Kariatides on the Akropolis

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Ionic columns and the girls of the Erechteion
(update: December 14th 2012)

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Ionic columns and the girls of the Erechteion

The Ionic architectural style (order) has developed in the 7th century B.C. in Ionia (Asia Minor) and has spread from there all over Greece. It is less severe and consequent than the Dorian order, more graceful and playful and more aimed at decorative effects. Building elements are less closely connected and speak more for themselves. Columns become more detached from their basis and from the pillar heads. They are slimmer and more graceful than the Dorian ones. The Ionian column lends itself very well for encompassing statues and for decorative purposes. The explicit Greek sense for the organic made them feel columns even as something being alive. It seems logical that the Dorian column is compared to the male figure and the Ionic column with the female figure. They went even a step further and replaced the Ionic column by a female figure. The Karyatides, or the young girls of the Erechteion , the so called Korai - girls or virgins - stand unconstrained, one knee bended a little, carrying the enormous weight, their hair inconspicuously going over in the column head. They stem from about 410 B.C. and from the Southtern Hall of the Erechteion, on the Acropolis in Athens. Legend has it that the Erechteion contains he grave of Cecrops, the first king of Athens and founder of the Acropolis.

Caryatid in British Museum
One original Caryatid in the British Museum

One original Karyatide stands now in The British Museum. It came to the United Kingdom around 1800 as part of the so called Elgin Marbles (read Cook, 2002), many sculptures from the Acropolis, "acquired" at that time by Lord Elgin , a British diplomat in Constantinopel, and an art collector (read Anker) and shipped to his country. In 1816 they were acquired from him by the British Museum. In the place of the original a replica was placed at the Erechteion.  

Lord Elgin
Lord Elgin (from Cook, 2002, p.5)
click for enlargement

Karyatiden in het Acropolis Museum

5 original Caryatids in the Acropolis Museum

In order to protect the other original 5 Karyatides from decay by environmental influences, the originals are kept in the Acropolis Museum (on the Acropolis).

Outside thus stand 6 copies of the originals.


Caryatid come home

Greece wants the sixth to come home as well.

In St. Pancras Church, near Euston station, London, 2 complete replica's of the entire Karyatiden Hall were built around 1820 by the architect Inwood. An example of the fascination of the early 19th century architecture with ancient Greek architectural style.


Anker, Jan-Willem (2012), Een beschaafde man, Utrecht / A'dam / Antwerpen: Uitgeverij De Arbeiderspers, ISBN 9 789029 583220. Het waar gebeurde verhaal van de man (Lord Elgin) die Griekenland van zijn kunstschtten beroofde. Een spannend geschreven geromantiseerde geschiedschrijving.  

Boardman, J. Griekse Kunst, Den Haag: W. Gaade, 1966;
Original title: Greek Art, copyright by Thames and Hudson, Nederlandse vertaling door Y.C. van Oss; 286 pages with more than 300 illustrations in black and in colour.

Cook, B.F. ( 2002), The Elgin Marbles, First published in 1984, reprint of the 2nd edition, London: The British Museum, 96 p. in full colour, ISBN 0-7141-2134-7.

Grote Spectrum Encyclopedie, deel 2: Utrecht, Uitgeverij Het Spectrum, 1980.

Hokwerda, H., Literature Department, University of Groningen, The Netherlands, personal communication, May 2002.

Tsakos, Konstantinos (2000), The Acropolis, Athens: HESPEROS Editions, ISBN 960-86364-3-4, 112 p. in full colour.

Zadoks-Josephus Jitta, A.N., Antieke Cultuur in Beeld, uitg. van Dishoeck, Bussum, The Netherlands,1954.

Currently we have the following certificate for sale:

National Bank of Greece: bond of 250 Drachme, Athens, 1925  

Ethniki Trapeza tes Ellados / National Bank of Greece / Banque Nationale de Grèce

Athens, 1925, titlos mias omologias Dr. 250, 7% (certificate of a 7% bond of 250 Drachmes)

Dark green; measuring ca. 25 x 37 cm.; Beautiful pictures of 2 young girls, 2 of the 6 so called Caryatids, standing as columns in the southern hall of the Erechteion at the Acropolis in Athens.

Price: 95 Euro.

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