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Caryatid

Caryatid



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Caryatid is the name given to an architectural column which takes the form of a standing female figure. The first examples come from ancient Greek architecture and indeed, the most celebrated examples are found in the south porch of the Erechtheion on the acropolis of Athens.

Naming & Origins

The term Caryatid first appears in the 4th century BCE and was coined by Vitruvius in reference to Karyai in Laconia where women often danced balancing a basket on their heads in honour of Artemis and where Caryatids were used in Archaic architecture. They were an evolution of the earlier korai statues of both male and female figures prevalent throughout the Archaic period and used as columns in Ionian architecture. These were themselves an evolution of Persian columns which often employed animal figures within the column design.

The most famous Caryatids are the six which support the roof of the porch of the Erechtheion on the Athenian acropolis.

Archaic Caryatids were usually used in the porches of Treasury buildings which were built to house offerings from specific states at religious sanctuaries such as Delphi and Olympia. The most important treasury at Delphi was from the Siphnians (c. 525 BCE) and this and at least two other treasuries had Caryatids. Caryatids of this period often have a short column drum above the head in order to facilitate the join with the column capital.

The Erechtheion

The most famous Caryatids are the six which support the roof of the false south porch of the Erechtheion on the Athenian acropolis. This building was constructed between 421 and 406 BCE as part of Pericles' great project to rejuvenate the architecture of the great city. The Erechtheion was built to house the ancient wooden cult statue of Athena but also served as a centre for the cults of Erechtheus (a mythical king of Athens), his brother Boutes, Hephaistos and Poseidon. The Caryatids display features which would become staple elements of Classical sculpture: clothes which cling to the body (the 'wet look') and a bold and more dynamic positioning of the hips and legs. Although each Caryatid wears the same robe - a belted Doric peplos and short himation - each is uniquely rendered, a feature particularly noticeable in their intricate plaited hairstyles (best seen from the rear). The arms of the figures have unfortunately been lost but Roman copies show them holding in their right hands phialai - shallow vessels for pouring libations - whilst their left hand raised slightly their robe. Scholars believe them to be carved by different artists, most probably from the workshop of Alcamenes, student and colleague of Phidias.

Interestingly, the porch of the Erechtheion stands over what was believed to be the tomb of the mythical king Kekrops and perhaps the Caryatids and their libation vessels are a tribute to this fact - libations were poured into the ground as an offering to the dead. The Caryatids now on the acropolis are copies, five of the originals reside in the Acropolis Museum of Athens and the other is in the British Museum, London.

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Pentelic Splendour: The Erechtheion Caryatids

South view of the Erechtheion, Acropolis, Athens, Greece. Source: Sculpture Solutions.

Caryatid is a term used to describe a sculpture of a female figure serving as a column and functioning architectural support. The use of the human form as a decorative or functional part of architecture has been seen in many ancient cultures. This technique is visible all over the world even today, but the ones on the Acropolis are still the most famous and most copied.

Photograph of the Erechtheion, Dimitrios Constantin, 1865, Albumen Silver Print. Source: Getty

Constructed between 421-405 BCE, the six Caryatids adorn the southern porch (also referred to as Porch of the Maidens) of the Erechtheion, and serve as structural and architectural support in place of the typical columns. An unusual and uniquely shaped building, the site was previously that of another temple destroyed in the battle with the Persians. It was made to house an olive wood statue of Athena Polias. Erechtheus was the name of an early King, who judged the gifts from Athena and Poseidon at that site. Unique in shape, structure and location, the Erechtheion’s Ionic architecture provides a lovely contrast to the Doric structure of the Parthenon right next to it. As with all Greek sculpture, they would have been brightly decorated and painted.

Closeup of the side view of the British Caryatid. Source: British Museum

The caryatids stand 2,27 meters (7.5 feet) and are made of the best Greek marble, Pentelic. Like early Korai figures of archaic Greece, these women stand tall and straight. Unlike Korai, these are in High Classical style with a graceful contrapposto stance and detailed vertical drapery mimicking the vertical fluting of the Ionic columns. One bent leg and one straight provide visual contrast, and also a sense of stability and strength. They epitomize the idealized notions of harmony, balance and nobility.

Each woman wears the peplos and himation and had a bent leg, but also have very different features and details, especially in the face and hair. They are not just copies of the same figure, there is individuality to each of them. This suggests they were all carved in the same workshop. The arms are unfortunately missing, but Roman copies show them holding vessels of libations or offerings.

Caryatid closeup. Source: SIGGRAPH 2004 Electronic Theater

It is not known if these are meant to represent specific women or if they are just architectural embellishments. The word Caryatid comes from karyatides meaning maidens of Karyai, an ancient town in the Peloponnese. The women were said to dance with baskets on their heads in honor of Artemis. Their placing also mimics the Panathenaic procession friezes that adorn the neighboring Parthenon.

Not only can the influence of the Caryatids be seen in architecture throughout history, but the intricate hairstyles have also been studied in detail. Most recently Professor Katherine Schwab at Fairfield University in Connecticut, USA copied the various hairstyles on six students in her Caryatid Hairstyling Project. A DVD was also created to allow people to create the styles at home.

Professor Schwab hair reconstruction. Source: The Independent, 2015.

A massive laser cleaning was done from 2011-2014 to clear and repair the years of pollution and dirt. State of the art technology was used. The precision lasering was done a centimeter at a time, ensuring the statues were protected and well taken care of.

Cleaning with lasers. Source: YouTube: Acropolis Museum, 2012

The six figures remained together and in situ until 1802 when Lord Elgin took one of the figures to display in the British Museum. The remaining five were moved to the Acropolis Museum in 1978 to prevent accruing more environmental damage. Replicas stand in their place today. Numerous attempts have been made to have the figure in the British Museum returned to Greece.

Caryatid at the British Museum. Source: JustCruisesPlus.com, 2013.

These controversies and the immense care labored on the caryatids shows how powerful these figures are three thousand years after their creation. They are a part of a world history and story that seems to only deepen and further intrigue.


Which of the six Caryatids braided her hair the fastest? Did they use tools for hair curling? Normally, research in archaeology does not involve practical research in a hair salon. But in the case of Katherine Schwab, expert in Greek and Roman art and archaeology and Professor of Visual and Performing Arts at Fairfield University in Connecticut, it did.

Ten years ago, while observing the Caryatids, she noticed something beyond their classical beauty, their graceful poses and their unique characteristics: their hairstyles! “Could we recreate these?” she asked an experienced hair stylist, pointing at photos of the 2,500-year-old marble sculptured fishtail braids on the six famous maidens, who, for centuries stood in place of columns on the south porch of the Erechtheion on the Acropolis.

Talking to me now, the professor explains that “this question led to an example of experimental archaeology.” She is referring to “The Caryatid Hairstyling Project,” first presented in 2009 and since then the subject of a documentary film screened at universities, museums, galleries and archaeological film festivals around the world.

Professor Katherine Schwab, expert in Greek and Roman art and archaeology Professor Katherine Schwab, expert in Greek and Roman art and archaeology The process of recreating the hairstyles on a real model The process of recreating the hairstyles on a real model

When was the first time you noticed that the Caryatids have interesting hairstyles?

In 2007, Fairfield University hosted the world premiere of the exhibition “The Creative Photograph in Archaeology,” organized by the Benaki Museum in Athens, which included several photographs of the Caryatids. I looked very closely at the photographs by the German photographer Gösta Hellner. The complexity of the braids and even the presence of the braids themselves were surprising, and I realized, too, that no two hairstyles were exactly alike. Each Caryatid or Kore did, however, have a thick fishtail braid. Currently, the fishtail is one of the most fashionable braids, and it always makes me wonder if people wearing it today understand its history or know that it is also worn by the Caryatids of the Athenian Acropolis,carved nearly 2,500 years ago.

The hairstyles I was looking at were remarkably well-preserved this is, in part, due to the Erechtheion’s south porch roofing, which afforded protection from the effects of air pollution and general weathering. The photographs by Hellner revealed crisp detail. As I looked at them, I wondered if we could recreate these ancient hairstyles.

I contacted Milexy Torres, a very talented and experienced hair stylist in my town. I showed her the photographs and she said she knew exactly what was going on and how these hairstyles were created. In Athens the Archivist at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (my research affiliation in Greece) brought to my attention a stunning photograph that has to date prior to 1907. The hairstyles of Kore A and Kore B in backview were in excellent condition with exquisite carving still quite visible.

What is the most amazing thing you found out about hair in the classical world?

Among the most remarkable things we discovered during this project is that hair really has significance. Hair can symbolize rites of passage, personal identity, status, cultural identity and much more. Research on these ancient hairstyles can lead in many directions and result in a wealth of information about the role hair did, and does, play in societies. The hairstyles worn by the ancient Caryatids, for instance, are unusual and seem to belong to an earlier tradition. This is probably why they would have been worn only for very special occasions. In part, these hairstyles linked these maidens to past traditions within Athenian society, forming a bridge across time and generations.

The entire project revealed how something such as hair can serve as a portal to a time and place that seems remote, and can bring an ancient era to life. Students who have seen the film are consistently surprised and excited by how this vehicle, if you will, can stimulate their curiosity and their desire to learn more about a culture and society. In this case, a unique hairstyle is the springboard, but one can use many other topics as well.

Did our Greek ancestors use hair extensions?

Such evidence has not been documented, to my knowledge. In contrast, extensions or braids have been found in Roman burials. In the case of the Caryatids, we need to keep in mind that the statues themselves are well over life-size and their function as columns supporting the roof requires a thickness at the neck (and therefore at the fishtail braid) to support the capital above their heads and the roof. If we were to scale down the figures to average female height, I think that the amount of hair becomes more understandable and naturally attainable. The Caryatids wear the fishtail braid down the back, two or three corkscrew curls from behind the ear resting on their chests, plus braids that wrap around their head to create a transition from the head to the capital directly above. It is this last set of braids that makes us wonder about the use of hair extensions.

The Caryatids wear a fishtail braid down their neck and braids coiled around their heads The Caryatids wear a fishtail braid down their neck and braids coiled around their heads The thickness of the statue's braids was meant to add strength to the slender necks The thickness of the statue's braids was meant to add strength to the slender necks

What about curling, or other tools? Did they dye their hair? Did they shampoo? What did they use and how often?

Tools for curling hair – this is usually among the first questions I’m asked when I give lectures on the project. Nearly all representations of females in ancient Greek art show hair with texture, from gentle waves to very curly hair. This kind of hair needs little guidance to form corkscrew curls when still damp after washing. A lock of hair can be wrapped around a simple tool, such as a slender smoothed stick. The stick can be slid out, while the curls stay in a coil lasting up to a few days. This low-tech approach is practical and easy to do, and I’ve learned that it is still used today in many areas of the world.

I’m not certain we really know what was used as shampoo, but something like a chamomile tea solution can do the job. Unless we have actual hair to test for chemical residue, I don’t know if we have been able to confirm evidence of hair dyeing. We do know that in ancient Rome, hair dyeing was practiced. To this end, it wouldn’t be surprising if some kind of coloring or tinting was done to the hair in Greece as well, but we really don’t have evidence to support this.

How did you find the models?

Ι started looking in my classes and in the Art History program. The key elements were length, thickness and, if possible, wavy or curly hair. And I found six students who had the best hair for the project.

Two corkscrew curls are also a feature of the Caryatids hairstyles Two corkscrew curls are also a feature of the Caryatids hairstyles The completed hairstyle recreated as closely as possible to that seen on the ancient statues The completed hairstyle recreated as closely as possible to that seen on the ancient statues

What kind of difficulties did you face?

Styling the hair proved to be really the easiest part, in that Milexy knew just what to do and was ready to do it. An unexpected heat wave, however, did present a challenge, particularly when our six models, with their hair styled, went outside to be filmed in the same arrangement as the original Caryatids. A couple of the students had straighter and heavier hair, which required hairspray to hold the curls in place. Once outside in the high heat, those curls started to disappear. In contrast, the curliest natural hair, belonging to the student model who was Kore C, responded to the heat by making smaller and tighter curls – the length of her fishtail braid kept shortening. The impact of the high heat on these hairstyles, a factor which we could not control, proved to be a good approximation of what might have been faced in Athens during the summertime in antiquity when maidens would have participated in outdoor religious festivals. I timed how long it took to style each model – the fastest, about 40 minutes, was for the student who was Kore B. Her hair was an ideal texture for the hairstyle, especially the fishtail braid. The models with straighter heavy hair required more time and applications of hairspray, and this lasted about 1½ hours per model.

You have also developed a new method of recording your observations of the east and north metopes of the Parthenon. Are you continuing your research in Athens?

I visit Athens every year, as I continue to work on drawings in the Acropolis Museum. Grayscale scans of my metope drawings are part of the installation in the Parthenon Gallery and to have them included is a great privilege for which I am very thankful. You can see them on the frames holding the east and the north metopes. My hope is that the drawings bring attention to the metopes which were originally highly visible in antiquity. The scans of my drawings, combined with the original metopes, engage the museum visitor in considering the original composition and what has been lost. Thanks to Professor Pantermalis, President of the Acropolis Museum, it’s possible for me to draw in the Parthenon Gallery for many hours each day during my research trips to Athens. Sometimes visitors come over and talk to me to ask what I’m working on and they become quite curious about the Parthenon’s sculptural program and the research conducted by archaeologists. They’re often rather surprised that research on the Parthenon never stops!


Caryatid Hairstyling Project

In ancient Athens, female hairstyle was a distinctive symbol of status worn by women of high social rank and affluence when they appeared in public settings such as religious festivals.

Sculptures with elaborate female hairstyles or coiffures, unveiled and on display in the sacred and prominent location of the ancient Athenian Acropolis, invite an analysis of the preserved hairstyles to determine whether or not the sculptors invented an artistic convention or used real hairstyles of the day.

The Caryatid Hairstyling Project , spearheaded by Dr. Katherine Schwab, was conducted at Fairfield University in April, 2009. The project tested the reality or fantasy of these hairstyles by engaging student volunteers as models while a professional hairstylist recreated the individual hairstyles of the Erechtheion marble Caryatids or maidens (korai), which stand in place of columns in the South Porch.

The result? Confirmation that the marble Caryatids were closely modeled after real women of the day!

Six Fairfield students pose in front of Bellarmine Hall on April 26, 2009. Their elaborate hairstyles replicate the ancient Caryatids from the South Porch of the Erechtheion, a temple on the Athenian Acropolis.

  1. View photos  of the hairstyling
  2. Learn more  about the Caryatids through our selected resources
  3. To purchase the DVD on this unique project as a learning tool for you, your school or institution, contact The Bellarmine Museum.
  4. View Upcoming and Past Events

The Caryatid Hairstyling Project Photos

The Caryatid Hairstyling Project and companion DVD have been generously funded by the Faculty Research Committee of Fairfield University, with additional support from the Classical Studies Program, the Art History Program, the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, and The Humanities Institute of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Past & Present Media/Events

Lectures, Poster Sessions, Publications, Exhibitions, Screenings and Presentations:

  • "Investigating the Surface: The Parthenon Metopes and Caryatid Hairstyles," Dartmouth College, September 27, 2016
  • "Classical Hairstyles: Identity, Society and Fashion," University of Arizona, April 5, 2016
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyles," The Brearley School, New York City, April 19, 2016
  • "Classical Hairstyles: Identity, Society and Fashion," Timken Museum of Art, May 5, 2016
  • "Classical Hairstyles: Identity and Fashion," Trinity College, March 7, 2016
  • "Classical Hairstyles: Identity and Fashion," Bucknell University, October 27, 2015
  • "The Meaning and Technique of Hair in Ancient Greek Art," ATINER, June 1, 2015
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyles,"The Brearley School, New York City, April 14, 2015
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyling Project," Fairfield University, March 30, 2015
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyles," The Marymount School, New York City, November 12, 2013
  • "How to Look Like a Greek Goddess", March 3, 2013, 2:00-3:30 p.m. at the Wilton Public Library for teens in grades 6-12.
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyles from the Athenian Acropolis: technique and meaning" Archaeological Associates of Greenwich, Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT, October 18, 2012 
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyling Project," ARTiria, Lefkada, Greece, June 9, 2012, screening 
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyles," The Brearley School, New York City, April 24, 2012
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyles," Kouros Gallery, New York City, April 17, 2012
  • "Investigating the Surface: Hairstyles of the Athenian Caryatids," Department of Classics, Amherst College, March 27, 2012
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyles: How to Braid Your Hair Like a Greek Goddess," Fairfield University Bookstore, February 15, 2012
  • "Typologies of the Caryatid Coiffures," poster session presentation, 114th Annual Meeting, Archaeological Institute of America, Philadelphia, January 6, 2012
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyles" A.G.A.P.W. (Association of Greek American Professional Women), World Bar, Trump World Tower, New York City, September 13, 2011
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyles," ESEDY (Greek Foreign Affairs Diplomats' Spouses Association), Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece, June 14, 2011
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyling Project and DVD Screening," Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan, April 23, 2011
  • "Investigating the Surface: the Parthenon Metopes and the Caryatid Hairstyles," co-sponsored by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the American Friends of the New Acropolis Museum, Greek Embassy, Washington, D.C., April 7, 2011
  • "The Athenian Acropolis: The Restoration Project and New Acropolis Museum," and screening of the Caryatid Hairstyling Project, Speaker Series, White Sands Residential Community, La Jolla, California, March 21, 2011
  • "The Caryatid Hairstyles: Reality and Meaning (or how to braid your hair like a Greek goddess)," Department of Art History and Art, Case Western Reserve University, February 8, 2011
  • "Gifts from Athens," AHEPA, New Britain chapter, January 25, 2011
  • "Investigating the Surface: the Parthenon Metopes and the Caryatid Hairstyles," Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, October 19, 2010
  • "Photographs of the Caryatid Hairstyling Project," Greek Consulate General in New York City, February 25-March 27, 2015
  • "Photographs of the Caryatid Hairstyling Project," Greek Embassy, Washington, D.C., April 30-June 26, 2015
  • "Hair in the Classical World," Fairfield University Art Museum, Fairfield University, October 7-December 18, 2015 
  • AGON Film Festival, Athens, Greece, November 8-9, 2014
  • Archaeological Film Festival, March 14, 2013. An Evening of Archaeological Films Organized by the Archives of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, AGON, and Fairfield University. Event will be live streamed beginning 10 a.m. EST. 
  • "Caryatid Hairstyling Project," 23rd International Festival of Archaeological Film, Trailer.
  • "Cinema and archaeology: the camera in search of the Past," Rovereto, Italy, October 1-6, 2012.
  • "Caryatid Hairstyling Project," AGON 2012 9th International Meeting of Archaeological Films on the Mediterranean and Beyond. Athens, May 7-13, 2012. View more details.
  • Katherine A. Schwab and Marice Rose, "Fishtail Braids and the Caryatid Hairstyling Project: Fashion Today and in Ancient Athens," Catwalk: The Journal of Fashion, Beauty and Style, vol. 4.2 (2015) 1-24.
  • Rose, M. and K. Schwab, Hair in the Classical World, exhibition brochure, Bellarmine Museum of Art, Fairfield University, Fall 2015

Photo Gallery

The Caryatid Hairstyling Project at Fairfield University in April 2009 tested the possibility of replicating the hairstyles and braiding techniques of the marble Caryatids (or maidens) from the South Porch of the Erechtheion on the Athenian Acropolis. 6 students (5 art history majors and 1 psychology major) were selected for the project on the basis of the length and thickness of their hair. They participated out of curiosity, then after the hairstyling, became enthralled by the direct connection they felt to the ancient Athenian culture.

Often hairstyles in ancient Greek art are elaborate and appear decorative. However, professional hairstylists today can readily recognize the technical virtuosity within these ancient designs. The Caryatids are individually referred to as Kore A - F (Kore is Greek for "maiden"). The elaborate hairstyles reflect a visual symbol connecting these maidens to the larger Athenian community. It is this connection that traveled through the ages to our current Fairfield students as they participated in this unique proect.

Kore D - Mara Giarratana Young '11

Kore E - Caitlin Parker '11

Kore F - Shannon Berger '11

Recommended Resources

  • Antoniadis, Costis, ed., 2008. The Creative Photograph in Archaeology. Athens, Benaki Museum.
  • Bartman, Elizabeth, 2001. "Hair and the Artifice of Roman Female Adornment," American Journal of Archaeology𧅩:1, 1-25.
  • Bartman, Elizabeth, 1999. Portraits of Livia. Imaging the Imperial Woman in Augustan Rome. Cambridge University Press.
  • Blomberg, Marilyn, 1985. "Five Greek Gold Earrings in the Medelhavsmuseet," Medelhavsmuseet Bulletin㺔, 53-62.
  • Harrison, Evelyn B, 1986. "Greek Scupltured Coiffures and Ritual Haircuts," Early Greek Cult Practice: Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium at the Swedish Institute at Athens, 26-29, June, 1986. Eds. R. Hagg, N. Marinatos, G.C. Nordquist, 247-254.
  • Hurwit, Jeffrey M., 2004. The Acropolis in the Age of Pericles. Cambridge University Press.
  • Lauter, Hans, 1976. Die Koren des Erechtheion. Antike Plastik㺐.
  • Lee, Mireille, 2000. "Deciphering Gender in Minoan Dress," in Alison Rautman, ed. Reading the Body: Representations and Remains in the Archaeological Record. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Lesk, Alexandra L. A Diachronic Examination of the Erechtheion and Its Reception. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Cincinnati, 2005.


Dr. Katherine Schwab and Dana Westrup '10 discuss the hairstylng project.
  • Lesk, Alexandra L. "’Caryatides probantur inter pauca operum’: Pliny, Vitruvius, and the Semiotics of the Erechtheion Maidens at Rome," Arethusa 40:1 (2007) 25-42.
  • Lewis, Sian, 2002. The Athenian Woman. Routledge.
  • Levine, Molly Myerowitz, 1995. "The Gendered Grammar of Ancient Mediterranean Hair," in Howard Eilberg-Schwartz and Wendy Doniger, eds. Off with Her Head: The Denial of Women's Identity in Myth, Religion, and Culture. Berkeley, 76-130.
  • Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd, 2003. Aphrodite's Tortoise: The Veiled Woman of Ancient Greece. Swansea.
  • Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd and Sue Blondell, eds. Women's Dress in the Ancient Greek World
  • Oakley, John and Rebecca Sinos, 1993. The Wedding in Ancient Athens. University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Papanikolaou, Alexander, 1994. "The Restoration of the Erechtheion," in Acropolis Restoration, ed. by Richard Economakis (London, Academy Editions) 136-49.
  • Rose, M. and K. Schwab, Hair in the Classical World, exhibition brochure, Bellamine Museum of Art, Fairfield University, Fall 2015.
  • Vlassopoulou, Christina, 2006. The Athenian Acropolis: The Monuments and the Museum. Athens.

View a three-minute clip of the DVD The Caryatid Hairstyling Project, produced by the Media Center of Fairfield University. To purchase a copy, contact the Fairfield University Art Museum at [email protected]

January 2017: "Untangling the Caryatid's Intricate Braids" Greece Is. January 4, 2017
December 2015: "Ancient Hairstyles of the Greco-Roman World" Ancient History Et Cetera. December 9, 2015.
December 2015: "Ancient Hairstyles Make a Statement" Greek News. December 7, 2015. (PDF)
September 2015: "Fairfield University and the Greek American Community" Greek News. September 21, 2015. (PDF)
May 2015: "The Rachel haircut of 2015? Hairdos of the Ancient Greeks brought to life," The Independent, May 26, 2015
May 2015: "How did they do that ‘do?" The Washington Post, May 22, 2015
March 2015: "Living Stone Maidens: The Caryatid Hairstyles Project," Greek News, March 8, 1 and 32 (PDF)
February 2015: "Caryatids Come Alive at Greek Consulate," The National Herald, February 28 – March 6, 2015, 4 (PDF)
Summer 2014:ق,500-Year-Old Greek Statues Sparkle After Facelift. National Geographic.
Spring 2013: The Blue Skirt. The Brearley Middle School Paper.
January 13, 2013: "Six Beautiful Maidens: The Korai of the Acropolis Museum." Online interview and article with Marianthi Milona, on National Public Radio of Germany. Listen online or read a transcript.
November, 7, 2012: "Grecian formula: Archeologist unravels the ancient hairdos of the Caryatid" in the Greenwich Citizen
Spring 2012: The Blue Skirt. The Brearley Middle School Newspaper
February 9, 2012: Interview with Bill Buschel on "Graffiti," for Hellenic Public Radio
April 17, 2011: Greek News
February, 2011: ARTnews article (PDF) and website
May-July, 2010: Wandering Educator, The National Herald
April 14, 2010: Front page of To Vima in Athens, Greece
April 8, 2010: Press release from Fairfield University

1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, Connecticut 06824
(203) 254-4000


The Glass Shaped Like Marie Antoinette's Anatomy

How do you drink your Champagne (we're hoping it's from a glass!) -- is it a Champagne flute or a Champagne coupe? Nowadays it seems the flute has become the preferred drinking vessel for sparkling wines, but it wasn't always that way. Before the flute arrived on the scene, the coupe was the go-to glass for Champagne. This petite bowl or saucer-shaped glass has a rather sordid origin. But even with its past, we think it's a glass worth looking out for -- and if you don't own any, you should consider buying a set (see our slideshow below).

Legend has it that the coupe glass was molded from Marie Antoinette's left breast, and that she wanted her court to toast her health by drinking from glasses shaped like her bosom. However, the truth is the glass was actually invented long before the reign of the queen, in 1663 in England. It was one of the first, if not the first, glasses invented specifically for drinking Champagne. So there goes that myth. However, there's more to this tale.

History does show that in fact, Marie Antoinette had porcelain bowls molded from her breast. They were designed for drinking milk as part of her "Pleasure Dairy" where the queen and her ladies-in-waiting would dress up as milkmaids and frolic, milking and churning butter all day in her rustically designed hamlet at Versailles. Called jattes tetons, each footed bowl had a nipple at its nadir and was supported by three decorative goat heads (the four original bowls still exist in the Musée National de Céramique de Sèvres in Paris). At the time they were designed, the queen was very much into a back-to-nature philosophy. Her actions helped convince noblewomen breast-feed their babies instead of relying on wet nurses (that fact just makes the bowls seem even stranger!).

So, if we take this into account, it seems like someone must have confused the history of the Champagne coupe glass with the actuality of the milk bowls. But other women in history, including Madam du Pompadour, Madame du Barry, Empress Josephine (Napolean's wife), Diane de Poitiers, Helen of Troy and photographer Lee Miller have all been thought to have inspired breast-shaped glasses. (In 2008 Dom Perignon revealed a glass designed after model Claudia Schiffer's bosom.) So Marie Antoinette's was not the one and only bosom to be equated with the coupe glass, but no one knows for sure what shape actually inspired the inventor of the glass. Anyway it never was the right glass for sparkling wine -- the bubbles dissipate much too quickly with all that surface area leaving us with only the option of chugging or risking the Champagne going flat. But supposedly Champagne wasn't always as fizzy as it is now.

No matter who inspired the coupe glass, it's safe to say its infamy keeps it popular to this day. Especially in the 1930s prohibition-era and in the 1960s, the coupe glass reigned as the choice for sparkling wine even if its design wasn't ideal. With TV shows like "Mad Men" and "Boardwalk Empire," old-fashioned drinks and drinking glasses have been making a comeback. Just stop by any trendy bar in New York City (or any other metropolis) and you'll find cocktails served in the coupe glass. Though the Martini glass with its conical shape has been the choice cocktail glass for quite some time, the coupe is now preferred because it's easier to hold and maneuver without sloshing your beverage everywhere. Its petite size and rounded design is perfect for holding a drink even when you're tipsy. The bottom line is we don't care if it's shaped like a breast -- we just like drinking from it!

What do you think of the coupe glass? Let us know below.


CARYATID by Jessica Ziakin Cook

  • />Porch of the Caryatids iii, 14吇, graphite and ink on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids iv, 10吉.5, graphite and ink on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids v, 6࡭, ink on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids vi, 14吇, graphite and ink on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids vii, 8࡬.5, graphite and ink on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids viii, 9࡭.5, graphite and ink on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids ix, 14吇, ink on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids x, 11吊, graphite, ink and chalk on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids xi, 10.5吋, graphite and ink on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids xii, 10吋, graphite, ink and chalk on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids xiii, 7吆, graphite and ink on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids xiv, 14吇, graphite and chalk on paper
  • />Porch of the Caryatids ii, 22吚, graphite on paper
  • />Athena Supporting Atlas, 11吊, graphite and ink on paper
  • />Waterbearers, 14吇, graphite on paper
  • Nike of Samothrace i, 15 x13.5 (irregular), graphite and ink on paper
  • />Nike of Samothrace ii, 28吇 (diptych), ink on paper
  • />Nike of Samothrace iii, 14吇, chalk and ink on paper
  • />Nike of Samothrace iv, 11吘 (diptych), ink on paper, J. Z. Cook

Thank you for viewing CARYATID, a digital exhibition by Jessica Ziakin Cook. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Please stay tuned for new exhibitions coming soon.


Caryatid(e)

caryatid(e) (pl. caryatid(e)s). Carved, draped, straight, standing female figure (cora), supporting on its head an astragal (enriched with bead-and-reel), ovolo (enriched with egg-and-dart), and square abacus, used as a substitute for a column, and supporting an entablature. The best-known example of the use of caryatids in Greek Antiquity was the south porch of the Erechtheion, Athens (c.421� bc), where six figures supported the roof. A similar draped female figure with a basket-like form over the head instead of the astragal-ovolo-abacus capital arrangement is a canephora (pl. canephorae). See atlas, herm, persian, telamon, term.

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House Appeal

Art and architecture. A Caryatid in architecture is described as “A stone carving of a draped female figure, used as a pillar to support the entablature of a Greek or Greek-style building”. Taking the place of a column or pillar, the Greek term Karyatides is literally said to mean “Maidens of Karyai”, an ancient town of Peloponnese in which a temple was dedicated to a goddess known as Artemis. Mythology paired with architecture, indeed.


“As Karyatis, she rejoiced in the dances of the nut-tree village of Karyai, those Karyatides, who in their ecstatic round-dance carried on their heads baskets of live reeds, as if they were dancing plants”
-Unknown

Caryatids In Ancient Architecture

Since ancient times buildings have been designed with female figures as supporting columns. Sculpture fitted to a structure. Some of the earliest known examples date from around the 6th century BC in Greece at the treasuries of Delphi. The use of these draped female figures used as architectural supports can certainly be traced back to Greek antiquity. Alas, the bulky yet intricately arranged hairstyles served the crucial purpose of providing key structural support to their necks, which would otherwise be the structurally weakest part of the figure. Of note, a Caryatid supporting a basket on her head is called a canephora (“basket-bearer”). Form and function, indeed…

Ancient Form: The Caryatid Of The Erechtheion

The most iconic and perhaps most-copied Caryatid examples are the carved six figures of the Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion (409 BC) referred to as ‘The Venerable Temple’ on the Acropolis of Athens, Greece. Of note, the originals have been replaced onsite by replicas, but the original ancient forms of stately pose are on exhibit within the Acropolis Museum with one removed during the early 19th century, residing in England’s British Museum in London. Ancient history preserved. Of additional interest, these six Caryatids are not identical. Rather, although they are the same in build and height and similar in attire and coiffed hair, their faces, stance, the draping of fabric and hair are said to have been carved separately. Interesting. In addition, three of the caryatids stand on their right foot and the other three stand on their left foot. Architectural differences of distinction. Of course, the Romans would copy these Erechtheion caryatids, installing their own copies in the Forum of Augustus and in the Pantheon in Rome, among other great structures. Great architecture will always be revered.

These draped figures of stone, often supporting acanthus baskets, visually hold the weight of architecture above them and enduringly offer a tribute to the female form and the link to the ancient past. Perhaps one can view these figures a symbol of strength and beauty. For certain, the implications of these figures and their representations in ancient times can take on a deeper role. Perhaps the search for meaning of sculpture and architecture as a united force of art can offer many interpretations. These load-bearing forms of the structures are an art form that will endure to inspire. For the purpose of appreciation of the beauty of the architecture and the form itself of these female figures, a mere collection of images, sourced from the world wide web, will hopefully bring further appreciation to the timeless form of architectural beauty….

Architectural Supports Of Ancient Distinction: Caryatids Draped Figures Of Ancient Appeal: Caryatid Architectural Form & Function Of The Female Form Caryatids: Elements Of History & Form Form & Function Of Ancient Architectural Beauty: Caryatids Architectural Supports Of Distinction: Caryatids Art & Architecture: Caryatids Caryatids: The Female Form Of Enduring Appeal Architectural Interpretations Of Ancient Form: Caryatids Emblems Of Beauty & Strength: Caryatids In Architecture Caryatids In Architecture: Form & Function Architectural Delights: Caryatids Within Architecture Female Form: Representations Of Caryatids In The Garden Ancient Forms Enduring In Architectural Appeal: Caryatids Caryatids Of Diverse Form & Function Caryatids/Macy’s/New York/ 34th Street

And of the statuesque figures of female form that are found within the interior? Certain resemblances and links to ancient past, for certain. Appreciation of the artistic representation of historic significance, indeed.

In Early Modern times, the practice of integrating caryatids into building facades was revived. The world of Art Deco architecture would certainly embrace the forms of antiquity. Within interiors these forms of sculpture would begin to be included as new features of building structures and within the world of interior decoration. For certain, the beauty of the female figure in architecture holds enduring allure to the world that surrounds which continually changes and evolves. Appreciation…

Female Caryatid Representations: Statues Within The Interior

My appreciation of the beauty of the architectural details of the beautiful form of antiquity is not new. Carved and sculpted details of architectural wonder. Yet of my renewed and focussed appreciation, perhaps the urge to visually share came by way of an unexpected surprise. And it all started with a statue…

Female Form Of Greek Mythology: Aphrodite

On a whim I stopped into a local antique store when I suddenly spotted her. It was immediate that I was drawn to the ancient emblem of antiquity and classic form. Found amidst other elements of the past, I simply had to acquire. An alabaster figure that now graces my dresser and stands boldly and beautifully among my personal accessories of fashion and fragrances that layer. Perhaps as a reminder of the beauty of the past and an appreciation of the enduring appeal of the figure of the woman

Representation Of Ancient Appeal: A Caryatid Within My Interior…

Within the history of fashion and the arts, the iconic architectural sculptures of antiquity have certainly been an inspiration of timeless appeal…

Caryatids & Modern Dance Icon Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) Christian Dior/1951 Models & Caryatids: Fashion’s Form & Function Fashionable Representations Of The Caryatid Form

Consider with appreciation the forms of antiquity that grace the structures that fill our world. Look closer and appreciate the ancient past that carries with it an enduring visual acknowledgement of form and function. Whether carved in the round or in relief or frieze or crowning a pediment with grace, there is beauty to be found within the past world that carries with it into our future an enduring emblem of the past

“Now here we have another emotional symbol… for almost three thousand years or longer, architects have designed buildings with columns shaped as female figures… After all those centuries it took Rodin to see that this was work too heavy for a girl… Here is this poor little caryatid who has tried — and failed, fallen under the load…. She didn’t give up, Ben she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her…”
-Robert Heinlein (1907-1988)”Stranger in a Strange Land”

“…Like a caryatid on vacation. He was supporting nothing but his daydreams”
-Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Female Forms Of Caryatid Representation


Archaeologists have unearthed two sculpted female figures, known as Caryatids, as they slowly make their way into an ancient tomb recently discovered in Greece's northeast, the country's culture ministry said on Sunday. They mark a significant new finding in the tomb on the Amphipolis site, which archaeologists have hailed as a major discovery from the era of Alexander the Great.

The ministry said the Caryatids, with thick curls covering their shoulders, support an inner entrance into a tomb chamber. They feature the same sculpting technique used for the heads and wings of two sphinxes found guarding the main entrance of the tomb in August. "The structure of the second entrance with the Caryatids is an important finding, which supports the view that it is a prominent monument of great importance," the ministry said.


Caryatid

Caryatid is the name given to an architectural column which takes the form of a standing female figure. The first examples come from ancient Greek architecture and indeed, the most celebrated examples are found in the south porch of the Erechtheion on the acropolis of Athens.

Naming & Origins

The term Caryatid first appears in the 4th century BCE and was coined by Vitruvius in reference to Karyai in Laconia where women often danced balancing a basket on their heads in honour of Artemis and where Caryatids were used in Archaic architecture. They were an evolution of the earlier korai statues of both male and female figures prevalent throughout the Archaic period and used as columns in Ionian architecture. These were themselves an evolution of Persian columns which often employed animal figures within the column design.

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Archaic Caryatids were usually used in the porches of Treasury buildings which were built to house offerings from specific states at religious sanctuaries such as Delphi and Olympia. The most important treasury at Delphi was from the Siphnians (c. 525 BCE) and this and at least two other treasuries had Caryatids. Caryatids of this period often have a short column drum above the head in order to facilitate the join with the column capital.

The Erechtheion

The most famous Caryatids are the six which support the roof of the false south porch of the Erechtheion on the Athenian acropolis. This building was constructed between 421 and 406 BCE as part of Pericles' great project to rejuvenate the architecture of the great city. The Erechtheion was built to house the ancient wooden cult statue of Athena but also served as a centre for the cults of Erechtheus (a mythical king of Athens), his brother Boutes, Hephaistos and Poseidon. The Caryatids display features which would become staple elements of Classical sculpture: clothes which cling to the body (the 'wet look') and a bold and more dynamic positioning of the hips and legs. Although each Caryatid wears the same robe - a belted Doric peplos and short himation - each is uniquely rendered, a feature particularly noticeable in their intricate plaited hairstyles (best seen from the rear). The arms of the figures have unfortunately been lost but Roman copies show them holding in their right hands phialai - shallow vessels for pouring libations - whilst their left hand raised slightly their robe. Scholars believe them to be carved by different artists, most probably from the workshop of Alcamenes, student and colleague of Phidias.

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Interestingly, the porch of the Erechtheion stands over what was believed to be the tomb of the mythical king Kekrops and perhaps the Caryatids and their libation vessels are a tribute to this fact - libations were poured into the ground as an offering to the dead. The Caryatids now on the acropolis are copies, five of the originals reside in the Acropolis Museum of Athens and the other is in the British Museum, London.


Watch the video: The Erechtheion (August 2022).