From the Greek Islands of Thera and Crete during the years of 3000-2000 BC, the great Minoan Civilization traversed the Mediterranean, trading with the Egyptians and establishing colonies on every coast. They disappeared after the volcanic destruction of Thera, leaving behind remnants of a highly advanced culture including magnificently detailed, colorful frescoes.
The frescoes of ancient Minoan civilization were wall art posters which added beauty to the palaces. They were hand painted on a special plaster-mix base. The color pigments were applied while the plaster was still wet so that they would set into the plaster making them last a long time. You can find frescoes all over Europe, some that look just like they were painted yesterday.
From several examples, we see the the Minoans’ close connection with the ocean. Two dolphins swim amidst a sea of fish. A young fisherman holds his daily catch of local fish. These would have been scenes from their every day life living on a plentiful large island at Crete with the bounty of the ocean surrounding with them. In the other frescoes we see some of their pastimes — ritual of bull jumping by priestesses, boxing, and costuming to establish a hierarchical society.
Below are some samples of some of the most iconic frescoes you’ll see in history books.
Swimming Dolphins Fresco Found in a very elaborately decorated room, the so-called “Queen’s Chamber” in the Palace of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete, this image of marine life celebrated the sea for these Minoan people (c.1500 BC).
Young Fisherman The Minoans depended on the ocean for their livelihood. Here a young man is shown carrying fish during his daily work (c.1500 BC). The wall painting from Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini has a minimal color palette of blue, yellow, reddish brown and black. Even with a small range of colors, the painter adds lifelike details to the fish to illustrate the stacking of them on his line carriers. He illustrates the abundance of the sea life and its bountiful ocean.
Antelopes Fresco This fresco was found during the excavations conducted by Spyridon Marinatos from 1967 to 1974 at Akrotiri on the southern coast of the ringed islands of Santorini (the Pompeii of the Aegean) which was covered by thick deposits of ash and pumice from the great Bronze Age eruption of the Santorini volcano that occurred between 1627 and 1600 BC. It was discovered on the west wall of room 1 in the Beta Building and is 2.0 meters (6.6 feet) wide and 2.75 meters (9.0 feet) high. This exquisite fresco is on display at the P. M. Nomikos Exhibition Center’s Thera Wallpainting Exhibition Hall in the town of Fira which houses all of the restored frescoes found during the excavations at Akrotiri.
One of the most famous painted frescoes from ancient Crete is the Minoan Bull Jumpers fresco. Bull jumping is believed to have been part of Minoan ritual. In this image, a priestess vaults head-first over a charging bull. The original painting was removed from thePalace of Knossos to be preserved in the Heraklion Museum, Crete.
Replicas of Minoan Art are hard to find here in the US. Here is a collection from our store. If you know of more Minoan art frescoes and replicas for sale, please let us know.