, when compared to later more sophisticated periods, is considered to be rather stiff and primitive. The Classical becomes more realistic in body movement and the Hellenistic becomes flowery and highly decorative. Art lovers, remember these formal hints to help you with your studies.


  • William Fietzer 5 years ago

    Interesting article, especially the part on determining the age of an ancient artifact or art work. The Museum of Russian Art plans an exhibit on the antiquities from the Ukraine in September.

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