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For other uses, see Pinax (disambiguation).
Ancient Greek pinax, 6th century BCE, representation of an animal sacrifice scene in Corinth

In the culture of ancient Greece and Magna Graecia, a pinax (πίναξ) (plural pinakes - πίνακες) or a "board",[1] denotes a votive tablet of painted wood,[2] terracotta, marble or bronze that served as a votive object deposited in a sanctuary or as a memorial affixed within a burial chamber. In daily life pinax might equally denote a wax-covered writing tablet. In Christian contexts, painted icons ("images") are pinakes. In the theatre of ancient Greece, they were colored images either carved out of stone or wood or even made of cloth that were hung in the scene as background. (The term pinacotheca for a picture gallery derives from such usages.)

Marble pinakes were individually carved, but terracotta ones were impressed in molds, and bronze ones might be repeatedly cast from a model from which wax and resin impressions were made, in the technique called lost wax casting. At Locri thousands of carefully buried pinakes have been recovered, most of them from the sanctuary of Persephone or that of Aphrodite.

Pinax of Persephone and Hades from Locri (Museo Nazionale di Reggio di Calabria)

The Roman architect Vitruvius mentions the pinakes in the cellas of temples, and even in the possession of private persons. Such a collection was a pinakothek,[3] which is a modern German term for an art museum, such as the Alte Pinakothek of Munich.

Callimachus, the Alexandrian poet and scholar at the Library of Alexandria, formed a kind of index, or "map picture" of the library's contents, which he named Pinakes,[4] a term that continued in use in bibliographic catalogs.

Pinakes feature in the classical collections of most comprehensive museums.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ πίναξ, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  2. ^ When they are recovered by archaeologists, painted wooden pinakes have usually lost all but faint traces of their painted images. Moulded terracotta pinakes were also brightly painted.
  3. ^ Compare bibliothek, a library, which provides the designation in several modern European languages.
  4. ^ Christian Jacob, "From Alexandria to Alexandria: Scholarly Interfaces of a Universal Library" 2002.


  • Ulrich Hausmann, 1960. Griechischen Weihereliefs (Berlin)

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