The painted scene on the lunette of the burial chamber

By: Maria Chichikova - 2012

Museum of Isperih Article

The decorative scheme of the burial chamber comprises also a multifigure scene on the lunette of the northwestern wall, above funerary bed No. 1. The scene has the following dimensions: length 2.5 m and maximum height 0.61 m. The composition represents a procession of servants and squires, arranged on both sides of two central figures – a ruler, depicted as a horseman, and a goddess standing in front of him. The two figures coincide with the vertical axis of the tomb and could be considered the center of the scene. An attempt could be seen for spatial rendering in perspective, the horseman being in the foreground and the goddess in the background. The horseman, with short dress and chlamis, holds the reins of the horse in his left hand, and his right arm, slightly bent at the elbow, is reaching forward to take the wreath the goddess is handing to him. The face of the horseman, rendered in profile, is of a young man with graceful features and short hair that follows the rounded outline of the head. The shape of an animal horn is clearly distinguishable behind the ear. It has exact parallels on the coins of the successors of Alexander the Great and symbolizes their royal and divine descent. The man has low closed shoes on his feet. The horse is young and strong, with short muzzle and graceful curve of the neck at the mane. The headstall, the reins, attached to the cheekpieces, and the strap at the base of the neck are meticulously drawn in detail, as well as the high saddle with four long tassels, painted in red. In front of the horseman’s legs, one could see part of a wide, tightly fastened girth.


The Goddess and the ruler

The goddess is dressed in long, sleeveless chiton and himation, thrown across her left shoulder. She steps up a high podium to the ruler, handing him a gold laurel wreath with her outstretched right hand. The head of the goddess is relatively small, with a graceful oval and light hair, parted in the middle and seemingly held in a kerchief (kekriphalos). She is depicted facing, with her head slightly bent in the direction of the movement. At the base of the neck, she has a thin necklace (or a torque), and a bracelet on her right arm. The raised left front leg of the horse touches the hip of the goddess.

Two squires follow the ruler. The first one, wearing helmet on his head, is carrying a long spear on his left shoulder, and with his lowered right hand supports the scabbard of the sword, with the sword-strap hanging down. The second man, with a knee-long garment, has in his hands a large oval or round shield, held upright in front of his body.

Behind the goddess follows a procession of four women, carrying various gifts. The first figure is of a young girl with short curly hair, bound with tania. She is dresses in long sleeveless dress (chiton), girded at the waist. At the front, two wide vertical bands are outlined, similar to the garments of the servants and the musicians depicted on the large frieze in the burial chamber of Kazanlak Tomb. In the right hand, stretched in front of her, she holds small rectangular perfume box with gabled lid and four legs, and carries an oinochoe in her left hand. The rectangular perfume box has exact parallels in the scene on the large frieze in Kazanlak Tomb. The figure is distinguished by her smaller height, compared to the goddess and the woman following her. The latter also has short hair and long chiton with short sleeves. In her outstretched hands, she carries a half-open rectangular jewelry casket. Similar, but much larger casket is depicted in Kazanlak Tomb. As the women in front of her, she steps forward with her right leg. The body of the third maid is turned back to the last figure, and her head and eyes look down to the feet of the second servant. In her outstretched hands, she holds a large metal vase on a high stand (krater). The dynamic of the body turning back, against the direction of movement, is vividly rendered. The image of the last woman is worn and unclear. She holds a small three-legged table or a stand for a bronze vessel.

The composition is well thought, with sense of symmetry and balance. The artist skillfully rendered the shapes of the bodies that show through the thin garments. The figures and their attributes are painted with ease and confidence and despite some roughness of certain details the drawing indicates the authorship of a well-trained artist. The contours are outlined with thick lines and more often with hatching – a technique that was applied for modeling the figures and the garments. The scene that is rendered as a drawing in dark blue and black was left unfinished. The artist did not color it, but only emphasized in red paint the decoration of the saddle.

The main subject of the painted scene is related to the cult. The golden wreath, handed by the goddess, represents the heroization of the ruler, buried in the tomb, who departs for the underworld as a heros (half-god), protector of the land and his subjects.

In terms of composition and style, having in mind the elongated proportions of the female figures, the garments and the gifts, the multifigure scene in Caryatids Tomb has its closest parallel in the main frieze in the burial chamber of Kazanlak Tomb. Both monuments were created almost in the same time in the end of the first or the beginning of the second quarter of the 3rd c. BC. Both friezes are composed only of figures, rendered flatly on the pale, neutral background of the wall – unlike the funerary painting in Macedonia that emphasizes the light and the shadows and often replaces the neutral background with natural landscape.

The specialized photogrammetric and physical optical analyses, carried out by the team of Mihail Enev, provided very important results regarding both the artistic and the technical methods, applied by the artist. It was established that the technique was dry fresco. The surface of the stone base was carefully smoothed with toothed chisel, especially around the figures, thus outlining in advance their places in the figures, thus outlining in advance their places in the composition. The figures were drawn directly on the stone with charcoal. As he could not color the entire drawing, except for the tassels of the saddle, the artist emphasized the figures by painting the wall with limewash, applied with a brush around the already finished drawing. Then he emphasized some details by adding more charcoal.

The artist was well-versed in the contemporary means of expression and decorative concepts. In the same time, some specifics could be seen that distinguish his drawing from the Greek and Macedonian examples – most of all the figures that are rendered more static and linear.