The adoption of pictorial imagery in Minoan wall painting: a comparativist perspective
The American School of Classical Studies at Athens
27 - 46
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Charis: essays in honor of Sara A. Immerwahr
A striking feature of Minoan wall paintings is the sudden adoption of pictorial imagery in the Neopalatial period. This change calls for an explanation, but so far, that explanation has proved elusive. Those specialists in Aegean frescoes who have addressed this problem have focused on the possible artistic antecedents or on the functions of the mural imagery, notably its putative religious and decorative purposes, but have not considered the circumstances that gave rise to such imagery in the first place. This paper will explore these issues of origins and functions, with particular attention paid to Knossos. The explanation proposed here, with the help of three cross-cultural comparisons, is that pictorial imagery in Minoan wall painting resulted from the major political change that marked the transition from the Protopalatial to Neopalatial periods on Crete: the consolidation of island-wide power in Knossos, in the hands not of an auto- crat, but of an oligarchic or theocratic regime. Pictorial imagery, at least in Neopalatial Crete, is not only an artistic preference, but also an ideological choice, an expression of particular political, social, and religious conditions.