Friday, 30 September 2011


From New Contributions of Dionysiac Iconography to the History of Religions in Greece and Italy (Isler-Kerenyi Cornelia) and Dionysian Imagery in Fifth-Century Athens (Carpenter, Thomas H. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997)

Dionysian Imagery in the Fifth Century

Great findings must be shared of Dionysian depictions on Ancient Greek vases. It must be noted that while researching there are too many phallic representations for my tastes.
Carpenter, Thomas H. Dionysian Imagery in the Fifth-Century Athens. Oxford: Clarendon, 1997.

This image of a Bacchae is captivating, it looks like a sweet representation of the oneness with Nature that the Bacchants could reach trough their Bacchic release. It is of a "mid-fifth century amphora in Brussels a nymph wearing an ivy wreath and animal skin and holding a snake and thyrsos looks down at a fawn that jumps up toward her like e pet dog." p.115 On some vases however the nymphs are shown dancing with torn halves of fawns.

The nymph resists the approach of a satyr.
"[...] nymphs in red-figures scenes (as opposed to those on black-figure vases) are often hostile to the erotic advances of satyrs, and they often use their thyrsoi to defend themselves." p.116

Dionysus and his companions

"a naked child holding a kantharos and vine branch stands on the lap of a bearded man seated on a chair. A woman with stylized flowers stands behind him, a woman holding a small himation stands in front. The seated man wears a wreath of pointed leaves (laurel?) and holds a thyrsos. The child wears an ivy wreath.
These figures have frequently been mis-identified as Dionysos and Oinopion, but they are almost certainly intended to be Zeus and the infant Dionysos. Only the thyrsos raises doubt. The child has the attributes appropriate to the young Dionysos..."
Dionysus portrayed as he tears apart a fawn. "Depictions of the madness of Dionysos appear earlier [before 5th century] are [...] linked with Thrace. On a late archaic stamnos in London, the god dances a mad dance with the halves of a rent goat in either hand. He has an ivy wreath on his head and a leopard skin tied at his throat over a chiton. On his feet he wears Thracian boots. [...] In fact, the imagery links him with neither drunkenness nor ecstasy. The scene is not an existential statement but rather a narrative account of the madness sent by Hera. The teraing of an animal in two becomes a symbol of the ultimate stage of this madness and is used to show the same madness inflicted by the god on others." p.38

A "Dionysian procession", "back-flung head is introduced on Attic vases to indicate song, not ecstasy" p. 83.
Sometimes the nymph figures resist and defend themselves from the advances of the satyrs; however on some vases they are depicted as unresisting, emphasizing how the Bacchic ecstatic state takes over the minds of women and men.

Dionysus with his satyr companions

A Winged Fury with a wreath of snakes on her hand and arms.

More to come later!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The travels of Dionysus

In Bacchae many countries are mentioned in which Dionysus has travelled.
Here is a map in which I have added the location of the Ancient city of Thebes, all the exotic lands of Dionysus can be found.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Exotic Mass

The Phrygians lived on the land we now call Turkey, it might be supposed that they had originally been from the same 'mother tribe' as the Greeks. Phrygia later became part of the Persian Empire.

They worshipped a 'Great Mother', 'Mountain Mother', or Goddess called Cybele, their worship f her was similar to that  of the Diponysiac worship: "a primal nature goddess worshipped with orgiastic rites in the mountains of central and western Anatolia"
It is interesting that some myhts consider her as initially being a hermaphrodite:
The Birth of Kybele Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 17. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The local [Phrygian] legend about him [Attis] being this. Zeus [or rather the Phrygian sky-god], it is said, let fall in his sleep seed upon the ground, which in course of time sent up a Daimon, with two sexual organs, male and female. They call the daimon Agdistis [Kybele, Cybele]. But the gods, fearing Agdistis, cut off the male organ. There grew up from it an almond-tree with its fruit ripe, and a daughter of the river Saggarios (Sangarius), they say, took the fruit and laid it in her bosom, when it at once disappeared, but she was with child. A boy [Attis] was born."
And even more connection can be found between the Phrygian Cybele and the Greek Dionysos, it is believed that she cared for the baby Dionysos after  Hermes saved him from the anger of Hera.:
"The Phrygian goddess Kybele was the mother of Sabazios (the Phrygian equivalent of Dionysos). The Greeks adapted this tradition by describing Mother Rhea as the nurse and mentor of Dionysos. The Orgia (Orgiastic Cult) of Dionysos-Sabazios was derived from that of the Phrygian Meter Theon."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 33 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"He [Dionysos in his madness driven wanderings] went to Kybela (Cybele) in Phrygia. There he was purified by Rhea and taught the mystic rites of initiation, after which he received from her his gear [presumably the thyrsos and panther-drawn chariot] and set out eagerly through Thrake [to instruct men in his orgiastic cult]."

Cybele, Goddess of Fertility, a 1993 sculpture by Mihail Chemiakin, New York.

I found these two texts (in which Dionysus and Cybele are mentioned) very nice, as they show the caring and fun-loving nature of these two deities.
"Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 1 ff :
"[Rheia-Kybele gathers an army for the young god Dionysos at her palace in Phrygia for a campaign against the Indians:] Then swiftshoe Rheia haltered the hairy necks of her lions beside their highland manger. She lifted her windfaring foot to run with the breezes, and paddled with her shoes through the airy spaces. So like a wing or a thought she traversed the firmament to south, to north, to west, to the turning-place of dawn, gathering the divine battalions for Lyaios: one all-comprehending summons was sounded for trees and for rivers, one call for Neiades (Naiads) and Hadryades, the troops of the forest. All the divine generations heard the summons of Kybele (Cybele), and they came together from all sides. From high heaven to the Lydian land Rheia passed aloft with unerring foot, and returning lifted again the mystic torch in the night, warming the air a second time with Mygdonian [Lydian] fire."
[N.B. She summons a variety of rustic divinities and creatures including the Kabeiroi, the Daktyloi (Dactyls), the Telkhines, Pholos and Kheiron, the Kyklopes (Cyclopes), Panes, Kentauroi (Centaurs), Nymphai.]

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 247 ff :
"As soon as Dionysos had donned the well-wrought golden gear of war in the Korybantian courtyard, he left the peaceful precincts of danceloving Rheia and went past Meionia: the warriors with the hillranging Bakkhantes (Bacchantes) hastened to meet the lord of the vine. The drivers of wheeled wagons carried shoots of the new plant of Bakkhos (Bacchus). Many lines of mules went by, with jars of the viney nectar packed on their backs; slow asses had loads of purple rugs and manycoloured fawnskins on their patient backs. Winedrinkers besides carried silver mixingbowls with golden cups, the furniture of the feast. The Korybantes (Corybantes) were busy about the bright manger of the panthers, passing the yokestraps over their necks, and entrusted their lions to ivybound harness when they had fastened this threatening bit in their mouths.""

About her "orgiastic cult it is said that it "dominated the central and north-western districts of Asia Minor, and was introduced into Greece via the island of Samothrake and the Boiotian town of Thebes."

Vatican Museums' Statue of Cybele - Goddess of Fertility

All mythical text from Cybele: Phrygian Mother of the Gods.

I was considering to put the Chorus into Phrygian dress:
Phrygians. Nouveau Larousse Illustre 1894 edition.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Bacchic research

"Even amid bacchic celebrations, the woman who is truly virtuous will not be corrupted." Euripides

Timeline: Ancient Greece 1000 B.C.- 1 A.D.

Women in Classical Greece:

"Women of various ages also took part in specific religious festivals, some of which even included men—the Panathenaia in honor of the goddess Athena, the Eleusinian Mysteries that honored Demeter and Persephone, and the Anthesteria sacred to Dionysos."
Oinochoe-chous (jug) depicting women perfuming clothes, ca. 420-410 B.C,
"The shape of the vase facilitates the association of the scene with the Anthesteria, a three-day festival held in January/February to celebrate the new wine with the special inclusion of young children, an epiphany of Dionysos."

"Despite the extreme social restraint on women in classical antiquity, it is interesting that they had a number of powerful female goddesses of the type that were never available to Christian women. Demeter was able to retrieve her daughter Persephone, Artemis could send a fatal arrow, and Athena had the ability to resist marriage and motherhood, and to provide advice to respected Greek heroes. Aphrodite, Hera, Hestia, and Hekate were also powerful goddesses, intensely honored and greatly admired by women and men alike."

A bit later in date but this Ganymede jewelry is stunning
Gold, rock crystal, and emerald ca. 330-300 B.C.

Death, Burial, and the Afterlife in Ancient Greece:

"The Greeks believed that at the moment of death the psyche, or spirit of the dead, left the body as a little breath or puff of wind. The deceased was then prepared for burial according to the time-honored rituals. Ancient literary sources emphasize the necessity of a proper burial and refer to the omission of burial rites as an insult to human dignity (Iliad, 23.71). Relatives of the deceased, primarily women, conducted the elaborate burial rituals that were customarily of three parts: the prothesis(laying out of the body), the ekphora (funeral procession), and the interment of the body or cremated remains of the deceased."

And it is of course the representation of the Bacchae/Maenads that is the most interesting in the play, as they are strong female characters becoming aware of their ability of self-empowerement.

Fashion Timeline

And now my timid-self might shuffle off to the library.

P.S.: Here is my costume plot for David Greig's version

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Long live the... Queen...

The strange fit of the costumes seen in the upcoming French movie Les Adieus a la Reine are very much noteworthy. I have to post a picture after reading Demode's blog, the most interesting one I found, dear reader, was this:

I cannot quite decide whether if this lady is trying to be pregnant, or terribly modest and ashamed of her own body, thus resorting to misshapen-ness, with her high neckline.
I am however very interested to see what this movie will be like, wondering what the overall effect of the vivid colours (greens) and strange fitting costume will be. I suppose it is very easy to get away with such designs, as most viewers won't be too picky about historical accuracy. It is after all the overall image, mood, atmosphere that will leave an impact in the viewer.

Les Adieux a la Reine is directed by Benoit Jacquot, and I msut admit I have not found information about who the costume designer is.
There is also a behind the scenes interview.

Le us give permission to that queen to drink some wine!
Today we got our first project for our second year at colleg: The Bacchai! It will be qonderful to explore the theatre of Ancient Greece,where better to start anything drama-related than there?

And now, my dearest reader, off to bed for my timid-self, as it is getting late.
More to come later!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

And the studies go on...

Notes from "Introduction: The Needle Before the Wheel", Week One's Lesson.

Maginni emphasises the most important role of clothing: aesthetics. Decoration being the original aim, and later finding other -practical- uses to it.
The idea that protection from weather is only a "side effect" to clothes is intriguing, "The moment we started deciding our own bodies were less attractive than the skins of other animals, and so wore the skins of our dead prey, we preserved body heat sufficient to allow us to live in any environment on the planet, including the arctic." Thus, the possibilty of migration was through the discovery of clothing, as she later adds "Fire and sewing gave humans the ability to cover the planet. This is one very important "side effect"."

Uses include:

  • holding onto objects
  • preserving body heat
  • reducing body heat 
  • reducing, and protecting from sun damage in desert climates
  • protecting from rough surfaces and war projectiles
  • reducing body dampness (rain, sweat, urination)

It is important to accept that people "make clothing choices on a combination of social, aesthetic, and practical factors."
Clothing <-> Social identity
  • celebrate social/religious occasions
  • visibly identify themselves with a group (can be gender)
  • show status within their group (privilege of the aristocracy- "sumptuary laws"- punishing middle class for wearing such items to which they are not entitled)
  • attract persons of one’s gender preference "Sexual attraction and repulsion are also served by clothing. [...] Actual bodily sex differences are less pronounced visually than gendered clothing differences." Fetishism- "more aroused by the fetish clothing than by the particular person in it"
  • express individual taste-> deeply personal 

"Make me feel like buying..." that is exactly what The J. Peterman Company's way of illustrating clothes and writing about them does. They were mentioned in the Preface of the History of Fashion.

Villa Hopping Blouse
Such sentences as "She said the blouse makes her remember her roots" and...

Boticelli Sheer Puff Sleeve Blouse
"If Boticelli was around he'd have the best design company in the world" makes it personal, gives 'that piece of fabric' a story. Quite an admirable and smart move, and works all the time, be it the selling of clothes or toothpaste; packaging and explanation do count, as does the basic image of the company. (I know dear reader, I am stating the obvious, excuse me for it.)

And now I believe my timid-self might go to sleep as she is dosing off, or just continue listening (for the first time) to Leaves's Eyes newest album, Meredead.
More to come later!

Friday, 2 September 2011

"I am interested in the History of Fashion because..."

At this very moment, that which leads me in this direction is my love for history, the interest in societal structures, lifestyles, characters, personalities, emotions... all these seen always, even if one tries to avoid it, in one's garments. The Art of clothing one's-self, the use of and invention of certain instruments to achieve it are fascinating as they are, but indeed, there is still more to it. Why is it that we recognise all the stereotypes when we watch a movie, be it historical or not? Because along with the actor's talent at conveying the character's posture and attitude, it is in fact the clothes that we notice right away (or the lack thereof, excuse the imprudence :D). With that I have also revealed my other reason for learning about the History of Fashion, which is due to my aspiration to be a costume designer (and maker) one day, and as a side-note: I am obsessed with historical accuracy.

I do hope you shall excuse me, but I feel I must allow myself to  mumble for a bit...
It is a celebratory beginning to Tara Maginnis' online course at for me, why so? It is due to my absolutely lazy-self, who can come up with a million other ways to be useful to others instead of being useful to herself, now this lazy being has at last started this. I should indeed be vexed at myself. However, let us look at it in a positive way and state that I am actually starting, because I have had enough of always tormenting myself for all my mistakes.

Well, dear reader, my timid-self shall go cook dinner, while continuing the online course.
More to come later!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

When you read about someone you've already listened to...

Dear reader, I would like to share an article with you about eca graduate Ali Mitchell who gave us a lecture at the college this spring. I was so happy when I saw her name amongst designers like Sandy Powell and Jenny Beavan.
The mentioned article is: The artists's artist: costume designers-in pictures, where five costume designers of the film industry choose their favourite colleague.

"Sandy Powell on Piero Tosi
I first became aware of costumes in film when I saw Death in Venice at the age of about 13. The costumes, designed by Piero Tosi, were like nothing I'd ever seen. They seemed sophisticated, extravagant and, above all, glamorous. I must have gone back five or six times. Much later, when studying theatre design, I discovered his work in other films by Luchino Visconti: The Leopard, L'Innocente and Ludwig – again, all exquisite and sumptuous. Tosi comes from a theatre background and I think it's the theatricality, the use of colour and drama, that I love. He has an ability to stylise without losing the period feel; everything seems just that bit larger than life. In my opinion, Tosi is who all costume designers interested in period clothes aspire to be. Sandy Powell won Oscars for Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator and The Young Victoria.

Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

Ali Mitchell on Colleen Atwood 
The first time I became aware of Atwood's work was in Edward Scissorhands. I loved the juxtaposition of fantasy and enhanced reality: you've got Johnny Depp in that crazy corset with massive scissorblades for fingers. The technicality of her achievement, alongside the creativity, was brilliant. She has the ability to deliver design ideas that are perfectly appropriate to a wide range of styles and subjects: the kimonos in Memoirs of a Geisha; Hannibal Lecter's overalls; Uma Thurman's futuristic suits in Gattaca; the amazing 1920s dance dresses in Chicago. Costumes are the first thing that tells us anything about a character. And while Atwood's serve the film in terms of storytelling, they are also flexible enough to meet whatever a film demands. Ali Mitchell worked on the forthcoming films Red Tails and Outpost: Black Sun

Odile Dicks-Mireaux on Christine Edzard 
Edzard really inspires me: she makes clothes rather than costumes and I felt we looked and thought in a similar way. The design in Little Dorrit, which she wrote, directed and designed, changed ways of looking at period costume. The way she used the fabric, the way she advocated a lot more hand-sewing, and cutting the costume true to the period. The team in her workshop do everything from dyeing to embroidery. She is always trying to find new ways of creating a look and has set up a wonderful picture library, to which many designers contribute. Edzard has always done a great deal of research and encouraged me to go and look at original costumes in museums – to feel the fabric, to look inside, to see how it's made. Odile Dicks-Mireaux worked on The Constant Gardener and An Education

Jenny Beavan on John Bright 
John Bright did The Golden Bowl and The White Countess, which I thought were absolutely amazing. It's not that the costumes stand out: they are part of the whole. As well as being a very fine cutter and sewer, he probably knows more about period than anyone else. He’s able to show you, using examples, the roundness of crinoline or how a waistline changes. He imparts his interest in costume with incredible enthusiasm, as well as a sense of how to make it work as storytelling. Jenny Beavan's work includes A Room With a View, which won her an Oscar, The Remains of the Day, and Gosford Park

Anthony Powell on Piero Tosi 
His work is perfection. None of us can aspire to his standard. He could do anything in costume – from abject poverty to a sophisticated high society character – and always got it dead right. I had never seen a photograph of him before I met him, around 1969. We were introduced and I just laughed. He was rather offended, and asked why I was laughing. I had this mental picture of an absolute monster – because, to get the degree of perfection he achieves, I thought he would have to scream and shout and make a fuss, but he was very sweet and gentle. There are lots of designers I admire, but he is a head and shoulders above. I know my colleagues won't be offended because he is on another level. I have just been watching some of the Visconti films he did and you can't fault Tosi's work. It's total perfection. Anthony Powell's work includes his Oscar-winning Death on the Nile, and Miss Potter."

(I feel I must copy out the text for future reference, as I am worried about the fragility of information on the world web.)

More to come later!