Friday, May 6, 2011

What's Missing in Minoan Art?

The Minoans didn't need Title IX to ensure equality in athletics. Their culture radiated female power and presence as shown in frescos from the palace walls of Knossos, Crete. Here are three bull dancers: the woman (always light-skinned in Minoan art and often bare-chested) on the left about to launch herself over the bull's horns, the man in mid-somersault over the bull's back, and the woman on the right, landing after her vault.


It has taken 4,000 years for the Western world to begin to catch up.

The Minoan civilization thrived on Crete from 3400 BCE to 1450 BCE, when Santorini's volcanic explosion and the subsequent earthquakes and tsunamis devastated the islands, leading to the collapse of the Minoan culture. What remains is the ghost town at Akrotiri, Santorini (only 3% excavated) and the ruins on Crete, the most famous being Knossos because of Sir Arthur Evans's partial reconstruction.
One of the remnants of this amazing culture, so unlike the patariarchal culture of the last four millenia, is the subject of their artwork. The frescos show dolphins cavorting in the sea, blue monkeys picking fruit, an octopus waving its tenacles, a young man stepping through a lilly field, tall papyrus plants bursting with color.

Even the pendants and seals show a remarkable gift for precision and beauty, with representations of bees and deer so finely crafted that I have to wonder if the artisans had magnifying glasses.




What is missing in Minoan art? Scenes of war, of the abduction and rape of women, of torture (on the cross or otherwise), of dour church patriarachs and saints devoid of joy.




The Minoans flourished centuries before the Trojan War, an epic event in the early days of patriarchal hegemony that became a touchstone for art of the Classical and Hellenestic periods. Later, with the rise of Christianity, art has focused for centuries on the passion of Christ and matyred saints. I remember a few years back leaving a museum in Florence feeling queasy because of all the horrific scenes of crucifixion and torture.


Nancy and I leave for Paris within a week. We will, of course, wander through museums during our five days there. But really, do I need to see one more rendering of Zeus taking a woman by force or of a bloody Christ suffering on the cross, or a martyr being beheaded, stoned, flayed, or set ablaze?


Give me the Minoan world of light and sensuality, where the joy of being alive in this glorious world pulses through each brush stroke.

Becky


2 comments:

Vojtěch Franče said...

i deeply agree with your opinion about minoan art

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