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Plaster Cast Collection

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Open Access

Amazonmachy Frieze

Bassai, Temple of Apollo
Artist: Unknown Greek Artist Primary
Date: 380 BCE
4th century BCE
Dimensions: 51 x 58 x 8 in. (129.54 x 147.32 x 20.32 cm)
Object Type: Relief Sculpture
Creation Place: Europe, Greece
Medium and Support: Plaster cast from Pentelic marble original
Credit Line: Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004
Accession Number: 2019.04.32
This work is not currently on view

The Amazonomachy frieze comes from the Doric temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassai (Bassae) in Phigaleia. Dating to approximately 400 BCE, the temple was built mainly out of a dark grey local limestone covered in a stucco finish. The sculpted elements in the temple, such as the capitals on the columns and the interior frieze were carved from marble. The frieze was designed for the interior of the cella, which is attributed to the architect Iktinos, the architect of the Parthenon.

A few distinct characteristics make the temple at Bassai unique. The temple faces north and south instead of east and west, and the main room includes an interior alcove. The alcove is defined by the placement of a single Corinthian column on the central axis (which is the earliest known use of this particular column style). The inner room of the temple contains a row of engaged Ionic columns with marble capitals which support an extensive interior frieze.

Two mythological battles are illustrated in the frieze: a Centauromachy and an Amazonomachy. Our block is taken from a pitched battle in the Amazonomachy where neither Amazon nor Greek has yet gained the upper hand. The exact order in which these two themes were arranged remains the subject of debate. Although the frieze is carved in high-relief, it was placed at a considerable height and would not have been well lit, thus making it difficult to see. The execution of the frieze blocks is rough and the pieces are carved in thick curves and lines. While the subject of the Amazonomachy is uncertain, it is thought to depict an attack on Themiskyra by Herakles. Themiskyra was the Amazon capital on the coast of the Black Sea.

Current location of marble original: British Museum, London


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Three-dimensional works of art in which images and forms are produced in relief, in intaglio, or in the round. The term refers particularly to art works created by carving or engraving a hard material, by molding or casting a malleable material (which usually then hardens), or by assembling parts to create a three-dimensional object. It is typically used to refer to large or medium-sized objects made of stone, wood, bronze, or another metal. Small objects are typically referred to as "carvings" or another appropriate term. "Sculpture" refers to works that represent tangible beings, objects, or groups of objects, or are abstract works that have defined edges and boundaries and can be measured. As three-dimensional works become more diffused in space or time, or less tangible, use appropriate specific terms, such as "mail art" or "environmental art."

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