The Snake Goddess from Knossos, ca. 2000 B.C.
Characteristic of feminine fashion in Minoan Crete.
This figure appears to be wearing:—
- (1) A skirt, made without gathers, touching the ground evenly all round, decorated with horizontal lines representing either tucks or embroidery or woven stripes in the material. The skirt is bordered with a reticulated pattern at the hem, enclosed within a double line of edging.
- (2) A double apron or ‘polonaise’ made without fulness, reaching to the knee at the back and front, and rising to the hips at the sides. It is not improbably cut as an oval, and the head inserted through a hole in the middle as in the modern ‘poncho.’
- It is decorated round its edge by a ‘guilloche’ pattern within plain bands. This decoration may be embroidery. The hem of this garment has the appearance of being slightly wadded or stuffed to produce a rope-like edge. The material is covered with a spotted pattern in relief.
- (3) A tight-fitting jacket bodice of rich stuff, decorated, apparently, in embroidery, with a pattern formed of ‘volutes.’ The short sleeves cover the top of the shoulder and reach half-way to the elbow.
- In front the bodice is cut away in a V shape from the shoulders to a point at the waist, leaving the neck and both breasts absolutely bare. From just below the breasts the edges of the jacket seem to be braided in curved patterns, and laced across from this braiding by cords. These cords are tied in bow-like knots. The front of this jacket is edged all round by a spotted snake.
- (4) A high cap or tiara, perhaps of cloth, wound round in spiral fashion.
- The hair of the figure falls to the shoulders in long locks, and is arranged beneath the high cap in a ‘fringe’ of regular strands of hair.
The outline of this Votary’s dress is similar in general character to that of the Goddess, but offers a few variations, viz.:—
- (1) The skirt consists of seven flounces fastened apparently on a ‘foundation,’ so that the hem of each flounce falls just over the head of the one below it. Vertical stripes of a darker colour, of irregular width, appear on hem. The topmost flounce shows two narrow horizontal lines on each hip, probably a ‘heading’ to finish off the flounces.
- (2) Over this skirt is worn a double apron or ‘ polonaise’ similar to that of the Goddess, but not falling so deeply, and not so richly ornamented.
- The main surface is covered with a reticulated pattern, each reticulation being filled with horizontal lines in its upper half. The general effect is that of a check or small plaid. A triple line of decoration edges this ‘polonaise.’ The hem of it is thickened, perhaps by ‘ wadding.’ Seen from the back this thick edge seems to denote a fastening on each hip. The front and side views of the right hip give this fastening (?) the appearance of a thick roll, suggestive of a snake.
- (3) The bodice seems to be made of a plain material, and is cut in similar fashion to that of the Goddess, with rather longer sleeves. From the top of the shoulder down the sleeve, and continued at right angles round the arm, runs a line of lighter coloured decoration, perhaps braiding. Instead of the snake edge to the jacket, seen on the other figure, a rope-like border runs round the bodice and also round the sleeves, which terminate just above the elbow. The bodice is cut away so as to expose both breasts, as with the Goddess, and is similarly laced, though the braiding, from which the lacing springs, is not, perhaps, quite so rich.
- (4) The snake girdle of the Goddess is replaced on this figure by a stiff belt. The whole costume of both figures seems to consist of garments carefully sewn and fitted to the shape without any trace of flowing draperies.
- The bodies of the figures are closely confined within their bodices, except where they open in front. The lines adopted are those considered ideal by the modern corset maker rather than those of the sculptor.
A Striking Relic of Snake worship in Crete during the Minoan Age.
This dainty faience figure does not represent the Snake Goddess herself, but her votary or priestess. In her right hand the votary carries a small snake, tail upwards, and the left hand, which is missing, probably held another reptile in a similar position. Over her many flounced skirt she wears a double apron, a ritualistic survival of a primitive garment once to both sexes. Generally, the votary`s costume may be regarded as characteristic of feminine fashion in Minoan Crete. (Photograph from Sir Arthur Evans, “The Palace of Minos”.)
Above Photograph shows the Snake Goddess from Knossos, ca. 2000 B.C. Beside her a Cup-Bearer from a fresco at Knossos ca. 1500 B.C.