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The exhibit

Palace of Phaistos. 1750-1700 BC

The famous Kamares Ware, one of the most decorative styles in the history of ceramics, is named after the Kamares Cave where vessels of this type were first discovered. They are luxury vessels produced by the palace workshops, mainly those of Knossos and Phaistos, between 1900 and 1700 BC. In this case we see an impressive group of vessels, emblematic creations of the palace workshop of Phaistos during the Old Palace period. These are large tableware pieces which were used at banquets held by the ruling class of the palace and probably belonged to the same “dinner service”, as we see from the similar decorative themes, such as chequerboard patterns, spirals and stylised rocks. These are unique works of the Kamares style at its peak, with distinctive decoration of white and red, purple or orange on black, forming inexhaustible combinations of motifs. The main themes are spirals and whorls, rosettes and tassels, petals and shoots that swirl, radiate and circle across the vessels. The multiformity of shapes and innovative polychrome decoration are accompanied by high craftsmanship, as we see from the finely made “eggshell” cups displayed in other cases in this room. The “dinner service” from Phaistos also presents some special features, such as the decorative elements which are almost carved in the round. The large krater with a tall foot is decorated with large, white, naturalistically rendered, many-petalled flowers under the rim and on the foot, hooks with hanging rings on the rim, and a wavy edge around the rim and base. These vessels were obviously not intended for everyday use but rather for ritual purposes and conspicuous consumption at ceremonial banquets. Its quality of production and decoration made Kamares Ware highly sought-after outside Crete, a Minoan luxury export traded across the Aegean and the East Mediterranean.
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