This is an essay that introduces a new perspective to us to decode ancient visual arts. The author reminds us that there are other ways of decoding visual figures alongside the “Bagley method” so we need to undermine stereotypes in our minds in appreciating ancient Greek vases. Let’s first talk about “Beagle’s method”. The basic principles of this approach are that we can distinguish the artists through their stylistic skills on the vases.
The author thinks, as she states in the essay, that although Beagle’s method is a mandarin in his time and still of great importance nowadays, it is not the only way we decode Greek vases. On the other hand, Dry. Robertson also noted that We should not throw baby Out with the bathwater as some Of Beagle’s critics did. So in her argument, the best way to adopt this approach is to absorb the essence and get rid of the dregs.
She also argued that the “visual symbols”?the figures and episodes on the vases in this essay?definitely have different meanings to the various viewers who are from diverse cultures or have unique educational backgrounds. Furthermore, the author pointed out that Greek artists, unlike their later Renaissance companions, are almost anonymous. So, in the author’s opinion, what Bagley had done?assign each potter or painter a nickname?is actually leading us to a different way, a way that uses his own modern culture to decipher the ancient Greek culture.
In the middle of the “Questions to ask” part, the author suggests that we can shift our minds from the artists perspective to the viewer’s perspective. It’s a prominent essay because the author puts up a new standpoint rather than adopting the old canon. She first talks about the Parisian example, which is familiar to all of us, to introduce her argument. Its really an interesting one with which to start. However, her weaknesses are obvious too. First, I think it is maybe a little confusing for undergraduate students because the author didn’t provide much background about how ancient Greek society looks or what Greek myths talk about. Hint it is more suitable for those emerging scholars who have already known something about Greeks. Second, the first part?the theoretical part?is too tedious, from my point of view. It is a little Orrin to repeat one thing. It would be perfect if the author would balance the excellent analyses, which are in the latter part of the essay, with her theory. Moreover, the author herself has stereotypes that even she does not realize. Why does she only talk about wives and hetaeras?
Are there only two functions of women in the Greek society? Why does the author accept the theories about the functions of women in the ancient Greek society without question and use these theories when deciphering the images? Why does the author not incorporate more cultures into her analysis since she realizes that averse people from different cultures may have unique interpretations about the same artwork? Before answering these questions, I want to talk more about the stereotype that the author mentions in her article first.
Cultures, as well as stereotypes, are like lives. They grow as time goes by; they interact with people in society; they change dynamically. As is known to all, the Greeks absorbed many other sources of culture and then recreated their own beliefs with their intelligence. So it is insufficient to just interpret these Greek artworks from the western perspective. From my own experience and reading, taking Figure 9 as an example, the nude women presented here are an example of evidence that the author does not destroy the stereotype.
The two women can be lesbian lovers enjoying activities which might be prelude to, I imagine, sexual activity; or the woman on the right side of the vase may be a female who takes charge of the woman on the left side, and she was just humiliating the other girl. If the possibility mentioned above is valid, we cannot easily conclude that these two women could either be wives or hetaeras. Besides, how can we simply lid up a wall between a wife and a courtesan? If a young man falls in love with a courtesan, he can marry her and she becomes a wife!
That actually happened in ancient Eastern culture. What’s more, we know that there are other roles, like priestess, in ancient Greek. We cannot say that these different roles do not exist because we have not discovered them yet. From another aspect, the author points out that we cannot differentiate daily life of ordinary people with that of Greek gods who live in Olympic pantheon. The Greek paintings, as well as the statues, are all highly idealized images: hey may be life that what the Greeks want to be instead of the real life of them.
We all want to be praised by our descendants, right? For the Greeks, its a paradox that they prefer the stringent male control of women, on the one hand, but on the other hand still wrote pyramids of books and theories about the functions of women in society. Maybe the Greek males have complicated feelings for the “role” of women, in my opinion. Because women are powerful in some extent: they give birth to babies; they can read and write; they have talent for creating poems and arts; they can even fight with men!