There are so many ways in which history has been documented over time all serving as a permanent record of a culture and its people for future generations to have access to and learn from. The study of the visual arts and architecture in a given time period showcase the basic ideas about a group of human beings giving insight into their beliefs and cultural message. These insights are presented with a specific point of view intended by its creator, influenced by its historical experiences.
And so, it is the responsibility of the observer to examine pieces of art and architectural structures taking into account the context in which they were produced. By doing so, we can more accurately understand the ideas that are trying to be conveyed. Political, cultural, religious, and social factors influence the arts and so much can be told about a culture’s ideals and values thereby making ancient art functional. When studying art in the ancient world of the Greeks and Romans, we can begin to see the influences that shaped the style of the times.
The objective of this analysis is to focus on sculpture only and to assess the changes to the approach and technique that will also highlight the changing historical landscape. Basically, matching up a piece of sculpture on a timeline that mirrors the age in history that in was made in. Prior to the classical period, before 500BC, Greek sculpture is rigid and more composed. The Greek population was increasing and with that new ideas emerged. These ideas developed into new styles used by Greek artists as Greece moves into the Classical period.
The classical period was at the height of Greek strength and artists began to touch on any topic, be it historical, mythological or religious. The Greeks began to feel positive after they defeated Persians who tried to invade and this led to a sense of powerfulness. The Persians had established one of the most powerful and developed cultural civilizations in history. Being a cultural icon, the fact that the Greeks were able to conquer this territory gave them a sense of intellectual and artistic power. This power transferred into art and drove the movement towards creating the ultimate civilization.
A great period in the arts began during the classical period as made evident in the expanding style that was used. A piece of sculpture known as “Hermes with Infant Dionysus by Praxiteles(350BC) touches on the sentiment of Greek interest in mythology and can be used as a piece to measure stylistic changes against. This sculpture addresses that Greek worship of gods as prevalent in the period and represents one of many myths that were communicated. The style of this piece was in keeping with the mindset of its people.
It portrayed an ideal, a beauty and perfection that would have been important characteristics of a deity that they choose to worship and stressed the importance of mythology in Greek life. . Also, the infants in the piece are significant of social changes, of prevailing secularism and sentimentalism from that point on. (“Museum of Antiquities. ” Hermes with the Infant Dionysus) Using the Hermes/Dionysus sculpture to show a transition in style, we next examine “Aphrodite of Cnidus by Praxiteles which takes the ideal, or classical sternness of previous pieces and add a gentler and more delicate approach and sculpture therefore progresses.
Showing perfection becomes less important in later Greek sculpture as the beginning of the Hellenistic era takes hold. In order to put the era in context, this period is following the death of Alexander. This led to an abandonment of Greek restrained style giving artists a freedom to be more dynamic, more expressive, more real and free. This period in art is known as the Hellenistic era. It occurred as Greeks become afraid of the breakdown of Greek city-states. And so they turned to new philosophies that showed in their art.
These new philosophies found in Greek art are obvious in a historical piece, “Lagoons and Sons” which is tied to Vergil’s Aeneid, told of the Trojan wars in a dramatic and graphic new form (2. ). Lacoon was subject to attack by the gods because he warned of danger and this encounter. The sculptor like many of the time, wanted to introduce the harshness of life, a new realism. Emotions depicted in this piece are that of agony, pain, fear and identity and age of the subjects are recognizable. From the perspective of the people when this was produced, it spoke to a desire to experiment by the people.
It also spoke to decentralization from one ruling group and inspires independent thought. Footnote #2: http://www. scholastic. com/browse/article. jsp? Id=3753872 Equally departing from the rigid style of early Greek art was a beloved sculpture “The Winged Victory of Samothrace” by Pythokritos because it showed movement by the figure with how the body was positioned and garments draped as well as its connection to its surrounding space, as it appears the wind is affecting it. Like most art it said something about the times and this piece is no different.
It is mythological in its use of the subject, but historical as it was commissioned to celebrate a battle. So what do these four sculptures spanning across the timeline of Greek rule tells us about what it means to be Greek? To be Greek meant to be universal, and the Greeks were driven toward developing the intellect and gaining an understanding of human life. This knowledge transferred into a culture that created ideals religiously (worship of Gods), politically (strong democracy) and socially (intellectual dominance). It was through the arts that these views were exemplified.
As history continues, Rome conquers Greece in 146BC and becomes the center of power. The arts of Rome were so interwoven with Greek influence because many of the attributes are copied and are carried forward. Even though the arts borrowed, the Romans had its own unique flavor. Roman art was less spiritual or less known to express emotions but more about displaying grandeur, decoration and authority (Trentinella, Rosemarie. “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. ” Roman Portrait Sculpture: Republican through Constantinian. 2000).
Instead of sculpting figures of religion and mythology as a main focus, the Romans sculpted real people and important people for status. Augustus, the first emperor of Rome was an important person, God like in that he was worshipped and powerful and the so as was done in the times, busts were created to depict importance and power. The portrait “Bust of Young Augustus “(27BC-14AD) shows a vigorous portrait of the people’s ruler. The style of portrait sculpture was to document important men using a realistic image for recognition purpose rather than to have an artistic feel.
Also, the importance of all men as a gender was at the core of life as a Roman. Patriarchal family structure was the bedrock of Roman society. (Trentinella, Rosemarie. “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. ” Roman Portrait Sculpture: Republican through Constantinian. 2000). We see this in a piece by Barberini Togatus, “Patricians Carrying Busts of Two Ancestors”. This type of sculpture speaks to ritual significance behind Roman sculpture as they honor family, their dead ancestors, making them immortal in a way and admired. Also, men of power had their images created to promote themselves, be recognized and put forth their political positions. “GREEK AND ROMAN ART. ” World History International: World History Essays From Prehistory To The Present. ).
A second Roman sculpture of importance was the Prima Porta Augustus done in 20 BC, which has a political message in its purpose. Emperor Augustus presented in decorated armor gesturing forward as leading his people to a new era of peace and prosperity. (“GREEK AND ROMAN ART. ” World History International: World History Essays From Prehistory To The Present). Again how art was received by its viewer of the time was most important. Polykletios wanted to make a point and show Augustus as dignified and powerful and in charge.
He did so by using older Greek classical element in combo while mixing with new innovative stylizing. The result was the presentation of a divine ruler and a sense of order as depicted by the symbolistic elements sculpted on the breastplate. Both pieces given a snapshot of Roman ideas and life and therefore are functional for the time they were sculpted and for generations that followed. So, what did it mean to be Roman? It meant that the Romans wanted to elevate themselves as important. They had a duty to worship the Gods, but also had a duty to their governmental leaders as well as to the family.
Power and authority were important and it was achieved through military strength and a strict social classes. It took ideals from the Greeks and expanded those ideals further creating a strong culture with broadened attitudes. Having studied the Romans and Greeks as a Latin student in high school, I had a sense about each culture and their history, but having added the element of studying their art more closely; a clearer image became known from this exercise. Art is one vehicle to document a culture and its people for future generations so as to maintain legacy.