women in greek art




Women in Greek history have had many roles. In Ancient Greece the mythological stories tell of very powerful women. Some archeological finds hint at the same suggestion. Women also represent some of the most powerful of deities. In the Classical Age women were subservient and primarily homebound. Women did the sewing, cooking, cleaning and raising of the children. In Hellenistic times women were becoming more a part of society yet still played the part of the subservient wife and mother. Women played an even greater role in Greek Art throughout Greek history by inspiring the artist. Women were depicted in statues, pottery, vases, tempera, ceramic, poetry, writing, plays and even mythology.

The nude male figure was the focus of art in Greek Culture for many years, especially in the Classic Greek times. This was considered the highest of Greek beauty. Society was based around men so men often saw other men more often than women. In some cultures nudity was equated with humility, shame, or defeat. The Greeks took this image and glorified it as a work of art. The male nude became a focus of beauty and acceptance.

In the beginning nude women in art were viewed differently than men. Respectable women were not portrayed in the nude unless they were in a defenseless setting or in immediate harm. If they were not in danger than they were clothed. If a woman was depicted in the nude, other than a respectable woman in danger, she was a “hetairai” or courtesan or prostitute. In 530 BC naked women were a hot topic for vases. These women were portrayed in very suggestive and lewd positions. The vases were often used by men at drinking parties, which explain the topic of this art.

In the middle of the fourth century, BC the image of the female nude body changed. A sculpture named Praxiteles sculpted the first nude Aphrodite. This rendition was carved realistically and sensuously. Stories tell of Aphrodite being angered at this first sculpture of her in the nude. Her anger may have been because Praxiteles would have had to have seen her naked to create such a realistic statue or because he depicted her so realistically her flaws were evident. By either measure this first nude Aphrodite became the subject for many artists. Aphrodite was the only Goddess to every be betrayed in the nude. This nudity became acceptable because she was the Goddess of love, sex and desire and may have also been ok because of her religious element as well. Aphrodite’s religious undertone as the Goddess of fertility may have also been one aspect that allowed her nude depiction to be widely accepted.

In the third Century the statue of Hermaphrodite was created. This statue was of a perfect young male with breasts. This led way to a new way of looking at the woman. Adding female characteristics of a woman to the “superior” male made women even more beautiful and sexual. In the Hellenistic Age art held a very realistic and true-to-life subject and setting. In example of this realistic depiction would be the statue of the Well-to-Do Drunken Woman. These almost soap opera like stories were portrayed in Greek Old Comedy. In plays and stories women were put in situations of greater power and seen more positively. Hellenistic Queens also played a pert in women being depicted in a more positive manner in society and art. There were also important female figures throughout Greek history such as Perictyine who was the mother of Plato and a Pythagorean writer and philosopher. Women also filled the shoes of artists, poets and writers although not great in number.

As the role of women was changing socially they were also depicted differently in art. In Ancient, Pre-Classical, and Classical times to the Hellenistic age the image changed again in art and society. In Ancient Greek times women were very powerful beings. In Classical times women could only gain power if they were related to or married an influential man in Greek society. A Hellenistic play written by Euripides read, “Women run households and protect with in their homes was has been carried across the sea and without a woman no house is clean or prosperous. Consider their roll in religion, for that, in my