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Minoan Art

Rise and decline of 'the world’s first naturalistic art'

Fresco from Knossos palace

Minoan art is the one thing that sets Crete’s ancient civilization apart from every other – a vibrant, flowing art, ‘infused with a lyrical carelessness and freedom, not only in subject, but also in execution’, far closer to modern tastes than the stiff, hieratic figures of Middle Eastern cultures or even the self-consciously idealized art of Classical Greece.

The Minoan frescoes and vases were a revelation when Sir Arthur Evans’ men reconstructed them from the fragments of Knossos, and, even though we know more about their meanings and contexts today, they remain a revelation still. Other cultures show us imposing monarchs, mysterious figures of gods and demons, vast funeral pomps and such; compared to these the Minoans often seem to have come from another planet.

Even though their Linear A and B tablets suggest they had a bureaucratic, accounting streak in their souls as dry as dust, their art is free from political propaganda or state-worship; even works that are clearly religious seem more human, less threatening and shadowy.

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Sidelights and Myths

Text © Dana Facaros

Images by Andree Stephan, Carole Raddato, Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany, cavorite, Chris 73 on Wikimedia Commons, DmitriyGuryanov, Garrett Ziegler, Jebulon, Joyofmuseums, Mølterland, Olaf Tausch, Zde