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Timelines of World Art: Europe

c. 28,000 BC–c. 16,000 BC

The 'Venus' of Willendorf is one of the most famous carvings from Europe's Palaeolithic period. Its extremely corpulent figure and emphasis on the female reproductive anatomy and lack of facial features have long inspired speculation that its function was as a fertility figure. Read more...

21,000 BC

Stylized female figurines made of mammoth ivory from Maltá, Siberia are representative of portable carvings found over a wide region stretching from Western Europe to North and Central Asia, suggesting cultural exchange over these vast areas. Read more...

c. 13,000 BC–c. 11,000 BC

The images of horses, bison, mammoth and other local animals painted on the walls of a cave at Lascaux are not only among the earliest known examples of painting found in Europe, but they are also striking for the keen observation and skilful rendering of their animal subjects. Read more...

c. 7000 BC

Small, portable carvings of animals such as elk, bear and wild boar are made in Denmark and southern Sweden of materials such as amber. Read more...

c. 5000 BC

The earliest known pottery in Europe, produced by the Linear Pottery culture in Central Europe, is decorated with incised lines, a technique that spread throughout much of Europe. Read more...

c. 3200 BC–c. 1600 BC

Stonehenge, the awe-inspiring circle of massive stones topped by lintels arranged according to astronomical configurations, is unique among Neolithic sites in Europe and was built and rebuilt in several phases. Read more...

c. 3000 BC–c. 2500 BC

Stones used to construct the Neolithic tombs at Newgrange, Ireland are decorated with an extensive array of complex geometric patterns. Read more...

2300 BC

Highly stylized white marble figurines, usually depictions of women with simplified geometric shapes for bodies and almost no facial features, are made on the Cycladic islands in the Aegean Sea. The stream-lined appearance of these statues has appealed to and influenced modern artists and viewers. Read more...

c. 2150 BC–c. 1300 BC

The massive Palace at Knossos on the island of Crete is built to serve political, economic, religious and social functions. The word labyrinth comes from the name given to the palace, with its complex layout, by Greek visitors. Reconstructed murals from the palace walls reveal the Minoan fondness for colourful and lively pictorial decoration. Read more...

c. 2000 BC–c. 1900 BC

Among the Minoan potters' finest achievements is the so-called Kamares ware, which is in demand throughout the eastern Mediterranean world. These utilitarian containers are characterized by colourful geometric patterns painted exhuberantly and dramatically against a black-slip background. Read more...

c. 1650 BC–c. 1450 BC

Two gold cups, made by Minoan craftsmen but found in a tomb at Vapheio near Sparta, are decorated with scenes of muscular bulls and heroes, creating a sense of power that is in contrast to the containers' diminuitive size. Read more...

c. 1500 BC–c. 1450 BC

A flask from Palaikastro, vibrantly painted in the Marine style, celebrates the Minoan civilization's close connection with the sea and the peak of their maritime power. Small sea creatures swim energetically in between the tentacles of a large octopus, which fan out over the surface of the flask. Read more...

c. 1400 BC–c. 1300 BC

A short wool skirt found in the grave of a young girl in Egtved exemplifies the practice of weaving in Bronze Age Denmark. Read more...

c. 1300 BC–c. 1200 BC

One of the most visually striking and technically complex works from Europe's Bronze Age is the ceremonial statue of a horse pulling a chariot bearing a gilded sun disk found in Trundholm, Sweden. Read more...

800 BC–700 BC

Vases by the Dipylon Master form one of the high-points in the development of the ancient Greek Geometric painting style. Set amid bands of key fret and geometric patterns are human figures, themselves reduced to abstracted assemblies of shapes. Read more...

c. 600 BC–ca. 520 BC

Greek sculptors create free-standing statues of striding, nude males (kouroi) that effectively convey volume, movement and heroic physiques. Read more...

c. 600 BC–c. 500 BC

Ancient Etruscans placed portraits of the deceased modelled in terracotta on top of their sarcophagi. These figures, which are painted and often depict a couple, are striking for their animation, individuality and cheerful expressions. Read more...

c. 540 BC–c. 520 BC

Exekias paints a drinking cup with a scene of the god of wine and merriment Dionysos in a boat surrounded by grapes and dolphins. The rounded sails suggest that they are being blown by the wind, which indicates a new sense of awareness of nature in ancient Greek painting. Read more...

c. 480 BC

The Kritios Boy reveals Greek sculptors first attempts to achieve a new degree of naturalism by accurately capturing the shift of weight that takes place throughout the human body when it moves. Read more...

c. 478 BC–c. 474 BC

The Delphi Charioteer is one of the most naturalistic bronze statues made in ancient Greece. The drapery of the young aristocratic driver is detailed and falls naturally, his body stands erect as he manoeuvres the reigns and his glass eyes are surrounded by eyelashes of fine pieces of bronze. Read more...

c. 450 BC–c. 440 BC

The great Greek sculptor Polykleitos develops a posture in which the statue stands in an asymmetrical pose with the body's weight on one leg, while still maintaining an overall sense of balance and stability. This posture, which is termed contrapposto, is described in the artist's Canon and demonstrated in such sculptures as the Doryphoros ('spear bearer'). Read more...

447 BC–432 BC

The Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena, is built as the primary temple on the Acropolis. Constructed by architects Iktinos and Kallikrates, the building is a marvel of mathematics and technology. Pheidias, the renowned sculptor and highly effective organizer, supervises and produces a complex sculptural programme of religious and historical scenes to ornament the temple. Read more...

c. 350 BC

Praxiteles sculpts Hermes Holding the Infant Dionysos and creates a marble image of the gods that is playful and lovingly interactive. The presence of a supportive strut and the style of Hermes' sandals suggests that the surviving statue is a later copy, which is how many 5th-century BC Greek masterpieces survive to the present. Read more...


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