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Art History: Mask of Agamemnon

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ANCIENT ART 200 Was the Mask Of Agamemnon Edited by Schliemann and his Workers? 5/14/2011 Sandra. Baah | Schliemann was a German archeologist who excavated the shaft graves of Mycenae. He found a mask which has been claimed to be the mask of Agamemnon. This has brought up endless debates about the authenticity of the mask. The mask is said to be one of Schliemann's forgeries. Some scholars claim the mask is too new or does not have any qualities that prove that it is Mycenaean. It is difficult to know whether the mask is authentic or fake. William A. Calder and David A.

Traill are two archeologists who challenge the authenticity of the mask. They have come up with arguments that try to prove the mask is a forgery. Some scholars claim that their arguments are not valid and lack scholarly reasoning to support their arguments. Some scholars believe that the mask is a mixture of different styles from different places and times. No one can really tell if the mask is authentic or fake. I believe that the mask was edited by Schliemann and his men. The mask of Agamemnon is not authentic due to its lack of Mycenaean qualities that would prove its authenticity.

The mask of Agamemnon is not authentic; therefore it was edited by Schliemann and his workers. The mask of Agamemnon was found in Shaft Grave V by Schliemann on the Treasury of Atreus it is one of the most famous artworks that have been found. The mask of Agamemnon is a gold funeral mask. It was made using the repousse? method. This technique makes it look like it was hammered. The hair on the mask looks like it was engraved. The mask is crooked. The ears are not in proportion, the moustache looks like it was put on wrong and everything on this mask looks wrong.

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The beard on the mask is V shaped. Most funerary masks are flat, but this one is not.. The mask is three dimensional and it looks like the ears were cut out rather than made together with the rest of the mask. The hair on the mask is very detailed; one can almost see every strand of his beard. The eyes on the mask appear to be open. The eyelids are made in a way that makes the eyes seem to be both open and closed at the same time. Compared to the mask of Agamemnon, other objects found in the graves look Mycenaean and authentic.

One example is image three, which is the inlaid dagger, was found in grave A Mycenae, Greece, 1600-1500 BCE. The dagger is about nine inches long. It is made of different metals such as gold, silver, and niello; niello is a chemical that is rubbed into the needle- like cut to make the texture of the dagger. The daggers were difficult to make, and are very detailed. One depicts a scene of a lion hunt; the lions look heraldic and symbolic, this explains why they were found in graves because only important officials were buried with expensive ornaments.

The lions on the dagger are in the flying gallop pose, which is a convention started by the Minoans then adapted by the Mycenaean’s. The figures on the dagger are wearing shorts but not helmets and carrying a shield. I believe the figures represent the people buried in the graves, because they look heroic and important people were buried in the graves. It is possible that Schliemann made a similar assumption in finding the mask of Agamemnon since he was a Trojan soldier. The two artworks described beforehand are different even though they are claimed to be from the same civilization.

Figure three shows more Mycenaean qualities than the mask of Agamemnon. Most of the Mycenaean metal works were not made of pure gold. Like the inlaid dagger, most of them were mixed with metals like silver. They are both inlaid but the dagger has signs of the Mycenaean convention of depicting animal scenes. It is believed that the funerary mask Schliemann found is a forgery. The funerary mask does not look like some of the other Mycenaean gold funerary mask. A local reporter of the Argolis News reported the “mask had no mustache”.

Compared to figure two found in shaft grave A, the facial features on mask of Agamemnon does not match all the others. It is believed the facial hair does not look Mycenaean. According to Harrington Spencer the mouth on figure 2 is short and thick with ill defined lips and no discernible chin, but the mask of Agamemnon has a wider mouth, thin lips and a well define chin. The eyes on the mask of Agamemnon are different from the other masks found in the shaft graves of Mycenae. The eyebrows on figure two are not shown in detail, but the eyebrows on the mask of Agamemnon the look as if they have been engraved on the mask.

The eyelids on the mask of Agamemnon seem to be open, while those on figure two are closed. Schliemann edited the mask because it does not have any similarities with other metal work found in Mycenae. The mask looks too perfect compared to the other masks found in the grave; it looks like it was made at a later date. It is not severely faded like the other artworks found in the shaft graves of Mycenae. The Mycenaean' did not make their metalwork purely out of gold. Most of their artwork was made with different metals, such as silver and bronze.

I believe the mask was edited because the mask of Schliemann found was believed to be made of pure gold and according to Calder “no ancient object was ever made of pure gold”. Some scholars like David Traill, have questioned the authenticity of the mask of Agamemnon and requested for the object to be tested. Traill has asked for it to be tested to see if the mask is really made of gold but his request has been denied. If the mask is said to be authentic, then why has it not been tested? The answer is not known.

If the mask is believed to be an authentic piece, then it should be tested. Testing the mask to know if it is pure gold does not ruin the mask instead testing it will enable scholars to find out the truth about the mask's authenticity. Some Scholars believe Schliemann planted the mask. The dates at which the mask was found bring about questions as to whether the mask is a forgery or not. According to Calder “the Mycenae excavations took place between August seventh and December third 1876, the mask was discovered November 30. Only three days before the site was closed”.

It seems like the mask was planted in the grave to be found. Why would Schliemann close the site right after he found the mask of Agamemnon? It might be that he planted the mask in the grave so he would become famous for finding the mask of Agamemnon. It could have been that Schliemann was looking for a plan to advance his career and in order to do that he planted the mask and got his fame from supposedly finding it. It is claimed the excavations were closed on November 26th and 27th . His absence could have made it possible for him to plant the mask.

Some archeologists do not believe that Schliemann planted the mask, instead they claim that “it is difficult to see how the insertion of the mask could have been achieved when Schliemann was working under the constant supervision of Panagiotis Stamatakis the director of Antiquities, who was assisted from November 28 by other archeologists sent from Athens, and by a guard of Greek soldiers on the site”. Under this strict supervision it is highly doubtful that Schliemann planted the mask in the grave so he could find it.

Due to the reasons stated beforehand, I believe the mask of Agamemnon was edited because it does not relate to other Mycenaean art. It is different compared to the other artworks found in grave A and B. The mask of Agamemnon does not follow the convention of Mycenaean art. Traill states that “the mask of Agamemnon does not show any trace of Mycenaean norm or convention”. According to Calder “the mask of Agamemnon is stylish and innovative. It is far away from the Mycenaean convention and looks fairly new.

I believe the mask of Agamemnon was altered by Schliemann. There is not much prove that shows that it was edited, but the mask does not look authentic. William Calder and David Traill try to prove that the mask is a forgery, but they do not have substantial evidence to support their argument. It looks like it was made in a hurry, and ancient artworks were not made purely of gold. I also believe the mask was edited because Schliemann was not an honest man, he admitted that he bought some of the objects he claimed to have found.

The mask of Agamemnon should be removed from textbooks because archeologists do not have enough information on it, it is based on observations and on an individual’s perception of it. It should not be added to art history books before it is tested. I believe for something to be studied, one should have background knowledge of the object. Figure 1 Mask of Agamemnon 1550-1500 BCE Figure 2 Funerary Mask from Shaft Grave IV 1550-1500 BCE Found in Grave Circle A by Schliemann and his workers. Figure 3 Inlaid Dagger Blade, 1550-1500 BCE

Dagger from grave circle A at Mycenae. Found in the national archeological museum, Athens. BIBLIOGRAPHY Christopulous, George A, and John C Bastias. Prejistory and Protohistory. University park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania state univveristy press, 1974. Dickinson, Oliver. "The 'Face of Agamemnon. '" Hesperia: The Journal of the      American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 3rd ser. , 74 (July-August      2005): 299-308. Accessed May 2, 2011. http:///www. jstor. org/stable/      25067959.

Elliot, Alexander. The Horizon Concise of Greece. New York: American Heritage,      1972. Harrington, Spencer P. M. "Behind the Mask of Agamemnon. " Archeology 52, no. 4      (July-August 1999). Accessed May 2, 2011. http://web. ebscohost. com/ehost/      delivery? sid=1d53bfed-ae35-45c6-8097-2d4bcffa3301%40sessionmgr10;vid=7;hid=18. Hilson, Muriel. "Studies in Art Education. " Neolithic Art and the Art History      Clas 32, no. 4 (1991): 230-238. Accessed April 27, 2011. http://www. jstor. org/stable.

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