Art of the ancient world is an expression of the different cultures. The way the statues and art are made differ depending on what the culture deems important. For example, Mesopotamian and Egyptian art focus on Gds and Deities. While Greek culture is entirely different their art focused on Humanism. The idea that humans play an important role in society. This Humanistic belief is carried on to Roman culture with slight differences in the nuances.
Mesopotamian and Egyptian art are both very expressionless and their figures are formed in a way that makes them seem aloof. They lack the curvature of a natural body and their figures lack movement. Formal frontality is used to describe the forward facing stance of most Egyptian sculptures. Most sculptures were used for ritual purposes often their hands are clasped and eyes wide which represents their attentive attributes towards the Gds. Ready to listen, pray, and perform for their Gds, all for the purpose of an afterlife. You can see in the image of King Menkaura his and Queen that although they have one forward in a sort of motion the rigid positions they are in lacking
the feeling that they are realistic.
The art coming from Greek culture takes a completely different turn from what we know Ancient art to be from the Egyptians. They introduced the idea of Humanism, Where people were not a nuisance to the Gds as previously believed rather an important and vital role. The Greek period is divided into four stages; Geometric, Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic. The Geometric and Archaic art more similar to the Egyptians as depicted in the sculpture of the Kouros. They imitated their marble carving technique and the sculpture stance is similar to what we already know. The Classical and Hellenistic period is where Greek art gets most of its fame. Their sculptures represent an authentic version of the human body. Trying to imitate and even idealize what humans are meant to look like. Their fame for little or no clothing and the Olympics further show their appreciation for humans. Even their Gds have human
characteristics, unlike Egyptians. As seen in the Bronze sculpture which is believed to be the Greek Gd Zuess (missing his lighting bolt) looks to have a completely human with unrealistic and idealized features. The Greeks were also famous for introducing contrapposto pose that many sculptures have which shows philosophical thinking and are meant to make the sculptures come to life.
The Romans continued this Hellenistic belief and their sculptures furthered this idea by making them even more Naturalistic. The sculpture of Augustus the first Emporer of Rome has many fine details including the Gds portrayed on
his armor. Although he was meant to be a fierce warrior his muscular build doesn’t stick out as unnatural rather a more relatable strength. A common representation of Roman art is Portraiture. It shows the fleshy naturalistic style the which was most common in their culture. They often used Portraiture for ancestry worship and had large funerary processions displaying ancestors.
The Greeks were the first to formulate the idea of Humanism, which is the belief that people play a central role in their society. This way of thinking majorly contrasts the Egyptian culture where everything was directed and governed by G-ds. The entire purpose of an Egyptian was praying to the G-ds or preparing for the afterlife. People were almost a nuisance and insignificant to the higher powers.
The Greeks emphasized the value of human beings and encouraged the idea of achieving greatness through philosophical thinking. Allowing some of the greatest philosophical giants to immerse, such as Plato. Another example of Humanism that the Greeks demonstrated were the Olympics. The very idea of humans achieving perfection and greatness. This drastic change in thinking is clear when analyzing Greek art and comparing it to Egyptian art. Below you can see the marble statue of the kouros (Egyptian) which hones in on displaying a sense physical human perfection showing how the Greeks viewed humans and their desire to attain this idealistic view of humans. As opposed to the Egyptian art beside it which show how G-ds played a great deal of importance throughout all stages of life. This particular image shows Hu-Nefer who was a scholar and is being judged by the G-ds measuring his heart. Notice how the Egyptian Gd all have animal character traits. They believed their G-ds had the attributes of animals showing power beyond humans, while the Greek G-ds were portrayed without any animal features and posed as the ideal human body.
I loved walking through the Soul of the Nation exhibit. The colors or lack thereof used by the artists really told a story which evokes hardship and pride. The artwork by Benny Andrews, Did the Bear Sit Under a Tree? really caught my eye. The use of the material in his artwork really brings the painting to life. The zipper the artist used for his mouth makes it feel like you can hear his words of protest. Yet, the character is not all talk, his hands are so action oriented ready to take a stand for he knows is true. The artists purposely used flag which is rolled up fabric as the victim for the character’s fists to show that the one thing that’s meant to protect us is failing to do so. The art seemed so powerful and full of emotion.
As I walked through the museum’s ancient Egypt exhibit I was in real amazement of the artwork and felt so privileged we are to study history through breathtaking artwork which was so carefully excavated. Throughout the Ancient Egypt exhibit the “Statue of Queen Ankhnes-merye ll and her son, pepy ll” really stuck out to me, mostly because of the beautiful stone used to make the sculpture. After doing research, I found that Egyptian alabaster is actually common because it’s easily sculpted and the light shines through it giving it added beauty.
While I analyzed the sculpture I noticed a few things. Firstly the female seems to be powerful due to her size which usually signifies power in ancient art, as opposed to other sculptures of the male being the main source of power. In addition, the smaller figure which is obvious is her son Peppy ll is wearing the head adornment of a pharaoh. Did the royal children wear royal head adornment as well? Why are the two figures sitting seemingly separate? Almost as if they are two different sculptures completely. What is the scripture written at the feet of both the female and the child on her lap? Why is there a hole in the head of the queen? it seemed to connect with etchings on the top of her head.
After visiting the exhibit I did research to answer my question on the sculpture. Firstly, the queen’s husband Pepy l died leaving his son Pepy ll the heir to the throne, which he ruled for 70-88 years. The figures are sitting in a 90-degree angle to signify equal importance. Yet the queen is significantly bigger because Peppy ll was still a small child and she held most of the power until peppy was old enough to rule on his own. The placement of the figures is also typical of a nursing mother to show that Peppy was still a child. He wears the typical Pharoh headgear because he was the ultimately the heir. The queen has a hole in the front of her head which is believed that a vulture’s head made of metal would have protruded connecting to the wings at the top of her head. The writing at each of their feet, “”Under Pepy II’s feet is inscribed: “King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Pepy II, beloved of the god Khnum, given all life, like Re, forever.” and under Ankhnes-meryre’s feet is written, “Mother of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, the god’s daughter, the revered one, beloved of Khnum, Meryre-anhknes.”” (taken from the Brooklyn Musem’s website).
I would love to think of my art story as lavish and whimsical as fairytales, but honestly, it comes up short. A couple of years ago when I went to the MET, I was taken away by the art and the beauty of each painting. The hours of work that went into each picture, sculpture, or set. But I didn’t recognize art for what it was until the friend I was with, who just finished a semester of art history, had insight on every artist or drawing, explaining the emotions behind the piece of work.
I appreciate art for what it is, meaning I get excited about museums and I love seeing artwork made by friends, but I wouldn’t say I have a passion for art or it’s my chosen outlet. When I think of art, the first thing that comes to mind is the typical form of art. Meaning, a paper with some form of ink used to express one’s imagination, beliefs, or thoughts. However, in a sense, each person finds their own form of art. It’s simply finding a passion and using it as a form expression.
Above is a picture a childhood friend made. She is passionate about teaching as well as art. She often uses her art to express the emotional experiences that happen as a teacher and in her classroom.
How to make a blog post on your commons account:
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