Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
Greek police raided a home on the hills outside of Athens and discovered a nearly intact ancient marble kore hidden in the goat pen. The 40-year-old goat herder and a 56-year-old man thought to be his accomplice were arrested. The two were trying to sell the statue to a private buyer for €500,000 ($667,000), a large sum for them, but a small fraction of the maiden’s market value. Experts estimate she’d make something more along the lines of $12 million if she were sold in the open market.
The kore (Greek for “maiden”; the male equivalent is “kouros”) is just under four feet tall (1.2 meters) and dates to the Late Archaic period of Greek sculpture, around 520 B.C. She’s missing her left forearm and the plinth under her feet, but otherwise she is complete. Her curled hair frames the serene countenance known as an archaic smile, and her clothes, a modest combination of chiton and peplos, are still caked with the dirt of her recent illegal excavation. Her missing forearm probably held an offering like a pomegranate.
Korai were votive or memorial statues found at religious and funerary sites. Although they have been found all over Greece, it’s very rare that an intact one is discovered at this late date, and since this kore dates to a transitional period wherein the formalism of the Archaic gave way to the stunning realism of Classical Greek art, she holds an important place in art history.
In fact, she looks very much like the Peplos Kore, a marble statue from ca. 530 B.C. that was discovered on the Acropolis in 1884 and is now in the Archaic Gallery of the new Acropolis Museum. The Peplos Kore has traces of her original paint visible. It was the discovery in the 1880s of the Peplos Kore and other sculptures discarded during renovations to the Acropolis complex after the Persians sacked Athens in 480 B.C. that first made people realize that the stark whiteness of neo-classicism was a-historical, that in truth the ancient Greeks painted their statues in a wide array of incredibly garish (to our eyes) colors. The Peplos Kore has been an invaluable source of information about Greek sculpture painting.
Archaeologists hope the looters will reveal where they dug up this kore. There could be an undiscovered sanctuary or temple on the site, or at least some identifiable remnants of archaeological context for the looted statue.