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Minoan octopus

Minoan octopus

of the Neopalatial period (1500 B.C.)

The octopus is one of the most characteristic motifs of the “marine style”, which was invented by the Minoans and was adopted by the Mycenaeans. After the Mycenaean dominance, the design of the octopus was stylized and simplified , like all Minoan motifs. It is very possible that the “marine style” (depictions of life in the sea) was an expression of worship to the sea, which offered protection (navy),wealth (commerce) and food (fish).

Octopus motif as an expressional means of art

1. Movement The substance of life is related to movement. Movement is the basic characteristic of Minoan decoration. Eight tentacles in motion obviously reinforce the feeling of life on Minoan pottery. 2. Naturalism Although the Minoan octopus of the 1500 B.C. is a two-dimensional linear design, it approaches the image of the natural animal. The way it is depicted (expression of its eyes, details of the tentacles, seaweed-rocks-sea stars-sea shells belonging to its natural environment used as ornaments to fill the empty spaces of the octopus design) gives the impression that a living octopus finds its home on Minoan vases. On the contrary, on the Mycenaean vases it is employed just as a decorative motif among different other –not always related with the sea- decorative motifs. 3. Freedom of expression One can easily notice that there is no absolute symmetry in the depiction of the Minoan octopus. This helps very much to promote the style of free expression which the Minoans used for the depiction of animals and plants. It is obvious that they avoided stylization. Even when they drew several living creatures of the same kind on the same pot, they tried to make them seem a little different to each other. Perhaps this shows respect for the individuality of every life. 4. Harmonious feeling The curves of the tentacles of the octopi show a very smooth movement, without any anxiety. There are no zones of decoration to ‘oppress ‘these animals. They have all the comfort to cover the whole surface of the vases. 5. Practically  this design can decorate pots with very large and round bodies.

Vassilis Politakis