The Gilliérons at Knossos. Painted visions of Minoan Crete

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1 The Gilliérons at Knossos. Painted visions of Minoan Crete An exhibition proposal for Room 3. Esther Solomon, University of Ioannina, Greece The British Museum ITP 2015

2 Émile Gilliéron father ( ) and Emil Gilliéron son ( ) Émile Gilliéron ( ) was a Swiss artist and archaeological illustrator best known for his reconstructions of Bronze Age artifacts from Greece. Having worked for Heinrich Schliemann, the German antiquarian who advocated the historic reality of places mentioned by Homer, he became the major restorer of frescos and other Minoan artifacts for Arthur Evans at the astonishing Palace of Minos at Knossos, Crete. Together with his son, also named Émile, Gilliéron ran a family business in Athens where they sold commissioned watercolors and other reproductions made directly from originals. The British Museum, as well as several other museums around the world, acquired some of these replicas in the 1920s.

3 The proposed exhibition in Room 3 treats the fresco reproductions as museum objects in their own right. It explores the fascination with Minoan culture owed to the Gilliérons and the enduring impact of their work on modern perceptions of Minoan (and to some extent) Modern Crete.

4 Émile Gilliéron père (second from right) among Evans s local workers at Knossos. Often working with tiny excavated fragments, Émile recreated entire compositions which have shaped our ideas about Minoan art and culture.

5 Emile Gilliéron fils also produced illustrations for Evans' very influential four volume book, The Palace of Minos at Knossos, published between 1921 and The Greek Government appointed him 'Artist of all the Museums in Greece. From this position that he held for 25 years, he was able to reproduce several archaeological finds at his business in Athens.

6 Sir Arthur Evans and his work at Knossos: The birth of Minoan archaeology

7 In 1900, when Crete gained autonomy from Ottoman rule, representatives from all the Great Powers of the time, then ruling on the island, devoted themselves to archaeological research. The British historian, curator at the Ashmolean Museum and lover of antiquity, Arthur Evans, conducted prolonged excavations, bringing Knossos, a place associated with the myth of King Minos, the labyrinth and the Minotaur, into the domain of a tangible reality. The scholar soon put forward his first hypotheses about the Bronze Age culture of Crete, which, not so surprisingly perhaps, was termed Minoan. In the unearthed remains that were immediately identified as a palace, indeed the one belonging to King Minos, Evans recognised the signs of the first European civilisation and Minoan Knossos came to symbolise a long lost paradise which had existed hundreds of years before the emergence of classical civilisation in mainland Greece.

8 The archaeological site of Knossos: Aerial view of the Palace

9 Knossos as reconstructed by Arthur Evans

10 The exhibits: Copies of copies This proposed exhibition displays three out of the four reproductions of restored Minoan frescos purchased by the British Museum in the 1920s. All three refer to fresco fragments found by Arthur Evans at Knossos in the early 20 th century and then restored and reproduced by the Gilliérons. A replica of a Minoan rhyton (ritual vase) from the Museum of Manchester complements the exhibition along with a replica of a fake Minoan Snake Goddess, also collected by the British Museum. A fragment of an original fresco from Knossos donated to the BM by Evans himself gives a glimpse into the distance that separated the archaeological Knossian finds from their restored images and their widespread reproductions.

11 1. The Cupbearer Copy of a restored fresco from the Palace of Minos at Knossos. Both the restoration and the copy were made by E. Gilliéron fils. The restored original fresco is at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete. British Museum,

12 2. The Grandstand Fresco from Knossos Copy of a restored fresco from the Palace of Minos at Knossos. Both the restoration and the copy were made by E. Gililéron fils. After 1600 BCE, a trend set in at Knossos for the painting of miniature frescoes with human figures and buildings all depicted on a very small scale. The restored fresco influenced a great deal reconstructions of the actual palace building at Knossos. British Museum,

13 3. The monkey fresco Copy of a restored fresco from the Palace of Minos at Knossos. British Museum,

14 4. Replica of a rhyton (ritual vase) from the Minoan mansion of Agia Triada, Crete This rhyton is very similar to the one being held by the Cupbearer depicted in the homonymous fresco. The replica is in storage at the Manchester Museum and presumably it was acquired in the context of collecting replicas of Minoan artifacts made by the Gilliérons and other artists in the 1910s, 20s and 30s. The Museum of Manchester. Undocumented.

15 5. A fake snake goddess Replica of one of the Gillierons invented statuettes depicting a hypothetical snake goddess. These invented figures conform to Victorian ideals established by Arthur Evans about motherhood, the Minoan religion and its powerful female fertility divinities. British Museum

16 6. Fragment of aminoan fresco Fragment of an original fresco: thighs of woman. The flesh of the figure is painted white, indicating that the figure is female. The fragment comes from a group of miniature frescoes depicting bull sports. Donated by Sir Arthur Evans in British Museum, 1906,

17 Powerful images of Minoan Crete: Fascination with a colorful Eden The work of the Gilliérons have contributed to the spread of Bronze Age Aegean art and have created a strong impression of Minoan culture. It inspired a generation of writers, intellectuals and artists, from James Joyce and Sigmund Freud to Pablo Picasso. The prehistoric world evoked by Gilliérons reproductions seemed astonishingly modern and unexpectedly European. The Swiss artists visualized Evans romantic search for a tasteful and peaceful kingdom, close to nature and its religious powers.

18 A romantic queen Reconstruction drawing of the "Queen's Megaron" at Knossos by Emile Gilliéron fils.

19 Contextual images

20 A reconstructed niche for the display of the procession fresco Evans wanted to reconstitute the palace of Knossos and its frescos in their original glory. Gilliéron fils re created spaces at the site itself where copies of the restored frescos, like the ones collected by the British Museum, were on display. The Cupbearer is one of the depicted figures in the so called procession fresco.

21 The so called tripartite shrine depicted in the restored Grandstand fresco influenced most subsequent representations of the Palace.

22 The tripartite shrine as seen today at the archaeological site of Knossos.

23 Young Cretans dancing before a reconstruction of the tripartite shrine Presented as part of Cretan folklore show in Heraklion (1979).

24 Helen of Troy, 1956 (Directed by Robert Wise) The tripartite shrine of Knossos serving as inspiration for a Hollywood film about Troy. Designed by Edward Carrère.

25 Helen of Troy, 1956

26 Criticisms In recent years, Gilliérons as well as Arthur Evans work at Knossos has been greatly contested. Criticism regards mainly the inaccuracy and extent of their restorations. The reconstruction of the palace and its frescos reflects artistic fashions of the first three decades of the 20 th century and, according to modern scholars, it is considered to be the best example of Art Nouveau and Art Deco in Greece

27 The making of Minoan imagery The Gilliérons often misinterpreted fresco scenes from Knossos and in some cases used fragments of different paintings in the restored compositions. rg/wikipedia/commons/6/6 7/Feather_prince.jpg Yet some of these made up compositions, such as the highly controversial Priest King, have become emblematic icons of the Minoan civilization.

28 From replicas to fakes Emile Gillieron fils was engaged in forgery. Some of his reproductions of Minoan artefacts, especially the so called snake goddesses made in his business in Athens, were collected by international museums and individual collectors. For a long time they have deceived specialists and the public considering these as genuine objects of Minoan art and religion.

29 An enduring impact A short film Gilliérons images visualize not only Evans s view of Bronze Age Crete but also modern Cretan social identity. In a way they produce Crete as a homeland as well as a popular tourist destination. In the exhibition, a short film will be shown regarding the influence of the Gilliérons representations on people s perceptions of Minoan Crete and Cretan culture in general.

30 Images for the film (a selection) Modern Cretan girls in Minoan dresses dancing for tourists (Crete 2015)

31 A doll in Minoan dress in the restored (by E. Gillieron) Throne Room of Knossos, 2015 (Dollmaker: A. Koutsoudaki)

32 ROOM 3: EXHIBITION DESIGN Walls 1 and 2 Design: Thomas Ginoudis

33 EXHIBITION DESIGN Walls 2 and 3 Design: Thomas Ginoudis

34 EXHIBITION DESIGN Walls 3 and 4Design: Design: Design: Thomas Ginoudis

35 Epilogue Thanks to their historical importance and usefulness as study references, as well as the precision with which they were made, these works remain valuable representations of ancient artistic achievements that continue to inspire wonder and delight. Seán Hemingway, Curator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

36 Acknowledgments The Marie Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust Ian Jenkins Leslie Fitton Andrew Shapland Celeste Farge Thomas Ginoudis Tugba Tanyeri Erdemir

37

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