Minoan costume. Our Lady Of The Sports with male loincloth, Knossos.
Chryselephantine Image of Goddess with male Loinclothing: Our Lady Of The Sports
Views of Corset, Girdle and male loin attire of figurine in gold plate “Our Lady Of The Sports”.
Emergence of Chryselephantine Image of Goddess in Garb resembling Taureador’s.
A remarkable chryselephantine image that has now seen the light seems to show that in this case, at least, her cumbrous robes were discarded and that the Goddess herself was very nearly assimilated to the guise, ceremonially assumed, of the girl taureadors who performed in her honour travestied as youths. This figure may be regarded as representing the third Epiphany of members of a divine group standing certainly in the closest relation to those of the ‘ Ivory Deposit’ in the ‘Domestic Quarter’ of the Knossian Palace.
It presents the greater part of a female figure of which, however, the legs from the knees downwards and the right arm, except the hand, are wanting. The extreme height of the part preserved was 17-8 centimetres or about 7 inches. From the photographic record of the remains as originally found, reproduced in Suppl. PI. XLIII, it will be seen that, with the above exceptions, both the ivory core of the image and the gold plating with which it was so richly overlaid were remarkably well preserved, though the ‘Minoan sheath’ had become detached, as shown in Suppl. PI. XLIII. The plating was fastened by small gold pins or rivets.
As will be seen by a comparison of Figs. 14, 15 depicting the figurine in its present condition, very little has been required in the way of restoration beyond the filling in of some cracks and the symmetrical replacement of the right arm below the hand in conformity with that on the left, preserved, with its articulation.
This consists of a square-cut tenon, a centimetre long and about 0-4 cm in diameter, fitting into a mortise-hole with a lining” of metal, apparently silver. This arrangement exactly answers to that of the taureadors of the ‘Ivory Deposit’ at Knossos, though it does not appear that in that case there was a metal lining within the mortise-holes. The length of the arms when complete was 9 centimetres (c. 3 1/2 inches), as extended, very closely corresponding with those of the ‘Leaping- Youth’. Otherwise their action, in the latter case, stretched forward to their utmost extent, contrasts with the bent position of the arms of the present statuette.
The female personage before us at once strikes the eye as of a very different character from that of the girl performers in the Minoan bull-sports as portrayed for us in the frescoes and small reliefs, notwithstanding the fact that she shares with them the male loin-attire that is the most distinctive article of her apparel.
Matronly corset combined with male loin attire.
These performers—whether they display their acrobatic skill in the Palace Circus or the open field—are consistently depicted with a very slight pectoral development, so much so that in the wall-paintings, were it not for the convention of the white skin colouring, it might be difficult to distinguish them from the youthful male taureadors who take part in the same scenes. But the figure before us presents the full breasts of a very matronly stage and their decidedly prominent contours have brought with them as a corollary the need for artificial support.
This is supplied by the stays, of which we find the indication about them in open gold work, somewhat suggestive of the whalebones of more recent feminine attire. As will be seen from Fig. 16, a, b, and the back view, c, this corset has no visible continuation behind, though its two posterior borders may, however, in reality have been connected by some piece of stuff. It was suspended above from the shoulders, as we see, by means of two bands, that might be described as very short sleeves.
Stays on the same principle are to be seen on the marple statuette of the Goddess in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Fig. 17, a, b, and on the faence figure of what should be regarded as a double of the ‘Snake Goddess’, from the Temple Repositories at Knossos. In these cases the corset proper is part and parcel with a jacket, the sleeves of which extend some way down the upper arms. The two Knossian examples supply evidence of the lacing together of this bodice by means of looped knots.
The Cambridge Goddess, on the other hand, has a knob in front (see Fig. 17, a), which Mr. Wace ingeniously interprets as the head—set at right angles—of a metal pin that passed ‘downwards, over and under the bands of braid’ or some similar material. In the case of the chryselephantine image before us there is no certain clue to the means of fastening the corset, but the gold rivet by which its upper angle, between the breasts, is attached to the ivory, may mark the place of such a pin-head.
As in analogous cases, the lower border of the corset or bodice corresponds, so far as it is visible, with the upper border of the belt. The central band of the Minoan belt seems to have been of metal, but each of the rolled upper and lower zones may well represent ‘a padded cushion-like belt of some elastic material’. The upper of these would have overlain the edge of the bodice, while the lower would have caught the upper edge of the skirt, or of the male loin-clothing.
It is this masculine arrangement that we see here adopted.
Like the corset above and the belt itself, this loin-clothing consists of a thin gold plate decorated with rows of punctuations and small embossed disks, and showing barred openwork analogous to that of the stays. Behind, as usual, is a tongue-shaped piece which should cover the upper part of the buttocks and narrows to a point below, where it was drawn between the legs. In the present instance the gold plating that represents this flap-like section of the loin-cloth shows only the lower point and the borders, the central portion being wanting.
In front, where in the original the cloth would have been drawn up between the legs, the corresponding section also narrows to a point below. It is on the centre of this that the ‘cod-piece’, the distinguishing feature of the Minoan male attire, is riveted on by small gold pins above.
It will be seen from the examples of this article of apparel given in Fig. 12, above, as worn by both the ordinary Minoan men and by the female taureadors, that it exactly corresponds with them. The usage finds a parallel—as already shown: — in the ‘ Libyan Sheath’ or ‘penistasche’, still extant in parts of Nigeria, and the strong proto-Libyan element discernible in the early culture of the Southernmost Cretan region may help to explain the African analogy.
By Sir Arthur J. Evans. The Palace of Minos.
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