THE QUESTION OF NEAR EASTERN TEXTILE DECORATION OF THE EARLY FIRST MILLENNIUM B. C. AS A SOURCE FOR GREEK VASE PAINTING OF THE ORIENTALIZING STYLE

KRISTINE STUART BROWN, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Near Eastern designs influenced Greek vase painters of the late eighth to seventh centuries B.C. in the workshops of Corinth, Attica, the Cyclades, and East Greece. The decorative quality of Greek vase painting, created by scattering filling ornaments across the surface of the vase without regard to the principal scene, is often compared to Oriental tapestries; further, Near Eastern textiles are cited frequently as a source for individual figured, floral, and linear motifs introduced to Greek vase painting at this time. Contact between Greece and the eastern Mediterranean is documented by finds excavated in each area, but direct lines of artistic inspiration are more difficult to trace. To ascertain the extent to which Greek artists copied or adapted patterns and motifs from imported textiles, Near Eastern textile designs of the early first millennium are examined. Patterned textile fragments, excavated at Gordion, Turkey, and now in the University Museum, Philadelphia, provide direct knowledge of ancient textile decoration; 65 fragments are catalogued and drawn. Extant textile fragments are also catalogued from Sultantepe in North Syria and Karmir Blur in Urartu. Illustrations on stone sculpture and relief, wall painting, ivory, and metalwork provide evidence for Near Eastern textile decoration. A catalogue of linear and curvilinear motifs from these sources is organized geographically and chronologically. Descriptions and drawings of 395 motifs are included from the following regions: Assyria, North Syria, Phoenicia, the Anatolian plateau, Urartu, Ziwiye, Hasanlu, Luristan, Elam, Azerbaijan, Babylonia, Egypt, and Cyprus. Figured and floral textile patterns illustrated in the art of Assyria, Iran, and Cyprus are also considered. On the basis of this survey, Near Eastern weavers used a limited number of motifs in regular patterns. Aside from the rosette, the decoration is geometric--squares, circles, and dots. These ornaments are arranged in bands along the seams and borders of garments and occasionally used as field motifs arranged in rows. Grid and lattice diaper patterns are also common. Figured and floral patterns are rare with the exception of Assyrian textiles of the ninth century. A comparison of the Orientalizing style of Greek vase painting with Near Eastern textile decoration shows that they are dissimilar in artistic conception and in the arrangement and choice of individual motifs. The tapestry-like effect of Greek vase painting--that is, the figured decoration set against a background of purely ornamental motifs--does not derive from contemporary Oriental textiles whose decoration is predominantly geometric. Further, the variety of linear and curvilinear filling ornaments favored by Greek painters has little in common with the limited repertoire of Oriental weavers. The appearance of individual Eastern motifs in vase painting indicates that Greek artists were familiar with Near Eastern art, but imported textiles apparently had no role in the transmission of these motifs during the Orientalizing period.

Subject Area

Archaeology

Recommended Citation

BROWN, KRISTINE STUART, "THE QUESTION OF NEAR EASTERN TEXTILE DECORATION OF THE EARLY FIRST MILLENNIUM B. C. AS A SOURCE FOR GREEK VASE PAINTING OF THE ORIENTALIZING STYLE" (1980). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8107720.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8107720

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