Forms Of Antiquity: The Architectural “Caryatid” & The Female Form

Ancient Architectural Form & Function:   Caryatids
Ancient Architectural Form & Function: Caryatids

Art and architecture. A Caryatid in architecture is described as “A stone carving of a draped female figure, used as a pillar to support the entablature of a Greek or Greek-style building”. Taking the place of a column or pillar, the Greek term Karyatides is literally said to mean “Maidens of Karyai”, an ancient town of Peloponnese in which a temple was dedicated to a goddess known as Artemis. Mythology paired with architecture, indeed.


“As Karyatis, she rejoiced in the dances of the nut-tree village of Karyai, those Karyatides, who in their ecstatic round-dance carried on their heads baskets of live reeds, as if they were dancing plants”
-Unknown

Caryatids In Ancient Architecture
Caryatids In Ancient Architecture

Since ancient times buildings have been designed with female figures as supporting columns. Sculpture fitted to a structure. Some of the earliest known examples date from around the 6th century BC in Greece at the treasuries of Delphi. The use of these draped female figures used as architectural supports can certainly be traced back to Greek antiquity. Alas, the bulky yet intricately arranged hairstyles served the crucial purpose of providing key structural support to their necks, which would otherwise be the structurally weakest part of the figure. Of note, a Caryatid supporting a basket on her head is called a canephora (“basket-bearer”). Form and function, indeed…

Ancient Form:  The Caryatid Of The  Erechtheion
Ancient Form: The Caryatid Of The Erechtheion

The most iconic and perhaps most-copied Caryatid examples are the carved six figures of the Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion (409 BC) referred to as ‘The Venerable Temple’ on the Acropolis of Athens, Greece. Of note, the originals have been replaced onsite by replicas, but the original ancient forms of stately pose are on exhibit within the Acropolis Museum with one removed during the early 19th century, residing in England’s British Museum in London. Ancient history preserved. Of additional interest, these six Caryatids are not identical. Rather, although they are the same in build and height and similar in attire and coiffed hair, their faces, stance, the draping of fabric and hair are said to have been carved separately. Interesting. In addition, three of the caryatids stand on their right foot and the other three stand on their left foot. Architectural differences of distinction. Of course, the Romans would copy these Erechtheion caryatids, installing their own copies in the Forum of Augustus and in the Pantheon in Rome, among other great structures. Great architecture will always be revered.

These draped figures of stone, often supporting acanthus baskets, visually hold the weight of architecture above them and enduringly offer a tribute to the female form and the link to the ancient past. Perhaps one can view these figures a symbol of strength and beauty. For certain, the implications of these figures and their representations in ancient times can take on a deeper role. Perhaps the search for meaning of sculpture and architecture as a united force of art can offer many interpretations. These load-bearing forms of the structures are an art form that will endure to inspire. For the purpose of appreciation of the beauty of the architecture and the form itself of these female figures, a mere collection of images, sourced from the world wide web, will hopefully bring further appreciation to the timeless form of architectural beauty….

Architectural Supports Of Ancient Distinction: Caryatids
Architectural Supports Of Ancient Distinction: Caryatids
Draped Figures Of Ancient Appeal:  Caryatid
Draped Figures Of Ancient Appeal: Caryatid
Architectural Form & Function Of The Female Form
Architectural Form & Function Of The Female Form
Caryatids:  Elements Of History & Form
Caryatids: Elements Of History & Form
Form & Function Of Ancient Architectural Beauty:  Caryatids
Form & Function Of Ancient Architectural Beauty: Caryatids
Architectural Supports Of Distinction:  Caryatids
Architectural Supports Of Distinction: Caryatids
Art & Architecture:  Caryatids
Art & Architecture: Caryatids
Caryatids:  The Female Form Of Enduring Appeal
Caryatids: The Female Form Of Enduring Appeal
Architectural Interpretations Of Ancient Form:  Caryatids
Architectural Interpretations Of Ancient Form: Caryatids
Emblems Of Beauty & Strength:  Caryatids In Architecture
Emblems Of Beauty & Strength: Caryatids In Architecture
Caryatids In Architecture:  Form & Function
Caryatids In Architecture: Form & Function
Architectural Delights:  Caryatids Within Architecture
Architectural Delights: Caryatids Within Architecture
Female Form:  Representations Of Caryatids In The Garden
Female Form: Representations Of Caryatids In The Garden
Ancient Forms Enduring In Architectural Appeal:  Caryatids
Ancient Forms Enduring In Architectural Appeal: Caryatids
Caryatids Of Diverse Form & Function
Caryatids Of Diverse Form & Function
Caryatids/Macy's/New York/ 34th Street
Caryatids/Macy’s/New York/ 34th Street

And of the statuesque figures of female form that are found within the interior? Certain resemblances and links to ancient past, for certain. Appreciation of the artistic representation of historic significance, indeed.

In Early Modern times, the practice of integrating caryatids into building facades was revived. The world of Art Deco architecture would certainly embrace the forms of antiquity. Within interiors these forms of sculpture would begin to be included as new features of building structures and within the world of interior decoration. For certain, the beauty of the female figure in architecture holds enduring allure to the world that surrounds which continually changes and evolves. Appreciation…

Female Caryatid Representations: Statues Within The Interior
Female Caryatid Representations: Statues Within The Interior

My appreciation of the beauty of the architectural details of the beautiful form of antiquity is not new. Carved and sculpted details of architectural wonder. Yet of my renewed and focussed appreciation, perhaps the urge to visually share came by way of an unexpected surprise. And it all started with a statue…

Female Form Of Greek Mythology:  Aphrodite
Female Form Of Greek Mythology: Aphrodite

On a whim I stopped into a local antique store when I suddenly spotted her. It was immediate that I was drawn to the ancient emblem of antiquity and classic form. Found amidst other elements of the past, I simply had to acquire. An alabaster figure that now graces my dresser and stands boldly and beautifully among my personal accessories of fashion and fragrances that layer. Perhaps as a reminder of the beauty of the past and an appreciation of the enduring appeal of the figure of the woman

Representation Of Ancient Appeal:  A Caryatid Within My Interior...
Representation Of Ancient Appeal: A Caryatid Within My Interior…

Within the history of fashion and the arts, the iconic architectural sculptures of antiquity have certainly been an inspiration of timeless appeal…

Caryatids & Modern Dance Icon Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)
Caryatids & Modern Dance Icon Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)
Christian Dior Models & Caryatids: Fashion's Form & Function
Christian Dior/1951 Models & Caryatids: Fashion’s Form & Function
Fashionable Representations Of The Caryatid Form
Fashionable Representations Of The Caryatid Form

Consider with appreciation the forms of antiquity that grace the structures that fill our world. Look closer and appreciate the ancient past that carries with it an enduring visual acknowledgement of form and function. Whether carved in the round or in relief or frieze or crowning a pediment with grace, there is beauty to be found within the past world that carries with it into our future an enduring emblem of the past

Onward,

Kristin

“Now here we have another emotional symbol… for almost three thousand years or longer, architects have designed buildings with columns shaped as female figures… After all those centuries it took Rodin to see that this was work too heavy for a girl… Here is this poor little caryatid who has tried — and failed, fallen under the load…. She didn’t give up, Ben; she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her…”
-Robert Heinlein (1907-1988)”Stranger in a Strange Land”

“…Like a caryatid on vacation. He was supporting nothing but his daydreams”
-Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Female Forms Of Caryatid Reprentation
Female Forms Of Caryatid Representation
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