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Anointing Statues

Post  AgathonZante on Mon Aug 01, 2016 8:24 pm

Were statues anointed in ancient Greece before worship, and if so, why? What was the objective?

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Re: Anointing Statues

Post  Erodius on Sun Aug 07, 2016 2:12 pm

I'll answer by quoting a passage from Polly Weddle's academic work Touching the Gods pp. 55-6:

"A similar variety can be found in the ways in which an image might be washed, bathed or
otherwise tended. We know, for example, of some images that were regularly anointed with
oil or water, which may have arisen out of necessity as much as ritual.

Plutarch makes this necessity clear in his description of the polishing of the statue of Jupiter on the Capitol:

“But the polishing of the statue is absolutely necessary; for the red pigment, with
which they used to tint ancient statues, rapidly loses its freshness.”


The notable antiquity of the image is probably significant in its need for care, and given the
supposed age of many cult images it seems likely that others were treated with oils for
preservation. In many cases we do not know the precise motivation for anointing with oils or perfumes, but it is clear the practice was a much-repeated one. That this could change the
appearance of statues, as in the case of the Artemis at Ephesus who was blackened from
regular anointing, means that these images themselves visually displayed the effects of
physical contact over time."

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