The Naked Mind of Art, Dressing the World in White
Perhaps comparable to poetry, art is a form of expression that is unbound by topic and time. Through art, people fronting the various pieces of artistic expression are able to let out their idea in the wildest form possible. The message is subject to audience interpretation thus enabling the artistic piece to accommodate a lot of justifiable meanings. It is imperative to register that art often expresses a reflection of the culture of the concerned people. Therefore, through art, we are able to extract rather condensed cultural practices of previous centuries to the future. Art in this respect becomes a tool and means of communication and documentation to the people.
Art documents and communicates wars and conflicts with varying themes. Art condenses century’s information into just a relief. Medieval art is exemplified by Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic periods. Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic art styles built on each other though they are varied in themes and style techniques employed. Many artists were engaged in Christian iconography before the Byzantine period. Christian iconography was expressed in new ways in each of Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic styles.
Byzantine art is preoccupied with Christian religious views that are regularly communicated in churches. The views were heavily moderated by the church’s structured tradition that was focused on underscoring Christian theology. Romanesque art, unlike Byzantine art, was developed in the Western part of the Roman Empire. The style is heavily influenced by the Catholic Church. Romanesque art is thought as a fusion of a number of styles, such as Roman, Byzantine and Germanic styles. The legacy of the gothic art style was in the revolution of structural designs, which gave rise to ribbed vaults, pinnacles, and taller buildings. Artistic reliefs from this period mark increasing awareness of naturalism and realism as opposed to the rigid, transcendent paintings of earlier periods (Chapter 1).
Walking Through Medieval Art
Art 1: Catal Hoyuk Deer Hunt (Chapter 1, figure 1-17)
The Neolithic painter shows human figures as a fusion of profile and frontal views. From the Museum of Anatolian Civilization, the Deer hunt, a wall painting from Level III, Catal Hoyuk in Turkey this art gives the most vivid picture of the form of the human body. It is imperative to appreciate that this format would become a standard for the millennia.
This mural shows the strikingly regular appearance of coherent groups of human figures with varied poses, subjects, and settings. The art in relation to the theme of peace and security is communicating the need for the communal spirit in daily life undertakings. The hunters are now mastering their surroundings and other creatures; a prelude to their later domination. In relation to today’s world, there is a need to work as a community in pursuing our challenges. It is important to accept that we all cannot play all the roles, but we surely can play our part, which eventually translates into visible success.
Art 2: Standard of Ur (Chapter 2, figures 2-8, 2-9)
The Standard of Ur has two parts; War side (figure 2-8) and the Peace side (figure 2-9). The war side is achieved by the Sumerian artist using a mosaic-like technique. The war side shows a battlefield victory by soldiers presenting their bound captives to a king-like figure depicted larger than everyone else.
The war side can be married to the theme of peace and security as emphasizing the need for prisoners of war to enjoy human rights as far as the modern world is concerned. The soldiers are presenting captives to the King for final action. The soldiers can be perceived as recognizing that only the King can make the final judgment either sparing or taking the lives of the captives. It is, thus, a prelude to international conventions in a war situation. The peace side (figure 2-9) presents a celebration of victory. The peace side underscores how an environment of peace favors prosperity. The celebration and depiction of a calm mood by the artist may seem to indicate that war harbors daily life.
Art 3: Palette of King Narmer (Chapter 3, figure 3-3)
Palette of King Narmer is the earliest kept-labeled historical art commemorating the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. Narmer, a towering figure, easily overcomes an enemy on one side and surveys the beheaded enemy on the other side. The art links to the theme of peace and security by highlighting the need for people with common needs to unite. Namer becomes a towering figure that overcomes enemies easily because of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. The above may find relevance in the North and South Korean republics that can merge without necessarily becoming one country but by realizing they share a lot.
Art 4: Seated Scribe (Chapter 3, figure 3-14)
A fourth-dynasty scribe seated portrait was found at Saqqara. The sculptor displays the head in an extraordinary sensitivity perhaps to convey an alert and sharp, intelligent individual. The scribe sits on the ground as opposed to a throne or even a chair. The relief can be interpreted as highlighting the role of journalism and authors in society. Even though journalists and authors may not enjoy the honor and trappings of rulers, they have a duty intelligently to inform the masses. In the modern world, peace and security have been made and destroyed by a journalist pen. In the Rwandan genocide, media houses were used to fan ethnic hatred. On the brighter side, journalists have helped highlight atrocities and bring to attention the stories that would otherwise never have surfaced.
Art 5: Myron (Chapter 5, figure 5-39)
Discobolus is a marble copy of Myron’s lost bronze statue. The statue captures how the sculpture crystallizes the action of discus throwing and arranges the athlete’s limbs and body so that they form two intersecting arcs. The above art can be interpreted to emphasize the role of sports in society. Sporting events help bring together nations and people of diverse races. Vivid examples abound, such as the Olympic Games, FIFA World cup, Common Wealth Games among others that continue to carve the theme of togetherness and harmony among participating countries. Myron’s art immortalizes games as an instrument which humans can use to achieve personal and national glory, as well as fostering peace and harmony.
Art 6: Interior of the Tomb of the Leopards (Chapter 6, figure 6-9)
Tarquinia, Italy the Interior of the Tomb of the Leopards depicts couples, servants, and musicians celebrating the joy of life. The tomb is dotted with scenes of young men enjoying the pleasures of life (figure 6-10). In this art, people take the time to enjoy what they have built or achieved so far. When people come together to celebrate their achievement as a society; they learn to treasure communal spirit, respect laws and the need for peace. The mural painting tallies well with the peace and security theme. Another aspect of the art that is of criticality is the emphasis placed on happy young people. When young people feel suffocated and frustrated, peace and stability rarely stand a chance.
Art 7: Capitoline Wolf (Chapter 6, figure 6-11)
From Italy, an Etruscan sculptor made the statue she-wolf that cares for the infants Remus and Romulus. Romulus and Remus started Rome. The animal has a lean body and a remarkable psychic intensity. The Capitoline Wolf art calls for care of the unfortunate members of the society, especially the infants. In today’s world of conflicts and wars, children have been used as child soldiers by greedy, corrupt warlords. Child abuse is still on the rise. Traumatized children will only grow up to mimic the child abuse perpetrators. The Capitoline Wolf is spot on as far the obligation for caring for vulnerable groups in the society is concerned.
Art 8: Relief with Funerary Procession (Chapter 7, figure 7-10)
From Amiternum, Italy the art shows a procession of musicians and mourners in honor of a dead former slave. The art piece is emotional as it evokes memories of the slave trade and the inhuman conditions that slaves endured. The above art should serve as a stark reminder of why we should continue ending all forms of slavery. Modern-day slavery includes human trafficking and totalitarian regimes. Eradicating all forms of slavery is a desirable pillar in building a stable and secure world.
Art 9: Ara Pacis Augustae (Chapter 7, figure 7-29)
From Rome, Augustus made an effort to present a new order rivaling that of Athens under Pericles. The art celebrates the emperor’s most crucial milestone, the establishment of peace. The above art is most explicit in championing for a peaceful world characterized by a new order that fosters harmony.
Art 10: The Battle of Rome and the Barbarians (Chapter 7, figure 7-70)
Rome, Italy the Ludovisi Battle is a violent scene that decorates the front of the sarcophagus. The piling up of writhing emotive figures is a visible rejection of the classical perspective. In the interpretation, the artist conveys the realities of war to both sides. War and conflict lead to death, physical and mental pains. In the pursuit of peace and security, war should be avoided at all costs.
Through art, people advocating the various pieces of artistic expression are able to bring out their idea in the unrestricted form imaginable. The message is subject to interpretation from the audience thus enabling the artistic piece to accommodate any justifiable meaning assigned. It is necessary to acknowledge that art often expresses a reflection of the culture of the concerned people. Therefore, through art, we are able to extract rather condensed cultural practices of previous centuries to the future. Art in this respect becomes a tool and means of communication and documentation to the people
Humanity continues to endure the huge suffering inflicted on it by wars and conflicts. In order to have sustainable peace, it is important that the needs and concerns of all are taken into perspective. Art documents and communicates wars and conflicts with varying themes. The Battle of Rome, Capitoline Wolf, and Myron among other reliefs are artistic works that condense century-long stories for us to learn from for a better, secure and peaceful world.
Art’s value is a function of interpretation. In that respect, the real value of relief varies subject to one’s culture, age and perhaps level of literacy. In this writing, an attempt is made to show how various contextual paintings involving animals portray totally different meanings thanks to the culture of the concerned.
Capitoline Wolf is perhaps the best-known Etruscan statue. It is a remarkable portrayal of an animal in the history of art. The Capitoline Wolf is depicted by a larger than life-size, bronze statue of the she-wolf that nursed Romulus and Remus according to the legend. Romulus and Remus were abandoned as infants. Romulus killed his brother when they quarreled. Rome was founded by Romulus, who became its king. The statute became the government’s emblem up to this day. In this context and culture, the she-wolf occupies a positive role although figuratively in the history of the Roman Empire. A variation will exist in another part of the world where perhaps a she-wolf is considered a dangerous animal that terrorizes people. The depiction of the she-wolf as caring would seem unimaginable in other parts of the world but finds relevance in the Roman Empire history context. The she-wolf here represents a human figure in Etruscan work that is tense, protective but caring to the vulnerable.
The Etruscans dwelled in central Italy in early Roman days but were wiped out by the Romans. The interpretation of the art is largely influenced by Greek art, Etruscan art and the impact of the art by Greek colonies in Italy. Etruscan art includes painting, sculpture, and architecture. Etruscan’s nucleus was the territory sitting between the Arno and Tiber rivers of middle Italy. Tuscany is the center of Renaissance art.
Baths of Neptune is a name given to a mosaic floor depicting four seahorses pulling the Roman god of the sea. The art is from the adorning of Ostia insulae, which had better apartments, mosaic floors, painted ceilings, and walls.
In this art piece, seahorses serve a divine role of transporting a god out of the sea. The contextual art value here is such that seahorses are not just regarded as sea creatures but divine creatures. The value of meaning attached to seahorses will not be the same in another culture where they do not accommodate sea gods in their beliefs. In addition to the above, black and white mosaic was a favorite choice for elegant pavements in Ostia in both public and private edifices. In baths of Neptune, he needs no chariot to prop him as he hurries along blowing in the gushing wind. The art employs simple black silhouettes rebelling against the complex modeling of figures via polychrome.
Tomb of hunting and fishing depicts Etruscans sampling the trappings of nature ingrained on the tomb walls. The tomb has suitably named the tomb of hunting and fishing. The tomb is at Tarquinia. In the magnificent art piece, a youth dives off a rocky place, birds fill the sky while others fish from a boat. On another wall, young hunters target brightly painted birds with their slingshots. The art above is on a tomb wall but serves to give a detail view of the life and culture at the time. The animals in this context have no particular significance other than being hunted for food or perhaps a hunting game. In this piece of art, the emphasis is more on the cultural value of the time of enjoying life and the environment.
Christ as a good shepherd depicts Jesus sitting among his flock, clad in gold and purple as opposed to carrying a lamb on his shoulder. The above version of the Good Shepherd is treated as the most regal. The sheep are evenly distributed in groups of three to his left and right. The sheep arrangement is rather loose. The art is from the entrance wall of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. The mosaic work depicted here is heavily influenced by the naturalistic classical tradition.
In this context, the animals are being used figuratively to depict Jesus as the good shepherd as far as the context of Christianity is concerned. The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a cruciform structure with vaulted arms and a tower at the crossing. It was perhaps intended as a chapel.
In emphasizing that art’s value and meaning is often the subject of interpretation, we explore Gislebratus of the Romanesque era. Gislebertus of the Romanesque era sculptured the last judgment in progress. He reflects and promotes the strong Christian beliefs of French society at the time. The art composition focuses on Christ while on either side are angels and angels blowing their trumpets. Gislebertus work was notable in prevailing upon viewers of his artwork to follow Christianity as it evoked a sense of despair for the damned. In this respect, Gislebertus reflected Christianity dominated society and advanced the Christian religion.
Michelangelo promotes and reflects Christian dominated culture in an Italian background. His artwork shows a solemn biblical story of the creation of man in the Renaissance style. The large size of the art shows the power and grandness of the church and God.
The views of Michelangelo will instill stern meaning in Christians but will not have the same impact on another person of diverse religious opinions. Christianity was given state recognition by Constantine. At the end of the fourth century, Theodosius made Christianity the main religion for the empire. In Orthodox Christianity, a recurring theme is the inseparable trinity of the Father, Holy Spirit, and the son. With the above understanding, it is clear why Romanesque art dedicates a significant artistic time trying to expressing the trinity theme. The Arian version of Christianity was treated as heretical in as far as the Roman Catholic of the time holds. Artists of the so-called Golden Age have captured the drive-by Justinian to stamp out other religious orders not conforming to Orthodox Christian views. In this aspect, to fully dissect the artistic pieces, it becomes necessary to acquaint oneself with the environment of the time.
Art, therefore, has a tremendous influence on promoting, reflecting or challenging cultural beliefs over a span of eras. Art is a means of expression as well as a means of communication. Rulers of past centuries took great lengths to make sure their statues of interest dot streets as a way of advancing a particular notion.
From the above sample of the art pieces, it is clear that the use of animals in paintings is influenced by such factors as culture and the context at the time. The meaning and value associated with one animal are totally different from the meaning mapped to that animal by another society or individuals. The Capitoline Wolf may hold a special place in the hearts of Romans whereas another art depicting a she-wolf may not have a kind theme for a she-wolf. Baths of Neptune depicting seahorses doing noble work of guiding the sea god have an intimate place in the myths of Romans but have no intricate meaning in say, Africa. The Good Shepherd is showing Jesus caring and guiding his flock has a darling spot in Christian hearts but may mean nothing to Muslim as a community as far as the imagery of Jesus and sheep is concerned.
Etruscan temples design borrows heavily from Greece. However, the differences outnumber the similarities. Etruscan artists were inspired by the architecture and art of Greece. Nevertheless, the signature Etruscan art manifested itself. From surviving foundations of the Etruscan temples, the original architectural model of the temples has been constructed. Ancient Etruscan temples bore resemblance with Greek stone roofed temples saves for the wooden columns and tiled roof.
Church buildings during the Romanesque period were typified an increase in overall size and height. Roofs were vaulted and propped by thick stone walls, rounded arches, and massive pillars. The interiors normally dark were lightened up by frescoes of Jesus and other select saints. The choice of Christendom figures was influenced by Byzantine models.
Stone carvings decorated the interiors and exteriors, especially the tympanum. Others included a Christ in Majesty and a large wooden crucifix. The large wooden crucifix is a German innovation at the onset of the period. Figurative scenes elaborately carved into the capitals of the columns.
In Greek architectural designs, typical rectangular buildings were supported by columns on both sides. Timber beams and terracotta tiles were used for roofing. The temple of Athena Nike employs the columns being at the front and rear only.
The buildings in Greece were decorated with a wide range of Greek sculpture. The sculpture works are friezes, reliefs, and standing statues. The statues are figurative in nature showing mythological events and heroes in Greek culture and history. Greek art was influenced by several orders, such as the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. The Doric style was dominant in mainland but later spread to Greek colonies in Italy. The ionic style was predominant in the city of Ionia in Turkey and the Aegean. The Corinthian depicted a more ornate enhancement of the Ionic style. Various architectural programs shaped the nature of temples built and the decorations that could be applied to them.
Gislebertus of the Romanesque era sculptured the last judgment in progress. He reflects and promotes the strong Christian beliefs of French society at the time. The art composition focuses on Christ while on either side are angels and angels blowing their trumpets. Gislebertus work was notable in prevailing upon viewers of his artwork to follow Christianity as it evoked a sense of despair for the damned. In this respect, Gislebertus reflected Christianity dominated society and advanced the Christian religion.
Michelangelo promotes and reflects a Christian-dominated culture in an Italian background. His artwork shows a solemn biblical story of the creation of man in Renaissance style. The large size of the art shows the power and grandness of the church and God.
In this art, the creation of Adam is a bold, solely a humanistic interpretation of the original event. In a uniformed landscape, God and Adam confront each other where Adam is still a material part. From the extended powerful hand of God, life leaps into Adam akin to an electrical spark. The Lord surpasses clothed in drapery. The artwork depicts glory and power that the Church holds in this Christian-dominated society. The artwork was an educational, as well as a decorative, feature of the Church. The above art served to make the Church more appealing and as such attracted more followers. Additionally, the painting highlights a biblical story educating the morals about temptation and breathed life to the Christian story much to the benefit of illiterate followers. In summary, the art served to show the church’s power, as well as advocate Christianity as a religion.
Art, therefore, has a tremendous influence on promoting, reflecting or challenging cultural beliefs over a span of eras. Art is a means of expression, as well as a means of communication. Rulers of past centuries took great lengths to make sure their statues of interest dot streets as a way of advancing a particular notion
Art tries to condense life while a human’s daily life is influenced by art. Artists are inspired by daily happenings. The routine happenings are inspired by art. Etruscan artists were inspired by the architecture and art of Greece. Even with that aspiration, the signature Etruscan art manifested itself in their works. Etruscan artists captured power struggles and the position of women in society among other spheres of life. The following generations still review this art for lessons and inspiration.
Freed slaves at the peak of the Roman Empire were able to express their story through the medium of art. At the time, it is believed Italy had nearly two million slaves. Slavery was so prevalent that slave owners who gained freedom soon became slave owners. Most striking artworks by former slaves are stone reliefs that frequently adorned their tombs. An example is Jesus. Both Gessia Fausta and Gessius Primus are freed slaves of Publius Gessius. The above couple had no legal standing as they were the property of their slave owner. The tale is condensed by a single piece of artwork. It was the custom for former slaves to bear their slave master’s name at the time. It is only after firing that they became people under the law. In that aspect, art has imitated life. Roman Emperors, empresses, and their families cherished their portraits dotting every part of the empire. The portrait of Augustus was sculptured to bear resemblance to various Roman gods, such as Apollo. The above comparison elevated the emperor to a deity-like figure. The emperor’s desires to exude the traits of a particular god were expressed through these statues. The rulers, therefore, draw inspiration from artistic depictions. The mental construct of the gods was possible through art. In this breath, life has imitated art.
Prior to the Byzantine period, several artists engaged in Christian iconography. Artists represented main religious figures, such as Jesus Christ, to represent their position in Christendom. The Byzantine style was a major style lasting through the Middle Ages. The style is associated with the Byzantine Empire, part of the Roman Empire. Byzantine art is majorly engaged in Christian religious expressions that are communicated in churches. Artists of this period actively participated in making illuminated manuscripts, which were documents decorated with luxurious Byzantine materials. Byzantine artists made iconographic images of God in which angels and other saints, considered lesser beings, were represented below God.
Romanesque art, unlike Byzantine art, developed in the Western part of the Roman Empire. Romanesque art was heavily influenced by the Catholic Church around 1000 to 1150. The style was, however, eclipsed by the Gothic art style. The style is a fusion of the Roman, Byzantine and Germanic styles. Several churches adopted the Roman semicircular arch in their architectural designs. Biblical history and church doctrine were often represented by stone sculptures. The sculptures were deliberately made to represent the spiritual nature of Christian theology. Artists continued with illuminated manuscripts that gained popularity. Artists still advanced themes of Christianity.
The Gothic art style is the last medieval art style originating in the 12th century and lasting into the 16th century. The above style revolutionized architecture by bringing in new structural designs, such as ribbed vaults. Pinnacles became popular architectural constructions during that period. The result was that the lighter and taller buildings could be constructed than previously known. Gothic sculptures were considered more realistic than Romanesque sculptures. Most notable are Gothic paintings, which are more realistic and alive as opposed to the stiff appearance of Romanesque. Paintings of this period became more secular than their predecessors. The above was a greater shift from the predecessors that immortalized Christianity and Christ. It is worth noting that printed paintings replaced illuminated manuscripts.