Kalos inscription  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Kalos inscription was a form of epigraph found on Attic vases and graffiti in antiquity, common between 550 and 450 BC, and usually found on symposion vessels. The word καλός means "beautiful"; here it had an erotic connotation, and the inscription took the form of a youth's name, in the nominative singular, followed by "kalos" ("X kalos", i.e. "X is beautiful"). The individuals mentioned were almost always teenage boys, though occasionally girls and women were spoken of as καλή (kalē). Kroll reports that ceramic descriptions of individuals labeled as beautiful include thirty of women and girls, kalē, and five hundred and twenty eight of boys, kalos. Kalos names are also found as graffiti on walls, the most abundant example being the find on Thassos of 60 kalos inscriptions carved on rock dating from the 4th century. The non-epigraphic literary evidence consists of two references in Aristophanes, line 144 in the Archarnians and lines 97-99 in the Wasps. In both of these instances, it is the demos that is lauded rather than any individual, and strongly suggest the public performance role of the kalos tag.

Some kalos inscriptions are associated with certain vase painters and potters; the Antimenes Painter is named after the kalos inscription for Antimenes on his pots. It is thought that since the names referred to were largely aristocratic citizens and that certain pottery workshops are associated with some kalos recipients (i.e. the Leagros Group named after the youth Leagros) they may have been the expression of a cult of celebrity or part of a concerted effort by the youths' families to increase their sons' public standing. Another possibility is that they were declarations of love on the part of the author in the style of courtship.

The purpose of these inscriptions is uncertain, principally they are thought to be declarations of love on the part of the author for the young man in question. In a few cases, they were probably written according to the specific wishes of a customer. Beyond that, to which audience the inscription was addressed, what effect it was meant to have, how it was meant to achieve this effect, and how successful this mode of communication was, is unclear.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Kalos inscription" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools