Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak
Thracian Tomb Of Kazanlak
Cultural Bulgaria Europe And North America Kazanlak, Province Of Stara Zagora

In 1942 a tomb dated to the 3rd century BC was discovered near Kazanlak in the romantic Valley of Roses, near the ancient city of Teutopolis. The Kazanlak Tomb is a peak in the development of Hellenistic art;it is a significant contribution to the art of the entire Hellenistic world.

The numerous burial mounds in the Kazanlak area (more than 500), together with the remains of Thracian settlements, including Seuthopolis, the only Thracian city that has been completely excavated, preserved and researched, show that the area was inhabited by a large Thracian population, which reached the height of its cultural development during the 5th to 3rd centuries BC.

Seuthopolis was founded by the Thracian King Seuth III at the end of the 4th century BC. The city was fortified, with a layout based on the principles of the Greek polis. Monumental works of Thracian architecture have been found in Seuthopolis, such as the palace-temple, with interiors decorated with murals, and the temples of Dionysius and the Great Thracian Gods. Seven brick tombs were discovered in the necropolis, four of which are of the beehive type. The use of brickwork in the making of tombs is typical for the area of Seuthopolis: nowhere else in Thrace were bricks used so widely in building.

The tomb stands on top of a rocky hill, and has been constructed without deep foundations. It comprises the three chambers required by the Thracian cult of the dead: an antechamber for the chariot, horses, or slaves which accompanied the dead man in the after-life;a corridor (dromos), which was a small room for the things needed in the after-life;and a burial chamber for the body itself. The three components have different shapes and dimensions.

The murals are the chief asset of the Kazanlak Tomb, because they are the only entirely preserved work of Hellenistic art that has been found in exactly the state in which it was originally designed and executed. They start from the antechamber. The walls are of a light ochre colour, against which large stones are outlined with dark-blue lines, in imitation of squared stonework, thus creating a solemn atmosphere before entering the corridor and burial chamber. Only a small part of this decoration is preserved, high on the east wall of the antechamber. The entrance to the corridor has a painted dark-ochre frame.

The painting in the corridor and the burial chamber in fact represent a monumental facade. It begins with a high podium, above it follows the neutral load-bearing wall, and then the composition ends in architectural details with pictures between them.

The artworks in the Tomb reach their peak in the burial chamber. The floor is coloured in Pompeian red. The podium stands on the circle of the plinth and is covered on the top with a wide black band. The plinth imitates pink marble with light blue veins. The podium consists of eight squares divided with grooves imitating marble facing. The load-bearing wall coloured in Pompeian red follows above the black band. The composition in the burial chamber is designed with great skill and knowledge of the architectural elements of the Ionic entablature. The painter, however, has intentionally infringed the Ionic proportions with the large figure frieze. He thus achieved an exceptional impact by enclosing the entire composition in a colourful frame of architectural motifs.

The murals were executed on the basis of a preliminary design drawn upon the final fine layer of plaster. Even today faint lines incised on the wet plaster can be distinguished, marking out the plinths and the contours of the vault. The pattern of the Kazanlak Tomb murals shows that they were not painted spontaneously: the paintings are a result of carefully premeditated artistic composition executed in accordance with a precise project. The architecture and the pattern of the composition were prepared together as an integrated work of art. It is clear that both were the work of one person - an artist-architect.