Blog Post 10: Met Museum Trip

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Gerard David
Samson Captured by the Philistines by Guercino







During my trip to the museum, I was overwhelmed by how big it was. It was very beautiful, although I have never felt good in large areas, since I’m always afraid of getting lost. I enjoyed it a lot, and it will always be memorable to me.

While I was there, I noticed some stark difference between the Renaissance and Baroque art. While both of them have an emphasis on naturalism in the human figure and a value of humanism, they portray this in different ways. Gerald David’s work, “The Rest on the Flight into Egypt” is very serene. The blues and greens of the artwork contribute to this serenity. It feels very stable, as though nothing bad could happen. Nothing in this shot indicates that it will end anytime soon. Mary has a calm nobility to her, as does the Baby, Jesus, which is actually odd, if one takes into account that He should not know how to regulate His emotions yet. This scene even seems more distant than it perhaps should.

On the contrast, Guercino’s “Samson Captured by the Philistines” is not serene in any way. The emotions spike upon looking at this one, by contrast to the other one. You can almost picture how the moment would continue to play out, were it to be ‘unfrozen’ from this ‘snapshot.’ It looks very unstable, and there is so much motion frozen in this painting. If you stare at it long enough, it almost seems to come to life and it makes you want to back away, so that no one will fall on you during the commotion.

Furthermore, while David’s work has one clear light across the entire scene, Guercino’s work has highlights on certain parts that draw your eye towards that instead of what is in the shadows.  Also, while in David’s work, the faces of the Virgin and Child are both idealized to look perfect and flawless, Guercino’s work has people with specified faces that are imperfect and very human. There is even a man in the background of “Samson Captured by the Philistines” whose beard is graying, a sign of reality, not an idealized utopia. These differences in the works of art are characteristic of difference among ALL works of art between the Renaissance and the Baroque time periods.

Final Project Outline

Theme: Humanism of the Gods and Goddesses in Greco-Roman Art

Thesis Statement: These works of art illustrate the value of humanity as something that is not to be belittled through its humanized representation of its very own gods, something not common in other depictions of gods throughout the span of human art.

Image List:

Statue of Dionysos leaning on a female figure ("Hope Dionysos"), Restored by Pacetti, Vincenzo, Marble, Roman

Title: Statue of Dionysos leaning on a female figure (“Hope Dionysos”)

Artist: Restored by Pacetti, Vincenzo

Date: 27 B.C.–A.D. 68

Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art

How It Relates To My Project: This god is portrayed as having very anatomical human features. He holds himself as a human male would when showing off his strength. His head tilt and bent knee show that his body functions the way a human’s would, so the humanism is clear here.

Marble head of a goddess, Marble, Greek

Title: Marble head of a goddess

Artist: unknown

Date: 4th century BC

Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art

How It Relates To My Project: This goddess looks very human in her bored or irritated expression. She is shown as having human emotions, and as reacting to such emotions in an utterly human way. The humanism is her carved features is present as well.

Bronze statue of Eros sleeping, Bronze, Greek

Title: Bronze statue of Eros sleeping

Artist: unknown

Date: 3rd–2nd century BC

Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art

How It Relates To My Project: This artwork highlights how Eros, the god of sensual love and desire, is illustrated in a completely human stance. Most gods, at this time, and, even still today, would not be interpreted as sleeping. Yet, here is one of the Greco-Roman gods sleeping in a way that looks so characteristically human.

Marble head of Athena, Marble, Greek

Title: Marble head of Athena

Artist: unknown

Date: ca. 200 BC

Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art

How It Relates To My Project: This work makes humanism in her facial structures very visible. She has a human emotion on her face, of a slightly surprised disgust. Her head is caught in a motion of turning that looks very characteristic of a human turning their head to look at something.

Eros Stringing His Bow 21

Title: Eros Stringing His Bow

Artist: Lysippos (Greek original); Roman copy artist unknown

Date: 2nd Century AD

Museum: Onassis Cultural Center

How It Relates To My Project: This artwork highlights how Eros is, yet again, taken down to an almost human stance. He stands like a human would when stringing a bow as he is doing. He does not look ‘god-like’ when he strings his bow; he looks like an average human doing this. His body moves in a human fluidity, and the specific carvings also illustrate humanism.

Blog Post 9: Unit 2 Summary

In Unit 2, we  learned about art from the Ancient World. This includes art from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and early Rome. Their styles of art varied greatly in some ways and insignificantly in other ways. I’m choosing to focus on Mesopotamia, Greece, and early Rome, although Egyptian art is similar in some ways to Mesopotamian and Grecian art, in different ways. The Mesopotamian art focused more on function than it did on form, so its sculpture of the Sumerian worshiper did not have naturalism to it. Although it had general features of a person, its eyes were exaggerated to be enlarged, its hair was fancier than natural for a person, and it did not have many human details in its features. Greco-roman art differed in this aspect greatly.

Greco-roman art had a lot of humanism in it. Both the Doryphoros and the Bust of a Roman portraiture had a lot of details that made them appear as though they could be in the room with you. The Doryphoros had good proportions and one can see that the Greeks had a good eye for detail in his knees, torso, and arms. His face was a bit idealized, however, and looked a bit ‘perfect.’ The Bust of the Roman looked like an individual that you might run into on the streets. His expression was very clear, and there were details specific to him in the sagging of his cheeks and chin.

The Grecian art and the Mesopotamian art both shared a sense of idealism in the way they made their art. The art was made to idealize aspects of the sculpture (for Mesopotamia, it was the function of faith idealized; for Greece, it was the young human male body idealized). Roman art, on the other hand, cared not for idealizing what it portrayed, but in capturing the true look of the person who was being sculpted.

Both Greece and Rome wanted to capture form over function, unlike Mesopotamia. They wanted to capture humanism in its strongest way. The Greeks did this through the use of apparent motion; the Romans did this through careful incisions in the face that made the person look almost as though the material was skin not rock.

Unlike Mesopotamia and Rome, Greece actually did not use stone to cover the Doryphoros. They used bronze, but the only thing left of this work of art, was the marble copy that Rome created to celebrate the Grecian art. This shows each cultures’ preferred medium for creating works of art.

Interestingly, of these three works of art, the hairstyle is not consistent. In fact, as time passes, the amount of hair sculpted actually decreases. The Mesopotamians clearly valued hair for it is highly aestheticized. The Greeks clearly did not for there is very little detail put into the hair (even though they are clearly capable of doing so). The Romans did not care for it either, but only because the man they were sculpting did not have hair (and they wanted to portray the man as he actually was in real life). 


Blog Post 8: Humanism in Greek and Roman Art

Humanism is the aspect of giving value and importance to humanity over the divine beings (gods). Humanism gives humans value where no other system had before. Greek art illustrates humanism through its sculptures. Greek sculptures are very life-like as can be seen in the “Hermes and the Infant Dionysus” work. The body has shows that there was a lot of attention brought to the muscles and facial features by the artist. The stance that Hermes takes is very human, despite his status as a god. He stands in a pose so humanly that it almost looks as though he were right there in the room with you. In contrast, the “King Menkaure (Mycerinus) and queen” sculpture does not have a humanly stance. They are very rigid and do not look like they could be in the room with you. They look like statues, so they are evidently not life-like. Their facial expressions are not those of a person who you would ever interact with, as opposed to Hermes’ expression that looks like that of a real person. These aspects in the art show humanism by showing that the realism of the human body is of more importance than the actual aestheticism of the sculpture. In fact, even by making Hermes, a god, look like an ordinary human being is very different from most depictions of gods, because gods were not normally even remotely equated to humans.

Blog Post 7: Brooklyn Museum-Soul of a Nation

In the Soul of a Nation exhibit, I saw the “Dan Johnson’s Surprise” piece of art. I chose this one because it stood out to me right from the beginning. Being that it is mostly an off-white color, with faded blue-ish gray circular figures, it stuck out as unique to me. The circular figures resemble stretched out human heads, so it makes me think that they are ghosts of some sort. The figure on the far right almost seems to have a body as well. This eerie element is why I chose it; it jumps out at my eyes, almost in the same way that the figures seem to jump out at the viewer. In fact, this aspect reminds me of those silhouette images of people reaching for help (view image below to see what I mean by this). The difference is these people are so twisted and morphed, they are almost beyond recognition of a representation of a person.

This is fitting with the theme of the rest of the exhibition. The theme behind the exhibit is the idea of racial violence and how to be empowered and uplifted against this. This image gives the heart of the viewer a pang that makes them want to fight against racial discrimination and violence, so that is how it relates to the entire exhibition. In fact, the idea that they look like ghosts relates to racial violence, in that the violence could have killed and mutilated the figures, leaving them as only what is seen in the image.

silhouette of a man
silhouette of a man

Blog Post 6: Brooklyn Museum-Ancient World

In the Ancient Near Eastern Art exhibit, I saw the “Winged Genie Wearing Fancy Bracelets” piece of art. I first noticed its very detailed wings. There is a strong level of realism to the wings that reminds me of the common depiction of an angel’s wings, although it is also similar to the wings of certain kinds of birds. One of the wings is slanted downward, most likely to show the other wing, although it looks as though it is broken because of this. The muscles in the arms and legs are a bit over-exaggerated although there is a certain animalistic aspect that makes it fairly realistic anyway. You can clearly see that they had an eye for detail in the ear of the genie since it looks very similar to our own real-life ears.

As we have discussed about other artworks, this genie also has the elegant, orderly, and long beard that is very carefully carved in. He also has a very elegant crown on his head, similar to those we have looked at before. He is wearing elegant clothes, so between this and the crown, I can deduce that this man is very important and highly worshiped in the Assyrian culture this work of art came from. As noted in its title, it has fancy bracelets in the shape of a sun (a central orb with triangular points coming from it). This symbol also appears on his crown, so I take it to mean that this symbol is highly valued and representative of nobility and high status.

Blog Post 5: Unit 1 Summary

         In unit one, I learned about formal analysis and about critical pedagogy. I found this topics to be interesting, but I wished we could have discussed critical pedagogy more thoroughly. I learned that the banking model was the idea that teachers know everything and spill their knowledge to the students, whose job is simply to soak it in and remember what was said. This education model takes power from the students and gives it all to the teachers. Paulo Friere, author of Pedagogy and Power, critiques this model by saying that equating it to a form of dehumanization. He even stands for critical pedagogy by saying that “this […] is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed [the students]: to liberate themselves and their oppressors [the teachers] as well” (Friere 44). I found this to be a very interesting and motivating idea that will forever have an impact on me.

         When we learned about formal analysis, I had expected it to be about analyzing quotes or books. I did not expect it to be more about how to ‘read’ artwork, nor did I expect that formal analysis is more about looking at a work of art than it is about writing about it. Formal analysis is the act of examining the details of a work of art to interpret its message. One thing I often remember about formal analysis is what you analyze (or, in other words, the elements of formal analysis). The elements include, but are not limited to: line, color, illusion of space, contrast, scale, and medium. The most important part of formal analysis is the goal: “to try to understand what the artist wants to convey visually” (Reinhardt 26). In other words, it is important to figure out what they are trying to show you and why they are doing this.

         Therefore, this is what I learn in unit one of Art History. I learned how to analyze of work of art to determine its message and I learned about oppression in the education system (and how to combat it). This opened my eyes to a new mindset and a new skill I did not have before, so I am interested to see how this will impact both throughout the class and later on in life.

Blog Post 4: Formal Analysis

Formal analysis is the act of examining closely the aspects of a work of art for its message. When we say formal analysis, we mean look at the aspects of the artwork, analyze where the emphasis is, and deduce what we are supposed to learn based on historical context, subject matter, and the properties of the artwork. The components of formal analysis are the physical elements of the artwork, the subject matter, and the historical context. Examples of physical elements we analyze are line, color, composition, illusion of space, and scale. By analyzing these, we can determine what the artist wants us to focus on. If we can determine the focus, we can determine the subject matter more easily. The historical context helps with subject matter too for it gives us a background for what the artist could be thinking about when (s)he decided to make this piece of art. Once we have determined the subject matter, we can get to the message or stance point behind the artwork, which is the goal of formal analysis.