Handshake Motif

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<p>The Significance of the Handshake Motif in Classical Funerary Art Author(s): Glenys Davies Reviewed work(s): Source: American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 89, No. 4 (Oct., 1985), pp. 627-640 Published by: Archaeological Institute of America Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/504204 . Accessed: 26/01/2012 10:21Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.</p> <p>Archaeological Institute of America is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to American Journal of Archaeology.</p> <p>http://www.jstor.org</p> <p>The Significanceof the Handshake Motif in Classical Funerary ArtGLENYS DAVIES (Pls. 68-70)Abstract The handshake motif was widely used by Greek, Etruscan and Roman artists in both funerary and nonfunerarycontexts. This article aims to give a general survey of the motif from Archaic Greece to the late Roman Empire, looking especially at the continuity of its use. The principal aim is to elucidate its meaning in funerary contexts, but to do so its appearancein non-funerarycontexts is also considered. Throughout the period considered the handshake had a multiplicity of associations which were exploited by the artists to create an ambiguous meaning. The themes of meeting and parting were persistently associated with the handshake (especially parting from relatives at death, and reunion with ancestors in the Underworld), but various other themes were also related to it, especially marriage,an associationthat was first made in Greek art but which only becamedominant in the later Empire. The handshake motif often appears today in press photographs and commercial logos as a symbolic gesture. Since we may in fact shake hands on a number of rather different occasions-when meeting or welcoming someone, parting from them and making our farewells, or when we have come to an agreement and wish to express mutual trust-the exact connotations of the handshake in a particular picture are not immediately obvious. Despite this inherent ambiguity the handshake remains a potent symbol. The same ambiguity would seem to have existed in the classical world, although there, in addition to parting, meeting and agreement, the motif also seems to have had an association with marriage. The present study examines the use of the handshake gesture in a wide range of classical art, Greek, Etruscan and RoSThe fullest treatment of the motif appears in K. Friis Johansen, The Attic Grave-Reliefsof the Classical Period (Copenhagen 1951); L. Reekmans, "La 'dextrarumiunctio' dans l'iconographie romaine et palkochr~tienne," Bulletin de l'Institut historiquebelge de Rome 31 (1958) 23-95 (also in EAA 3 [Rome 1960] 82-85 s.v. dextrarum iunctio); G. Rodenwaldt, "Uber den Stilwandel in der Antoninischen Kunst," AbhPreussAkadWiss3 (1935) 1-27, esp. 13-17. 2 For a more detailed discussion see G. Neumann, Gesten und Gebiirdenin der griechischenKunst (Berlin 1965) 49-58. 3BF amphora, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, inv. 97.205, near 627 American Journal of Archaeology 89 (1985)</p> <p>man, concentrating on funerary art but with some considerationof the appearanceof the motif in nonfunerary contexts. Previous scholars have looked at the meaning of the motif in individual categories of funerarymonuments,but have not attemptedto trace the history of the handshake motif throughout the classical period. As a result they have arrived at different interpretationsof the motif at different periods.' The handshakemotif was, however,used with a degree of continuity which suggests that, despite changes in emphasis, there was a general meaning which underliesall variationsand which continuedto be understood.My aim is to re-examine the various contexts in which the motif was used, and to elucidate the associationsand meanings it may have had.DEXIOSIS IN GREEK ART</p> <p>The best-known and most common use of the handshake motif (dexiosis) in Greek art is on the Athenian grave stelai of the Classical period. However, sporadic scenes with a pair of figures shaking hands had occurred earlier in other, non-funerary, contexts. The handshakeappearsin mythologicalsceneson a numberof vases of the Archaicand Classical periods.2 Many such scenes of the late archaic period involve Herakles: he is shown shaking hands with Athena on both black- and red-figure vases (pl. 68, fig. 1),3 where the scene representsthe acceptanceof Herakles as an equal by the gods, and, in particular, his comradeshipwith Athena. Slightly later, as one might expect, the focus switches fromHerakles to Theseus. Onthe Antimenes Painter (pl. 68, fig. 1): CVA USA 14, 30, pl. 41.2. BF amphora, Munich, Antiken Sammlung, inv. 1556, Lysippides Painter: CVA Germany 37, 47-48, pl. 393; RF amphora, Parma, Museo Nazionale di Antichita, inv. C3, (?)Tyszkiewicz Painter: CVA Italy 45, 3, pl. 1.2. RF amphora in Vatican, Kleophrades Painter: ARV2 182.3; Neumann (supra n. 2) fig. 25. Herakles is also represented shaking hands with the centaur Pholos on two neck amphorae by the Antimenes Painter in the British Museum (B226) and Villa Giulia, Castellani Collection:J.D. Beazley,JHS 47 (1927) 69-70, fig. 5 and pl. 12.</p> <p>628</p> <p>GLENYSDAVIES</p> <p>[AJA89</p> <p>Early Classical red-figure vases Theseus is represented linking right hands with his father, Poseidon,4 again presumablyto indicate Theseus' exalted status. The first use of the motif in an Underworld setting is on a lekythos by the Alkimachos Painter in Berlin5 which depicts Herakles' attempt to rescue Peirithoos from the Underworld. Peirithoos is linked with his would-be rescuerby a right handclasp.Although Herakles may be attempting to haul Peirithoos to his feet, the taking of right hands seems to me to be given an emphasis that is not required by the narrative. Around 450 B.C. it seems the motif began to be used in a variety of contexts and could now be applied to ordinary mortals. An importantinstance occurs on a large krater in New York decoratedwith a scene set in Hades (pl. 68, fig. 2).6 Among the various traditional inhabitantsare an unnamedcouple-a woman, still wearing her grave clothes, shaking hands with a young man. The scene is best interpreted as one of greeting7:one of the woman's deceasedrelatives,or at least one of the inhabitants of Hades, is greeting her as a new arrival. This scene seems to be unique. A comparatively large group of red-figure vases dating from ca. 450-420 B.C. shows the handshakein a different context, the departure of a warrior.8The young warrior, often in armor and carrying his military equipment, shakes hands with a young woman or an elderly man, usually with a third figure in attendance. The solemn faces of all concernedsuggest that the young man is about to go off to war, possiblynever to return (pl. 68, fig. 3). These paintings, taken with the Underworld scene on the New York krater, suggest that the handshakecould be used in scenesof both parting and greeting in the third quarter of the fifth century B.C.4 RF column krater, Robinson Collection, (?)Painter of the Harrow Oinochoe:JHS 36 (1916) 132; CVA USA 6, 25-27, pl. 31. RF oinochoe, Yale 143, Painter of the Yale Oinochoe: ARV2 503.25; J.D. Beazley, Attic Red-Figured Vasesin AmericanMuseums (Cambridge 1918) 61, fig. 39. 5RF lekythos, Berlin 30038: ARV 2 532.57; Beazley (supra n. 4) 136, fig. 85; Neumann (supra n. 2) 55, fig. 26 a, b; J.P. Barron, JHS 92 (1972) 43, pl. 7e. 6 Krater, New York, Metropolitan Museum, inv. 08.258.21, Nekyia Painter: ARV2 1086.1; G.M.A. Richter and L.F. Hall, Red-FzguredAthenian Vases in the Metropolitan Museum (New Haven 1936) I.168-71, no. 135; II. pls. 135-37. 7Friis Johansen (supra n. 1) 158-59, fig. 81. 8 Stamnos, British Museum E448 (pl. 68, fig. 3), Achilles Painter: ARV2 992.65, CVA Great Britain 4, 9, pl. 22.3;JHS34 (1914) pls. 15-16. Bell krater,Vienna, inv. 172: CVA Austria 3, 17-18, pl. 114.4, 5. Amphora, Warsaw, Nat. Mus. inv. 147367, attrib. to Painter of the Louvre Centauromachy:CVA Poland 6, 11-12, pls. 14-17. Lekythos, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, lent by Dr. F.C. Conybeare, Achilles Painter: ARV2 993.93; JHS 34 (1914) 181, fig. 2; CVA Great Britain 3, 27, pl. 36.1-2. Cup, Berlin, inv. F 2536, Painter of Berlin 2536: CVA Germany 22, 17, pls. 133.4 and 117.2. Amphora, New York, Metropolitan Museum, inv.</p> <p>The gesture was also sometimes used in fifth century vase painting in the context of marriage. A redfigure loutrophorosof ca. 440-420 B.C. in the British Museum,9 for example, has a representation of a handshakebetween a man and a woman in the presence of two more women, one with a torch, the other adjusting the woman's hair, surely a referenceto the marriage ceremony. It has also been suggested that the scene on a volute krater in Boston,1owhich appears to show the departureof a warrior, may in fact show Achilles with Deidameia and is a scene with a deliberatedouble meaning:departureand wedding. The handshake could also appear in scenes of a more political nature to signify agreement,unity and concord.A well known example of this meaning appears on a stele recordinga decree dealing with relations between Athens and Samos." The relief scene above the text shows Attic Athena shakinghands with Samian Hera. It was on Attic grave stelai and stone vases of the Classical period (late fifth century-317/6 B.C.) that The motif had not the handclaspwas most popular.12 been used on Archaic stelai, but was standardin the late fifth and fourth centuries. The more common form of the motif shows one figure sitting and the other standing, but there are also many examples of the handclaspbetween two standingfigures.The gesture was used to link two men, two women, or a man and a woman. Often the two persons involved in the handclasp appear alone, but they can also be accompanied by other figures, presumablyrelativesand servants, especially in the fourth century. The interpretationof the handshakein such scenes has long been recognizedas an iconographicproblem. The scenesthemselvesgive us few hints. The dead are06.1021.116: Richter and Hall (supra n. 6) 1.163-64; II. pl. 128. (By the Lykaon Painter. The warrior is Neoptolemos, bidding farewell to father Antiochos and mother Kalliope.) Pelike, Bonn, Akademisches Kunstmuseum, inv. 76a, school of the Kleophon Painter or manner of the Dinos Painter: CVA Germany 1, 15-16, pl. 14.1 Pelike, Musie de Laon, inv. 371025, (?)KleophonPainter: CVA France20, 24, pl. 31.5. See also Neumann (supra n. 2) 56-57. SBritishMuseum GR 1923.1-18.1, by Painter of London 1923: ARV2 1103.1. The image of taking by the hand as a symbol of marriage is also implied by Pindar, Pyth. 9.122. Some vases show not a true handshakebut the groom leading the bride by the wrist, e.g., WG pyxis of ca. 470-460 B.C. in the British Museum (GR 1894.7-19.1) and a RF miniatureloutrophorosof ca. 425 B.C., also in the British Museum (GR 1910.7-11.1). Neumann (supra n. 2) fig. 28 (lekythos in Berlin), fig. 29 (loutrophorosin Athens, Nat.</p> <p>Mus.).</p> <p>'o Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, inv. 33.56, Niobid Painter: E. Simon, AJA 67 (1963) 57-59, pl. 11, figs. 7, 8. " Friis Johansen (supra n. 1) 150-51, fig. 76. Date of decree,405 B.C.; of stele 403/2 B.C. 12H. Diepolder, Die attischen Grabreliefs 5. und 4. Jahrhundes derts v. Chr. (Berlin 1931, Darmstadt 1965) passim; Friis Johansen (supra n. 1) passim.</p> <p>1985]</p> <p>THE HANDSHAKE MOTIF IN CLASSICAL FUNERARY ART</p> <p>629</p> <p>not easily distinguishable from the living, and although it seems that in the majorityof cases the gesture united someonewho was alive at the time of commission with someone who was dead, this was not necessarily the case. Moreover, the figures are not placed in a setting that would assign the scene to a specific location, as for example at the tomb or in the Underworld. The various explanations put forward in the older literature,that they show the dead departing from relatives at death, or being reunitedwith ancestors in the Underworld, or in communion withmembers of the family at the tomb, have been rejected because they do not adequately explain all occurrences of dexiosis on the grave stelai. On the other</p> <p>hand, more generalized interpretationsseem unsatisfactorily vague for such a specific motif. The writer who has addressedhimself to this problem at greatest length is K. Friis Johansen,13 who proposedthat the motif representsthe bond that links the living with the dead. He sees this as a hypothetical union taking place in the imagination,not in any particular location. He is less positive about the nature of the union, but he does suggest that the motif evolved from earlier votive reliefs in which the handshake united a larger-than-life hero and his diminutive living worshipper.14 This implies that he thinks that the bond represented by the handshake continued to be in essence the act of worship, even though, as Friis Johansen says, the scenes do not show the specific act of giving offerings at the tomb. There are, however, problems in accepting this suggested link between dexiosis and the worship of the dead. The first is that, although in most cases the handshake linked a living</p> <p>and a dead figure, in a few instances both figures appear to have been dead at the time the stele was set up.'5 Second, if the handshake is simply a visual expression of the cult of the dead, it is surely surprising that it does not occur on white ground lekythoi,'6 where scenes of the living mourning and worshipping the dead are very common.</p> <p>The interpretation of the scenes on the lekythoipresents its own problems, but the question does seem to have a bearing on our understanding of the dexiosis motif on the stelai. A popular type of scene on white ground lekythoi shows mourners visiting the tomb"13 Friis Johansen, (supra n. 1) passim, summarizes previous interpretationsas well as giving his own analysis of the motif. 14Friis Johansen (supra n. 1) 137-39, figs. 70-71. It is possible, however, that a distinction should be made between the gesture of handing over an offering (as in the votive relief, fig. 71) and the genuine handshake (as in the funerary relief, fig. 70).15</p> <p>with offerings. It is again not clear whether all the figures represented are living, or whether in some cases the dead also appear. If all are living, there is no reason to expect the handshake.But if, as seems likely,"7in some cases we are shown both living and dead, then the scenes would seem to present a parallel to those on the grave stelai, and the absenceof dexiosis is significant.Instead of being linked by the handshake, living and dead on the lekythoi are separatedby the tomb monu...</p>