Alcamenes and his circle
Height: 2.316 m
Marble from Penteli
First Floor, West
One of the six Korai -known as Karyatids- that supported the roof of the south porch of the Erechtheion, instead of columns. The right arm and shoulder as well as part of the right breast of the Kore are missing. Her left arm is broken just above the elbow. Also severely damaged is the edge of the folds falling from the shoulders on her buttocks. The forefeet are also broken, however, the high sandal soles she has on are clearly seen from the side.
The Kore’s left leg is slightly bent and her weight is supported by her right leg which is firmly planted on the ground. This cross movement is shown elegantly with the slight tilt of the right shoulder. She wears a belted peplos which creates a rich overfold. From her shoulders a himation folded in two falls over her back.
The Kore, as we know from ancient copies, would have held once the edge of her himation with one hand and a phiale with the other. Her rich hair, the bulk of which supports the weak area around her neck, are elaborately braided: one thin plait over the forehead and two more plaits from behind the ears are wrapped around the head like a wreath. The main body of the hair divided in two whirling locks, are braided down the back, bound with a band, which leaves the wavy hair edges free. Two further locks of hair, the biggest part of which is broken today, fall over each breast.
The Korai that decorated the south porch of the Erechtheion, stood on a low base (podium) arranged in a Π-shaped layout facing the way to the Acropolis, along which passed the procession of the Panathenaic festival. The vertical folds of their garments resemble column fluting and the peculiar capitals in the shape of baskets on their heads, concentrated the roof's weight and directed it downwards.
Replacing the columns with female statues was a common Greek architectural practice since the Archaic period. These statues are called merely Korai in the building inscriptions of the temple. The term Karyatids has been handed down to us by Vitruvius who tells the story of the women from Karyes in Laconia in the Peloponnese that were punished by the other Greeks and were thus obliged to carry on their heads the weight of their clothes and jewellery as their city had supported the Persians. However, according to Lucian, the woman from Karyes were famous for their dance in honour of the goddess Artemis, which they performed with ceremonial baskets on their heads.
Many interpretations of the Korai have been put forward in modern times: Kekrops' daughters, Arrhephoroi or young women that participate in the Panathenaic procession. The most convincing however is, that they were part of an above-the-ground monument over the grave of the mythical Kekrops, the Kekropeion, which was located directly below. They were the libation bearers that honored the dead hero-king pouring offerings with the phialai that they held in their hands.
Five of the Karyatids, Korai A, B, D, E, and F are in Greece while the sixth, Kore C, is in the British Museum in London, after it was detached in 1804 by Thomas Bruce, lord of Elgin. In 1979 the Korai were removed from the monument so that they would be protected from air pollution and were transferred in the old Acropolis Museum. They were replaced in the Erechtheion by copies m
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