helens_daughter (helens_daughter) wrote,

The Saffron Goddess

This week, I attempted some artwork to relieve the space between painting pieces of miniature furniture.  The subject I chose was the Saffron Goddess from Xeste 3 in Akrotiri.  From previous posts, you know I've developed an interest in the elaborately patterned textiles the Minoans and Therans produced, but it wasn't just the decoration I wanted to highlight.

Oftentimes, frescoes are reconstructed based on very little surviving material, at times so fragmentary or scant that I have to wonder how the restorers know what the missing parts of the fresco looked like.  The Procession Fresco at Knossos, for example, was reconstructed with only a narrow strip of surviving fresco on the bottom (the darkened, shaded areas) to hint at what's happening above.

Sir Arthur Evans had to look to better preserved images elsewhere to reconstitute this particular fresco.  A good deal of that happened at Knossos; you can never be sure whether you're looking at a genuine Minoan image or a modern construct.

The Akrotiri frescoes are much better preserved due to the volcanic nature of their burial.  The Saffron Goddess fresco is more complete than what I show, and even extends to the left with a blue monkey and young female worshipper offering crocuses in a field of saffron.

As I said above, I wasn't just interested in the intricately patterned textiles, but the nature of reconstructing anicent imagery from fresco fragments:

What also fascinates me about this image and one other from the Xeste 3 group is how sheer some of the fabric is.  In the original, you can see how meticulously the artist depicts the color of the sheer linen and how its very pale blue distorts the color of the underlying textile.  You can get a better sense of the sheerness from the Necklace Bearer:

I haven't seen anything like this from the Knossos or Mycenaean mainland frescoes, even though such fine weaves were possible with existing looms.  I wonder if the Therans specialized in the manufacture of diaphanous cloth.

If you think you've seen the Saffron Goddess depicted here before, you have.  I used her as the basis for a painting of Danae a few years ago.
Tags: akrotiri, artwork, danae, frescoes, knossos, minoans, mycenaeans, sir arthur evans, textiles, women
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