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The Cyclades Art

Important creations of the Cycladic civilization were the clay, stone and bronze vessel utensils. And of course, above all, the very famous marble statuettes, the so-called "little idols". In the first stages all the vessels in general were hand- made, without a potter's wheel.

The vessels were of two kinds: the spherical and the cylindrical forms of the pixies, which were used as Jewellery boxes. They characterize the Clay civilization of yls -Lakkoudes (Melos-Naxos). We find a more advanced form of the same vessels in Keros (an uninhabited island, pasturing ground), next to Amorgos and Syros during the second phase. The characteristics of this period were the "fry-pan" vessels. They were often made of clay, had the shape of a frying pan and their use is still unknown today.

They may possibly have been the first from of mirrors (C.Tsountas). Their bottom exterior section was decorated with incisions and impressed designs, often-concentric circles and bands, and schematic representations of ships. The incisions were covered in white clay. The civilization of Keros-Seers introduced to Cycladic pottery the use of a primitive glaze and contemporarily developed the art of colour and the potter's wheel. The motifs were geometric and initially in a white colour: later, they were in black on light-collared surfaces. The technique of the vessels developed even more and reached its peak in the third phase of the Cycladic civilization, the so - called Phylakopi Polies (Melos). The types of vessels developed while others appeared for the first time. Here the conical one replaced the cylindrical pixie. Vessels made for use, of great skill, were developed. They were the "askos" (skin bag) (a clay table-ware vessel for wine or water), the "kernos" (pouring vessel) and a great variety of animal-shaped vessels that were natural looking and had plastic value. The decoration was no longer incised but inscribed.

Apart from the clay vessels, the marble ones are also important. The abundance of marble in the Cyclades helped in this. Glasses, "craters" (mixing bowls for wine), hemlocks, footed "kylixes" (wine cups), zoomorphic vessels, fine works of orotund other utensils were made of marble, as well as of Grey schist and bright red stone. But the creations, which characterize the Cycladic civilization and express more strongly and are more representative of the civilization, are the little marble idols. The abundance of the primary material helped the craftsman to pursue both solutions and originality.

Almost no other prehistoric civilization reached the analogies in plastic work that we meet in the Cycladic idols. Their production lasted all of the third millennium without interruption. In the beginning, because there were no metals, the tools were primitive and the statuettes were simple and completely schematic. They looked like squashed pebbles. They were the first attempts of the craftsman to impose himself to the rough material and to give it shape and soul. The metal tools gave him great opportunities. He overcame the lifeless material and imprinted in an impressive way his ideas and emotions. The idols now took the shape of violins, they imprinted the human body and from schematic they became   more natural - looking (naturalistic). They were full- bodied female figures with almond shaped head, sculptured eyes, mouth and ears. The breasts were modelled, the hands were not joined together and the soles of the feet were in a horizontal position.

The second phase introduced a new type of idol. The head now took a new shape that of a lyre slightly tilted back. The hands   were crossed under the breasts with the left forearm above the right one. The knees were slightly bent and the foot soles sloping, giving the impression that the figure was raised on its toes. The eyes and mouth were indistinguishable, as were the fingers of the hands. Many of them portrayed women in the late stages of pregnancy. This type, with small local variations, was the most common type of Cycladic idol. The Cycladic idols were characterized by a strict frontally. They were like two - dimensional painted works and intended to be seen only frontally, not sideways.

Of course, the Keros-Syros civilization produced figures that show the artist's attempt to free him self from substance. This capacity of a third dimension was clearly brought out in the magnificent Harper of Keros and the Piper. The idols of the musicians, as well as the "Propinon" (literally  "the one making a toast") (has his right hand raised for a toast) are also as wonderful. The Hunter and others represent male figures. What the idols were is still a dark and unsolved subject. Their dimensions, from 0.50 m to 1.50 m, complicate the problem even more. Perhaps they represent divinities, or nymphs and heroes, children's toys or charms. Neither does the fact that they were found in tombs answer the question because many existed before the tombs. Then again, they may have been items of everyday use. At any rate, their aesthetic value, their skill, there plasticity are all very high and they are considered the distant ancestors of modern sculpture.

Even though they are of a lesser value than the idols, the decorative items of the Cycladic art are also considered important. There are necklaces decorated by stone beads or seashells. Silver pins, diadems, shaving blades and obsidian works. n the museum of Apiranthos in Naxos there is a series of carved stones representing scenes of everyday life of that period, something that shows that the art of the rocks was flourishing. Most of the finds of Cycladic art are found at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and many are also found in the Goulandri Collection.

After 2000 BC the Cycladic civilization lost, to a degree, its particularity. The Cycladians were influenced by the Minoan civilization; a new civilization, a combination of these two, was created. This can be seen in the houses, which have wall paintings of Minoan influence. Also, the tombs of small children were different from those of the Protocycladic civilization. In the art sector the role of the Cyclades was limited to pottery. The vessels of this period, which is called the Mesoccladic (Middle Cycladic civilization and extends from around 2000 to 1500 BC, was an encounter and a combination of three civilizations: the Cretan the Cycladic and the Mainland Greece one. 

Following the destruction of the Minoan civilization by the volcano of Thera at around - 1450 BC, the Cycladic islands came under the influence of the Mycenaean civilization, up to the end of the Bronze Age at around 1100 BC. From that point on their civilization followed the more general characteristics of every big phase that followed and in a way lost its autonomy. In the years that followed, from 1100 to 800 BC, the Cyclades were inhabited by colonists, mainly Ionians except for Melos which was inhabited by the Doreans and Kithnos, inhabited by the Driopes. At the peak of the Archaic period in the Cyclades, as in mainland Greece, pottery was the art that flourished. Under the influence of the Attic style, the Cycladic workshops (of Naxos, Paros, Melos, Thera) produced important creations and emphasized their presence in the art of pottery of the period. During the period from 700 to 550 BC Naxos, with its marble quarries and its skilled craftsmen, Flourished. Works, famous all) over Greece, were produced among them were the famous lions of Delos (7th BC century). 

Siphnos became renowned for its gold and silver, as well) as for its "thesaurus" ("treasure") -as it was called which was constructed by the Siphnians at Delphi. In the middle of the 7th century there was a flourish in plastic art to which the Cycladic contribution was important. splendid example of this is the votive offering of Nikandra in Delos, in honour of the goddess Artemis (Diana), one of the first examples of the great Athenian plastic art. One hundred years later the famous Kouros of Melos, with his "archaic smile", was created.

During the Classical period Melos once again gave to eternity the goddess Aphrodite (Venus), a work of exquisite beauty and workmanship. The era of Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic period transferred the centre of the world from Athens and this affected the Cyclades as well as other places. notable creation of this period is the portico of Antigonos Gonatas in Delos, the most renowned portico of the Hellenistic period.

Another important work of the late Hellenistic period was the saic of Delos with Dionysus riding the panther. Delos flourished during this period, after the subjugation of Greece by the Romans and in spite of the immense "stripping" of the cities and the temples the artistic production of the Greek cities did not stop. The Cycladites moved to the same rhythm. The royal portico of Thera at the time of Augustus was important.

During the Byzantine era art was expressed mainly through painting and the architecture of churches. Among the basilicas (a rhythm of churches) of the Byzantine Empire the Katapoliani of Paros (or Ekatopyliani of Paros or Ekatontapyliani) stands out as the most significant monument of the period of Justinian. In the later Byzantine years (the years of the " black chasm " during the 7th century), the Virgin Mary of Drosiani in Naxos is the work that is most notable, with its remarkable wall paintings. Later, during the 8th and 9th centuries, Saint Artemios and Saint Kyriaki, with their non-figural wall paintings, represent the iconoclastic art in churches, as does the vaulted basilica of Saint Ioannis the Theologue at Apirathos of Naxos.

The iconoclastic church at Chalki of Naxos presents notable wall paintings with crosses under the arch   line. One famous church of the 10th century AD is the double - clowned church of Taxiarchos of Melida in Andros. A Cycladite sample of votive painting of the 12th century AD is the wall paintings at the Diocese ("Episkope") of Santorini. During the years between 1300 and 1350, we meet the so-called Palaeologan art on the small island Anafi. During the periods of Turkish and Venetian rule, the art in the Cyclades followed the fate of the Greek nation. What is characteristic of the period of the Venetian rule is the literally great number of churches that were built, as well as their varieties. Indeed when Crete fell to the Turks in 1669 the great Cretan painters fled to the Cyclades where they continued their significant work. 

From the early 17th century we meet the painters of the "Diaspora" (literally: "the dispersed ones") such as Emmanuel Skordilis , the monk lakovo (cob), Michelis Kritikos (in Amorgos) and Makarios Kalliergis. They themselves and their paintings both deeply influenced the native craftsmen; painting was gradually transformed to more "folklore" art which would later portray the soul of the Cycladites, in vast number of "folk-lore" icons and their expression and hope to the hardships of slavery would rest there for the two following centuries.

>> Cyclades Islands Amorgos, Anafi, Andros, Antiparos, Delos, Folegandros, Ios, Kea, Kimolos, Kithnos, Koufonisia, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Santorini, Serifos, Sifnos, Sikinos, Syros, Tinos.


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