WELL BEHAVED WOMEN
Three Feminist Portraits by Loretta Lizzio
Well Behaved Women is a contemporary art commission by internationally renowned artist and muralist Loretta Lizzio, consisting of three outdoor, free-standing portraits depicting a woman from ancient Greek history or myth. Loretta is the first female artist commissioned to take part in the Hellenic Museum’s Dialogue Series, which features women at the forefront of the narrative.
Loretta is particularly inspired by Greek mythology and the female figure, and her murals tell
the stories of Hydna of Scione (swimmer), Anyte of Tegea (poet) and Agnodike of Athens
Loretta specifically chose these three women to depict; paying homage to women who broke away from the traditional gender roles associated with women of the time and made an indelible mark on history and myth. Because as we know, “well-behaved women seldom make history” ― Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
Her commission joins a stellar cohort of works including Bill Henson’s photographic series, Sam Jinks’ hyperrealist sculpture of the goddess Iris, and Renegades by Spanish street artists PichiAvo.
Well Behaved Women is currently on display on the Hellenic Museum's forecourt.
ANYTE OF TEGEA
The Hellenistic period was a time of great inquiry, from philosophy to religion, science to poetry. Many figures were contributing to these fields in the great cultural capital of the time, Alexandria, and Anyte was no exception.
From light-green branches to luxuriant foliage of the laurel, grey beach to lovely spring, she captures the bucolic nature of Greece’s varied landscapes, a much admired theme. This lyric poetess touches on epic poetry, but her focus on atypical subjects sets her apart. From epitaphs for animals and pets that express overt sympathy and affection, to her epigrams of the deaths of young women that tie them to heroic tradition, Anyte carefully presents a feminine perspective couched in masculine poetic convention.
A female Homer the whispers will later say, but she’s careful to leave no traces of herself in her writing.
As she touches her stylus to the tablet once more, she wonders –
How many will remember her words?
HYDNA OF SCIONE
In the year 480 BCE, the Persian forces, now under king Xerxes I, were back and the Greek mainland was once again under attack. Off the coast of Mount Pelion, a short boat trip away from Hydna’s home of Scione, the Persian naval fleet was massing.
As a storm began to first brew and then rage overhead, stirring the sea into turmoil, Hydna and her father slipped into the ocean and secretly began to swim the many miles toward the Persian ships. The Persian sailors, meanwhile, were battling against the turbulent waves and securing their sails against lashing winds.
Having reached the ships, unbeknownst to the Persians, Hydna and her father dived beneath the rough waves. Armed with knives, they began to cut through the thick mooring ropes that safely tethered the dozens of ships to the sea bed. As each ship was released, the storm pulled them towards one another and disaster.
In the blink of an eye, the fleet was destroyed.
The air was cool against the back of her cropped nape, but Agnodike had committed herself to the deception, from her medical training to her medical practice, yet the thought came unbidden - would there ever be a time when this is no longer necessary?
Classical Athens had birthed democracy, nurtured philosophy and the arts, but it had done nothing for women, citizen or otherwise.
These same women, knowing her secret, trusted her with their health, but, jealous of her success, the Athenian doctors took her to court, throwing accusations of improper behaviour at this hairless man.
As she unfastened her chiton before the jury of men, a hush fell upon the crowd before a storm of angry voices rose up, furious at the revelation. With condemnation hanging above her head, the women of Athens, who owed her their health and lives, came to Agnodike’s defense.
The laws were subsequently changed, but it’s never easy being the first.