Cretan art: summary and characteristics

Cretan art: summary and characteristics

The Cretan civilization founded in Crete in the Bronze Age was discovered by Sir Arthur Evans in the early twentieth century through excavations at the palace of Knossos. According to Evans, King Minos is the symbol of this people, whose civilization would have had considerable economic and military supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean. Furthermore, the Minoan contribution to the acculturation of the Greek world is significant. However, Evans has been criticized for his methods of preserving and interpreting Knossos, including a general remake of the palace with modern aspects. Many of the reproductions of the famous Minoan works of art, such as the Parisienne fresco, are actually the result of modern restoration carried out by Evans himself, the Swiss artist Émile Gilliéron and, since 1920, by the Dutch Piet de Jong.” Let’s find out what are the characteristics of Cretan art together with a summary. 

arte cretese  Cretan art: summary and characteristics
Greece. Crete. Knossos. Cup-Bearer fresco in the South Propylon Corridor of Procession), in the Minoan Palace of Knossos,

Cretan art: summary and characteristics

Cretan art: summary and characteristics

Cretan art, the characteristics Cretan art is known for its beauty and creativity. Among its main features are:

-The use of bright, bright colors such as blue, red and yellow.

-The creation of naturalistic images of animals, human beings and landscapes.

-The use of complex decorative patterns such as labyrinths and waves.

-The use of advanced craftsmanship techniques such as metalworking and the production of ceramics.

-The importance given to the representation of female deities, such as the mother goddess of fertility.

-The use of frescoes and reliefs to decorate palaces and other public buildings.

The Cretan Art: summary

Prepalatial Age
Prepalatial Age (3500-2000 BC)During the Bronze Age in Crete, composed of three main periods: Ancient Minoan, Middle and Late, important developments were noted in the management and organization of resources. In the Ancient Minoan period (3500-2000 BC), characterized by strong population growth, settlements such as Vassilikì and Myrtos emerged. In Vassilikì, the housing units are organized around a central court, highlighting a first attempt to manage resources at the community level. In Myrtos, residential structures are concentrated around a sanctuary dedicated to a female deity, which suggests a link between the sacred sphere and resource management, a link that could prelude the subsequent complexity of the great Minoan palaces. These two settlements show embryonic forms of social organization and resource management.
The first Palaces
The first Palaces (1900-1750 BC)The most splendid phase in the history of Crete began with the Middle Minoan period (about 1900 BC), characterized by the birth of large administrative units with palaces as centers of power located in Knossos, Phaistos and Mallia. These palaces, with a recurring layout marked by a large rectangular court oriented north-south, played a central role in urban settlements. Around them, the population was concentrated and there were various sectors with specific functions such as warehouses, ceremonial environments, and residential apartments. The various sectors of the palace were arranged on different levels and axes, forming an intricate labyrinth of paths that connected the palace to the neighboring city. The public function of the palace was highlighted by large paved squares that preceded the entrances and that were used for large collective ceremonies. In the palace there were also large circular wells, or ‘kouloures’, probably used for the storage of grain. The palace functioned as an administrative hub for the distribution of the region’s agricultural resources. Precious artisanal works were produced there by specialized workers, including the refined Kamares ceramics, characterized by very thin walls and various polychromatic patterns. These ceramics, produced to meet the ceremonial and cultural needs of palaces, were spread to distant places, presumably through exchanges and gifts between elites
Protopalatial Age
Protopalatial Age (1700-1450 BC)In 1700 BC, the palaces underwent violent destruction, probably due to seismic events. This destruction leads to situations of conflict between different power groups. The construction of the second palaces leads to a break in the political history of the island. The control of the building over the territory becomes more widespread, with the construction of ‘villas’ in the countryside, miniature reproductions of palaces, as local control bodies. At the same time, the role of Knossos emerges as a center of irradiation of cultural and ideological models. This supremacy creates great uniformity in Cretan artistic productions and material culture, reaching its peak during Late Minoan I. The architecture of the new buildings completes the model already highlighted in the previous period, with greater technical expertise and a clearer distribution of functions. They prefer the use of large square stone blocks, stone and plaster coverings for the floors, frescoes and precious stones for the walls of the representative rooms. The palace of Knossos is the brightest example of this new royal architecture, covering an area of more than 17,000 square meters. The large paved courtyard in front of the western façade is the place where the population meets, the site of the rites and ceremonies of the palatine system. Access to the building from the north-west leads to the large central courtyard, the real axis of the whole complex. The ideological heart of the palace is a series of rooms that overlook the western side of the courtyard, with the Throne Room in the center. This room is connected to a complex of small rooms with a sacred function, from which precious ritual furnishings come from, such as the two famous faience statuettes of the Goddess of Serpents. To the east of the central courtyard are the residential neighborhoods, spread over several floors connected by a monumental staircase. On the ground floor there are the King’s Room and the Queen’s Room, while upstairs, traces of activities related to spinning and weaving suggest that the activities and life of the palace’s female population were concentrated here.




arte cretese Cretan art: summary and characteristics

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