Bull-Leaping Fresco from Palace of Knossos (Crete), Greece, 1450-1400 BCE

Minoans are very well-known for their fresco paintings. The bull-leaping fresco from the palace of Knossos is one such example.

It depicts a Minoan bull-leaping ceremony in which young men grasp onto the horns of a charging bull and vault onto its back. This was an extremely dangerous and difficult activity. Only fragments of the painting remain. The figures are painted in a style characteristic of Minoan frescoes. The figure of the young man has dark skin and that of the young woman has fair skin. This was a commonly-accepted ancient convention for depicting males and females. Both figures have stylized shapes, with pinched waists (which is typical of the Minoan style). The figures and the bull are very animated. The bull artist emphasized the charging nature of the bull by elongating the animal’s shape and using sweeping lines.

The view of a full eye on a profile figure is reminiscent of Egyptian figures. However, the fresco is very Minoan in its Cretan figures and the use of fluid and organic lines suggesting living, animated, and moving beings.

I really like this particular fresco because I think that the artist effectively used lines and forms to convey motion and energy (the painter uses very fluid and organic forms as opposed to angular ones). I also really like the color choice. I can only imagine how wonderful this fresco would have looked in its original, unfragmented form.

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