Greek Sculpture: Draped Female

Beware this essay is long…..


“ Humanity, the measure of all things, a phrase that encompasses the Greek philosophy, spirituality and a phrase which set the grass roots principles for the western culture. In other words, the Greeks valued their citizens, in which their view of humanity being “the measure of all things,” led them to create this concept of democracy. Moreover, this worldview led them to make significance advances in politics, sciences, literature, and most importantly art. However, what is most significant to note about the Greeks view of humanity, was that women played little to no role in public or political life. Women usually remained isolated emerging only for important events. In fact, only a few known women artists’ names are known, however none of their work survived. Consequently this exclusion of women is shown in Greek art.

In addition, the Greeks view of humanity, revealed itself in the religion aspects of Greek civilization. Like the Egyptians, Greeks had this believeth in Gods, however Goddesses also, which made the Greek religion and philosophy distinct from all others. Greek gods and goddesses were depicted as humans by the Greeks, and humans were often depicted as gods and goddesses themselves, however later in Roman Art. The Greeks valued their citizens so much that at times they were put almost at the stature with the Gods. The Greeks made contributions of art in pottery, architecture, painting, and famously sculpture. In fact, Greek Gods and Goddesses were often subjects of sculpture, However no original Greek sculptures have survived. Many God and Goddess sculptures could be identified by what they were a God of, or by what they wore or looked like. But what remains a mystery as of today, is what Goddess is the ‘Draped Female Figure’ or if she is even a Goddess at all. The statue of the ‘Draped Female Figure’ now lives in the Detroit Institute of Arts, however without proper identification, culture, or time period. The lost or unsure information is what fascinates me the most about her. Within this paper I will address the theories behind the identification about the draped female, and conclude with my own theories about who she may be, and from what culture and time period she may have derived. In addition, I will compare it to the mixing vessel from Greek culture from the 4th century.

There have been numerous amounts of headless Greco-Roman statues found over the years. However the time period and culture of many have been found. However this draped female figure has art historians and researchers baffled. This has left the woman with only mere theories, in the DIA museum for some time now.

This draped female is very beautiful. She has only one arm and no head. She is a rather large scaled female well above the average height of any human. Her body is draped with a toga that slightly hangs from her waist, while one end looks to have been draped over her arm. The drapery of her clothing fits shapely to her body where one is able to see the shape and form of her bottom and her chest. The drapery of her clothing gives the appearance of transparency because the visibility of her breast and naval are clearly visible. What is most significant about these characteristics is that these types of styles were present not only in Greek sculpture but roman as well. Many sculptures and reliefs of Gods and individuals were draped in togas such as the Female personification panel (7-30) from Roman art and ‘Nike adjusting her sandal’ (5-56) from the Greek classical period. That was the common wear from the two periods. What is most striking is this statues similarity to the goddess Nike of victory. The Goddess of Nike from the Hellenistic period shows the Goddess descending upon a warship, in motion and her drapery also gives the look of transparency. You can see also her breast and naval clearly just as the draped female figure. The way the drapery fell naturalistically to the body of sculptures was very common in the Hellenistic period. During the Hellenistic period sculptures investigated new subjects ones in which were not typical of the period. Artist began creating sculptures that were not just in an environment but interacted with the environment in which they were in.

In addition, this draped female body has a sort of serene, calm feel about her, her body looks excellently fleshed out. She has a rather young, slightly built body; this style was very similar in Greek sculptures, who were obsessed with creating these perfectly portioned bodies. This sculpture also has a doryphorus spear bearer look about it as well. In other words the artist Polykleitos “sought to portray the perfect man and to impose order on human movement.” (110) his goal was a success and his statue shows this shifting of weight, how humans actually stand putting more weight on one leg. This draped female has a pose or movement where one leg and knee is slightly forward which causes her shoulders to shift slightly down. The way that the shoulders are positioned and how her left arm is positioned she looks as if she could have held something at one point. The context behind this sculpture is hard to determine because it has many similarities to Greek and Roman sculptures.

Art historian Lynn McGlade believed the draped female to be Calliope the Greek muse of epic poetry. McGlade made her assumptions based upon the look and position of the draped females shoulders, and arm. She theorized that this female could have once held a writing tablet, similar to one seen in the portrait of a husband and wife wall painting from the house Pompeii. This is quite possible, this draped female figure does share similarities to other depictions of the muse of poetry. Also this is possible because the muse Calliope has been depicted as holding a writing tablet, a stylus, and a scroll. In older works of art she has been shown holding a lyre such as on a vase from the classical period, which dates between 460-450 B.C. however the draped female figure is believed to be from between 200 B.C-200 C.E, so it is possible this statue is from an early depiction of Calliope. However this theory has not been proven.

Recently, in 2001 art historian Molly Linder, theorized that the draped female figure was a  Roman empress dressed as the Goddess Juno. This theory is very possible, often emperors during the Roman Empire would commission there to be portraits, sculptures, and such of them to be made. This was a way that emperors represented their authority over the empire. However these portraits of themselves would be in the form of Greek Gods and Goddesses or as other emperors.

Although many theories of who this draped female figure is none have been proven, and who this draped women is has been left unknown.

Although many art historians have different theories about she may be, I believe she could be a Roman copy of a Greek Original of the Goddess of Juno, or a empress dressed as the Goddess of Juno, created sometime around 200 C.E. there were many empresses that had portraits of them made in which they were represented as Goddesses. For example, empress Livia, wife of Emperor Augustus, portraits often displayed her as the Goddess of Juno. In comparison often the Goddess of Juno is displayed holding a patera, and a scepter, in Barberini Juno, Vatican Rome. These features are very similar to the draped female figure. For example, the draped female figure looks to have shoulders that are slightly angled. Meaning one shoulder is slightly up and the other slightly down. These characteristics suggest that she could have held a scepter, that the Goddess of Juno is often depicted as holding.

In comparison, the way that he drapery falls over her looks very similar to the Vatican Roman copy of Berberini, Juno. The fabric has that same transparency look to it, where the breasts and naval are clearly shown through the fabric. In addition the way that the drapery falls over the waist shares similarities to the Goddess of Juno. In conclusion, this draped female figure could possibly be not an Empress dressed as the Goddess Juno, but a Roman copy of the Goddess Juno copied from a Greek original. It could be possible that the Goddess Juno of marriage was created during the Roman Empire to suggest to the citizens of the Roman Empire that marriage was good.

What also affirms that this could be a copy of a Greek Original is where the statue is located in the museum. The draped female is located in the Greco-Roman area right next to four different types of Greek pots. These Greek pots such as the mixing vessel (krater) are also copies of original Greek pots. This vessel is accredited to Christie painter, and is a black-red figure pot. On the pottery are many painted figures, which are representations of Greek Gods. The draperies of these figures are very similar to the drapery of our unknown draped.

In conclusion it is very possible that although no theories have been proven true about the identification of which the draped female figure is, she could very well be a Roman copy of a Greek original of the Goddess Juno, or a Roman empress dressed as the Goddess Juno.


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