The Caryatids


The Caryatids were produced in the 5th century BC and are now located in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.


A Caryatid is a supporting column of a building which takes the form of a female figure. The Caryatids located in the Acropolis Museum were once part of the Erechtheion which stands atop the Acropolis Hill (Since 1979 replicas of these sculpted columns have been on-site). The position of the Caryatids form a porch with four of the figures on the facade and one figure along each side. This is also known as the Porch of Maidens. The three figures on the left hand side of the porch stand in the contrapposto position placing their weight on their right leg. The three figures on the right do the opposite and place their weight on their left leg. Each of the Caryatids have different facial expressions and have unique drapery. The arms of the figures have been lost.

The Kekropion was a joint temple atop the Acropolis which was dedicated to the central gods of Athens (Poseidon, Erechtheus and Athena Polias). After this temple was downsized after the Peloponnesian war, the Erechtheion was built to conceal an architectural supporting feature of the Kekropion. Hence it is often referred to as a ‘false porch.’ It is also believed that this porch stands over the tomb of the mythological king of Athens, Kekrops.

Did you known?

Only five of the original six Caryatids are located in the Acropolis Museum in Athens. The missing Caryatid is located in the British Museum in London. The adjoining photograph shows the five original Caryatids and an empty space for the missing one, which is shown in the second photograph. This Caryatid was removed by Thomas Bruce in the nineteenth century. He had the sculpture removed from the porch along with works from the Parthenon and had them shipped to Scotland to decorate his home, only to later sell off most of these to pay debts.  There has since been many talks and a petition to have it return to Athens. 

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