Friday, April 06, 2007

The Nikandre Kore

The Nikandre Kore, c. 650 BCE

It is starting with this much abraded figure that I begin to think of Greek art pieces in terms of the pronoun "she" (or "he," as the case may be) rather than "it," that is, of the sculpture as having a particular identity that can be appreciated by gender and by character, like real people, like friends or acquaintances. I get to know them better that way, I think, even if it is a fiction. What is art if not a fiction?

I am not sure why I tend to start here rather than with the Mantiklos Apollo, or the bronze Apollo group, but it may be that for me the rough texture of the soft stone is more appealing, or personal, than the crude bronze of the earlier figures.

She is the Nikandre kore, dated to around 650 BCE. Her name derives from the inscription:
Nikandre dedicated me to the far-shooting arrow-pourer, daughter (kore) of Deinomenes the Naxian, excellent above all, sister of Deinomenes, now wife of Phraxos. (from Osborne)
Although much of her has worn away, typical of pieces in limestone or sandstone, she was in fact carved in marble, making her one of the earliest marble carvings from the Archaic period. She wears a peplos, the simple tunic belted at the waist, and sandals; her toes stick out from underneath the dress, but otherwise she has been sculpted so that the dress entirely obstructs any indication of legs. She does, however, have gently swelling breasts. She was carved from a flat block of stone, and so presents as a figure only to the front. Her outline from face on I find especially appealing.

The hair is in the stylized form known as Daedalic [pdf], a wig-like style of four richly patterned braids framing the face, which is in the shape of an inverted triangle. Daedalus (father of the ill-fated Icarus) was the mythical master craftsman of the age, and at some point his name became associated with works of art such as this.