The Indeterminate Woman: Representation and Regulation of Gender in 6th - 4th Century BCE Athenian Art

Elizabeth Summers

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About Elizabeth

Following two-years as a pre-med student at the University of Iowa, Elizabeth realized her passion lay in a different field and moved to Colorado to pursue an art education degree. In December of 2018, Elizabeth graduated cum laude from the Community College of Denver with her Associate of Art in Studio Arts. Although she meant to study education in the following years, she accidentally fell in love with the field of art history and is projected to graduate summa cum laude  with a Bachelor of Art in Art History, Theory, and Criticism Fall 2020. Elizabeth's eventual goal is to study intellectual property and international business law to repatriate historic objects to their original cultures.

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About Elizabeth's Research

The Othering and sometimes blatant degradation of women in favor of the Ideal Man were prevalent throughout ancient Athenian art as women were intentionally represented as lesser than men in almost all depictions of daily life. A combination of dress, nudity, accessory, posing, and even suggested grooming habits in vase painting and sculpture all made an impression on both the men and women who viewed artwork of Classical and Hellenistic Greece, reinforcing the societal expectations of the male gaze on the female body and proving that the artwork of ancient Greece was yet another tool used to reinforce the narrative of women as animalistic and lesser beings. Although studies regarding the art and literature of ancient Greece as a means of understanding the broader role of women in society have increased in the past few decades, there is a surprising lack of research on the female response to their own depiction.

The goddess sculptures and vase paintings of Classical and Hellenistic Athens portrayed a new female ideal defined by the male expectations of the time which then shaped standards of body, dress, and hygiene for women. Through the study of such artistic representation, alongside societal reaction and gender relations in Athens from the 6th through 4th centuries BCE, we can observe how sculpture and vase painting both reflected and furthered the social class divides of women in ancient Greece.