Dexiosis: a meaningful gesture of the Classical antiquity

Mgr. PhD. Lucia Nováková, Mgr. Monika Pagáčová


Dexiosis is a modern term referring to the handshaking motif appearing in ancient Greek art, which had specific meaning and symbolism. Though it was a characteristic iconographic element of the Classical antiquity, its roots can be traced back to the Archaic period. Dexiosis was not merely a compositional element connecting two people, but carried a deeper meaning. Most often, the motif was associated with funerary art of the Classical Athens. On funerary monuments the deceased were depicted in the circle of their families, which reflected the ideals of contemporary society. Particularly notable is the contrast between the public character of the funerary monument and the private nature of the depiction. Its meaning should be perceived in terms of both the intimate gesture expressing emotions and the formal presentation of the family. Dexiosis emphasized a permanent bond as the fundamental element of the family in particular, and society in general. At the same time, it was associated with the theme of farewell. The gesture was performed by two people in a dialogical composition, which clearly showed their mutual relationship and the figures were depicted in various compositions regardless of their gender or age. The motif was also used in the Hellenistic and the Roman art.


Classical; dexiosis; funeral; naiskos; stele;


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DOI: 10.21113/iir.v6i1.213

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