I have loved archaeology and art history all my life. Archaeology inspired my first collection and continues to inspire and move me in a very profound way.
As an archaeology enthusiast and like much of Greece at the moment I have found myself captivated by the excavations at Amphipolis over the past couple of months.
Who the tomb was intended for?
I believe the tomb was originally intended for Alexander The Great. It's sheer scale cannot be justified being for anyone else. I cannot believe for a moment that a tomb several times the size of King Philip II's would be built for his wife. In turn though, after Alexander was buried in Egypt I believe it became a tomb for his family, or the works were stopped and resumed by a later monarch. I feel the chambers have ended abruptly indicating that the works were stopped abruptly after they realised Alexander would never be buried there. Unless it was always intended to be a complex of tombs. But I still feel if this was the main one (and the grand entrance below indicates it was), then it should have continued further into the tumulus. My logic says whatever was originally intended to be buried there should have been directly under the lion - the centre of the tumulus.
Announcements I disagree with
- We cannot for a moment suggest that the same marble has been used for the Caryatids as for the Sphinxes. The sphinxes are made from a higher quality 'porcelain' shining, creamy, yellow, almost 'egg like quality' marble, which is fairly splendid in my opinion. The caryatids are made from a lesser quality stone (hence the more crumbly condition they are in). It is a darker, greyer stone that lacks the gleam of the previous. Even the sphinx's head that had been buried in the dirty earth for centuries simply shone when it was uncovered.
- Mosaic damage theories: Well the 'damp' theory was always a real stretch for the imagination. But also this new theory that I have heard about looters 'digging' the mosaic for treasures, I feel is also quite unbelievable. The looters would have had to have been incredibly stupid. In my opinion some sort of object or architectural feature such as a circular altar or statue was placed in that spot in a later period. This is one way the circular shape of damage can be reasonably explained in my opinion.
Outer wall, Sphinxes, Caryatids and Mosaic
I must say that ever since the full mosaic was revealed I have started to feel slightly concerned. Concerned that the tomb was not all built around the same time as the archaeologists on site insist.
Based on using my eyes and my gut I personally don't think the quality of the mosaic is anywhere near the same stratosphere as that surrounding wall, those sphinxes and elements of the caryatids.. I am certain that the surrounding wall and sphinxes are Greek. They simply can't be anything else. They are Hellenistic. The quality in carving and construction of the surrounding wall and the sphinxes is uniform. Every cm is second to none. The entire 2 sphinxes in my opinion were undoubtedly carved by the same hand.
This is obviously not true of the caryatids. When we look at the drapery and the feet it is clear, to me at least, that more than one hand has worked on these sculptures. It is hard to tell from photographs, but I even think the drapery of the two caryatids were done by two different sculptors. The right hand caryatid has more detail in the undulations of fabrics. We can't for a moment suggest that the caryatids are of the same quality as the surrounding wall and sphinxes. They are not. They have variations in quality. The feet are the only part that I attribute to the same high standard. The caryatids confuse me. I feel they should have been better.
Now... the mosaic... Ever since I saw Persephone in particular I have felt concerned. Again I feel more than one hand worked on this mosaic. Hermes and the horses are the highest quality parts. The same cannot be said of Hades and in particular of Persephone. Just look at Hermes' foot and then at Persephone, in particular her hand. These parts were not made by the same craftsman. Persephone in particular, to me, personally, (I hate to use this word!!!) looks Roman. Anatomically Roman art is always far more inaccurate than Greek art. You should always expect impeccable anatomical proportions when you look at Greek art. I don't see that here. I don't like Persephone's shoulders. This is not Greek. I'm sorry to say it, but it isn't.
Alternatively if all the finds to date turn out to be Hellenistic then there must be another explanation for the decline in artistic quality and craftsmanship, from the outer finds to the inner finds, such as the chief architect/mason of the works died or was replaced.
References to Dionysos
I think on either side of the egg and dart in this fresco are images of grapes. It's likely that below this is two parts of the double aulos, possibly, that could reference religious rituals.
The Design Process
Amphipolis: The Muse Tomb
This season I have decided to take inspiration from the current excavation in Amphipolis. I have been following the excavation over the past couple of months, so it seemed like a natural progression. This is a unique moment in time, while excavations are still underway, so it is incredibly topical. My first collection was also inspired by archaeology. However that was a spring summer line. I am looking forward to revisiting the world of archaeology with the application of a winter collection in mind as this brings an entirely different palette of textures and materials into play.
First Stage: Mood Boards
I create my world first, before I can begin. I use the mood boards to extract the elements that feed my imagination best. I prioritise what I find most interesting and relevant. This is imperative for me when starting a collection, as I need to enter the spirit of the concept and keep that with me throughout the design process. In the case of Amphipolis I am looking at an unfolding story, enigmas, mystery, symbolism, pieces of the puzzle, pieces that are missing, the spirit of the architecture, the finds, as well as clear design and chromatic references. There are references to the female form, dress and textures. I will fill mysef up with this before I can begin to explore the collection. What feels right is different for every artist or designer. I will know what feels right and what doesn't, with regards to remaining true to the spirit of the collection. Based on this feeling of what's right, I'll take each step. That's about the best way I can describe it!