The Consulate General of Greece is hosting “Photographs of the Caryatid Hairstyling Project,” an exhibition that reveals the intricacy, technique and meaning of the elaborately braided coiffures worn by the ancient marble maidens of the Athenian Acropolis, from Wednesday, February 25 through Friday, March 27. The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, features photos of the maidens, known as Caryatids, as well as photos of six Fairfield University students whose hair was used in an experiment to replicate these ancient hairstyles.
Visitors may view the photographs from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays at the Greek Consulate General, 69 East 79th Street, New York City. The exhibition will then travel to the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C., where it will be on view from Wednesday, April 29 through June 2015.
The 2009 Caryatid Hairstyling Project is the brainchild of Katherine A. Schwab, Ph.D., professor of art history in Fairfield University’s Department Visual and Performing Arts. Dr. Schwab, who has long studied the art and architecture of the Acropolis, wondered if the hairstyles of the maidens of the south porch of the Erechtheion could be replicated on modern women.
As part of her research, six student models had their hair styled by Connecticut stylist Milexy Torres. Torres worked from photographs of the marble maidens, including archival works from the collections of the American School of Classical Studies and the German Archaeological Institute, both at Athens, studying the photos and matching the student models’ hair texture to the specific examples.
This experiment was made into a short film, “The Caryatid Hairstyling Project,” which has been screened at international archaeological film festivals in Athens and Rovereto, Italy, as well as in presentations in Kyoto, Japan, and throughout the United States.
Why are hairstyles significant? Dr. Schwab says, like many other aspects of antiquity, the maidens’ braids reveal much about social status and activities of their times. Coincidentally, the fishtail braid worn by the Caryatids was the most popular braid on fashion runways as the film project concluded in 2009, and it remains popular today.
“Most stylists and those wearing this distinctive braid do not know of its famous use and appearance in antiquity, as part of a rarely worn hairstyle by both young women ready to marry and by gods in ancient Greece,” she said. “As hands create the fishtail braid today, they follow the same hand movements by people in ancient Athens nearly 2,500 years ago.”
Click on the image below to watch a video about the project: