The Lion Man, ivory, 31cm tall, found in Stadel Cave, Germany
Warka Vase detail.
Weighing of the Heart from the Book of the Dead of Ani
Lacoon and His Sons, marble
ART HISTORY PART 1: STONE AGE TO GREEK
(slide) STONE AGE
Why might Stone Age art not actually be art?
Our stone age ancestors were primarily focused on survival, so the artifacts dating to this era are not likely to have been made with the with thoughts which involve pleasure, disgust, or evaluation.
Why then do we in modern times call certain artifacts art?
That said, our own esthetic sees beauty and meaning behind many items from the Stone Age.
(slide) Woman of Willendorf—found in 1908 in Willendorf Austria with several others both male and female, though predominately female.
Nickname: Venus of Willendorf
It dates back to: 28,000 BCE-25,000
Size: 11.1cm (4.4 in)
Material: Made from oolitic limestone and once painted in red ochre. Neither material is found in the area, so we know the individuals who left it there were nomadic.
Possible original use: Historians believe the statue might have religions significance and might represent fertility.
Lascaux Cave Paintings-discovered in 1940 near Montignac, France.
Dates back to: 17,000-15,000 BCE
Size of main cave: 66” wide and 16” high. Various areas have been named—The Great Hall of the Bulls, the Lateral Passage, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the Chamber of the Engravings, the Painted Gallery, and the Chamber of Felines.
Number of paintings: 600 paintings.
Number of engravings: 1,500 engravings.
Different figures in the pictures: Animals found in the region—horses, red deer, stags, cattle, bison, and felines. One of the bulls, in the Great Hall of the Bulls, is 17’ long.
Materials: Red came from hematite or the red clay and ochre, yellow from iron oxyhydroxides, and black from charcoal or manganese oxides which were ground, mixed, possibly heated and applied with fingers, brushes made from hair or moss, or blown onto the walls through a hollow bone. The closest deposit of Manganese in 250 kilometer away in the central Pyrenees which suggests the painters were nomadic and points to a possible trade route.
What is unique about the only “human” figure found in the cave?
Only one figure is thought to represent humans. Found in a well shaft of the cave it is of a man with the head of a bird. He is tilted back, a gravely wounded bison faces him. To his left is a rhinoceros facing in the opposite direction. Scientists can only guess at the meaning of these drawings. We do not know if they were drawn at the same time in order to tell a story or like many of the other pictures done at different times by different artists.
What happened after 1963 to the caves and why?
The artificial light which allowed visitors to see the paintings and etchings better and carbon dioxide from human breath caused the pictures to fade. Algae also began to form over some of the drawings so today visitors are only allowed to see a replica of the caves. An addition problem of black mold and fungus has also damaged the paintings but efforts to control these issue continues. In 1983 a replica of the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery sections were opened for visitors just 200 meters from the original caves.
(slide) MESOPOTAMIAN ERA
From 3500-539 BCE
Where is it located? Mesopotamia, meaning the land between, is literally between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It is also known as the Fertile Crescent.
What transition happened during this era? Humanity transitioned from hunter gatherers to farmers and herders. Written language was also first developed which means historians are better able to understand why people did what they did and what they valued.
Ziggurt at Ur--
Purpose: Ziggurats, built from 3000 to 300 BCE, are massive architectural structures in order to lift their temples closer to heaven. The Ziggurat at Ur faces true North.
Size: 210’ x 150’ is 50’ high and is formed by three terraces
Presentation of the Offering to Inanna--
Other name: The Warka Vase
Approximate time it dates back to: 3200-3000 BCE
Size: 105 cm high, 600 pounds
Describe the story it depicts: One of the earliest examples of narrative art, the vase was found in the temple of Inanna and depicts a religious ceremony in her honor. It consists of three bands, or registers, of relief sculpture. The lowest register shows plants and animals. The middle band depicts men bringing their abundance to the temple. The top register reveals a woman, either the goddess, Inanna or her priestess, a nude male figure bringing a basket overflowing with offerings and in the corner a clothed male, probably representing the “priest-king”.
In what way are the figures stylized? The registration of information—meaning the three bands, the large frontal eyes in a profile head, and a stiff torso balanced over two straight legs are all consistent stylizations.
How long did this kind of style last? The stylization lasted through the Egyptian and early Greek eras.
Purpose: The vase was found at a ritual burial site in the temple of Inanna, the goddess of love fertility and war. Given it’s significant size, complex carvings, and the precious material it was carved from the piece was obviously both admired and valued.
Standard of Ur--
It dates back to: 2600 BCE
Found: Royal Cemetery at Ur, modern day Tall al Muquyyar, Iraq by Leonard Wooley in the 1920s
Size: 8.5” high x 19.5” long. Wider at the top than the bottom
Materials: inlaid with seashells, red limestone, and lapis lazuli (a blue stone) all set in bitumen
Describe what it depicts: The two main panels depict war on one side and peace on the other. Each side has three registers. The war side shows the Sumerian army, chariots pulled by four donkeys, spear carrying cloak clad infantry and some enemy soldiers killed with axes while others stand naked as they are presented to the king who is larger than the rest and carries a spear. The peace side depicts animals, fish and other goods being brought to a banquet, seated figures, and a musician playing a lyre. The ruling class and the king, again larger than the rest, are being served on the top tier.
(slide) EGYPTIAN ERA
From 3200 BCE to 30 CE
Major theme of the art of this era: Much of the art centered around death and dying.
Where most paintings and sculptures from that era were found: In fact the paintings and sculptural artifacts which have survived were discovered on or in the interior of tombs.
Egyptians were also responsible for: Developing gold and iron metallurgy, dying cloth, glass making, and making cosmetics. They are well known for their pottery although kick pottery wheels were used in Mesopotamia which was even earlier that the Greeks.
The Facade at the Temple of Ramses II--
Dates back to: 1274-1244 BCE. It was lost for centuries literally due to shifting sands and the changes in the Nile River. It was discovered in 1813 by Swiss explorer Jean-Louis Burkhardt
Located: in the mountain on the west bank of the Nile.
Size: the facade is 30 m high and 35 m wide. The pharaoh’s statues are more than 20 m high and are accompanied by smaller statues of his mother, Queen Tuya, wife, Nefertari, and some of his children as well as the falcon-headed sun god, Ra-Horkhty
Purpose: Obviously to honor Ramses. On October 22 and February 22, the sun light shines into the inner sanctuary of the temple lighting the three statues seated on a bench in the interior. One of which is probably the Pharaoh. Some believe these dates mark his birth and his coronation.
The Palette of King Narmer--
It dates back to: 3200-3000 BCE
Size: 25 “ tall
Material: gray-green siltstone
Purpose: Commemorates the unification of the upper and lower kingdoms of Egypt. Modeled after palettes which were used for grinding eye make-up, this highly stylized version was probably never actually used for that purpose.
Describe what the Palette depicts: The important features include a representation of the Pharaoh which is larger than any of his enemies or subjects and several symbols—a bull knocking down a rebellious city, several bodies with their severed heads placed between their knees, a falcon-god, and two long necked felines.
Funerary and ritual Masks--
Most famous example: Mask found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb.
It dates back to: 1332-1323 discovered in 1922
Size: 21” high x 15” wide. It weighs 24 pounds.
Materials: 22 pounds of gold, inlaid with semi-precious stones and colored glass.
Describe King Tut’s mask: The eyes are obsidian and quartz. He is wearing a striped memes headers with the goddesses Nekhbet and Wadjet protecting his brow. The mask includes the false beard which connects him to the image of a god. It also has a broad color which ends in terminals shaped like falcon heads. On the back are a series of spells and text from the Book of the Dead.
(slide) Second type of mask: Ritual masks
Use: Used by priests often during funeral ceremonies to hide the priest from the spirits coming to guide the dead to the underworld.
Description/Materials: Usually depicted Anubis, the god of embalming and looked like the head of a jackal. They were made from layers of linen and papers and plaster and then were painted.
(slide) GREEK AND HELLENISTIC
From 850 BCE tp 31 BCE
The growth and development of art during this era was phenomenal making clear that beauty and perfection were highly valued and they often made sculptures from marble or bronze
How do we know what the Greeks contributed to sculpture?
Most of what we know about Greek bronze sculpture we have learned from Roman replicas because the Greek bronze sculptures were melted down and the metal repurposed.
What was their primary subject matter?
The human figure was the primary subject matter. Typically the female figures were clothed and the male figures were not.
(slide) The Peplos Kore--
She was found in three pieces in the north-west corner of the Erqchtheion (a temple on the north side of the Acropolis in Athens). She’s shown here with a replica.
Material: Carved marble and brightly painted
Purpose: These small statues were used as grave markers or presented as the fulfillment of a vow.
(slide) Kritios Boy--
Named for the artists represents the transition between the late archaic style of the Egyptians and the early classical style of the Greeks.
Dates back to: 490-480 BCE
Size: 3’ 10”
What is contraposto and how does it apply to Kritios Boy?
Contraposto is a shift in stance which allows one leg to be seen as more relaxed while the other seems to be carrying the weight of the torso. Kritios Boy is one of the earliest examples of this development
What is off about the statue?
The head of Kritios Boy was discovered 20 after the rest of the sculpture and believed by many historians to not actually belong to the sculpture.
Other Name: Venus de Milo
Other possible identities: Amphitrite, the goddess of the sea
Artist and how do we know: Alexandros of Antioch is the artist. The inscription: Alexandros, son of Menides, citizen of Antioch of Maeander” appeared on the plinth that was found with her
Dates back to: 130-100 BCE The Hellenistic period, found in 1820 on the island of Melos. Now is located in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Size: 6’ 8”
Material: Aphrodite was made from Parian marble.
How did the Greeks adorn many of their figurative sculptures? She was most likely brightly painted and adorn with jewelry like most Greek sculpture but none of the paint remains and we only have hole to indicate where there was once jewelry.
Why are her arms missing? The romantics among us would tell you they were broken off shortly after she was discovered as French and Turkish sailors fought for possession of her. The more practical suggest they broke off before she was ever discovered and may have been holding items that would help historians more easily identify her.
(slide) The Discus Thrower--
What you see here is a marble replica made by the Romans of the Greek statue.
Original material: The original was made from bronze.
Original artist: Myron
Original dates back to: 450 BCE
Why do historians think the facial expression is blank?
Though the body is shown in full tension the face is blank. Many historians believe it is because while the Greeks valued the physical attributes of strength and beauty they were less interested in the inner dimensions of emotion.
(slide) GREEK POTERY
In general pottery is difficult to destroy. It can be broken, but to completely destroy it the broken pieces would need to be ground up. For this reason anthropologists and historians use pottery to learn about ancient cultures. The pots as well as the ways in which they were decorated give scholars a lot of information about the ancient cultures. We can learn about the people’s religions, their way of life, and their social values. Early Greek pottery was filled with geometric design. Later vases were painted and organized to tell stories. Like their relief sculpture and paintings, the Greeks developed a highly stylized way to depict the figure. They were most often shown in profile but the shape of the eyes are generally facing front. The torso is balanced on top of two stiff legs. Important people are usually drawn larger than those of lesser importance. And, most of the figures are male.
(slide) Vase with Ajax and Achilles Playing Morra--
Dates back to: 540-530 BCE
Material: black figurine technique of glazing terra-cotta clay
Purpose: This amphora vase was used for storage of liquids or grains.
What is important about this vase? The images tell a story of two generals so focused on a game they seem to forget they are at war. The decorative border by this time has been relegated to trimming the handles and edges. The figures are actually talking to each other as seen by the text bubbles coming from their mouths.