Tag Archive: Barbarian art


UD: March 2016

 

 

 

 

 

The migration of Celtic tribes into south-eastern Europe from the first half of the 4th c. BC logically brought them into contact with the Greek world. Although in the initial phase this contact was violent in nature, one of the positive results of this cultural interaction was the rapid adoption by the ‘barbarians’ of a coinage system based on the Hellenistic model. From the 2nd half of the 4th c. BC highly stylized coins based on Greek prototypes became common throughout the areas of Celtic settlement in s.e. Europe. Among the first Hellenistic numismatic models to be ‘imitated’ by the Celts was the coinage of the kings of Paeonia – Lykkeios, Patraos, and Audoleon.

 

 

 

 

PAEONIA

 

 Paeonia (Greek Παιονία) coincided with parts of today’s northern Greece, the modern Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and parts of western Bulgaria. It was situated to the north of ancient Macedonia, and south of Dardania, its borders being fluid over the centuries, depending on the geo-political situation. Celtic coinage based on Paeonian models had a wide range of circulation ranging from Noricum to western Thrace. The earliest ‘imitations’ of Paeonian coins (those of the Paeonian king Lykkeios, 356 – 335 BC) give us a taste of the artistic experimentation which is further developed in later Balkan Celtic issues.

 

 

 

AR Tetradrachm. Lykkeios (356 – 335 BC)

Laureate head of Zeus right / Herakles strangling the Nemean Lion

(SNGANS 109)

 

 

 

AR Tetradrachm. Celtic ‘imitation’ of Lykkeios.

(late 4th c. BC)

 

 

 

On the obverse of both coins a male head (Zeus) is depicted. On the Hellenistic prototype we observe conformity to anatomical principles in the composition of the subject, an approach typical of classical art of this period. In sharp contrast is the portrait on the ‘barbarian’ coin which is highly stylized, the composition conforming to the circular form of the coin, rather than the anatomical characteristics of the subject – the nose is represented by a straight line, the eye is presented en face, etc.

 On the reverse a similar disparity is to be observed. On the Hellenistic prototype there is again obvious intent to portray the animal and human figures in an anatomically correct manner, while the schematic approach on the Celtic coin disregards anatomical precision. The result is two very different images emanating from the same subject matter. The emphasis on anatomical precision on the Hellenistic coin has the effect of ‘freezing’ the image, while the expressionistic approach by the Celtic artist conveys the sense of movement in the battle between man and animal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the evolution of Celtic numismatic art from Hellenistic prototypes See also:

https://www.academia.edu/9763573/BIRTH_OF_THE_ICON_-_The_Development_of_Celtic_Abstract_Iconic_Art_in_Thrace_3-1_c._BC_

https://www.academia.edu/5543801/On_Posthumous_and_Barbarian_Lysimachus_Staters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Rejection

THE ART OF REJECTION *

 

 

 

 

The Celtic coinage based on the Philip II model raises a number of fundamental questions about our perception of non-classical European coinage and art in the pre-Roman period. It has hitherto been believed that the first Celtic coinage was produced in central Europe, based on Philip II coins brought there by Celtic mercenaries fighting for the Macedonian king. However, recent evidence from southeastern Europe (in particular Romania and Bulgaria**) throws serious doubt on this assumption.

 

 

 

 

 

Classical portrait of Philip II of Macedonia (left –  Glyptotek Collection of classical and modern art –Copenhagen) and portrait reconstruction by the University of Manchester (right – after Prag J., 2003)

 

 

 

 

Fig. 1 – Original Philip II tetradrachma (Le Rider 44.20)

 

 

 

 

The Celtic coins based on the Philip II model, and the images portrayed on them, have variously been defined as ‘illiterate copies of Hellenistic models’ or ‘barbarian attempts to produce classical images’. However, as illustrated below, when these ‘barbarian’ images are put into their proper historical and artistic context, a different picture begins to emerge.

Тhe artistic processes visible on Celtic coins from the Balkans during this period clearly illustrate that the abstract/surrealist images that developed were the result of a conscious and deliberate rejection of Greco-Roman art and experimentation with alternative artistic ideas that would not resurface in European art until the modern era.

 

 

 

  Some of the early Celtic imitations (Fig. 2), as in the case of the Thasos and Philip III models (see relevant sections), remain fairly close to the Hellenistic originals, even copying the Greek inscription. These coins clearly illustrate that Celtic craftsmen were perfectly capable of reproducing both classical images and inscriptions in the Greek alphabet, if they so desired. From the end of the 3rd c. BC, however, we witness a movement into ‘uncharted waters’ and the emergence of ‘barbarized’ images which marked Celtic coinage and numismatic art in the centuries that followed:

 

 

 

 

                           Fig. 2 – Early Celtic imitation (3rd c. BC) (Göbl 14/2)

 

 

 

 

Artistic evolution of Celtic (Philip II model) coinage from Romania / Bulgaria (3rd – 1st c. BC):

 

 

 

Process 1 (Lateral Vision):

 

                              Phase 1

 

 

Phase 2

 

Phase 3

 

 

 

 

 

Process 2 (Moonhead):

 

 

 

          Phase 1

 

 

            Phase 2 

 

 

       Phase 3

 

 

 

      Phase 4

 

 

 

 

Process 3 (The Butterfly):

 

 

 

 

                              Phase 1

 

 

 

   Phase 2

 

 

   Phase 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Process 4 (The Fat Man):

 

 

 

Phase  1

              

 

                                                                                                                                                                                      

  Phase 2

 

 

   Phase 3

 

 

Phase 4

 

 

 

 

Process 5 (Snakehead):

 

 

  Phase 1

 

 

  Phase 2

 

 

Phase 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Process 6 – (Deus ex Machina):

 

 

 

   Phase 1

 

 

 

Phase 2

 

 

  Phase 3

 

 

 

Phase 4

 

 

 

Phase 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Process 7 – (The Harprider):

 

 

 

Phase 1

 

 

    Phase 2

 

 

 

       Phase 3/a

 

 

Phase 3/b

 

 

 

    Phase 4

 

 

 

 

   Phase 5

 

 

 

 

The above images give us a unique insight into one of the most significant periods in European history – the twilight of the barbarian world. Most striking about them is the freedom of artistic expression that they portray. Artistic movements that we today call abstractionism, surrealism, and even post-modernism, are to be clearly recognized in these late Iron Age images.

 In the dogmatic political and cultural structures of the Roman and early-Christian periods such freedom of expression became unthinkable and, like the people who had created them, the artistic ideas born of the ‘barbarian’ imagination were swallowed up in the tide of history. However, in these coins we get a fleeting glance into a period when, for the first time, European art had entered the dark sphere of the human imagination, moving the focus from the superficiality of classical art to a deeper perception of reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Illustrations and text after Mac Congail/Krusseva 2010 = Мак Конгал Б., Крусева Б. Хората, които се превърнаха в слънце – Ваpварските изкуство и религия на Балканите. Пловдив 2010. (The Men Who Became The Sun – Barbarian Art and Religion on the Balkans. Plovdiv 2010)

** On the distribution of these Philip II model Celtic coins in Bulgaria see Numismatic section 4.