The word kore means maiden in Greek, and it is used to refer to a statue of a female figure. A beautiful example of such a work is the Peplos Kore from the Athenian Acropolis. Scholars have suggested that the purpose of statues such as the Peplos Kore and other korai (the plural form of the word) was to serve as votive offerings, perhaps in this case to the goddess Athena. However it is also clear that the ancient Greeks delighted in creating and admiring these stylized images of beautiful maidens. So in essence, korai were meant to please both human and divine audiences.
This statue's name was inspired by the garment she wears. The Greeks called such a dress or robe a peplos. And indeed, the Peplos Kore is draped in a lovely peplos that clings and reveals the shape of her body. Originally, this garment was painted in bright colors, which no doubt complemented the equally bold colors of the Kore's hair, face, and other details. While it may be difficult now to imagine how she would have appeared in polychrome it is important to remember that this was the way the ancient Greeks decorated their works of art. In fact, if one looks closely one may see that traces of these colors remain.
The Peplos Kore was made during the Archaic period of Greek art history. Some features that are indicative of this period are revealed in the Kore's rather stiff, formal pose, her stylized and patterned tresses, and the beautiful hint of what has been dubbed an "archaic smile". Ultimately, the Peplos Kore is a brilliant example of the timeless enchantment of Greek art.
The Art and Culture of Early Greece
Professor Jeffrey M. Hurwit has written a wonderfully engaging book about the art, literature, and poetry of early Greece. Scholars and students alike should enjoy this book. Images of many works of ancient Greek art and an extensive glossary make this an excellent resource.
This beautifully illustrated book (from the Phaidon Art and Ideas series and written by Nigel Spivey) covers the subject of ancient Greek art brilliantly.