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by Archaeology Newsroom

Wall painting in Mycenaean Greece

The art of painting originated in Minoan Crete and spread from there to mainland Greece. Aegean wall paintings are akin to the so-called fresco, a secco technique. Some artistic conventions are characteristic. The drawing is two-dimensional, figures are without plastic volume with a frontal eye even if the face is shown in profile, absence of ground line, men are painted in red and women in white.

The oldest Mycenaean paintings belong to the 14th century BC but most date back to the 13th century. Many subjects are Minoan- like processions, gatherings, bull-fights but some are typical of mainland art like the heraldic animals and the hunting and battle scenes. These subjects are common to all Mycenaean palaces where they are repeated with some monotony.

Mycenaean paintings have bright colours and are powerful decorative compositions even though the figures are often static and rigid. But besides that of being decorative the paintings of the palaces may have another function to show the luxury of the royal court, the royal hunts and battles as well as important religious ceremonies. In fact, it is most probable that there existed a specific program in the decoration of a palace. From this point of view the paintings of the palace of Pylos are very enlightening as they constitute a homogeneous entity, safely dated. Through the wall paintings we can eventually understand some aspects of Mycenaean life, its conservatism and important hierarchical organisation. Even though some Mycenaean – and also Theran – frescoes show a strong narrative character no person or event can be historically identified.