Greek vases have some of the most lively of ancient art with their flat figures engaged in combat, sports, and epic mythology. A duo called Panoply has been turning these vases into animations to explore their stories and make classical archaeology more engaging for a younger crowd.
Animator Steve K. Simons, who started experimenting with the vases in 2007, collaborates with Sonya Nevin, a research fellow at the University of Roehampton in London with a doctorate on ancient Greek warfare from University College Dublin. Through Panoply, they’ve brought chariot races, battles, and love stories to life. One of their ongoing projects is working with students at the Universtiy of Reading and secondary school groups to reimagine the scenes on the Greek vases at the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology in Reading, England. These sometimes include fanciful additions in the revamped storytelling like hearts wafting up from a hit from Eros’ bow, or a dance off. However, Simons is dedicated to keeping the animation accurate to the original art.
On October 17, Panoply is launching its newest animation called Hoplites! Greeks at War, using an Ure Museum vase to illustrate the individual lives of Greek soldiers. There seems to be a growing number of these projects that give some digital spirit to areas of museum and archive collections that might go overlooked, such as Rino Stefano Tagliafierro animating Old Masters into a trippy film, or Kevin Weir turning archival photographs from the Library of Congress into surprising GIFs. Greek vases were almost always designed to tell a story, so they seem like an especially fertile area for animation (there was one of Hercules and the Hydra animated in the recent Power of Poison exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History). Personally, I would be into some sea monster battles, or maybe this dramatic black-figure funeral on a terracotta vase at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Here are a few of Panoply’s recent animations:
View more Greek vase animations on the Panoply site.