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The Poetics of Appearance in the Attic Korai

MARY STIEBER
Copyright Date: 2004
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/701809
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    The Poetics of Appearance in the Attic Korai
    Book Description:

    Some of the loveliest works of Archaic art were the Athenian korai-sculptures of beautiful young women presenting offerings to the goddess Athena that stood on the Acropolis. Sculpted in the sixth and early fifth centuries B.C., they served as votives until Persians sacked the citadel in 480/79 B.C. Subsequently, they were buried as a group and forgotten for nearly twenty-four centuries, until archaeologists excavated them in the 1880s. Today, they are among the treasures of the Acropolis Museum.

    Mary Stieber takes a fresh look at the Attic korai in this book. Challenging the longstanding view that the sculptures are generic female images, she persuasively argues that they are instead highly individualized, mimetically realistic representations of Archaic young women, perhaps even portraits of real people. Marshalling a wide array of visual and literary evidence to support her claims, she shows that while the korai lack the naturalism that characterizes later Classical art, they display a wealth and realism of detail that makes it impossible to view them as generic, idealized images. This iconoclastic interpretation of the Attic korai adds a new dimension to our understanding of Archaic art and to the distinction between realism and naturalism in the art of all periods.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79763-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
    MARY STIEBER
  5. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. INTRODUCTION CONCEIVING REALISM IN ARCHAIC GREEK ART
    (pp. 1-12)

    Those who have found themselves at one time or another face to face with the veritable chorus of marble maidens from the sixth century b.c., whose Archaic smiles seem to breathe life into the stony stillness of the archaeological museum that houses them, will understand why Jean Charbonneaux found poetry in appearances. For the korai from the Acropolis of Athens are extraordinary, strange figures from a pre-Classical past whose combined presence is pure poetry, a poetry whose poetics is but skin deep, so to speak, rooted, as it is, in the maidens’ physical demeanors. At face value, and in the...

  7. CHAPTER ONE HISTORIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 13-41)

    The history of the korai from the Athenian Acropolis may be written in the following summary fashion: They were created and erected during the sixth and early fifth centuries b.c. They performed their duties as votives to Athena on the Acropolis until 480/79 b.c., when the Persians sacked the citadel, burning and desecrating the statues and buildings that adorned it.¹ The korai, damaged or not, were subsequently buried in “graveyards” on the very Acropolis upon which they had once stood, discarded as evidence of barbarian impiety, and perhaps also as stylistically obsolete remnants of an earlier era; the ancient testimonia...

  8. CHAPTER TWO THE REALITY OF APPEARANCES
    (pp. 42-82)

    What it looks like, that is, its appearance, speaks first and most authentically about any artifact. When that artifact is also a work of art, the significance of appearance is intensified. The importance of a reckoning of the actual appearances of the Acropolis korai cannot be overstated, since the deceptively paradoxical “reality of appearances” is the most solid reality upon which any work of art, ancient or modern, rests. In the case of an ancient work, judging by appearances becomes an obligation. As a visual object, and in the absence of written addenda, an assessment of its meaning and its...

  9. CHAPTER THREE THE IDEA OF LIKENESS
    (pp. 83-113)

    The reality of appearances, as we have seen, is an authoritative reality. The disclosure of mimetic realism among the members of the Acropolis group of korai by means of visual evidence alone in the previous chapter significantly ameliorates the hindrance posed by the absence of names, which has heretofore obstructed their being interpreted as representations of young women. A rationale for this mimetic realism must now be sought. Even though the korai cannot be considered full-fledged portraits in the traditional sense of the term, since they cannot be identified with specific, named individuals, it remains to consider whether these statues...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR CONTEXTUALIZING THE KORAI
    (pp. 114-140)

    We now turn to the lyrical description of dancing maidens from Euripides’Iphigenia in Tauris (IT)that serves, in the poet Witter Bynner’s elegant translation of 1915,¹ as the epigraph to this book. A vivid little word picture that perfectly captures a part of the spirited, carefree world of young Greek women, Euripides’ verses could just as well be describing the Acropolis korai as a real-life Archaic chorus, and usefully may be enlisted, albeit somewhat anachronistically, to serve in the role of an ekphrasis of the statues in order to aid in the task of “conTEXTualizing” the korai. The well-known...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE PHRASIKLEIA
    (pp. 141-178)

    Unlike the statues under discussion thus far, the Attic kore that is the subject of this chapter neither is from the Athenian Acropolis nor, to our knowledge, was ever used as a votive dedication. But it happens to provide a unique opportunity to test the theory of the semiotics of appearance as a symptom of realism in Archaic Greek art in a case in which a statue is actually named.

    The kore Phrasikleia (fig. 46) by the sculptor Aristion of Paros represents something of an anomaly, since its original inscription, which includes both the name of the individual represented and...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 179-212)
  13. REFERENCES
    (pp. 213-222)
  14. ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. None)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 223-230)