Orientalizing Greek

Orientalizing Greek art (ca. 720-590 B.C.) flourished during the 7th century B.C., however its presence in Greece extended from the last years of the 8th century until early part of the 6th century B.C. In the western Mediterranean the Etruscans also passed through an Orientalizing period at approximately the same time. During this period a dramatic increase in Greek international trade resulted in cultural contacts being formed between mainland Greece and the Near East and Egypt. These contacts led to the development of a Greek artistic style that was heavily influenced by the iconography and decorative motifs of those regions. This was also a period when easily discernible Greek religious and mythological themes were represented in Greek vase painting and metalwork, and artists developed entire figured scenes, which may have been influenced by the oriental tradition of narrative art. One of the most important consequences of contact with the east was the development of a written language in the newly invented the Greek alphabet, which was based on that of the Phoenicians. The Orientalizing period adopted eastern floral motifs such as the lotus, palmette, and rosette, and mythological beasts like the sphinx, griffin, siren, and the Chimaera (a composite animal having the body of a lion with the head of a goat on its back and a snake for a tail). Representations of natural fauna included lions, bovines, boars, wild goats, dogs, hens, and roosters. Engraved and embossed bronze metalwork, richly embroidered textiles, carved ivory, seal-stones, and other objects bearing eastern images were imported into Greece and inspired its artists to incorporate a visual “Orientalizing revolution” into their work. Orientalizing Greek pottery is often decorated with horizontal bands of animals bordered by floral designs, and the novel metal cauldrons and metal vessels produced during this period are often ringed by friezes of mythical beasts. With the inclusion of foreign motifs and techniques, the art of the Orientalizing period is as unusual as it is lively, particularly when compared with previous iconography of the Geometric period.