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Altars and Their Architectural Contexts

Cheng, Julianne (2016)
Master's Thesis (123 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Wescoat, Bonna D
Committee Members: Gaunt, Jasper ; Varner, Eric ; Cronan, Todd S
Research Fields: Art history; Classical studies
Keywords: altar; attic pottery; vase painting; greek pottery
Program: Laney Graduate School, Art History
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Ancient Greek sacred actions centered on the outdoor altar. From the sixth century into the fifth century B.C., representations of altars by Athenian vase painters proliferated on vases of all shapes and in a variety of narrative contexts. This study elucidates the correlation between the images of altars produced in Attic vase painting and the archaeological evidence for actual altars in Attica. The majority of illustrated altars show a block structure with volute barriers, often adorned with decorative ornamentation, but there are a significant variety of additional types. Examining over 600 vases with representations of altars recorded in the Beazley Archive Pottery Database, this study determines the types of painted altars and their patterns of scale and ornamentation. A comparative approach reveals the degree to which physical altars influenced the scale, ornamentation and shape of painted versions. The evidence demonstrates that while vase painters in Athens worked mainly within the parameters of an internal artistic tradition, a select group of artists carefully observed and incorporated elements and forms of contemporary altars found in their physical surroundings. Illustrating unusual decorative devices, including figural sculpture, inscriptions, or exceptionally articulated architectural molding, these vase painters shed light on the innovative circles of artistic production.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction, 1

Previous Studies on Representations of Architecture and Altars on Attic Vases, 2

Religious Rituals and Their Representations, 7

Archaeology of Altars in Attica, 11

Archaeology of Altars beyond Attica, 16

Altar Types on Attic Vases, 17

Altar Scale and Ornamentation, 29

Conclusion, 38

Bibliography, 40

Figures, 43

Catalogue, 52


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