Beauty and the eye of the beholder : female adornment in the wedding scenes on attic vases

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dc.contributor.advisor Prof. W.J. Henderson; Dr. A. Doyle en_US
dc.contributor.author Wolmarans, Kristien
dc.date.accessioned 2012-11-07T15:09:10Z
dc.date.available 2012-11-07T15:09:10Z
dc.date.issued 2012-11-07
dc.date.submitted 2012-01
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10210/8151
dc.description M.A. en_US
dc.description.abstract During the second half of the fifth-century B.C. there was a sudden proliferation of Attic vases depicting adornment scenes. These scenes showed groups of women making themselves desirable and for the first time women were eroticised within the context of marriage. Some scholars have argued that this sudden abundance reflected a change in the Attic attitude towards women, reflecting their increased social standing. These scholars proposed various hypotheses. It is conjectured that Perikles' Citizenship Law of 451/450 increased the social standing of Athenian daughters. The Peloponnesian War that raged from 431 to 404 BCE might also have forced women to take on more public responsibilities; to fill the gaps left by the military men's absence. This would explain why private activities of women became the subject matter of vase paintings at that time. According to this viewpoint women became the new customers of the potters. There are even scholars who maintain that these scenes contain hints of sexual liaisons between women. A competing hypothesis is that these scenes were used to impose a patriarchal ideal of femininity onto girls preparing themselves for marriage. Both these approaches imply that women were the primary viewers of these scenes. The aim of this study is to evaluate these hypotheses and to explore whether there may be other explanations. In order to investigate these issues a visual semiotic analysis was performed of thirteen painted vases representative of a variety of painters and vase shapes. This analysis was done in two parts: a structural analysis and a pragmatic analysis. The structural analysis consisted of a syntactic and semantic analysis, and helped to identify the pertinent signs and what they refer to. Artistic principles and the theory of Gestalt played an important role in identifying key signs. The pragmatic analysis delved deeper and was used to establish what message Athenian men and women might have read into these painted vases. This brought to light the master narrative prescribed by the patriarchy as well as women's acceptance thereof and how women used it to condition their daughters. A new hypothesis is proposed to explain the increase in this type of subject matter on painted vases. It is concluded that the buyers of the vases were mostly men but that the consumers of these artistic scenes were both male and female. It is also probable that after the Peloponnesian War these vases depicted a return to basic patriarchal values that may have degenerated during the war. It was also found that Perikles' Citizenship Law would have contributed more to the social standing of the male guardian, than to that of a girl of marriageable age. The eroticisation of women within the confines of marriage would thus have propagated the message of procreation within the patriarchal family structure, rather than referring to erotic encounters between women. These scenes, instead of showing the increased social standing of women, reflect a reinforcement of patriarchal values. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.subject Attic vases en_US
dc.subject Wedding scenes in art en_US
dc.subject Female adornment in art en_US
dc.subject Vase-painting, Greek
dc.subject Vases, Greek - Themes, motives, etc.
dc.subject Women in art
dc.subject Semiotics and art
dc.subject Marriage customs and rites in art
dc.title Beauty and the eye of the beholder : female adornment in the wedding scenes on attic vases en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US

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