Greece Painting Part I

In Cretan-Mycenaean art there are very valuable documents of pictorial art, and more precisely of frescoes. In the Hellenic Middle Ages the art of large fresco painting seems to have been lost; this can also be assumed on the basis of literary tradition. There is indeed uncertainty as to its origins; the Greek scholars reported that among the Egyptians it was a belief that painting had been transmitted by them to the Greeks, while the latter maintained that the origins of this art had to be sought either in Sicyon or Corinth (Plin.,., XXXV, 15). In the same Plinian passage it is reported that the Egyptian Philocles, the Corinthian Cleantes and Aridice, the Sycian Telefane must be considered as the first painters. Pliny himself adds that Corinthian Ecphantus had revived the monochrome images with red retouches obtained from crushed shards. These are the earliest cries of pictorial art, lost in the fog of legend. Nat. Hist

In the second half of the century. VIII, according to a Plinian report (NatHist., XXXV, 73), painting has already ventured into vast compositions, p. ex. in a picture of the battle of the Magnesi against the Ephesians, by Bularco. Going further down in the VII and VI centuries a. C. there are even more complex compositions, such as the taking of Troy by Cleante (Strab., VIII, 343), to whom we also owed the picture of the birth of Athena, and like the battle of the Achaeans under Troy near the ships, work by Callifonte samio (Pausan., V, 19, 2; X, 26, 6). The importance of this primitive Greek painting can also be inferred from the fact that Greek painters worked, according to Pliny (NatHist., XXXV, 17 and 154), in Lazio, in Ardea and Lanuvio, and in Etruria. At first these paintings were nothing more than monochromatic drawings, without foreshortening and without chiaroscuro; then the drawing became polychrome, but with a limited palette, that is, with white and black, yellow and red. We must imagine these stages of painting by taking into consideration the series of vases, from those of the still geometric type to the Attic, Chalcidian, Ionic, Corinthian vases of the mid-century. YOU. Examples of painting on clay can be found in the metope of the Apollonion of Thérmos (Aetolia) by now of the century. VI, with the use of dark yellow, not black, for human flesh.

According to, further progress took place starting from the late century. VI, and, as for sculpture, so for painting, Athens begins to be the main center, where such progress is achieved. At the age of Solon and in the early times of Pisistratus, the activity of Eumare must be placed, who, according to a Plinian passage (NatHist., XXXV, 55), dared to imitate all kinds of figures and distinguish man from woman, evidently not with conventional means, but with natural characteristics. Other advances are announced by the same Plinian passage as due to Cimon di Cleone (near Corinth), a painter active between the century. VI and the century. V, at the same time as the flourishing of Attic red-figure pottery of a severe style: Cimone’s main innovation was the katágraphaobliquae imagines), especially in the faces, while he reached major improvements in dealing with anatomy and drapery.

A great painter, a fresco painter, that is Polyignotus, son of Aglaophon, of Thasos, is revived in Cimone di Cleone, who carried out most of his activity in Athens, where he founded a school in which we can count Micone, son of Athenian Fanocous, Panenus, brother of Phidias, and Phidias himself, the great sculptor.

In Athens, in addition to various pínakes or votive paintings, later preserved in the art gallery of the acropolis, Polygnotus decorated the sanctuary of the Dioscuri together with Micone, and with Micone and Panenus the multicolored portico or Pecile in the agora. Famous were the two frescoes of the destruction of Troy and of Homeric Nékyia in Lesche, or meeting room of the Cnidîs, in Delphi, frescoes that we know through the minute description of Pausanias (X, 25-31). In Platea Polygnotus he performed the scene of Odysseus after the death of the suitors and the assault of the Seven against Thebes in the temple of Athena Areia; other paintings of Tespie, un apobátes are cited by Polygnotusand a Salmoneo. In Pecile, Polignoto was the Iliuperside, while the Amazonomachy was of Micone and the battle of Marathon was of Paneno and Micone. In the Anákeion Polygnotus represented the rape of the Leucippids and Micone the Argonauts. Four frescoes of Micone were also known in the Theseìon of Athens (Amazonomachy, Centauromachy, Theseus at the bottom of the sea, death of Theseus), while Panenus decorated the interior of the temple of Zeus in Olympia with paintings, and the throne of the god in the temple itself. .

From all these news about Polignoto and his school it appears that this pictorial activity in the field of frescoes is to be placed between the Persian wars and the first years of Pericles’ government, that is, between 480 and 440 approximately. The polygnotei paintings had a solemn character of majestic and concentrated gravity, while the companions and followers of Polygnotus, Micone and Panenus, addressed themselves especially to war themes, with audacious groups of fighters. Furthermore, with Polygnotus we can feel the introduction of different levels in the pictorial compositions, while some figures remain partly hidden by the ravines of the ground; but, even though the figures were distributed on different levels and therefore on different levels, they maintained equality of proportions. The reflections of this grandiose polygnothean art, in which the, that is the heroic expression of the spirit (see Aristot., Poet., 2; 6; Polit., VIII, 5, 7), can be recognized in a series of Attic vases, called polyignotei, in which the Amazonomachies are frequent ; polynotei are also the pediments of the temple of Zeus in Olympia.

Greece Painting 1