Art of the Ancient World, C. 5000 B.c.e.–400 C.E.

Ancient Greek Art

What is a caryatid?

A caryatid is a sculptural female figure utilized as columnar support in Classical architecture. The Roman architect and writer, Vitruvius, noted that caryatids were named for Spartan women from a town called Karyai who betrayed their people during the Persian Wars, and were punished by being forced to bear the weight of heavy architectural entablatures. The Erechtheion (421–405 B.C.E.) is a building on the Acropolis in Athens famous for what is known as the Porch of the Maidens. This porch features six caryatids, which face south in the direction of the Parthenon. Like Kritios Boy, each caryatid is in the contrapposto pose, with one leg bearing the weight of the Erechtheion’s Ionic entablature, and the other leg free and slightly bent. The folds in their robes mirror the vertical design of fluting found on columns and provide a sense of stability in the otherwise fluid and graceful poses of the caryatids.


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