Monthly Archives: May 2012


The Greek term karyatides literally means “maidens of Karyai,” an ancient town of Peloponnese (southern Greece).  Karyai had a famous temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis in her aspect of Artemis Karyatis: “As Karyatis she rejoiced in the dances of the nut-tree village of Karyai, those Karyatides, who in their ecstatic round-dance carried on their heads baskets of live reeds, as if they were dancing plants” (Kerenyi 1980 p 149).

The Erichtheion, a temple which stands next to the Parthenon, is home to the archetypal caryatids. They have launched a thousand imitators, from Augustus Saint-Gaudens to Victorian-era furniture makers. Lord Elgin carried one back home to England, after accidentally smashing another. Originally six in number, five of these enormous stone women remain at the Erechtheion, while one is hostage to the British Museum (the caryatid Elgin smashed was repaired with cement and rebar).

Above: a caryatid from the Erechtheion, standing in contrapposto,  displayed at the British Museum. Photographer: Marie-Lan Nguyen, 2007.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the photo and nut-tree village quote (walnuts, in case you were wondering).

Coming up in July

Women Sculptors of the National Academy

Bruce Weber, Senior Curator, 19th and 20th Century Art, National Academy Museum, leads a gallery talk on some of the highlights of Women Sculptors of the Academy. The talk takes place on July 27 at the National Academy Museum, 1083 5th Avenue in New York.

The twenty works in Women Sculptors of the National Academy reflect the evolution of American sculpture between the late 19th and 20th centuries and celebrate the special achievements and contributions of women artists to the medium. The works vary in subject from classical allegory in Evelyn Beatrice Longman’s Victory to Nancy Grossman’s politically charged Gunhead, and from the ethnic references of Elizabeth Catlett’s Fluted Head to the sexually infused work of Louise Bourgeois’ Untitled (Germinal).

RSVP and purchase tickets at the National Academy’s website:

pictured: Louise Bourgeois, Untitled (Germinal), 1967-95 bronze with dark & polished patina, ed. 5/15. 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 8