SANTORINI



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Santorini - Fira, The Kameni Islets and the north of the island - Theran paintings

Theran paintings
The clear, simple compositions of Theran painting mark an important step forward in the development of Western Art. They represent a moment in which the history of painting in Europe, deriving from a common origin in Egypt, first begins to acquire characteristics which distinguish it as something we can call ‘western’. In earliest times in Egypt, painting was writing and vice versa; and the Egyptian tradition re mains steadfastly one in which information and image are inseparable. The idea of a painting as a ‘picture’—something which lies so deep in the Western concept of art that we tend to take it for granted— begins first to appear in these Bronze Age murals from Thera and their contemporaries on Crete. The Theran paintings are first and foremost sacred narratives, but they are also remarkable compositions of nature. Indicative of this compositional sense are the large areas of empty space which separate the figures in the scenes of Young Women Gathering Saffron, in the museum in Fira: there is no clutter, no unnecessary decoration, just absolute clarity of line and simplicity of colour. The overall proportion of figuresto the total area is something quite new: they do not dominate the space, and are amply separated from one another. only a few examples of Theran painting are on show in Santorini; but the famous murals of the Two Antelopes, or of the Landscape of Lilies with Swallows, both currently in Athens, are at least visible, in life-size reproduction, at the Petros nomikos Centre in Fira (see p. 39-40). These, too, are skillful compositions and simplified ‘pictures’, by comparison with their complex Egyptian forebears which are full of hieroglyphic writing. This does not mean that they did not possess important sacred content for the Therans: they did. But they are conceived compositionally according to new and forward-looking principles. Western art has tended to move forward by repeated processes of simplification, and Theran art represents one such movement.
   It should be recalled that the murals from Akrotiri are not the only examples we have of wall-paintings of their epoch: there are others which come from Crete and later examples from mainland Greece. But they are among the most complete and beautiful to have been found so far, and they possess, by virtue of the conditions in which they were found, a clearer architectural context than the others, which helps us to understand their meaning. They were created, as the museum displays show, in simple iron-oxide earth pigments, available in abundance on the island. only the blue—a synthetic pigment or ‘frit’, made from copper silicate and calcium—was imported from Egypt. The painting technique cannot be called pure ‘fresco’, because, although the painter may have be gun painting into the wet, calcium hydroxide plaster, much of the descriptive detail is executed in tempera on the dry surface.


Santorini Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.


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access

Santorini Island, Greece.

By air: Santorini is wellconnected with four daily flights to Athens with both Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines, and three to Thessaloniki with Aegean. Aegean also operates a once-weekly direct flight to and from Milan and Rome, from July to September. The airport takes large aircraft, and is four and a half kilometres from Chora.
By boat: At Santorini the (new) ferry port (Athiniós) is seven and a half kilometres from Chora. There are generally two or three daily boat connections to Piraeus, taking nine hours by car-ferry and five hours by high-speed vessel; most stop at Paros and/or Naxos en route.
There are links to Anaphi, Folegandros, Sikinos and Ios , and with Crete, five or six times weekly (these drop to twice-weekly in the winter).
There are direct links to Milos twice-weekly throughout the year.
Boats for Therasia leave from the port of Oia at Amoudi (12 km from Chora), daily at 8 am and midday, to Riva. A connecting local bus to Potamos and Manolas (Chora) – 10 mins. Sometimes the boat route includes Korfos harbour, directly below Manolas, in addition to Riva

Santorini Travel Guide

eating

Santorini Island, Greece.

Between the twin traps of the expensively pretentious and the indifferently touristic, there are still a few good places to eat on Santorini.
Ta Delphinia the water’s edge in the Bay of Akrotiri is a family run fish-taverna, which largely serves its own catch of fish accompanied by its own local wine (from March to August), and an array of traditional mezés, which include a delicious Santorinian fava and tomatokeftedes. The taverna Aktaion (often known as ‘Roussos’) at the very beginning of Firostefáni (as you arrive by foot from Chora), though small, serves local food, including a good prassopitta – a pie made with mixed greens and leeks.
50m north of it, is the best and most genuine Italian eatery in the Aegean (run by Italians), called Il Cantuccio. For a more highly-wrought cuisine, still based on Greek ingredients, Selene at the southern extremity of Chora offers peace and a beautiful view in addition to some interesting dishes.
Franco’s Bar in Chora merits mention as a historic institution: one of the first bars of the 1970’s on Santorini, it still serves (expensive, but wellprepared) cocktails to the accompaniment of classical music, in front of one of the most dramatic sunsets in Europe.
On Therasia, Taverna Panorama in Manolas, at the top of the steps from the harbour of Korfos, has an excellent view, passable food, but wayward prices.

Santorini Travel Guide

further reading

Santorini Island, Greece.

Ferdinand Fouqué, whose book Santorini et Ses Eruptions was first published in French in 1879, and reissued in an English translation by Alexander McBirney in 1999 by Johns Hopkins university Press, is the first comprehensive study of the island’s geology and volcanic history. J.V. Luce, The End of Atlantis (first published by Thames & Hudson, London, 1969; reprinted by Efstathiadis & Sons, Athens, 1982) is indebted to Fouqué, but follows the theme of Plato’s legend of Atlantis and its relation to Santorini. Nanno Marinatos, in Art & Religion in Thera: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Society (Athens, 1984) lays out a clear and cogent explanation of the paintings from Akrotiri. The Wall Paintings of Thera (Athens, 1992) by Christos Doumas,the current head of excavations at Akrotiri, is also authoritative and clear on the subject – as are all his many excellent articles and writings on Theran matters. For the lat est debate on the dating of the eruption of Thera, see: Acts of the Minoan Eruption Chronology Workshop in Sandjberg, Denmark in november 2007, published by the Danish Institute in Athens in 2009 as Time’s Up! Dating the Minoan Eruption of Santorini.

Santorini Travel Guide

lodging

Santorini Island, Greece.

On Santorini, the Kavalari Hotel (T.22860 22347, fax 22603, www.kavalari.com) is one of the older hotels on the island, centrally placed, with magnificent views, created from traditional Santorinian houses cut into the native lava at the top of the cliff above the caldera. It is simple, friendly, unpretentious, and beautiful: there is no elevator, however, and the rooms are reached down precipitous flights of steps.
For greater ease of access (also near the Metropolitan Church) is the Theoxenia Hotel (T.22860 22740, fax 22950, www.theoxenia.net): panoramic and very pleasant, with a good breakfast served in the rooms. The island’s oldest hotel, the Atlantis (T.22860 22111, fax 22821, www.atlantishotel. gr) is practical, straightforward, welcoming and superbly sited; it is one of Santorini: practical informati on 97 the few hotels open all year round.
The Aressana Hotel (T.22860 22860, fax 23902, www.aressana.gr), opposite the Atlantis, is also comfortably appointed and convenient. On one of the highest points of the cliff, with views directly over the caldera, Anteliz Apartments Hotel (T.22860 28842, fax 28843, www. anteliz.gr) is modern and attractive, with spacious rooms and a pool. For ‘boutique chic’, Homeric Poems (T.22860 24661, fax 24660; www.homericpoems. gr) offers a luxurious and rarified atmosphere.Oia is generally more tranquil than Chora; it also has the most delightful place to stay on the island – Chelidonia Villas (T.22860 71827, fax 71649, www. chelidonia.com),which combines simplicity with good taste, friendliness and a perfect position (T.22860 71827, fax 71649, www. chelidonia.com), which combines simplicity with good taste, friendliness and a perfect position. On Therasia there are rooms to rent at Zacharo, just above Manolas to the south, T.22860 29102.

Santorini Travel Guide

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