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art from three different cultures. Specifically it will discuss pieces from the Classical Greek, Indian Civilizations, and Egyptian Civilizations, including the meaning of the work and an art analysis of the work. Each of these different cultures produced very different works of art that were meant to entertain, enlighten, and be viewed for enjoyment. They used different techniques, but there were commonalities, as well. They represent some of the best and most beautiful artwork the world has ever seen.
The Classic Greek work of art I have chosen is the marble sculpture the Venus of Arles, which now resides in the Musee du Louvre in Paris. It is made of Hymettus marble and is thought to be as old as the third century BC. It is thought that the Venus was created by the sculptor Praxiteles, in an attempt to recapture his sculpting career. It is often called the Aphrodite of Arles, too. It was made by painstakingly chipping away bits and pieces from a solid block of marble (the original size of the block is show at the base of the statue, which shows how long this process must have taken). This is a visual art form that I interpret as meant to be visually appealing and decorative.
It was found in 1651 in the Roman theater in Arles, France. It was presented to King Louis XIV, who kept it in the galleries of Versailles until it was transferred to the Louvre. It was restored by the French sculptor Francois Girardon, who added the apple and mirror in her hands. There are thoughts that these may not be representative of the original statue at all (Bens, 2009). The French sculptor recreated many other areas of the statue, as well. An early art historian writes, "Restorations: the tip of the nose, part of the hair ribbon, the right arm, the left fore arm, both hands, numerous fragments of the drapery, and the big toe of the right foot" (Von Mach, 1905, p. 202). This piece well represents the classic art of the time, and shows how the Greek culture valued art and decoration in their cities. They used art as architecture and design, and it was a major part of their culture. The original sculptor, Praxiteles, worked almost exclusively in marble and in larger than life Greek gods and goddesses. He did many Aphrodite's, and did Apollo and many other important gods, as well. This illustrates what a central position the gods and goddesses had in Greek life, because they were so often honored with statues and other artwork.
There have been many discussions that this artwork was inspired by previous works by Praxiteles, who was known for sculpting Aphrodite in many different ways. It was also inspired by the Greeks' love of their gods and wanting to memorialize them. Many people believe the work on display in the Louvre is a Roman copy of a Greek piece that has never been discovered, while others believe it is an original. This classic piece of art is clearly related to other artwork of the time, which shows the same style, the same attention to detail, and the same subject matter. Since the piece was found in a theater, it is clear that it was meant for enjoyment and entertainment. It is not known who originally commissioned the piece, or how it came to the theater, but it is still an important and vibrant piece of art from the Classic Greek era.
This piece still has great meaning and value in our modern-day culture, I believe, because it illustrates how advanced the Classic Greek artists were, their attention to detail, and the lasting beauty of their work. This statue is literally thousands of years old, and yet it is still arresting and incredibly beautiful. She is also one of the first semi-nude Aphrodites, which makes her a very special specimen, and she was the first nude statue to appear in the Louvre. That makes her very historical, as well. She is so popular that there are other copies of her in museums around the world.
The Indian Civilizations encompassed a wide variety of different artworks. I have chosen to highlight a specific group of artworks known as the Bani Thani paintings, which form a major part of the Kishangarh School of paintings, discovered in 1952 by a professor in Kishangarh, India. They were a group of landscape miniatures, but there were also several different paintings depicting the "ideal" Indian woman, and these were the Bani Thani paintings. Many people call them the Indian "Mona Lisa" paintings (Sikander, 2009). One Web site says of the style of the paintings, "It is an elongated face with a high forehead, arched eye brows, half-open lotus eyes, sharp pointed nose, thin curved but extremely sensuous lips and a pointed chin over a long narrow neck. The grandeur of jewellery adds to the magnificence of a transparent odhni (head covering)" (Editors, 2009). This is very visual artwork, the colors are vibrant, the style is very modern, even somewhat cartoonish, and the detail is extremely exacting and beautiful. The paintings were often done on cotton fabric using the batik method, a traditional art form in India. Its purpose was twofold. First, it was meant to entertain and be viewed for pleasure. However, the man who commissioned the paintings, King Sawant Singh, loved the very real Bani Thani, who was actually his stepmother's slave girl, and he had the paintings created to show his love for her. Eventually they married and wrote love poetry to each other (Sikander, 2009).
It is not known who painted these paintings, although some historians do point to Singh's chief court painter Nihal Chand, but Singh was also a painter and could have painted them himself. Chand worked from 1727 through 1757, so that is probably when the paintings were created. Batik originated in Indonesia and spread around Asia. The batiking process is very intensive. Wax is used to block off certain areas of the fabric, and then a dye is used to create the design. The artist has to apply and remove the wax many times to get the desired effect. This is one reason the colors are so vibrant, they are hand mixed and applied one at a time, but it is a very tedious form of artwork, and took a lot of patience and devotion.
The Bani Thani paintings reflect love between the King and the slave girl. The King also wanted his love to represent the ideal Indian woman in his eyes, and she was the inspiration for the Kishangarh Radha, the royal consort of Krishna who often appeared in paintings of the time with the lord of enlightenment. The piece represents a high point in Kishangarh art, which declined after Chand stopped painting. The Web site editors continue, "Though Kishangarh patronized miniature painters for a hundred years after Savant Singh's death in 1764, the magic and transcendental fervour of these great years could never be recaptured" (Editors, 2009). The piece shows that artwork was an integral part of the upper classes in India, and that art techniques like batik traveled around the world relatively quickly, and each culture made their own changes and additions to the process. Earlier Indian love of color and vibrancy obviously influenced the piece, and it represents the upper classes of the time, especially when noting the amount of jewelry Bani Thani is wearing, which would have been prohibitively expensive for the lower classes. Art was clearly at home in the courts, and encouraged in the culture, although the poor class of Indians would never get any enjoyment from these exclusive works of art.
These Kishangarh paintings represent a special time in Indian artwork, one of its finest times. That is why they are still so popular today. You can find any number of Indian artwork galleries online, selling copies of the Bani Thani paintings even today. They are beautiful examples of love, devotion, and a vivid attention to detail, and they are a fine example of the batik process that is still being used today. This shows what value and meaning they still have in today's culture, because they are still so popular and idealized in modern Indian culture.
Finally, I have chosen an excellent example of Egyptian civilization artwork in a piece on display at the Metropolitan Museum of New York. It is called "Nany's Funerary Papyrus," and it was found in the tomb of Queen Meritamun in 1928 or 1929. The Metropolitan acquired it in 1930. It is thought to have been created between 1040 -- 992 BC, and it was found the Thebes, Deir el-Bahri area. It is created from papyrus, the traditional Egyptian paper, and paint, and it is amazing that it has lasted so long in such good condition. This is a visual piece of artwork, meant to commemorate a woman named Nany and her entry into the afterlife. It was made as a part of the…[continue]
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