Art History Sample Essay
SECTION I: NEAR EASTERN ART
The Near East was a significant region in matters concerning art. It is perceived as one of the most crucial places when it comes to matters of art as different architectural designs came from this region. It is important to understand the stylistic devices of the region’s form of art with utilization of relevant examples.
The General Style Characteristics of Near Eastern Art
Benzel (2010) asserts that the term Near Eastern art refers to architectural designs found in countries in the South Western region of Asia, which include Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, among others found in the Arabian Peninsula. It is also worth noting that at times, Africa’s Northeastern countries of Egypt and Sudan are viewed as part of the Near East. Near Eastern art varies from one country to the other, as we are going to illustrate in our discussion here. According to Benzel (2010), the following are the general stylistic features:
Polytheism: Their art predominantly shows belief in gods.
Theocracy: This art shows that leaders who combine both religious and political leadership obligations lead them.
Their gods had defined duties and roles that were different from those of other gods.
Spirituality: Their art shows a major focus on the spiritual world and its effect on their daily lives.
Warriors and kings were highly regarded in the society as shown by their art.
For comparative purposes, Winter (2009) is of the view that the Sumerian and Assyrian case studies would be utilized. The major traits of the Sumerian art are that eyes are very prominent, the gods are widely depicted, there is emphasis on spirituality, and the body appears cylindrical. For the Assyrian art, the soldiers and warriors are highly appreciated through this art, feuds and conflicts are portrayed, and the prowess of the military is displayed. Through these characteristic features, the Near Eastern artistic style is clearly shown.
In conclusion, Near Eastern art boasts of key characteristics including theocracy, spirituality, commemoration of leaders and polytheism. These characteristics boost its understandability.
SECTION II: EGYPTIAN ART
Early Egyptian art contained some form of uniqueness in terms of the intended conventions. Importantly, art in Egypt portrayed the royalty in a different manner compared to the way ordinary citizens were portrayed.
The Distinctive Pictorial Conventions for Representing the Human Figure in Ancient Egypt as Demonstrated in the Palette of Narmer
Maspero, Maspero, & Lee (2010) opine that the Palette of Narmer is a work of art that is shaped like a shield and representative of Ancient Egyptian culture under King Menes, who was also called Narmer. The human figure is represented in this palette through Narmer himself who is celebrating after having forged a union between Upper and Lower Egypt. The other figures shown are the villains he defeated in his quest. The captive being held by the King stands for that group that was defeated in war by this king.
The Difference in Depictions of Royalty and of Ordinary People in Ancient Egyptian Art
Royalty in the ancient Egyptian art is shown by the tombs that the pharaohs were buried in upon their death. Apart from that, the symbols present in the pharaoh’s garments and his head crown show his absolute royalty and respect, as well as divinity. Schatz (2008) reiterates that the works of the seated Scribe depict royalty in that the sculpture sits in a cross-legged pose that was commonly used by those of the royal background. Comparatively, the Palette of Narmer shows a clearer picture of royalty and how it is depicted in ancient Egyptian culture.
In conclusion, art in Egypt formed a crucial bond in society and it entailed effective treatment of everyone in society.
SECTION III: AEGEAN ART
The Aegean Art is a historical Egyptian art that developed during the Bronze Age in the Aegean Sea whereby the art was at its peak during the country’s civilization. This essay focuses on three monuments and discussing their major stylistic characteristics thoroughly and moralistically.
The Harvester Vase
Firstly, Harvester Vase c.1650-1450 B.C, which is one of the luxurious exemplification of Minoan. Miller, Vandome, & John (2010) assert that the art looks so natural and has a greater emotional appeal where the sculptor looks perplexed and wondering at the human anatomy as well as the smiling faces of the naturalistic. In the vase, the sculptor is carefully warped implying that the naturalistic were moving in a circular manner and this explains how the design fits the form under this monument.
The Bull-Leaping Tomb
Preziosi & Hitchcock (1999) emphasizes that the Bull-leaping tomb painting c.1450 B.C. is another ancient example of Minoan, which depict an acrobat performing some leaps over the bull. At first, the art depicts the acrobat approaching from the front of the bull and then grabs its horns and leaps backwards. Secondly, the acrobat is depicted approaching the bull from the front, and this time he leaps over the bull without touching the horns but helps himself by the use of hands on the bulls back to make a backward leap. Thirdly, the acrobat is depicted in airborne facing the same direction as the bull while trying to leap over the bull again. Here, the design fits the form in which the acrobat was leaping over the bull through well-calculated backward somersaults.
The Lion Gate
Lion Gate c. 1300-1250 B.C. is a perfect example monument of Mycenaean in the history of Aegean Art in Egypt. Preziosi & Hitchcock (1999) affirms that the Lion Gate shows two lions standing side by side while facing each other and are curved in a triangular way, which is simply the shape of the gate. In between, there is an erected pillar with a broad base, the lions rest their forefeet, and it acts as a hinge where the gate rotates when opening or closing.
Decisively, Aegean Art involved a series of major historic events that epitomize the art history in the world.
SECTION IV: GREEK ART
Greek art started during the Minoan and Cycladic civilizations. This part will analyze different aspects that are noticeable from the Greek art such as the most important structure, the Parthenon.
Comparence of the Monuments (Korous. c.600 B.C. and Polykleitos. Spear Bearer c. 450-440 B.C.)
Compared to Polykleitos, Spivey (1997) affirms that Korous had a much longer hair, which was a design in a complex fashion. The toes of the Korous were curved, compared to those of the Polykleitos. The waist region of the Korous, as well as the legs were slimmer compared to the corresponding regions of the Polykleitos. The muscles of the Korous were more vivid, regular and realistic compared to those of the Polykleitos.
Peplos Kore. C. 530 B.C. Greek. Archaic and Praxiteles. Aphrodite of Knidos. (Roman copy) c.350-340 B.C. Greek Classical.
Compared to the Praxiteles, Smith & Plantzos (2012) opine that Peplos Kore had longer hair that was mostly accompanied by hats. For the Peplos Kore, the hair is also rampantly present in the form of locks. The Peplos Kore also wears the Peplos, mantle, Epiblema and the chiton which are all absent in the case of the Praxiteles. The Peplos Kore also differ from the Praxiteles in the manner that the former employ the use of offerings in which statues and related objects are dedicated to other parties. Finally, the Peplos Kore wear earrings while the Praxiteles do not.
Why the Parthenon is Referred to as “the Perfect Doric Temple”
The Parthenon is referred to as the “Perfect Doric Temple” because of its distinctive Doric features. For instance, Smith & Plantzos (2012) are of the view that the Parthenon has a rectangular floor plan, which exemplifies a distinct Doric feature. It also has columns characterized by a 9:4 ratio. Additionally, it is also referred to as such because of its exterior columns that have a simple design and are made up of a curved stone.
In conclusion, it is crucial to understand the elements of the Greek art and most importantly the reasons that christen the Parthenon “the Perfect Doric Temple.” It is referred to as such because of the distinctive Doric features it bears.
SECTION V: ROMAN ART
Today, the statue of a prominent and most influential military victor Augustus of Primaporta stands as a perfect example and illustration of how the ancient roman artist managed to incorporate the Greek artist culture into the Roman culture.
This essay focuses in providing a precise analysis of the Greek and Roman artist and how they were interrelated.
The Roman Artists and the Statue of Augustus
The Roman artist successfully integrated the Greek artist with the Roman artist in various art works, and a perfect example of the statue of Augustus from Primaporta explicates how this was possible. Some features inherent in the statue have a close resemblance of those in Greek. For instance, the statue of Augustus from Primaporta has some features that the ancient classical Polykleitos Doryphoros found in Greek. Ramage & Ramage (2008) hold that the Augustus from Primaporta is depicted as a young, energetic, and robust man even though he was at his middle age. Just like the Greek athletes with energy, vitality and perfectly bodied are depicted in Greek artist, the statue of Augustus from Primaporta take a similar, which demonstrates how the Roman artist was able to incorporate the Greek artist in making their own. Greek artist was all about naturalism whereby most of their artistic work revolved around depicting the true nature of human beings by explicitly exposing the human anatomy. Most Greek sculptures have nude men standing in different styles, for example, the sculpture of Polykleitos Doryphoros, which depicts him standing while unclothed. Greek art was mainly sculpture and architecture, and the process was deeply influenced by culture and pottery was part of their daily practice where they made different ornaments used in various fields e.g. trophies for winning teams in various games. On the other hand, Roman was mainly sculpture, architecture, and painting.
Most artistic work in Roman were a copy of the Greek art and had some distinctive characteristics such as free-standing sculptures, genre painting, use of mathematical calculations for accurate depiction of the portrait, as well as caricature. According to Ramage & Ramage (2008), most Roman art involved too much decoration with a lot of pride shown in the art where wealth was the main theme. The paintings on the bedroom of the villa of Publius Fannius illustrate illusionism in Roman art whereby the art easily fools one to think that he or she is in an expensive villa but it is not the case. The style is used in the Roman relief sculpture in the Arch of Titus where the illusion of movement is clearly captured in the art. The art uses shadow convincing one that the art is actually real but it is not.
SECTION VI: EARLY CRISTIAN ART
Early Christian art can be described as the art produced by Christians or that art that came into place during the Christian patronage from the early periods. It is deemed to have emerged in the 2nd Century and existed up to around 550 before a new word, Byzantine art, was adopted.
This section explicates the evolution of the basilica and the architectural characteristics common and different among them. Additionally, there is the discussion of the Good Shepherd Mosaic.
The Evolution of the Basilica
The evolution of the Basilica plan dates back to 113 A.D. when the construction of the Forum Trajani (Forum Ulpium) started under the leadership of Domitianus. It is significant to note that the chief architect for the plan was Apollodoros of Damascus. The Forum Trojani was composed of two key complexes in the south-east-north-west axis and has a monumental basilica at the center. This set the basis for the emergence of the Old St. Peter’s Basilica under the leadership of Constantine starting from the 4th to the 6th Century. According to Cutts (2004), this basilica was constructed on the Circus of Niro that is a significant historical site in the Vatican. It was mainly utilized for pilgrimage under Constantine 1. Its plan was similar to those of the Roman Basilicas and the audience walls. Papal coronations also took place in the basilica hence highlighting its significance. Last, Peter of Illyria constructed the basilica of Santa Sabina in the years between 422 and 432. Santa Sabina preserved the original colonnaded rectangular plan and the architectural design.
These basilicas have similar architectural characteristics in the sense that all of them have a large colonnaded hall, which is open to the forum. Additionally, they had triumphal arch at the entrance and the central porch of four columns on which the quadriga is placed. However, they differe in the design of their windows as the past basilica have been made using glass unlike selenite used in making the basilica of Santa Sabina. Their interior parts also differed because of the changing roles of the basilica from pagan duties to religious duties.
The God Shepherd Mosaic
The Good Shepherd Mosaic is a representation of the of Christ commonly found in the Catacombs of Rome. It exemplifies a young man carrying a lamb around the neck hence emphasizing the responsibility of a good shepherd. Jensen (2013) informs that it demonstrates early Christian and the lingering Classical characteristics in the manner it depicts the manner in which Christ is ready and willing to lead Christians in the correct direction as a good shepherd. The Christian and Classical characteristics are also indicated by the sense that there is only one true shepherd who is Christ.
In conclusion, early Christian art came along with the early religious beliefs and was mainly used to emphasize the importance of religion. Additionally, early Christian art could be used to indicate the form of belief and the nature of worship embraced by individuals in a particular setting such as Rome.
SECTION VII: BYZANTINE ART
Byzantine art entails artistic products of the Eastern Roman or the Byzantine Empire at that of other nations that inherited it from the empire. Notably, Byzantine art was important as it maintained the classical aspects that represented it all over its appearances.
This part explicates some of the relevant images of the Byzantine art including the Emperor of Justinian and his attends mosaic, Saint Michael the Archangel, and the Virgin and Child Enthroned.
The Emperor Justinian and His Attendants Mosaic
The Emperor Justinian and his attendants are one of the most significant middle ages political authority image found in the sanctuary of the San Vitale Church in Ravenna, Italy. Cormack (2000) reiterates that the key theme of the mosaic is to exemplify the high level of authority held by the emperor. The mosaic is characterized by Justinian at the center wearing a crown and purple imperial robe. Members of the clergy appear on the left of Justinian with Bishop Maximianus standing out as the most prominent figure. Members of the imperial administration appear to the right of Justinian and soldiers can be seen on the far left side hence indicating the centrality of the emperor. Additionally, the bowl filled with the Eucharist bread indicates the homage paid by the emperor who also played religious functions.
Saint Michael the Archangel, early 6th Century
The Saint Michael the Archangel entails the depiction of Michael as a strong angel ready to defend individuals. The early forms of the 6th century can be seen at the Notre Dame de Mortain in France. The significant characteristic of the image is that it depicts Saint Michael Archangel effectively armed with a sword, shield, and helmet. The Angel Michael is also brought out as standing over Satan who is illustrated using a serpent. Archangel Michael is brought out as an Angel ready to fight for humans and defend them against any form of Satan forces that may come their way.
Virgin and Child Enthroned (Theotokos), Mosaic, 1867
The Virgin and Child Enthroned Mosaic of 1867 is an image found in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul in Turkey. Drewer & Hourihane (2009) informs of characteristic with the Virgin Mary who occupies the center and a Child, Christ, seated on her lap. In the image, the Virgin lays her right hand on the right shoulder of the Child. They appear to be seating on a throne as seen on the upper side. Thus, the mosaic emphasizes the role the Virgin Mary played in raising the Child, Christ, the savior of the world.
In conclusion, the above mosaics bear various significant characteristics that highlight their importance in society. It is also important to understand these characteristics in order to understand their level of application to societal transformation.
SECTION VIII: CAROLINIAN AND OTTONIAN ART
Carolingian art emanated from the Frankish Empire in the years 780-900. This was during the leadership of Charlemagne, and produced mainly for court circles and vital monasteries in the imperial empire. On the other hand, the Ottonian art was a key component of the Ottonian Renaissance This style was highly prevalent during the ottoman reign.
This essay explicates the Carolingian Art and Ottonian art by comparing and constrating different monuments.
Saint Matthew and Saint Matthew
Saint Matthew in the Charlemagne book can have existed in the period between 795 and 810 A.D. while Saint Matthew in the Ebbo Gospels can be dated back to the period 816 and 841 A.D. Interestingly, but both of these manuscripts are on the same subject of Saint Matthew’s writings. Garrison (2012) opines that the only similarity that both of these manuscripts share is that they existed in the Carolingian period. Nevertheless, they exhibit several differences for instance, Saint Matthew in the Charlemagne book is brought out sitting with a titled writing on a desk and wearing a flowing Roman dress. On the other hand, the Ebbo Gospels bring out Saint Matthew as an individual taking dictation from another source in front. The face also appears distorted, and the body and hands appear cramped in an unnatural manner. Additionally, the white garment is not flowing as in the Charlemagne book and appears wrinkled.
The Evolution of the Basilica
The evolution of the Basilica plan dates back to 113 A.D. when the construction of the Forum Trajani (Forum Ulpium) has started under the leadership of Domitianus. It is significant to note that the chief architect for the plan was Apollodoros of Damascus. The Forum Trojani was composed of two key complexes in the south-east-north-west axis and has a monumental basilica at the center. Garrison (2012) asserts that this set the basis for the emergence of the Old St. Peter’s Basilica under the leadership of Constantine starting from the 4th to the 6th Century. This basilica was constructed on the Circus of Niro that is a significant historical site in the Vatican. It was mainly utilized for pilgrimage under Constantine 1. Its plan was similar to those of the Roman Basilicas and the audience walls. Papal coronations also took place in the basilica hence highlighting its significance. Last, Peter of Illyria constructed the basilica of Santa Sabina in the years between 422 and 432. Santa Sabina preserved the original colonnaded rectangular plan and the architectural design. The Ottonian Basilica of Saint Cyriakus is a medieval church located in the Gernrode, Saxony-Anholt, Germany. The construction have been started in 950 and possesses numerous characteristics that made it stand out from the past basilicas. Its central body was made up of a nave in the central body with two aisles. Additionally, it was also made up of the Westwork and the eastern transept surrounded by two towers. It bore elements of the typical Carolingian architecture. It has thick walls and semi-blind galleries that made it better.
These basilicas has similar architectural characteristics in the sense that all of them had a had a large colonnaded hall which was open to the forum. Additionally, they had triumphal arch at the entrance and the central porch of four columns on which the quadriga is placed. However, they differed in the design of their windows as the past basilica had been made using glass unlike selenite used in making the basilica of Santa Sabina. Their interior parts also differed because of the changing roles of the basilica from pagan duties to religious duties. The Carolingian architecture introduced significant aspects in the new form of basilicas such as the surrounding towers and the reinforcement of the walls hence coming up with thicker walls. The design also changed to a significant level
In conclusion, Carolingian art started from the between 780-900. This was during the leadership of Charlemagne, and it was mainly produced for court circles and vital monasteries in the imperial empire. Additionally, the Ottonian art was a key component of the Ottonian Renaissance. They introduced new forms of architecture to the buildings constructed at this time.
Section IX: ROMANESQUE ART
The Romanesque style refers to the art of that was practiced in Europe approximately from 1000 AD up to the rise of the Gothic culture.
Some of the features and characteristics of the Romanesque style comprise of vigorous style in the culture of painting and sculpture, round-headed arches, apses, barrel vaults and acanthus. Petzold (1995) informs that the culture is also characterized with massive thick and quality walls, large towers, sturdy piers and decorative arcading. It was notably the first style that spread across the European countries that practiced the religion of Catholicism.
The culture of Romanesque is symbolized in the tympanum of La Madeleine by the presence of portals and sculpted capitals. The Romanesque style in the tympanum of La Madeleine is evident through the existence of such features as lower and upper and upper apartments, presence of a central portal and its structural alignment with the sun. Petzold (1995) agrees that the major innovation that led to the innovation of the Durham Cathedral was the modernization of the pointed arch with the use of the semi circular arches. The adoption of the structural pointed curve was, therefore, one of the crucial inventions that led to the advancement of the gothic Cathedral building.
SECTION X: GOTHIC ART
The Gothic form of art has emanated from the Romanesque art and is composed of different characteristics that will be discussed in this part in depth.
To start with, the Gothic culture is characterized with the following seven key features. Firstly, the gothic culture is symbolized by the presence of tall and grand designed buildings with their apex shaped upwards with grandeur and height. Charles & Carl (2008) reiterate that the other uniqueness of the gothic style comprise of the presence of a pointed arch, flying buttress, vaulted ceiling, existence of airy and light interior, and the sculpture of the Gargoyles architecture. The gothic culture also emphasizes on the aspect of decorative style and the reality of an ornate. The culture of gothic in Saints Martin, Jerome, and Gregory, jamb figures and Chartres Cathedral is exemplified by the existence of stained glass windows. All these churches have preserved the gothic style despite the upsurge of the process of modernization.
Gunderson (2008) points out that the Chartres Cathedral of Jeremiah Isaiah Trumeau is contrasted by the use of the physical features present in both cathedrals. For instance, the left side of the trumeau in Jeremiah depicts a figure that is compressed with a narrow frame. On the other hand, the trumeau in Isaiah comprises of sides that are less visible and narrower in terms of the width. The two figures also have different distance from the periphery of the jamb or the ground.
In conclusion, Gothic art stands out as a unique form of art aimed at reforming the face of art. The physical features adopted for each building were vital in establishing their areas of distinction.
SECTION XI: LATE GOTHIC IN ITALY
The late gothic in Italy was characterized by the maintenance of the construction traditions established in the early centuries. It was highly prevalent in the 13th century and characterized the construction of various structures in Italy. Giotto and Cimabue were significant painters during this period, and this part will be comparing and differentiating their paintings of the Enthroned Madonna. The classical aspects of Nicola Pisa’s Pulpit will also be explicated in this part.
Giotto and Cimabue Paintings of the Madonna Enthroned
Madonna Enthroned refers to a painting in Italy done by Giotto Di Bondone. The painting is found in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. It can be dated back to 1310. The statement that Giotto Romanized the Greek style of Cimabue implies that both their paintings have a high level of resemblance in different aspects. It also indicates that Giotto borrowed most aspects of Cimabue’s Roman style of painting. Billiani & Sulis (2007) affirm that the significant similarities noticeable from both Giotto and Cimabue are that they embrace the Gothic and Byzantine style in the background of the Madonna Enthroned. However, the main difference in their paintings is that Cimabue’s paintings depict angels around the throne with each row at different levels. Another important difference is that Cimabue’s painting brings out the throne to be standing on a curved platform while Giotto’s painting indicates the throne with an additional roof above the head of Madonna.
Nicola Pisano’s Pulpit
Nicola Pisano’s sculpted the Pulpit between 1265 and 1268. It can be seen in the city of Siena and facilitated the increase in the pride of early art. The Pulpit reveals significant classical tendencies through its themes that narrate the life of Christ. Canaday (1969) is of the view that it brings out several themes such as crucifixion, the murder of the innocent, the judgment with the blessed, the journey and the adoration of Magi, and the presentation of the temple. All these aspects play an instrumental role in highlighting the classical tendencies of the religiousness of the society.
In conclusion, it is important to understand the late Gothic period in Italy that set in place different structures. Giotto and Cimabue exemplify different similarities and differences in their paintings of the Madonna Ethroned. More so, the classical aspects of the Pulpit come out from its theme of religion highlighting the life of Christ.
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