January 16, 2013

At the Met: Early Greek Art

Terracotta kernos (vase for multiple offerings), Cycladic, ca. 2300-2200 B.C.

There is a gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that I enjoy visiting almost every time I walk down the hallway of Greek sculpture; it is Gallery 151, that houses a collection of early pieces from Greece, of the Cycladic, Minoan (of Crete) and Mycenaean periods. These cultures were of the Bronze Age and stretched from 3200 to 1050 B.C. Although I love the simple, abstracted figures of this period (you can see one here), on my last trip I found myself entranced by objects, vessels and containers of terracotta, a medium close to the earth, decorated with simple, bold patterns. This stunning object has 25 openings for offerings, the outer ones fluidly striped, with with more lines emphasizing the flaring shape of the stand. 

Terracotta kalathos (vase with flaring lip), Cycladic, ca. 1150-1425 B.C.

 The depiction of grasses on this vase is delicate and graceful.

Terracotta jar with three handles, Minoan, ca. 1600-1500 B.C.

This Minoan vase has a very different character: bold and inventive patterns declare a dramatic presence.

Terracotta larnax (chest-shaped coffin), Minoan, mid 13th century B.C.

Larnax, view of other side

Larnax, view of sides

Isn't it wonderful how each side of this chest has vividly different and inventive designs? They are mainly organic, plant inspired forms, except for that wonderful checkerboard/diamond pattern. It's too bad we can't order up coffins like this nowadays.

Terracotta jar with Nautiluses, Helladic (Mycenaean), ca. 1400-1300 B.C.

More beautiful, flowing, natural patterns adorn a full-figured jar with a flaring mouth.

Three terracotta one-handled cups, Helladic (Mycenaean), ca. 1400-1300 B.C. 

I love seeing the varied patterns on the same wide, shallow cups. I'm particularly fond of that bull's eye whose circles repeat the horizontal circular bands.

Three terracotta female figures, Helladic (Mycenaean), ca. 1400-1300 B.C.

Finally, here are three charming creatures, seemingly human female, but two having heads that look a bit birdlike to me. At any rate, their outlines, rounded and flaring, and the lines of paint that decorate them are whimsical and marvelous. While writing this post I kept thinking how lucky I am to be able to travel the world's art in one encyclopedic museum. Here's a link to several posts on art at the Met; thank you, Met!


  1. thanks for the tour! to think that some of those pieces were everyday objects!

    1. You're welcome, John. I love having my camera at the museum; it helps me to see more and better.
      I wonder if some of these objects, even the cups, were for elites, even if used every day, because they are so beautiful and so well preserved.

  2. I enjoyed that so much, thank you. Glad to hear too that I am not the only one who finds my camera an aid to seeing more and better