ART 1010 – Final Project

Sadika Chowdhury

Art 1010 Final Paper

Prof. Shaw


The Role of Women in the Ancient World

Art is a huge part of ancient history. Ancient art provides insight from the past about many different civilizations. Ancient art displays the scenarios of society, cultures, and traditions of the ancient world. It reflects the life of people during that period as well as the role each plays, including, man, women, children, and God. In artworks from early civilizations such as Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Roman and Ancient Greek women were represented differently in each civilization. The way women were portrayed in art tells much about the status and roles of women in society and the place where men wanted them. Since prehistoric times women have been portrayed in art, giving an impression of the perception the artist and the culture they lived in, had of women. In ancient Greece, the main role of women in Greek society was as a wife bearing and raising children. The wives also performed women’s work which included spinning, weaving, baking bread, cooking, serving, cleaning, and fetching water. Women were not inferior to men in many ways. Men and women had different roles in ancient Greek society. Their role did not encourage women to excel in the areas that men took on. The men felt the women should be subservient to the men and men were head of the family. Similarly, in ancient Roman, women also seemed like someone in charged of taking care of family, children, and husband, they were in charge of taking care household, but the men were the head of the household. Women’s role can be seen in art as lower than man; women were not allowed to vote or rule. Since women did not usually have a public role, it emphasizes not actions she took in life but rather the characteristics which the Romans considered to be those of an ideal wife. For this reason in women in ancient Roman artworks seemed inferior socially. In ancient Egypt, although men and women had different roles in society. However, unlike in many ancient civilizations, women were much more free, although they were not equal with men, both men and women in ancient Egypt accepted that everyone had their roles in the natural order of the universe and that the roles of men and women were different. In the art, from the formal paintings on tombs, the Egyptian stereotype of a woman was that of wife and mother, the husband being the head of the household. She worked indoors (mostly), out of the Egyptian sun, so her skin was lighter than that of her male counterparts. When she died, she was painted red, as were the men, as this was the color of rebirth.

Shabty of Lady Sati

Artist: Unknown

Credit Line: Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund

Date:  ca. 1390-1352 B.C.E.

Museum: Brooklyn Museum

Civilization: Ancient Egypt

This is the tomb of a woman, who is in the process of gender transformation. The ancient Egyptians believed that for a deceased woman to rebirth, she had to turn into a man. The woman transforms into a man to conceive herself so she can be reborn into the afterlife and live out eternity as a woman. Then, they were believed to come to life in the afterlife and help the deceased, especially with agriculture and manual labor. In the eyes of ancient Egyptians, the woman in this tomb has become a man, since she has a male face and hands since they are colored red, the “male” color. This use of color magically transformed her into a male being. In ancient Egyptian art, the color separate the gender, women were usually shown with whitish-yellow skin and men were shown with reddish-orange skin. A red face and hands also identified the deceased with the sun-god, Re, who traveled in a boat across the sky by day and into the land of the dead at night. This woman’s “male” red skin gave her access to transportation to the next life in the god’s boat. According to the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition some background information from “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt” states that “the ancient Egyptians believed that in human reproduction it was the man who created the fetus, transferring it to the woman during intercourse, rebirth was impossible for a woman alone.” This clearly demonstrates the role of women in ancient Egypt, they were viewed as weak, they have to be supported by the men, and the men get full credits for her rebirth and even for to reproduce and conceive a child.

Queen Nefertari being led by Isis

Artist: Charles K. Wilkinson

Date: ca.1279–1213 B.C.

Museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Civilization: Ancient Egypt

This artwork displays queens Nefertari, who was the main wife of Pharaoh Ramses II. This watercolor depicts the queen being led by the goddess Isis. Note that it shows Nefertari without her husband, Ramses II, this indicating the queen’s high status that allowed her to interact with the deities without him directly. In the article “Women in Ancient Times” reveals a different aspect of women role in ancient Egypt, it talks about Cleopatra and Nefertiti. It states “she single-handedly controlled the most powerful throne at that time for 21 years (51– 12 August 30 BCE). She was the last active pharaoh of Egypt…Even during her exile and the Roman Civil War, she remained true to her title and held her own until her death at age 39.” this article also mentions that “Nefertiti reined Egypt with her husband Akhenaten until 1330 BCE, sometime before Cleopatra. She ruled briefly alone after her husband’s death. She changed the way women were viewed from a political and leadership standpoint.” Example of these two great women of ancient Egypt demonstrates that ancient Egypt was not entirely man-dominated, women role was also important, it did provide women with some rights, freedom, and control, unlike other civilizations.

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

Artist: Pacetti, Vincenzo

Date: 27 B.C.–A.D. 68

Museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Civilization: Ancient Roman

This is a figure of Dionysos, god of wine and divine intoxication. He is wearing a panther skin over his short chiton and his high sandals with animal heads on the overhanging skin flaps. He is also standing beside and leaning on a female figure. The size of the man and the woman figure in this artwork tells a lot of the role each play in the ancient Roman Society. The man figure is tall, the woman in short even though she is standing on a high stone, this is portraying the fact that no matter how hard the woman try she will still be below the man, and never will be able to reach the same height as the man. Also, it illustrates that woman and man are not equal; man is more superior. The male figure is leaning on the female figure’s head as if he is resting his arm which indicates that in Roman society a woman’s role is to take care of the family, children, husband, and to make sure the man is satisfied. In the article “The Role of Women in the Roman World” states “Roman women had a very limited role in public life. They could not attend, speak in, or vote at political assemblies and they could not hold any position of political responsibility…women were closely identified with their perceived role in society the duty of looking after the home and nurture a family.” This explains the artwork “Statue of Dionysos leaning on a female figure,” which reflects the role of women in ancient Roman society as inferior to men. Women and man had very different levels of status, and women were under incharge of man, there in the statue, the man put his arm on the woman’s head as displaying that she is his property and under his control.

Terracotta lekythos (oil flask)


Artist: Unknown

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1931

Date: ca. 550–530 B.C.

Museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Civilization: Ancient Greece

The art in this vase represents the women’s role in ancient Greece society. It displays women are making woolen clothes. One of the most important responsibilities of women in Ancient Greek society was the preparation of wool and the weaving of cloth. In the center of the vase, two women work at an upright loom. To the right, three women weigh wool. Farther to the right, four women spin wool into yarn, while between them finished cloth is being folded. Similar to Roman society, Women in the ancient Greek world had few rights in comparison to male citizens. Unable to vote, own land, or inherit, a woman’s place was in the home, taking care of the home, raising children, preparing food and cook, and weave cloth. They journeyed outside of the home to fetch water and to attend festivals. In the article “Women in Classical Greece” Hemingway states that “young girls between the ages of five and puberty were selected to serve the goddess Artemis in her sanctuary at Brauron. As “little bears,” they acted out the role of untamed animals that eventually would be domesticated through marriage.” This indicates that there were many rules, rituals, regulations, restrictions, and societal norms associated with women, and these apply from birth and late as the age of five. In ancient Greek culture, Women didn’t have any rights. The men had all the power over them. In fact, this system is called patriarchy, when the father of the oldest male figure is the head of the household. Women were not even allowed to eat and sleep in the same room with men. Therefore, many of the Greek artworks portraits women doing activities inside the house, and surrounded by women, just as displayed in the vase artwork.

Hence, art tells stories, and if we look deeper into ancient history, we can see that the depiction of women in art, which tells the story of women during that period. Throughout the ancient world, women were portrayed and treated differently in their society. They were bounded by the rules, regulations, norms, rituals, and expectations. Different civilizations have displayed the role of women differently. Although in ancient Egyptian culture, women were much freer compared to ancient Greece and ancient Rome, but not all the women in ancient Egypt had that same opportunity to live freely, only high-class women had that in favor. One societal perception which was common in all of these civilizations which is women’s role in the society was inferior, while men were the superior in all the cultures. And perhaps still today, we can often see around the world how people still fighting for gender equality, equal pay, and equal rights. It is important to acknowledge and visit the ancient history and compare the fact that it has been over centuries, but still today the role of women have remained the same in many countries in the world. Since in the world women are still fighting for their rights and seeking for their position in society, it indicates that the societal perception of men and women’s role have always remained the same as the ancient time; we have just moved on with the time, but our ancient attitude have stayed in our head.


Works Cited

Cartwright, Mark. “The Role of Women in the Roman World.” Ancient History    Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 22 Feb. 2014, www.ancient.eu/article/659/the-role-of-women-in-the-roman-world/.

Hemingway, Colette. “Women in Classical Greece.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/wmna/hd_wmna.htm (October 2004)

Livermore, Melina. “Women in Ancient Times.” Art News Portal, 26 Oct. 2016, www.artnewsportal.com/art-news/women-in-ancient-times

“A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt.” Organized by Edward Bleiberg, Brooklyn Museum: The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago, 15 Dec. 2016, www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/womans_afterlife_ancient_egypt.

Artworks from The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Brooklyn Museum






Topic: The role of women in ancient art

  1. Cartwright, Mark. “The Role of Women in the Roman World.” Ancient History   Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 22 Feb. 2014, www.ancient.eu/article/659/the-role-of-women-in-the-roman-world/.

This source is about roles that women have played in the Roman world and provide informative details about women lives in ancient Rome. It also talks about women in mythology, women and the family, women in the wider society, and famous Roman women. This relates to my topic because ancient Rome is another civilization which artwork I would be examined to explore women role in ancient art.

2.  Hemingway, Colette. “Women in Classical Greece.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.    http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/wmna/hd_wmna.htm (October 2004)

This source talks about Women’s role in Classical Greece; it talks about women’s role from being young girls from all the way to adult women. It provides many details about societal expectation, norms, rules, and belief for a female. Also, draw connections to ancient Greece art, which makes it more relevant to my topic. As I am talking about women in ancient art which also includes Ancient Greece art. This article provides me with background information about Greece society as well as an understanding of women lifestyle in ancient Greek.

3.  Livermore, Melina. “Women in Ancient Times.” Art News Portal, 26 Oct. 2016, www.artnewsportal.com/art-news/women-in-ancient-times.

This source is about Women in the ancient world; it takes a deeper look into history where the depiction of women in art tells a different story than what people assume (women were considered to have their place in the home bearing children, cooking, cleaning and taking care of their spouses). Through examining arts, it reveals a powerful aspect of feminism and women in power in ancient time. This relates to my topic as in my research I’m focusing on ancient understanding art, specifically women portraits in art, this is useful to see all the different views of women in art.

4.    Tate, “Unlock Art: Where are the Women?,” in Smarthistory, January 22, 2016,    accessed December 9, 2018, https://smarthistory.org/unlock-art-where-are-the-women/.

This source is from smarthistory, and it is about female artists role in a male-dominated art world. It displays the history of women in art, exploring how they have been represented, underrepresented, and sometimes misrepresented. It also talks about Guerrilla Girls who have been working to expose sexual and racial discrimination in the art world, particularly in New York, and in the wider cultural arena. This source relates to my topic because I’m talking about women role in art, and it helps me get a more in-depth view of the history of women in art. It also provides connection and shows reasoning for women were being portrayed a certain way in ancient art compared to man.

5.   “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt.” Organized by  Edward Bleiberg, Brooklyn Museum: The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago, 15 Dec. 2016, www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/womans_afterlife_ancient_egypt.

This article is about ancient Egyptian women, and the Egyptians believed to make rebirth possible for a deceased woman, she briefly had to turn into a man. This exhibition provided by Brooklyn Museum tells this remarkable story of gender transformation in the ancient world, exploring the differences between male and female access to the afterlife. This source is essential for my project as it is talking about women role in ancient art (my topic), specifically in Egypt and how women were portrayed, as well as belief and rituals associated with women.


Outline/Background – Final Project

The topic I chose for the final project is about the role of women in the ancient world. I want to learn and explore how different civilizations have portrayed women in ancient art.

Thesis:  Ancient art displays the scenarios of society, cultures, and traditions of the ancient world. It reflects the life of people during that era, as well as the role each play, including, men, women, children, and even God. In this paper, I will analyze the artworks which portray women from different civilizations and compare the role that women have played in each civilization of the ancient world. The following artworks relate to my topic; they represent Egypt, Roman, Greek, and Mesopotamian cultures. Each of the art pieces illustrates the women of each civilization, how they were viewed, and what role they have played in their society.

Artist: Pacetti, Vincenzo

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

Date: 27 B.C.–A.D. 68

Museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Artist: Unknown

Credit Line: Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund

Title: Shabty of Sati

Date:  ca. 1390-1352 B.C.E.

Museum: Brooklyn Museum


Artist: Unknown

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1931

Title: Terracotta lekythos (oil flask)

Date: ca. 550–530 B.C.

Museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Artist: Unknown

Credit Line: Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund

Title: Woman Holding a Lily Scepter

Date:  305-30 B.C.

Museum: Brooklyn Museum


Artist: Unknown

Credit Line: Gift of Helena Simkhovitch in memory of her father, Vladimir G. Simkhovitch

Title: Female Figurine

Date:  late 3rd-millennium B.C.E.

Museum: Brooklyn Museum

MET Museum Visit

Met museum was a great experience; this was my second time visiting the Met museum, I visited once before when I was in 9th grade. This time I was able to stay only 2 hours, and I did manage to explore some great exhibitions. I heard a lot about the iconic The Temple of Dendur, so I decided to take this opportunity to explore the temple first. It looked amazing, I also learned some background history of the Temple of Dendur, it was built to honor the Egyptian goddess Isis. The temple dates back to the reign of Augustus Caesar and was gifted to the Met from Egypt in 1967. The structure of the temple is made of sandstone, and the temple has various engravings and carvings depicting the religious symbols of the Roman-Egyptian era of the 15th century BC. The base of the temple shows carvings of lotus plants and papyrus. I believe these symbols associated with river Nile and it is also the religious representation of ancient Egypt.


Later on, I looked at some European painting, one of the painting was Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints, done by an Italian painter named Raphael. This painting as the name depicts, shows Saint John, Saint Peter and Saint Paul with Madonna and the child. This art piece was completed in the year 1504 and oil, and gold has been used as the medium on a wooden base. One thing I noticed is that Raphael painted this work in a very conservative manner and the painted shows Saint John and the Christ fully clothes in this work. I think this is a good example of Renaissance art, during this period, religion bore a significant influence on people’s lives. And evidence of religion in art during this period was clearly present in this art piece. In contrast, an example of Baroque art is The Entombment of Christ by Juan Rodríguez Juárez, 1702 Ca, Oil and gold on copper have been used as the medium. This work displays the brilliant color and dynamic modeling. This painting shows everyone bending towards Jesus, indicating that his death has an impact not only emotionally but physically on them. The expression of terror and shock is remarkably captured in this painting. The group of people look traumatized at the death of their beloved Jesus Christ. The artist has used the color and lightness to bring out the drama, emotion, and suspense of the moment.  I think Renaissance art consists of more calm, stillness, and seem to lack emotions and failed to capture the emotions that it should depict. However, Baroque art is filled with emotion, focused more on the drama of the subject they were trying to showcase. Art consists of warm colors and the scenery always combined with people. The Baroque art gives people a magnificent feeling because in that period people paint pictures were very colorful. Overall, met museums visit was a pleasant experience for me, as I had the chance to learn and observe many beautiful artworks.


ART Unit 2 : Summary

           In Unit 2 we discussed the art of Ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek, and Rome.  We looked at many artworks and compared different cultures and civilizations art. For instance, most Greek figures were influenced by animals and were occasionally created using different animal body parts. The Egyptians were further involved in creating countless monumental sculptures of their pharaohs and queens. Other than limestone the Egyptians also used painted wood and sandstone and later used gold and bronze to strengthen their sculptures, while Greeks would use marble and bronze. The difference in religious beliefs between the two time periods is the major difference because Egyptians had a very solid belief in the after-life and helping their dead find a better life after death whereas the Greeks lacked such belief. Ancient Greece borrowed various of their concepts from the Egyptians and Mesopotamians to improve their individual and independent artistic identity through painting, sculpture, and architecture. Though the Romans got many ideas from the Greeks, their art was more complex and defined. The Romans were a practical people, in their original works, the observation was key. One of significant difference between the two cultures is their approach towards art. The Greek was more philosophical and idealistic, while the Romans were more realistic and somehow extravagant in their approach to sculpture.



The Narmer Palette is one of the most famous artworks of Ancient Egypt. The palette, which has a shield-shape, is decorated on both sides. Each side of the palette Narmer’s name is inscribed within a serekh flanked by two cows heads with the faces of human females which face forward. The top of the palette is garnished with what looks to be the illustration of the two-horned beast. Place on the very top or the Palette on the left and right top, this is also repeated on the back as well as the front. This creates a balance and symmetrical design. In the center of the two horned creatures is the emblem of Narmer’s name symbolically illustrated in a form of a serekh, adding to the symmetry. The Narmer Palette shows slight alterations of style from other works of art from that era. Within the carving itself, Narmer is illustrated, and positioned in an uncharacteristically, by strategically being placed in the center of the image, while illustrated to be larger, when compared to the rest of the composition, and illustrated figures.

Marble bust of a man is a roman artwork,  this bust is among the style of veristic portraits, because of their seemingly harsh and severe realism, which was emphasized above heroism or beauty. Because the Romans considered facial features to be the best conveyors of personality, age, and wisdom gained through long, hard years of life, these characteristics and features were emphasized in portraiture in order to portray the qualities they valued most highly.

Kuros is a Greek statue displaying a young standing male. It shows a great degree of naturalism, soft human form. The figure is nude, which in Greek art appreciatively represents the body. The scripture displays a standing figure, facing straight forward, and standing with its weight equally distributed on its two legs; avoids any twisting, turning, or bending. The repetition of shapes produces a decorative pattern, which is continued in details, such as in the curves of the eyebrow and eyelid, the shapes at the kneecaps, and at the elbows, to make it resemble the natural human figure.


Blog Post: Humanism in Greek and Roman Art


Humanism is the idea that humans can, and should, achieve all that they possibly can in life. It is a view of life which does not count upon any supernatural phenomenon or life after death. Humanism became more interested in themselves than in God influenced by Greeks and Romans studying philosophy and art. For the ancient Greeks, humanism in its many art forms involved the glorification of man as the most important subject in the universe, which is most evident within their sculptures. The Greeks believed that art served as an expression of perfection. Ancient Greeks captured and encapsulated the ideal image of human figures in sculptures. The male sculptures usually carried a muscular and athletic build.  The Greeks mostly portrayed their mythological gods in sculpture, to articulate the ideal form of beauty, strength, and power. As an example, the statue of Zeus or Poseidon, god of the sky, shows great stride and extends his left arm forward, while throwing the thunderbolt or the trident, which he held in his right hand. The Romans preferred a naturalistic approach. Their sculptors described historical events and individualized people. Roman sculptures departed from the idealism of the Greek era and captured the most realistic humanism of the figures. The Romans only idealized statues for their divine emperors.
In contrast, Egyptians focused on enshrining the dead and decorating the tombs while Mesopotamians created brightly colored figurines and boldly patterned bowls. They also depicted hierarchy in size, for instance, women are smaller than men. Egyptians display pictures of men and women equally. Both depicted animals on decorative columns. 
Egyptian sculptures and paintings followed a rigid formula for representing the human figure which is always depicted with a front view of the eye and shoulders and profile view of head, arms, and legs. In wall paintings, the surface is divided into horizontal bands separated by lines. The leg is turned to the same side as the head, with one foot placed in front of the other. The head is at right angles to the body. Statues are made of hard substances like granite and slate. The pose is always frontal and symmetrical, with arms close to the torso. Every figure whether in paintings or sculptures stands or sits with a formal, rigid posture.

Museum Assignment Part 1 and 2

                                 Part 1


           From the Egyptian art collection, Block Statue of Padimahes seemed very interesting to me; I liked the way it displayed. According to the description it is from late XXV Dynasty-early XXVI Dynasty, ca. 680-650 B.C.E. This is a statue of an Egyptian worshipper, Padimahes, made from a monolithic granite block and depicting him watching a divine procession with his face tilted upward, add depth to the show and make it more of a visual event. Visually it looks like a grey granite block statue of a man looks like he is sitting on top of a square rock with knees drawn up to the chest, with arms crossed right over left, palms flat, arms not covered, bare feet, wide wig, head distinctly raised, beardless, big ears, and eyes opened. The rock he seated on is square in front, round corners in the rear. There is some hieroglyphic text written around the stone, on the pillar back of the rock where he is leaning on, as well as over both legs. Back pillar has three columns of text, written vertically. There is one line text around the stone horizontally and hieroglyphic text also written on his dress, over his legs, in six bounded horizontal rows. The way this statue positioned seems like he placed at a temple where he could eternally partake in the rituals performed for the gods.  I like the way the head and face is structured; it makes him look confident, knowledgeable and observant.


                            Part 2 

           From the Soul of a Nation art collection, the art of “Black Children Keep your spirits Free” by Carolyn Mims Lawrence stood out to me the most, and I chose to this because I like the colorfulness and creativity that has portrayed in this artwork. This artwork shows children having a good time, moving around, playing drums, along with pops of colors. There are pink, purple, yellow, orange, green, blue, red, neon all types of colors are used. Based on the art, it can be concluded that the main focuses of this art are Children. Also, it seems like the artist Lawrence’s purpose was that she wanted to foster family solidarity, racial pride, self-determination, and confidence in each other. The space used subjectively and the words repeated in a very rhythmic way along with other symbols to deliver the message directly as it shows the clear message, it repeatedly is written “keep your spirit free,” which I think is the theme of this exhibition as well. On art, you can see the frontality of the figures and directness in their position and the way that they greet the audience. I think one of the thought behind making this painting was to present children with a visual reminder and a connection of their heritage. Overall, I found this artwork very beautiful, creative, and unique.


Unit : 1 Art History Summary

In this unit, we learned about topics such as banking model, power and pedagogy and formal analysis. We learned about the banking model and connected to pedagogy and power. The banking model is a concept introduced by Paulo Freire, who supports the idea that education should be a more collaboratively where students and teachers work together, instead of the teacher giving lectures and students just recording it. This empowers the teachers, provide them with authority, and disempower students as it limits them from challenging themselves, asking questions, and think creatively.  In this unit, we focused mainly on formal analysis, which is a way to understand an artwork by examining its use of artistic techniques and characteristics to define its meaning. We also looked at some artwork such as “Venus of Urbino” which we analyzed using the components on formal analysis. While examining this art, we looked at the elements such as the line, value (light and dark in a design), shapes, composition, scale, forms, space and mass, color, and texture. We also looked at other artworks including Manet, Olympia, and Yasumasa Morimura, portrait (futago) and compared them using formal analysis method.


Formal Analysis

Formal Analysis is a way to understand an artwork by examining its use of artistic techniques and characteristics to define its meaning. When we say formal analysis, we mean to examine an artwork and give visual descriptions of it by questioning what we see, what does it means, and how it was made. While examining an art we also look at the elements such as the line, value (light and dark in a design), shapes, composition, scale, forms, space and mass, color, and texture. It is more than just describing what we see in an artwork, it is more about understanding what’s the artist trying to convey, looking for the hidden message, and adding perceptive and our personal insight. The way we interpret an artwork is based on our personal perspective, experience, emotions, and own vision, therefore art has different meanings to different people.