Τρίτη 27 Δεκεμβρίου 2011

Ancient Greek Christmas

You would think the title of this post combines two incompatible elements "ancient Greek" and "Christmas", but modern day kitsch never fails to amaze us. 

Want your Christmas tree with a touch of ancient Greek splendour? 
Why not choose this elegant Parthenon glass ornament for only 22,99 $?

(really want it? think again or click HERE)

or, better still, why not combine the Parthenon with a touch of the traveller's experience with this magnificent suitcase-shaped glass ornament for only 19,99 $

(want this one too? sure? then click HERE)

You could of course choose a relief version of the Parthenon...

(must have it? click HERE)

or settle for a pars pro toto with this piece of an Ionic column all christmasy-looking with its red bow

(can't live without it? click HERE)

Not christmasy enough? Perhaps have it in gold? 

(yours to order, if you click HERE)

I know it's now too late to wish everyone a merry Christmas, but I'm just in time to wish you a Happy New Year!

Πέμπτη 8 Δεκεμβρίου 2011

Society Goddesses

Yevonde Cumbers Middleton (1893-1975), or Madame Yevonde, as she was better known, was an English photographer who pioneered the use of colour in portrait photography. Well-educated and an avid supporter of the women's rights movement, this independent lady set up her own photographic studio in London in 1914 being just 21 years old. She experimented with colour photography and the new Vivex technique and became well-known for her portraits of leading personalities of the day.  

During the 1930's Madame Yevonde shot a series of photographs, named "Goddesses" portraying well-known socialites of the day dressed up as mythological figures. 

According to Wikipedia 
"Yevonde's most famous work was inspired by a theme party held on March 5, 1935, where guests dressed as Roman and Greek gods and goddesses. Yevonde subsequently took studio portraits of many of the participants (and others), in appropriate costume and surrounded by appropriate objects. This series of prints showed Yevonde at her most creative, using colour, costume and props to build an otherworldly air around her subjects. She went on to produce further series based on the signs of the zodiac and the months of the year. Partly influenced by surrealist artists, particularly Man Ray, Yevonde used surprising juxtapositions of objects which displayed her sense of humour."

April Aileen Freda (Leatherman) as Minerva/Athena

Mrs Donald Ross as Europa

Mrs Richard Hart-Davis as Andromeda

Lady Dorothy Etta Warrender (née Rawson, later Lady Bruntisfield) as Ceres/Demeter

Lady Alexandra Henrietta Louisa Haig as Circe

Lady Bridgett Elizabeth Felicia Henrietta Augusta Poulett as Arethusa

The Honorary Mrs James beck as Daphne

Mrs Edward Mayer as Medusa

The Honorable Mrs Bryan Guinness as Venus/Aphrodite

Lady Milbanke as Penthesileia

Mrs Anthony Eden as Clio

Dorothy, Duchess of Wellington as Hecate

Madame Yevonde, Self-portrait, National Portrait Gallery, London
(note the Hecate portrait over the frame) 


The "Goddesses" photographs have been published in book form (see here) and recently exhibited at the PM Gallery and House in London - see an article in The Guardian here

A major exhibition on Madame Yevonde's work took place in the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1990 and a catalogue was published by R. Gibson & P. Roberts, Madame Yevonde: Colour, Fantasy & Myth, London 1990.

Photographs reposted via here & here.  

If you want to know more on Madane Yevonde see here and here

Last but not least, you may browse 290 photographs of Madame Yevonde in the National Portrait Gallery site - just click here


P.S. Though as a rule the blog claims no copyright on any of its content, people reposting huge chunks of its posts, photographs, ideas, etc. without mentioning it as a source, should keep in mind that there is such a thing as "netiquette" or common courtesy which requires due attribution. 
Much like we (try to) do in Classics with referencing and quoting ;)

By the way, Madame Yevonde's most famous quote is "Be Original or  Die!"

Τρίτη 6 Δεκεμβρίου 2011


In 2009 students from the Fairfield University College in Connecticut, under the supervision of their teacher Dr Katherine Schwab, worked on a very interesting project: 
the Caryatid Hairstyling Project.

[Students posing as Caryatids: Sandra Cimino, Dana Westrup, Amber Nowak, mara Giarratana Young, Caitlin Parker, Shannon Berger]

The six Caryatids in the south porch of the Erechtheion on the Acropolis wear long hair arranged in a variety of braids and patterns. The project aimed at testing whether these hairstyles were representing artistic convention or were in fact inspired by real hairstyles of the day. 

Dr Schwab working together with professional hairstylist Mixely Torres attempted to replicate these hairstyles working on six students with long thick hair in varying textures.
The result? 

"Not only was it possible to replicate the hairstyles of the renowned Caryatids, but the process itself yielded insights into hairstyling techniques both ancient and modern, as well as a way to enter the realm of antiquity. The Athenian Caryatid hairstyles provide a window into an ancient time and place when young women became part of their society through the manner in which their hair was worn. Equally, today these complex hairstyles form a connection between contemporary and ancient society while demonstrating how braids continue to fascinate and inspire contemporary trends in hair fashion."

The Caryatid Hairstyling Project was recorded and presented into a short DVD film, but one may watch the following instructive clip released on YouTube.

Need more info? 

Start by visiting the Caryatid Hairstyling Project page here and read interesting interviews by Dr Schwab here and here.


I've had the idea of presenting this project in the blog for a long time now, but strictly speaking this fell under the category of "experimental archaeology" rather than consuming Greek antiquity in a modern way. 

Well, thankfully, Berkeley student Celeste Jacobson-Ingram came to my rescue, after suggesting several examples of contemporary hairstyles that are evidently influenced by ancient Greek and Roman examples. 


[composite photograph courtesy of C. Jacobson-Ingram]

Παρασκευή 25 Νοεμβρίου 2011

Kylie Aphrodite

Kylie Minogue's choice to portray Aphrodite certainly deserves a post on this blog, especially since it was presented not just in a CD, but in a world tour with stage sets and appropriate Dolce & Gabbana costumes, thus offering a more "complete" visual experience.

In all honesty, I think that there's so much material to examine and work with, that it would make a nice idea for an article of a well-documented case of consuming Greek mythology & iconography.

The CD includes two songs, readily identifiable as having being inspired by the central mythological theme, i.e. "Cupid Boy" and "Aphrodite"

I'm fierce and I'm feeling mighty,
I'm a golden girl, I'm an Aphrodite

Interestingly enough the world tour actually combined two theme/concepts, "Aphrodite" and "Zigfield Folies" (!!) thus named eventually "Aphrodite Les Folies".

Here follows a series of photographs I collected from the web showing Kylie - Aphrodite with winged headpiece emerging from a large sea-shell, perfoming in front of a mock-Greek style facade, nursed by female attendants, riding Pegasus and mounting a chariot with her male warriors.

Related videos are of course plentiful, thus really hard to choose from. 
I'm posting only two here, the first including characteristic scenes of all the programme, the second the opening act and "Birth of Aphrodite" underwater scene.

For those interested to learn more and continue exploring, you may want to start from the singer's official site HERE, then follow THIS Wikipedia link on the album and THIS link on the tour.

Τρίτη 22 Νοεμβρίου 2011

Lego in search of Atlantis - 100th post

In 2010 the well-known Lego toy company released Lego Atlantis, a product range themed around the underwater world of the long lost ancient city of Atlantis.

The product range includes 19 sets and a crew of basic characters. The "good" characters are the deep sea salvage crew who search the ocean for shipwrecks and treasure, including Captain Ace Speedman, Marine biologist Dr Jeff Fisher, First Mate Lance Spears, 'Tech Expert' Axel Storm, apprentice Bobby Buoy and Professor Sam Rhodes. 
The "evil" characters are described as 'Atlantis Warriors', have human-like bodies with the heads of a sea creature, and are accordingly named: i.e. 'Squid Warrior', 'Manta Warrior', 'Shark Warrior'.

The company has released 19 sets of toy products so far, as well as a movie and an online game named "The Quest for the Golden King" -you can play it clicking HERE.

In the following first part of the Lego Atlantis movie (3.22 ff), Prof. Sam Rhodes explains the story of the city using a projector (!) and black & white slides -not-so-high-tech right?

"Legend tells of an island in the Atlantic that contained a great city with riches beyond our imagination. Its walls were made of precious metals, its architecture so advanced some believe we still have not matched it today, but volcanic activity on the ocean floor led to a tidal wave. The entire island was swallowed up by the sea, never to be seen again"

May thanks to Dr Kalliopi Sarri for alerting me to this exciting product.

By the way, this is the blog's 100th post~ Many thanks are due to all the readers, especially to those overseas, who have kept this project going and expressed their intense interest.

Greek key for H&M

The Greek key (the 'meander', μαίανδρος) features prominently in the new Versace line designed to be sold through the H&M network of shops throughout the world.

Special thanks are due to Sara Alexandra Berg for pointing out this new example of consuming Greek antiquity.

Τρίτη 15 Νοεμβρίου 2011

Looking for the Greek God of Finance

A plausible scenario enacted on Saturday Night Live:
a meeting of the Greek Gods presided by Zeus on looking for the responsible God of Finance who well, basically, must have got something wrong.

It's been a while since I updated this blog, but it's time I added some new material in here.
Thanks to everyone of my readers who keep coming back to check and send positive feedback.

Τρίτη 17 Μαΐου 2011

Ancient Greece in the East

Dimitris, a Grrek currently staying and working in China, is taking amazing photographs from his life in this foreign country. You may follow his photography HERE and HERE.

Dimitris was very generous to send me two of his photographs which serve as eloquent examples of consuming Greek antiquity in China.

A photo from Dimitris' gym - with Pegasus as its emblem.

This is from a cafe, and Dimitris suspects its portaying the well-known Archimedes in the bathroom incident.
Indeed one sees a nude guy wearing a Greek or Roman looking helmet enjoying his coffee. The moustache should tips the scales towards Greek!

Dimitris, thanks again very much for all this!

Τετάρτη 11 Μαΐου 2011

An appropriate Eurovision setting (or not)

Strange Ionian-looking Greek columns in the background for the Greek song in the Eurovision 2011 song contest in Germany.
There seems to be an emblem on the column capital but can't really make it out; something between an anthemium and two antithetic swans?

Τρίτη 26 Απριλίου 2011

A fascinating house in Thessaloniki

A while back a significant photographer of contemporary Thessaloniki (his impressive photoblog is HERE) kindly contacted me to bring to my attention and offer me an amazing set of photographs of a house on 34 Euzonon Str. in Thessaloniki.

I kept them in store all this time, always hoping to do more justice to this impressive material through extensive research having the ambition to identify the artist and learn more about the owner, explore their source of inspiration and the story they're trying to tell.
Somehow I could never find the time, so I decided to post the pictures anyway for all of you to enjoy.

I limit my remarks to these points.

- The house bears an inscription under the pediment "K.I. ΜΗΤΤΑΣ 1920". K. Μήττας is the name of its owner who is said to have fought in the Macedonian Struggle.

- The curved pediment depicts a Gigantomacy involving an extensive number of persons - I think I counted 26 human heads. I could not detect an exact parallel for this depiction of the Gigantomacy, though similarities with the Pergamon Altar Gigantomachy may be discerned.

- Athena is the central figure of the scene with Apollo (?) to her right holding a bow. The bearded figure on lower right of Athena with arm raised maybe the Giant Typhoeus.

- In the corners of the pediment parts of chariots are portrayed. One the right-hand one a Macedonian star is visible.

- The artist is especially interested in depicting large spears with arrow-like heads.

- The whole scene seems to be made of gypsum.

Central part of pediment

Left part of pediment

Left corner of pediment

Right part of pediment

Right corner of pediment

On a niche below the wall with the pediment there is the gypsum statue of a female figure holding a fruit or ball. Such clay statues are rather common in niches of neoclassical houses, but I confess I am unable to identify this lady.

Please remember all photographs are here reproduced by kind permission of Arcades.