37 Images of Noah in Ancient Greek Art (in VI Parts)

(Links to Parts II Thru VI at Bottom of Page)


PART I: A Quick Summary
37 IMAGES OF NOAH (OUT OF THEIR VASE-SCENE AND SCULPTED CONTEXTS)

The Greeks knew exactly who Noah was—they called him Nereus, the "Wet One." Greek artists chronicled the rise of their contrary, man-centered outlook from his lifetime. Nereus/Noah appeared on many black-figure vases, as above, where the artists painted in mostly dark colors on the clay background. These artists almost always painted Noah’s hair white to emphasize his age.

Nereus/Noah also appeared on many red-figure vases, where the artists painted the vase black, and then chipped away the paint to let the figures come through in the color of the clay, as above.
A few of the images in this section are repeated, but in all, there are 37 different images of Noah here.

Above, we see five more images of Nereus/Noah. These images and all the sculpted and painted ones shown here come from museums throughout the world. In all cases, the curators have identified this aged figure as Nereus.

Here we see three different vase-depictions of Nereus/Noah. On all three he looks very old, he is seated as if on a throne, and he holds a scepter, a symbol of rule. The simple artistic communication is this: Here is the old man who ruled by virtue of his age and stature.

Here we see five more vase-images of Nereus/Noah.

Here are five more vase-images of Nereus/Noah. At the top left, the face of Noah is partly obscured (intentionally, as we shall see) by an elbow of Herakles.

Artists often depicted Nereus/Noah on vases with the bottom half of a fish and/or holding a fish, signifying that this fish-man had brought humanity through the raging waters of the Flood.

Above, we see three more vase-images of Noah where the artists have given him the bottom half of a fish as a reminder of his having come through the great Flood. The average date for the vase-paintings in this total collection of thirty-seven is about 450 BC. The oldest one, on the bottom left above, dates to about 625 BC. The latest image, the sculpted image of Nereus/Noah, below, from the Altar of Zeus at Pergamum, dates to about 190 BC.

Above we see, left to right: the face of Nereus/Noah sculpted on the Altar of Zeus at Pergamum, a polychrome relief of his upper body from a small altar, and Herakles/Nimrod accosting him on an ancient shield-band panel.

While Genesis doesn’t name Noah’s wife, the Greeks called her Doris and sometimes depicted her observing key events with her husband, as above.

Above, Nereus/Noah and his daughter, Amphitrite, are pictured on a red-figure vase.

On this partially damaged vase-depiction, Nereus appears as a very old seated spiritual figure. Two of his daughters run to him. These were known as the Nereids, and according to the ancient poet Hesiod, Nereus had fifty of them. According to Genesis, Noah lived 350 years after the Flood, plenty of time to father fifty daughters by his wife, Doris.

Above, two of his daughters, with out-stretched arms, run toward the "Old Man of the Sea."

Here again, we see Nereus/Noah, seated and holding his scepter, pictured with two of his daughters.
Now it is time to move on to Part II, a short pictorial review of what Greek religious art chronicles and celebrates. Then, beginning with Part III, we will put these images of Nereus/Noah into their historical contexts.