Documentary now available of ancient Caryatid hairstyles being brought to life
(Posted on April 07, 2010)
A DVD is now available that documents the Caryatid Hairstyling Project, directed by Dr. Katherine Schwab, associate professor of art history at Fairfield University, to show if the elaborate female coiffures seen among the Erechtheion marble Caryatids, or maidens, at the Acropolis Museum in Athens could actually be replicated on women today. The 15-minute, fast-paced DVD follows six female students as their long hair is twisted and curled in intricate patterns (which in real time took hours) and records their reactions as they are transformed in appearance from modern 21st century women to elegant young women of ancient Greece. Produced by Christopher McGloin and Daniel Kole of the Media Center, with music arranged by Dr. Laura Nash, Program Director of Music, the DVD was funded by a grant from the University's Faculty Research Committee and the Classical Studies Program. A webpage about the project includes a clip and online purchase of the DVD at www.fairfield.edu/caryatid.
Dr. Schwab, who has a long-standing association with the Acropolis Museum, frequently travels to Athens to pursue her research on the Parthenon east and north metopes. After seeing photographs of the Caryatids in an exhibition, The Creative Photograph in Archaeology, organized by the Benaki Museum and hosted by Fairfield University, Dr. Schwab became increasingly curious about the beautifully carved hair of the Caryatids. The result of her investigations is this project and DVD. Crucial to her research on the Caryatid hairstyles, she said, were the important photographs by Goesta Hellner in the archives of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens and the Alison Frantz Photographic Collection at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA). Dr. Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, Head Archivist at the ASCSA, remarked that the "archaeologist Alison Frantz (1903-1995) served as the staff photographer of the Athenian Agora Excavations from 1933 to 1968. Her valuable collection of about 3,000 black and white negatives (4x5 inches) has been used to illustrate several famous publications on ancient Greek art."
Student participants, who consisted of five art history majors and one psychology major, were selected for the project on the basis of the length and thickness of their hair. The hairstylist Milexy Torres, who was able to accurately recapture the intricate twists and braids of the caryatids on the models, concluded that the Athenian coiffures were true to life.
The students participated out of curiosity, but some said they felt particularly enthralled by ancient Athenian culture by the time the project was completed. Sophomore art history major Amber Nowak, who served as one of the student models, said the project helped her feel surprisingly connected. "It no longer seemed like some point in ancient history," she said. Junior art history major and student model Caitlin Parker observed, "above all, participating in the Caryatid Hairstyling Project reinforced how fortunate, expansive and really unlimited the discipline of Art History is."
Dr. Schwab has sent copies of the DVD to colleagues at the new Acropolis Museum, where five of the original caryatids are displayed, and the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum, where the sixth caryatid resides. At Fairfield University it will be used in art history and classical studies classes, and it can be shown to visiting school groups in the smart classroom adjacent to the Bellarmine Museum, due to open later this year.
Last summer Dr. Schwab was in Athens for the opening of the new Acropolis Museum where twenty-six digital scans of her original research drawings of the Parthenon east and north metopes became part of the permanent installation in the Parthenon Gallery.
Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vol. 42, No. 194