You are on page 1of 11

Title: Palette of King Narmer (back and front)

Date: 3000 BCE


Culture: Egypt
Period: Old Kingdom
Scale: 2 feet high

Subject: The pictures are divided into areas (registers) with different baselines.
On the back we see the standing King Narmer slaying an enemy and wearing the
dome-shaped crown of Upper Egypt. Below him are running figures. Behind him
is an attendant. In front of him is Horus, protector of the Egyptian kings
(pharaohs). Above him are wo heads of Hathor, divine mother of the pharaohs.
Between the heads is the hieroglyph (picture writing) naming Narmer.
On the front are two animals with their necks intertwined. Below them is a bull
knocking down a rebellious city fortress. Above them are Narmer wearing the red
crown of Lower Egypt on the battlefield with slain enemies in front of him.
Content: This work symbolizes the unification of Lower Egypt (north) and
Upper Egypt (south). We see this in Narmers wearing both crowns and in the two
intertwining necks of the animals. Horus is also the son of the god of the afterlife,
Osiris, symbolized by the beard Narmer wears. The bull symbolizes the strength
of Narmer. Associations with Horus and Hathor show the divinity of Narmer.
Context: The unification of Egypt took several centuries, but the ancient

Egyptians commemorated it as a single great event. This is a palette used as a


ritual object to put protective eye makeup on the pharaoh. The makeup was
contained between the long necks of the beasts and protected against the harsh sun.

Style: Egyptian style is exceptionally traditional and didnt change for 3000
years. The style here would also be used in wall painting. Egyptians maintained
this style by using a grid structure to measure each part of the human body. On
flat surfaces the body is depicted in profile with the legs and head from the side
and the shoulders frontal (a composite view). The style emphasizes registers,
contour edges and idealized abstraction. The Egyptians were artistically more
interested in symbolism than in realism.
Medium: This is relief carving on slate. The figures do not project outward much
so we call this low relief. In a relief sculpture there is a background attached.
Egyptian freestanding sculptures(not attached to walls) tend to be frontal and not
carved in the back. Sculptures were often painted; men were painted dark and
women were painted light as signifiers of gender (masculine and feminine roles).
Formal Analysis: Hieratic scale and realistic proportion dominate Egyptian art.
Things are big or small depending on their importance. Edges form contour lines.

Title: Great Pyramids at Gizeh


Date: 2500 BCE
Culture: Egypt
Period: Ancient, Old KingdomScale: tallest was 480 feet high

Subject: On the west side of the Nile in Lower Egypt are pyramids made of equalsided triangles on a square base. They are tombs of three different pharaohs,
Menkure, Khafre, and Khufu. The pyramids are applied art because they were
used for tombs of the great leaders of Egypt.
Content: The Great Pyramids are in a city of the dead (Necropolis). They are
surrounded by many other smaller tombs. Khufus pyramid remains the largest
tomb ever made for an individual. The tombs were to last forever and were to
ensure the eternal life of the individual king. The triangle sides symbolize the
sun god Re and the rays of the sun from which the ka (soul) ascends to heaven
through the mummified body of the king. Most Egyptian art is funerary and made
for tombs or mortuary temples. The pyramids show the political and spiritual
power of the kings.
Context: Egypt was a very rich ancient culture because of the fertile soils of the

Nile River. The Egyptians were great builders and record keepers. Most of their
rituals and religion centered on the after-life. Their rulers were considered
divine.
Style: The pyramids show perfect geometry. The equilateral pyramid is very
stable. The pyramid itself is non-representational.
Medium: The average limestone block used in Khufus pyramid weights 2.5
tons. The largest blocks weight up to 50 tons. There are approximately 2.3 million
blocks used to build this pyramid. Each block was dressed (shaped and finished to
fit together perfectly) by chiseling, grinding and finally polishing. The pyramids
were covered with a polished white limestone that would have been reflective in
the bright sunlight. These stones fit so tightly that the eye can not see joints.
Up to 100,000 people worked on the Great Pyramids at a time. They were built
over a period of 75 years. The massive stones were moved using ramps and
levers, pulleys, and ropes. The engineering had to be perfectly planned on such
an enormous and lengthy project.
Formal Analysis: The pyramids are basically mass (solid 3-D volume). Their very
large scale make them monumental. Their composition is perfect geometry.

Title: Burial Mask of Tutankhamen


Date: 1300 BCE
Culture: Egypt
Period: Ancient, New Kingdom
Scale: 1 foot 9 inches high

Subject: This is a mask that covered Tutankhamens mummy.


Content: Tutankhamens mask shows the perfect serenity the Egyptians sought in
death. The Egyptians believed the soul split apart after death and was only
united after judgment and proper rituals. Tutankhamen wears the royal nemes
headdress (linen with a cobra) and the beard of Osiris (king of the afterlife).
Context: Tutankhamen was a minor king who died young but his was the only
tomb not robbed. It was discovered in the early 20th century. The New Kingdom
was after a civil war and resulted in a new expanded empire that included the
gold mines of Nubia to the south. The capital and new royal tombs were in
Thebes on the Upper Nile. Tombs were hidden because of grave robbers.
Style: This mask shows perfect symmetrical balance and the frontal orientation
of Egyptian sculpture. The face is idealized and probably is not what the king
looked like but a symbolic portrait.
Medium: The gold and inlaid stones shows the exceptional skill of the
goldsmiths of Egypt. The metal of the face would have been cast from a mold.

Title: Parthenon in Athens


Date: 450 BCE
Culture: Greece
Period: Ancient, Classical
Architect: Iktinos
Scale: 45 feet high

Subject: The Parthenon is considered the ultimate Greek temple. It is dedicated


to the goddess Athena and is on top of the Acropolis (high hill) in Athens. It had
sculpture inside, on its pediment (triangular front top) and on its entablature (the
lintel above the columns), and on a frieze (long relief sculpture) around the inside
behind the columns. There were two rooms inside; one for Athenas sculpture
and a treasury room in the back of the temple.
Content: The Greeks wanted to create perfect art and architecture. To them
beauty (aesthetics) was determined by using geometry to get perfect proportion.
The temple was the home of Athena, the goddess of civilization, wisdom, and
warfare. The temple represented the ideals of the city-state and its people.
The program (subject matter) of the sculpture was designed by Phidias. This
included an incredibly expensive statute of Athena made of gold and ivory inside
the temple, a procession to honor Athena on the frieze, and Athenas birth and
battle with Poseidon on the pediments. On the entablatures around the temple
were battle scenes between the Greeks, who were always victors, and the centaurs,
Amazons, and Trojans.
Context: The Parthenon was built after the Persians had destroyed the old
Acropolis several decades earlier. Pericles, the elected leader of Athens, directed

the rebuilding. Athens was the most democratic of all Greek city-states and was
very proud of its cultural achievements.
Style: This type of post and lintel architecture is called the classical order and
was very influential in later cultures, especially Roman and European. The
Parthenon set the standards for these later cultures with its attention to details.
The Greeks were humanists (man as the measure of all things) and the temple
was designed on how we optically see things. For example, columns are tapered
to look interesting and not stiff; the upper sculptures lean outward so the viewer
on the ground would see them as vertical. This is an idealized, geometrical
building based on math and human perception.
Medium: The Parthenon is made of the finest marble. It is solid stone dressed
(cut and finished) to fit perfectly with no mortar. Every measurement was made as
accurately as possible. There were no short-cuts taken.

Title: Nike Adjusting Her Sandal

Date: 410 BCE


Culture: Greece, Athens
Period: Ancient, Classical
Scale: 3.5 feet high

Subject: A Nike (winged victory) fixes her footwear. This is on the smaller
Temple of Athena Nike. This temple is seen before visiting the Parthenon on the
Acropolis. There are multiple sculptures of Nike on this small temple.
Content: This Nike is pictured in a very natural pose based on the close
observation of nature and the real world by the Greek artist. The sculpture
demonstrates how the Greeks imagined their gods as human, one of the main
ideas in Greek art and culture.
Context: The temple and all of the images of Nike celebrate the victory of the
Greeks over the Persians. This includes a relief of the battle at Marathon, which
was a turning point in the war.
Style: The pose and the body are realistic. In the early Classical period, female
nudity was not accepted, but the sculptor shows the idealized female body by
carving the garment as if it is clinging to the body. Here the drapery is idealized.
This drapery is repeated as a style on the work of the Parthenon.

Medium: This type of clinging drapery is very difficult to carve. It is easy to


break away the high ridges of the cloth. The sculptor makes marble look soft and
sheer, a contradiction of what stone really is.
Formal Analysis: The diagonal and implied line that goes through the upper
body makes the pose look casual and natural. The leg that lifts puts more weight
on the standing leg so the supporting leg contracts, making it larger than the
relaxed leg. The Greeks were masters of depicting the human body.

Title: Spear Bearer


Artist: Polykleitos

Date: 450 BCE


Culture: Greece
Period: Ancient, Classical
Scale: 7 feet high

Subject: This is the image of a perfect warrior in the Classical period. He stands
in counter-balance (weight on one leg) as he steps forward giving him a sense of
motion and being alive. This naturally shifts the position of the rest of his body.
His face is perfectly calm and thoughtful. He held a spear in his raised hand.
Content: This figure is based on careful mathematical proportions just like the
Parthenon. These measurements were written and copied by many other Greek
artists in the period. They became the canon (rules for making) of the ideal male
body. The proportions came from the mathematician Pythagoras who believed
that the cosmos and all of nature was structured by math. They also came from
close observation of the human body and anatomy. The Spear Bearer represents
man in harmonious balance with himself and his surroundings. His nudity
represents his being god-like and having male power.
Context: Sculptures such as these would be put in temples as offerings to the

gods. Ancient Greece considered itself a masculine warrior culture and


celebrated the male body as beautiful and related to athletic warfare. As with
most ancient cultures it was a patriarchy (structured by male power).
Style: The style of the Spear Bearer is both idealized and realistic. Everything is
about balance. The proportions are not too muscular or thin for his height. He is
not too young or too old for a warrior. He is not too emotional or unfeeling. He is
not clumsy but he is not too graceful. And of course his body realistically moves
with the pose. Many later Greek and Roman sculptures will copy this face and
pos.
Medium: This sculpture was originally cast bronze which was considered more
life-like and expensive. It was very skillfully cast using a mold and a complicated
lost-wax method. Parts of the body were cast and then assembled. What we see
here is a Roman copy in marble. The original no longer exists.
Formal Analysis: The 3-D forms are organic volumes. From the front the visual
balance is asymmetry. The scale is larger than life but not monumental. The
sculpture is freestanding (made to be seen from all sides) and finished perfectly
from any angle.