02. Ancient Mediterranean, Europe, Greece

#28. Peplos Kore from the Acropolis. Archaic Greek. c. 530 BCE. Marble, painted details.

#28. Peplos Kore from the Acropolis. Archaic Greek. c. 530 BCE. Marble, painted details.

Art Historical Background

Essentially the kore (pl. korai) is the female version of the kouros, except she isn’t nude. And, like the kouroi, the korai are believed to be commemorative offerings to the gods, and also used to show off a family’s prestige. This particular kore comes from the Acropolis (also part of the AP Art History 250) so it is probably a votive offering to the goddess Athena.

Instead of focusing on the raw, musculature nude figure, the kore are covered in typical Athenian dress; these costumes totally obscure the form underneath. The Peplos kore is wearing a chiton (the blue garment) with a peplos (the red garment) over it. A chiton is a rectangular piece of cloth buttoned or pinned along the shoulders and arms and belted at the waist. It is also believed that the Peplos kore may also depict a goddess, maybe Athena herself?, because one of the garment she wears is typically only seen on goddesses. Although my issue with that statement above is that no one will tell you exactly what that garment is…

She is smaller than life-sized, about 4 feet in height, and would have been richly painted (like all Ancient Greek sculpture), you can still see some traces of paint on the original statue but I like to show my students the recreated painted version (seen below) because it totally changes the aesthetic. The painting technique used on the Peplos kore is called encaustic. In which pigment is mixed with melted wax so that, when cooled, the wax would serve as a sealant for the marble (you will also see this technique with the Theotokos and Child).


Her left arm is lifted up 90 degrees and her hand is missing, which might have help some object or gift dedicated to the goddess. In her right hand, there is a hole that is believed to have held a metal object also. It’s a shame that these accessories did not last through the ages because they could tell us much about how these pieces were originally displayed and used in Archaic Greece.
Like the kouros, the Peplos kore is not one of a kind. On the acropolis alone there are 14 other korai, believed to have been put there are part of the later Acropolis renovations done during the Classical Era.


Next time: #29. Sarcophagus of the Spouses. Etruscan. c. 520 BCE. Terra cotta.

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