Dress and Nuptial Imagery in Athenian Vase-Painting

Gondek, Renee Marie, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Smith, Tyler Jo, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Dobbins, John, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Barolsky, Paul, Department of Art, University of Virginia
Clay, Jenny, Department of Classics

This study questions how Athenian vase-painters represented nuptial figures during the sixth and fifth centuries BC. Using Athenian black-figure, red-figure, and white-ground vessels as the primary form of evidence, the study endeavors to uncover how costume can affect the identity of an individual. Looking at dress, gestures, and attributes, the approach is iconographic and synthesizes gender and dress theories. The importance of dress for women, and brides in particular, was often stressed by ancient authors, thus literary evidence is also taken into consideration. Although studies have been published regarding the ritual of marriage, the current one departs from them by including adornment and physical appearance as a form of evidence since dress often enhances, reinforces, or enforces a certain cultural identity. Illustrations of ancient Greek weddings can be found on a variety of vase shapes, and the accompanying catalogue includes over 300 examples. The first chapters are organized by theme, figural types (e.g., groom, bride, attendants, etc.), and dress, and one is devoted to adornment representations in domestic settings. Since mythological figures have been identified through inscriptions, these scenes and how they compare to the weddings of unidentifiable couples are examined. Based upon the evidence, there appears to be no attempt through costume to distinguish either 'mortal' or 'mythological' individuals. As a result of this conclusion on dress along with the formulaic composition of black-figure wedding processions in general, one can argue that the bride and groom are not presented as mortals but as idealized, mythological figures taking part in a heroic procession. Since marital imagery includes scenes of death and evidence for associating these rites can be found in literary and visual sources, these representations are presented. While mythical figures, such as Persephone or certain characters in tragedy, actually wed in Hades, their portrayals in vase-painting as brides and grooms of death are few. The phenomenon of marrying in the Underworld can best be discovered through pottery since nuptial vessels are found as burnt offerings and/or grave markers. Additionally, the idealization of the dead in prothesis imagery demonstrates the vase-painter's attempt to depict these figures as brides and grooms.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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