What is a frieze? History of Art

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parthenon frieze: a stone carving of two young men riding horses

Parthenon frieze (Athens, Greece, 440s BC)

A frieze (pronounced FREEZE) is a long narrow band of sculpture that runs along the architrave of a Greek temple or another building. One of the most famous friezes is the one on the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.

a photo of a Roman temple with the location of different temple elements labelled. The frieze runs horizontally below the triangular pediment and above the architrave, which rests on the columns.

Maison Carrée in Nimes (16 BC)

In this photograph of a Roman temple, you can see that the frieze runs around the temple on top of the column capitals and below the pediment.

Usually Greek and Roman temples had either a frieze or alternating triglyphs and metopes in this location, but occasionally (as in the Parthenon) a temple might have both a frieze and triglyphs and metopes, to be extra fancy.

Temples in other parts of the world might also have friezes. In India, for example, architects used friezes on the Konarak Sun Temple (1200s AD). These friezes aren’t necessarily above the columns, but may be in different places on the temple.

More about Greek temples
More about Indian temples
More about Greek sculpture

Bibliography and further reading about friezes and art history:

Ancient Greek Art, by Susie Hodge (1998)- Easy reading.

Ancient Greece
Ancient West Asia

By | 2017-05-25T09:31:30+00:00 May 25th, 2017|Architecture, Art, Greeks, India|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. What is a frieze? History of Art. Quatr.us Study Guides, May 25, 2017. Web. November 20, 2017.

About the Author:

Karen Carr
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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