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The Interplay of Art and Fashion


This small twelve-inch statuette discovered by Sir Arthur Evans at the Palace of Knosses, Crete in the late 19th century provides a valuable guide to the design of Minoan dresses and geometric pattern.

        From sculptures like this one and mural paintings, we know that Minoan women wore bolero-style jackets allowing their breasts to show, A-line patterned skirts, sometimes with little aprons, and elaborate hairstyles with decorative beads or shells. Some frescoes suggest that the breasts were veiled with a transparent fabric. We don't know if all women wore this style, or whether it was reserved for special rituals led by a priestess.

        The dress of the so-called Snake Goddess is an A-line style with six rows of ruffles and an apron. A tightly cinched belt accentuates her tiny waist, an important feature for both women and men in Minoan culture..

        From a scientific analysis of the residue left in pots at a dye workshop on Crete, we know Minoan clothing was brilliantly multicolored: royal purple, rose madder, and golden yellow. Until now, our only evidence came from the study of costume in faded wall paintings.

Since linen is not easily dyed, it is believed that wool, which accepts dyes well, is more likely to have been used as material for the creation of brightly colored clothing.

The art of the past not only provides insight into historic fashion, it also serves as inspiration in the modern era. Consider these modern adaptations of the snake theme.


Richard Avedon’s iconic photograph of Nastassja Kinski wearing only a serpent exudes a timeless sensuality, just as the Minoan murals do. Grappling with temptation, seduction and power, Avedon referenced deeply rooted concepts in classical art and mythology, not the least of which is the story of Adam and Eve. Of this work, the photographer said, I think all art is about control –the encounter between control and the uncontrollable.

        For his 2024 Resort Collection, Roberto Cavalli created a line of clothing using the Mediterranean motif of lemons, limes and and intertwining serpents.

        I am always fascinated by what art reveals to us, and even more by its influence on contemporary life. I hope you have enjoyed this topic and if you haven't yet, begin to see art as an integral part of life.

As an artist I am available for commissions. As an art historian, I present a range of art topics topics for groups and organizations. Go to for more information.

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