Austin Peay State University Art and Design Discussions


Discussion #14After reading the lecture on the Earliest Art and the Egyptians answer the following prompt:Referring to the image of Sargon II and dignitary from the lecture slides, describe what view the figures are in, name another culture that poses the figures the same way, and what kind of sculpture is this? Discussion #15After reading the lecture on the Earliest Art and the Egyptians answer the following prompt:Looking to the Nebamun Tomb image of Dancers and Musicians fragment and the image of Nebamun and his family during a hunt, describe the medium of art, and any visual elements and principles of design you can identify. What do you notice that is different between the two images even though they are in the same room/tomb?Discussion #16After reading the lecture on the Earliest Art and the Egyptians answer the following prompt:The two videos about the bust of Nefertiti represent two viewpoints on understanding the history of the object and what we think about objects of historical significance and identity. What do you think about it’s authenticity? What about it’s placement in the museum? Discussion #17After reading the lecture on Mediterranean Art and Architecture Part 1 answer the following prompt: There is an ongoing emotionally charged debate about where the Parthenon sculptures should be held and displayed. Why are the marbles important to both the UK and Greece? Would you care more to see what they look like as a copy such as a plaster cast or 3-D print or do you care more for the authenticity and seeing the actual object? You don’t have to choose a side in the debate but I would like you to think about the implications of the debate on a social and political scale and to think about how you feel about the things that are presented to you in a museum or historical setting.Discussion #18After reading the lecture on Mediterranean Art and Architecture Part II answer the following prompt:What differences are there in the ways the Greeks and the Romans depicted people? What does it say about what was important to them?Discussion #19After reading and studying both lectures please compare and contrast the following sculptures:Door jamb statues, West façade, Chartres Cathedral, c. 1145-70.
Saints Theodore, Stephen, Clement, and Lawrence, door jamb, South Transept, Chartres Cathedral, 13th century.Donatello. St. Mark. 1411-13, marble, height 7’9”, Or San Michele, Florence. In addition, comment on your preference or if you’ve never seen/heard of them, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney movie) cartoon or the Gargoyles (tv show) cartoon? And if you have a favorite meme that ties in feel free to post that too. Discussion #20Cultural heritage all over the world is under threat from different disasters, when something like the fire at Notre-Dame happens, do you think it should be rebuilt and should it be reconstructed as it was or in a new or innovative way? This is your opinion, just make sure that you support your opinion with examples that justify the reasoning.Discussion #21Looking to Emanuel Leutze’s painting Washington Crossing the Delaware Read this: This Iconic American History Painting Gets the Facts WrongIsaac Kaplan Feb 3, 2017 Do you think the message that the artist is trying to convey in the painting is more important than the accuracy of the events? Does knowing that the image is an artistic construction altar your understanding of the events portrayed?

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Lecture 9
Earliest Art to the Egyptians
Reproduction of a Bison of
the cave of Altamira.
• earliest drawings, paintings,
vessels, and sculptures were
made with whatever the artists
could find
• such readily-available materials
includes mud, clay, twigs, straw,
minerals, and plants
Panel of the Lions, Chauvet Cave Painting, France
The overall scene depicts a hunt. On the right of the composition there is a rhinoceros and a mammoth. On the left,
there are four bison heads, and two more rhinos. Then there are seven bison, pursued by a pride of sixteen lions, mainly
depicted by their heads alone. Above all of this drama, at a different scale, there is a large feline figure shown standing
face to face with a lion cub. Almost all of the animals on this panel face left. This composition is unique in Palaeolithic
art. The image has been created with a black pigment such as carbon black from bone ash. Experts agree that the
images are meaningful, although what their exact meaning remains obscure
WATCH THIS: How Young is History

This video has some discussion of the cave paintings
and puts them in context to the history that we’ll be
looking at through the rest of this course.
Representation of humans
SUPPLEMENTAL: Map of Pech-Merle caves
Locations of paintings within the caves
Virtual tour of Lascaux cave –
Korean Neolithic pot, found in Busan
• Early vessels were made of easily found materials
such as earthenware, baked clay
• This example from 3,500 BCE would have been
made before the invention of a potter’s wheel
• It is handbuilt, likely made by wrapping and
smoothing coils
• Patterns were incised with twigs or string
• Pots such as this from the late Neolithic era in
Korea are known as Jeulmun pottery, meaning
Female Figure from Willendorf. c. 23, 000 BCE,
limestone, height 4 3/8”, Naturhistorisches
Museum, Vienna.
The art that has come down to us from the Stone Age is fragmentary and isolated:ancient cave paintings and small
statues, circular stone monuments, and so on. Our examples are separated from one another by thousands of years and
thousands of miles. The question of why a work of art was made arises also with ancient sculptures, nearly as old as the
Chauvet cave paintings is a little female statuette that often serves as an emblem of art history’s beginnings. It is made
of stone, was formed about 25,000 years ago, and was found near Willendorf, a town in present-day Austria. Less than 5
inches tall, the rounded figure is small enough to fit comfortably in the palm of a hand. Its face is obscured by a minutely
detailed hairstyle that covers the entire head. Skinny arms bend at the elbows to rest on her breasts. Numerous
Paleolithic female statuettes have been found across a broad region. Some are carved of wood, ivory, and stone, or
modeled in clay, they were produced over a period of thousands of years and in a variety of styles. Scholars long
assumed that they were fertility figures, used in some symbolic way to encourage pregnancy and childbirth. Today’s
more cautious experts suggest that it is unlikely that a single explanation can account for all of them. The most we can
say is that they testify to a widely-shared belief system that evolved over time, and I would even caution that, that is a
Ziggurat – Sumerian
city structures uses
as a temple or
shrine raised on a
stepped base.
Nanna Ziggurat, Ur (present-day Maqaiyir, Iraq, c. 2100-2050 BCE.
The region known to the ancient world as Mesopotamia occupied a large area
roughly equivalent to the present-day nation of Iraq. Fertile soil watered by
the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers made Mesopotamia highly desirable, but a
lack of natural boundaries made it easy to invade and difficult to defend. The
first cities of Mesopotamia arose in the southernmost area, a region called
Sumer. By about 3400 BCE, some doze Sumerian city-states-cities that ruled
over their surrounding territories-had emerged. The Sumerians were the first
people to leave behind them not just artifacts but also words: the
wedge-shaped marks that they pressed into damp clay to keep track of
inventories and accounts developed over time into a writing system capable
of recording language. Called cuneiform, it served as the writing system of
Mesopotamia for the next three thousand years. Lacking Stone, the
Sumerians build their cities f sun-dried brick. The largest structure of a
Sumerian city was the ziggurat, a temple or shrine raised on a monumental
stepped base. The example here, partially restored but still missing its
temple, was dedicated to the moon god Nanna, the protective deity of the
Sumerian city of Ur. In the flat land of Sumer, ziggurats were visible for miles
around. They elevated the temple to a symbolic mountaintop, a meeting
place for Heaven and Earth, where priests and priestesses communicated
with the gods.
Nanna Ziggurat, Ur (present-day
Maqaiyir, Iraq, c. 2100-2050 BCE.
The Principles of Design – Scale and Proportion
Hierarchical scale – the
representation of more
important figures as larger than
less important figures, as when
a king is portrayed on a larger
scale than his attendants
*this slide is from a previous
lecture but is a reminder of the
Scene from the Standard of Ur,
detail. Mesopotamia, Early
Dynastic III, 2500 BCE, gold inlay,
lapis lazuli, The British Museum,
The Standard of Ur, c. 2500 BCE, inlaid shell, limestone, lapis lazuli, excavated Royal Cemetery 1928, South
Iraq, British Museum.
This object was found in one of the largest graves in the Royal Cemetery
at Ur, lying in the corner of a chamber above the right shoulder of a man.
Its original function is not yet understood. Leonard Woolley, the
excavator at Ur, imagined that it was carried on a pole as a standard,
hence its common name. When found, the original wooden frame for
the mosaic of shell, red limestone and lapis lazuli had decayed, and the
two main panels had been crushed together by the weight of the soil.
The bitumen acting as glue had disintegrated and the end panels were
broken. As a result, the present restoration is only a best guess as to how
it originally appeared. The main panels are known as “War” and “Peace.”
“War” shows one of the earliest representations of a Sumerian army.
Chariots, each pulled by four donkeys, trample enemies; infantry with
cloaks carry spears; enemy soldiers are killed with axes, others are
paraded naked and presented to the king who holds a spear. The
“Peace” panel depicts animals, fish and other goods brought in
procession to a banquet. Seated figures, wearing woolen fleeces or
fringed skirts, drink to the accompaniment of a musician playing a lyre.
The Standard of Ur, c. 2500 BCE, inlaid shell, limestone, lapis lazuli,
excavated Royal Cemetery 1928, South Iraq, British Museum. *The
“Peace” side – seated attendants, the king, animals and goods in
procession, wine goblets, and musicians
The Standard of Ur, c. 2500 BCE, inlaid shell,
limestone, lapis lazuli, excavated Royal
Cemetery 1928, South Iraq, British Museum.
Standard of Ur, 26th century B.C., “War” panel, 2600
B.C., shell, limestone, lapis lazuli, bitumen.
• This stone panel is one
example of the cultural
style of the Ancient Near
• A composite view
represents portions of the
body shown in profile and
other parts of the body in
frontal view.
*The “War” side – the largest figure in hierarchical scale, chariots, soldiers with weapons and helmets, bodies
underneath the horses. This stone panel is one example of the cultural style of the Ancient Near East.A composite view
represents portions of the body shown in profile and other parts of the body in frontal view.
Sargon II and dignitary, 722-705 B.C.E, limestone.
• A composite view represents portions of the body
shown in profile and other parts of the body in
frontal view.
By 2300 BCE the Sumerian city-states had been conquered by
their neighbors to the north, the Akkadians. Under their ruler
Sargon I, the Akkadians established the region’s first empire.
Though it crumbled quickly, the empire seems to have
extended all the way from the shores of the Mediterranean
to the Persian Gulf. Mesopotamia’s history was marked by
almost continual warfare and conquest, and a major goal of
architecture was the erection of mighty citadels to ensure the
safety of temples and palaces. Such a citadel was built by the
Assyrians at Nimrud in the 9th century BCE. The palace gates
were fronted by monumental stone slabs carved into
enormous human-headed winged beasts, a bull and a lion.
The lion wears a horned cap indicating divine status. Its body
has five legs, so that from the front it appears motionless but
from the side it is understood to be walking. I also included an
image of a similar statue being taken into I believe the British
Museum in London on the next slide.
Human-headed winged lion. Assyrian, from
Nimrud. 883-859 BCE. Limestone, height 10’ 2
½”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Human-headed winged lion. Assyrian, from Nimrud.
883-859 BCE. Limestone, height 10’ 2 ½”, The Metropolitan
Museum of Art, New York.
Lion Hunt, from the palace complex of Assurnasirpal II, Kalhu (present-day Nimrud, Iraq)
c. 850 BCE, alabaster, height 39”, The British Museum, London.
What kind of relief sculpture is this? What kind of view is it?
The walls of the palace were lined with alabaster reliefs depicting Assyrian triumphs and royal power. A popular
subject is the lion hunt, in which the king is depicted slaying the most powerful of beasts. The ceremonial hunt was
probably carried out as it is pictured here, with armed guards releasing captive animals into an enclosure for the king
to kill from his chariot. Slaying lions was viewed as a fitting demonstration of kingly power. The lions’ anatomy is
beautifully observed, and the many overlapping figures show the sculptor’s confidence in suggesting
three-dimensional space. WATCH THIS: *warning that the images of the hunt can be
rather graphic*
Lion Hunt, from the palace complex of Ashurbansipal II, Kalhu (present-day Nimrud, Iraq) c. 850 BCE, alabaster, height
39”, The British Museum, London.
Ishtar Gate (restored), from Babylon, c. 575 BCE, glazed
brick, height 48’ 9”, Staatliche Museum zu Berlin.
The Babylonians who we haven’t discussed yet, came
back in to power in Mesopotamia, late in the 7th
century BCE they formed a kingdom now called
Neo-Babylonian. These “new” Babylonians should be
considered some of the greatest architects, they
developed a true arch before the Romans did and
were masters of decorative design for architecture.
The city of Babylon was constructed as a square,
bisected by the Euphrates River, with streets and
broad avenues crossing at right angles. Because stone
is scarce in this region, the architects made liberal use
of glazed ceramic bricks. The main road was the
Processional Way, at one end of which stood the
Ishtar Gate, built around 575 BCE and now restored
in a German museum. The gate consists of thousands
of glazed mud bricks, with two massive towers
flanking a central arch.
WATCH THIS: It’s an ad but gives a very cool view of
the research on the Ishtar Gate

Developing at the same time as
Mesopotamia, but far less tumultuous
was Egypt. The Greek philosopher Plato,
wrote that Egyptian art did not change
for ten thousand years, although that is
an exaggeration, there were many
features that remained stable over long
periods of time. The sphinx, the symbol
of this most important characteristic of
Egyptian art, is the essence of stability,
order, and endurance. Built about 2530
BCE, and towering to a height of 66 feet,
the sphinx has the body of a reclining lion
and the head of a man, thought to be the
pharaoh Khafre, whose pyramid tomb is
nearby. Egyptian kings ruled absolutely
and enjoyed a semi-divine status, taking
The Great Sphinx, Giza, c. 2530 BCE, limestone rock, height 66’.
their authority from the sun god Ra, from
whom they were assumed to be
WATCH THIS: Ancient Near East and Egypt
Be warned, it’s a little juvenile in the tone of the video, but it covers all the major
points in the art of the Near East and Egypt that we cover in this lecture so it’s a
brief way to reinforce everything that you’re reading.
Sphinx of Hatshepsut, c. 1479-1458, granite and paint.
• Volume has three dimensions:
length, width and height.
• Volumes may have interior or
exterior contours and may be open
or closed in form.
• Mass is the quantity of matter, often
meaning its weight.
• Closed form is volume that is not
pierced or perforated.
• Open form sculptures are closer in
shape to the figures they represent
Revisiting this slide from a previous lecture. Is this closed or open form?
and are thus more lifelike.
A basic subject for sculpture, one that cuts across time and cultures, is the
human figure. Thinking back to how many of the sculptures we’ve looked
at today that have had representations of humans, we can connect the
human desire to leave some trace of ourselves for future generations.
Metal, terra cotta, stone – these are materials for the ages, materials
mined from the Earth itself. Even wood may endure long after we are
From earliest times, rulers powerful enough to maintain a workshop of
artists have left images of themselves and their deeds. The royal tombs of
ancient Egypt, for example, included statues such as the one illustrated
here of the pharaoh Menkaure and Khamerernebty, his Great Royal Wife.
Portrayed with idealized, youthful bodies and similar facial features, the
couple stand proudly erect, facing straight ahead. Although each has the
left foot planted slightly forward, there is no suggestion of walking, for
their shoulders and hips are level. Menkaure’s arms are frozen at his
sides, while his wife touches him in a formalized gesture of “belonging
together”. This formal pose is meant to convey not only the power of the
rulers but also their serene eternal existence.
Statue of Menkaure and Queen Khamerernebty II,
2490-2472 B.C., graywacke.
Statue of Menkaure and Queen Khamerernebty II, 2490-2472 B.C.,
• The subject matter of this Ancient Egyptian sculpture is
a pharaoh and his queen.
• A canon is a set of rules, principles, or norms, used to
represent human beings, often gods or rulers. These
principles determine proportions, stance, garments,
as well as other aspects of the human figure.
• Idealization is a form of representational art that follows
given canon for the representation of special persons in
a culture.
The Principles of Design – Scale and Proportion
Proportion – refers to size
relationships between
parts of a whole, or
between two or more
items perceived as a unit
*slide from previous
lecture* What
viewpoint are the
figures in?
Stela of the sculptor
Userwer, detail. Egypt,
Dynasty 12, 1991-1783 BCE,
limestone, The British
Museum, London
Egyptian painting reveals clear visual design and illustrative skills as the
sculpture and architecture, a fragment of a wall painting taken from a
tomb chapel in Thebes depicts a man named Nebamun posed very
much like the figure of Narmer. Again, we see the lower body with its
striding legs in profile, the torso and shoulders full front but with a
nipple in profile, the face in profile, the eye from the front again, again
he is larger than other figures the most important person in the scene.
A mid-level official, Nebamun would have been buried in a sealed
chamber dug somewhere beneath his painted chapel. He and his tawny
cart are shown hunting birds in a marsh. Nebamun is young, handsome,
and athletic, the form he hopes to have in eternity. He holds a throw
stick in one hand and grasps three flapping egrets with the other. The
small, elegant woman standing behind him on the papyrus skiff is his
wife, Hatshepsut. The still smaller girl between his legs is their
daughter. All are depicted in the formal, dignified poses suited to elite
members of society. Birds and butterflies fill the air. The birds are
shown in profile, the view that gives the most information. The same
goes for the fish in the water below. All are depicted in such closely
observed detail that we can identify many of the species.
Fragment of a wall painting from the tomb
of Nebamun, Thebes. c. 1450 BCE, paint on
plaster, height 32”, The British Museum,
Unknown artist, Nebamun Tomb Fresco Dancers and Musicians, 14th
century B.C., fresco.
Also found in the tomb is the image of musicians and dancers.
What do you notice about the form of the figures that differs
from the image of Nebamun and his family? What do you
attribute that to?
Fragment of a wall painting from the tomb of Nebamun,
Thebes. c. 1450 BCE, paint on plaster, height 32”, The
British Museum, London.
Narmer Palette
Art is often created to mark
a moment of triumph and
to interpret the conquest as
a validation of a leaders
right to rule, established
through victory.
Palette of Narmer, from
Hierakonpolis, c. 3100 BCE, slate,
height 25”, Egyptian Museum,
The Palette of Narmer illustrates many characteristics of Egyptian art.
The palette (so named because it takes the form of a slab for mixing
cosmetics) portrays a victory by the forces of Upper (southern) Egypt
led by Narmer, over those of Lower (northern) Egypt. Narmer is the
largest figure and is positioned near the center of the palette to indicate
this high status. He holds a fallen enemy by the hair and is about to
deliver the death blow. In the lowest sector of the table are two more
defeated enemies. At upper right is a falcon representing Horus, the
god of Upper Egypt. In its organization of images the palette is strikingly
logical and balanced. The central section has Narmer’s figure just left of
the middle with his upraised arm and the form of a servant filling the
space, while the falcon and the victim complete the right-hand side of
the composition.
Narmer’s pose is typical of Egyptian art, when depicting an important
personage the Egyptian artist strove to show each part of the body to
the best advantage so it could be “read” clearly by the viewer. Thus,
Narmer’s lower body is seen in profile, his torso full front, his head in
profile, but his eye front is not a posture that suggests much motion,
apart from a stylized gesture like that of his upraised arm. But action
was not important to Egyptian art, order and stability were its primary
characteristics, as they were the goals of Egyptian society.
Palette of Narmer, from Hierakonpolis, c.
3100 BCE, slate, height 25”, Egyptian
Museum, Cairo.
Palette of
Narmer, from
Hierakonpolis, c.
3100 BCE, slate,
height 25”,
Museum, Cairo.
The seated scribe depicts a high court official
whose position might be explained as
“professional writer”. In an era when literacy
was rare, the scribe played a vital role in
copying important documents and sacred texts,
and his work commanded much respect. This
sculpture, although somewhat more relaxed
than standing pharaoh portraits, is still
symmetrical and reserved. The scribe’s face
shows intelligence and dignity, and his body is
depicted realistically as thickening and rather
flabby, no doubt a sign of his age and sedentary
occupation, perhaps also an indicator of
Seated Scribe, from Saqqara. c. 2450 BCE,
painted limestone, with alabaster and rock
crystal eyes, height 21”, Musee du Louvre,
One of the stand-out changes in Egyptian art occurred under
the reign of pharaoh Amenhotep IV, who came to power
about 1353 BCE, he revolutionized the culture, changing his
name to Akhenaten and attempted to establish
monotheism. He built a new capital and shifted the art style
to be more relaxed. The famous portrait bust of his queen,
Nefertiti, is an example of that shift. She has a regal
headdress and elongated neck, appearing elegant and
WATCH THIS: Thutmose, Busto of Nefertiti

WATCH THIS: A Convicted Forger Calls Nefertiti Bust a Fake

Queen Nefertiti. c. 1345 BCE, painted limestone,
height 20”, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
Sunken relief – the figures do not project
upward from the surface, outlines are carved
deep into the surface and the figures are
modeled within them, from the surface down.
The limestone relief is an intimate scene of Akhenaten and
Nefertiti facing each other on cushioned thrones, Akhenaten
tenderly holds one of their three daughters, who gestures
toward her mother and sisters. Seated on Nefertiti’s lap, the
older daughter looks up at her mother as she points across
to her father, the youngest daughter tries to get her
mother’s attention by caressing her cheek. Above,
Akhenaten’s god, Aten, the sun-disk, shines his life-giving
rays upon them. The sculpture is an example of sunken
relief, in this technique the figures do not project upward
from the surface, instead outlines are carved deep into the
surface, and the figures are modeled within them, from the
surface down.
Akhenaten and his Family, from Akhetaten (modern Tell
el-Amarna) c. 1345 BCE, painted limestone relief, 12 ¼ x
15 ¼”, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
Burial mask of Tutankhamun, c. 1323 BCE, gold,
inlaid with blue glass and semiprecious stones;
height 21 ¼”, Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
Akhenaten’s reforms did not last, after his death, the temples
to the old gods were restored and the capital he created was
abandoned, reestablishing traditional Egyptian styles of
representation. In the gold burial mask of Akhenaten’s son and
successor, the young Tutankhamun, we see the return of the
traditional. When Tutankhamun, died around 1323 BCE
Egyptian civilization was already ancient – a continuous culture
that looked back confidently on some 1,700 years of
achievement and power. Rulers were sent into eternity
outfitted with everything they would need to continue life in
the sumptuous style they had known on Earth-with furniture,
jewelry, chariots, clothing, and artifacts of all kinds. Gold in
Egyptian culture signified more than mere wealth, it was
associated with the life-giving rays of the sun and with eternity
itself. The flesh of the gods was believed to be gold, which
would never decay. Tutankhamun’s solid gold coffin, and the
solid gold face mask, were meant to confer immortality,
projecting over the young king’s forehead are the alert heads
of a cobra, and a vulture, symbols of the ancient protective
goddesses of Lower and Upper Egypt.
Grave robbers have coveted the burial treasure,
with many of the burial tombs discovered in
modern times empty. In 1922, the English
archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb
of Tutankhamun, its treasures virtually intact after
three thousand years. This image is a
reconstruction of what the tomb is reported to
have appeared when opened in 1922.
WATCH THIS: Exploring Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Art and
Lecture 10 Part 1
We’re looking at two major civilizations that
had an incredible impact on the history of
Western Art History. The Mediterranean Sea is
huge and is bordered by a number of distinct
cultures, we’re not able to talk about all of
them, but looking to Greek and Roman art
history you’ll hopefully see connections to our
own representations in art and architecture.
The Classical World:
Greece and Rome
Frederick Evan Church, The Parthenon, 1871, oil on
canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Giovanni Paolo Panini, Roman Capriccio- Ruins with the
Colosseum. 1734, oil on canvas, Maidstone Museum &
Bentlif Art Gallery, Kent, UK.
Two images of 19th and 18th century paintings of Athens and
Rome illustrating the cycle of artistic and cultural influence.
When we use the word “Classical” in connection with Western
civilization, we are referring to the two cultures of ancient
Greece and ancient Rome. The term itself indicates an aesthetic
bias, for anything “classic” is supposed to embody the highest
possible standard of quality, to be the very best of its kind. If
true, this would mean that Western art reached a pinnacle in
the few hundred years surrounding the start of our common era
and has not equaled in the millennium and a half since. This is a
controversial idea that many would dispute vehemently. Few
can deny however, that the ancient Greeks and Romans
intended to achieve the highest standards. Art and architecture
were matters of public policy, and it was accepted that there
could be an objective, shared standard for the best, the purest,
and the most beautiful.
It’s 18 minutes long but if you need to learn a very
comprehensive history of Ancient Greece (say for another class)
this is a good one – it also provides some context for the art they
made with a great timeline format!
The Aegean
Between the Greek Peninsula and the continent of Asia
Minor (modern-day Turkey) there is an arm of the
Mediterranean Sea known as the Aegean.
● Artistic cultures developed here as early as 3,000 BCE
and parallels in time those of Egypt and
● Three major Aegean cultures:
○ Cycladic – centered on a group of small islands in
the Aegean
○ Minoan – based on the island of Crete at the
southern end of the Aegean
○ Mycenaean – on the mainland of Greece
Statuette of a woman. Cycladic, c. 2600-2400 BCE, marble, height 24
¾”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
From the Greek peninsula and the continent of Asia Minor (modern-day
Turkey) is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea known as the Aegean. Greek
culture arose on the lands bordering this small “sea within a sea” and the
Greeks were preceded in the region by several fascinating cultures that
survived on the islands that are so plentiful there. The artistic cultures of the
Aegean parallel in time those of Egypt and Mesopotamia, for the earliest
begins about 3000 BCE. There were three major cultures: Cycladic, centered
on a group of small islands in the Aegean. The Minoan, based on the island
of Crete at the southern end of the Aegean and the Mycenaean, on the
mainland of Greece.
Cycladic art is a puzzle, because we know almost nothing about the people
who made it. Nearly all consists of nude female figures like the one
illustrated here. It is simplified, abstract, composed of geometric lines and
shapes and projections. The figures vary in size from the roughly 2-foot
height of the example to approximately life-size, but they are much alike in
style. Most of the figures have been found in burial settings. This, together
with the standardized iconography suggests some sort of ritual use. It seems
likely that the figures are associated with ideas about fertility; they may
represent a female deity.
Toreador Fresco, from the palace of Knossos, c. 1550 BCE, Fresco, height approx. 32”.
Archaeological Museum, Herakleion, Crete.
WATCH THIS: “The Labyrinth: The Palace of Minos at Knossos” it’s
an excerpt of a lecture but gives a brief overview of the imagery
and the myths inspired by the Palace at Knossos

Centered in the great city of Knossos,
Minoan culture can be traced to about 2000
BCE. We take the name from a legendary
king called Minos, who supposedly ruled at
Knossos and whose queen gave birth to the
dreaded creature half-human, half-bull,
known as the Minotaur. Numerous frescoes
survive at Knossos, some fragmentary, some
restored – many depicting people
participating in games and sports. A young
male acrobat vaults over the back of the bull;
he will be caught in the waiting arms of the
young woman at the right. Another female
player, at left, grasps the bull’s horns;
perhaps she is ready to take her turn
somersaulting over the animal. Most striking
here is the contrast between the hefty,
charging bull and the lithe, playful flip of the
Mycenaean culture, so called because it formed around the
city of Mycenae, flourished on the south coast of the Greek
mainland from about 1600 to 1100 BCE. Like the Minoans,
the Mycenaeans built palaces and temples, but they are
also noted for their elaborate burial customs and tombs – a
taste apparently acquired from the Egyptians, with whom
they had contact. It seems probable that Egypt or Nubia
was also the source of the Mycenaeans’ great supplies of
gold, for they alone among the Aegean cultures were
master goldsmiths. Burial places in and around Mycenae
have yielded large quantities of exquisites gold objects,
such as the rhyton, or drinking cup, in the shape of a lion’s
Rhyton in the shape of a lion’s head, from Mycenae. c.
1550 BCE, gold, height 8”, National Museum, Athens.
Greek stylistic sub-divisions
Greek architecture and sculpture had an enormous
influence on the later civilizations of Rome, and
through Rome, Europe. We assume that Greek
painting was equally brilliant, for ancient historians
wrote vividly about it. Of the paintings themselves
almost nothing has survived. Instead, we must
content ourselves with the images painted on
terracotta vessels, which archaeologists have
uncovered in large quantities.
Ancient Greek art has many stylistic sub-divisions,
• Geometric (900-700 BCE)
• Orientalizing (700-600 BCE)
• Archaic (600-480 BCE)
• Classical
• Early Classical (480-450 BCE),
• High Classical (450-400 BCE),
• Late Classical (400-323 BCE)
• Hellenistic (323-31 BCE)
Greek philosophers were the first to speculate on
the nature and purpose of art, though they did not
call it that. Sculpture, painting, and architecture
were discussed as techne, roughly translating to
“things that require a special body of knowledge
and skill to make”, a large category that included
such products as shoes and swords.
The idea survives in our words for technology and

Ancient Greek terracotta vessels were also used to relay cultural
significance via imagery: this one show an important ritual
krater – one of many Greek pottery shapes, this is a vessel used
for wine
it is in geometric style, see the geometrical patterns throughout
(“meander” never-ending pattern at top)
Most like this over 5 feet tall, colossal
An early example of Greek terracotta vessel, the krater was used for
wine. This krater dates from the 8th century BCE, when Greek culture
first comes into focus. Artistically it belongs to the Late Geometric
period, when human figures begin to appear amid the geometric
motifs that had decorated earlier Greek ceramics. In the upper
register, a funeral ceremony is depicted. We see the deceased spread
out on a four-legged couch. The checkerboard pattern above
probably represents the textile that covered him. Wasp-waisted
mourners stand to either side slapping their heads and tearing their
hair in grief. In the lower register, a procession of foot soldiers and
horse-drawn chariots passes by.
Hirschfeld Workshop (attr.), Krater, c. 750-735 BCE, Terra cotta, height
42 5/8”, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
● Originally from the Dipylon Cemetery,
Athens. ca. 750 BCE
● Used as a funerary tomb marker for
important male Greek citizens (athletes or
● Has two main registers, or vertical bands,
representing the funerary procession. On
the bottom you can see over-lapped horse
pulling chariots and warriors with shields.
On the top you have the deceased laid on
a funeral bier, being prepared for
● Surrounding the dead are people
mourning: perhaps the wife the child on
the right, and on both sides hired
performers who would cry, wail and pull
out their hair (the more a person had, the
more important they seemed)
Archaic period of Greek
art 6th century BCE
Kouroi and Korai
(singular Kouros/Kore) –
statues of youths or boys
and maidens, an
anonymous figure carved
in the same pose, placed
as offerings in
Kouros, c. 580 BCE, Marble, height 6’4”,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Egyptian sculpture had a clear influence in the Greek statue of a young man called a
Kouros. In contrast to the Egyptians the work depicts an anonymous youth, instead of a
specific pharoah. The figure is nude, and that nudity is selected on purpose as a positive
statement related to body image instead of just an absence of clothing. Statues of
maidens, korai were also carved, though these are fewer in number and always fully
clothed. The work reproduces the characteristic Egyptian pose – one leg forward, arms
at the sides, hands clenched – but it even follows the Egyptian grid system of
proportions. Like Egyptian works, too, the block of original stone can still be sensed in
the squared off appearance of the finished sculpture. Whereas Egyptian sculptors left
their figures partially embedded in the granite block they were carved from, the Greek
figure is released completely from the stone, with space between the legs and between
the arms and the body.
This sculpture comes from the Archaic period of Greek art, so called because what
would later be leading characteristics can be seen in their early form. In the kouros
depicted here, the earliest known example, the treatment of the body and the face is
still fairly abstract. They were placed as offerings in sanctuaries to the gods and set as
grave markers in cemeteries. As the tradition evolved, sculptors aimed increasingly at
giving their statues a lifelike, convincing presence.
Marble statue of a kouros,
c. 590-580 B.C., marble.
Illustration to show just
in the span of about 50
years, how sculptors
strived for realism.
The Kroisos Kouros,
c. 530 B.C., marble.
The Kroisos
c. 530 B.C.,
Kritios Boy,
c. 480 B.C.,
A difference of about 100
years from the first Kouros
Kritios Boy, c. 480 B.C., Marble.
Contrapposto is the term for the
representation of the weight shift of the
knees and hips that occurs when
standing with one leg at ease or walking.
This pose places the figure’s weight on
one foot, setting off a series of
adjustments to the hips and shoulders
that produce a subtle S-curve; a stance
many of us use everyday.
Kritios Boy,
c. 480 B.C.,
Doryphoros from
440 B.C., marble.
A difference of 40 years
between the last
Kouros, with an
Classical period of art 480 to 323 BCE
● called Classical by later
scholars who considered the
art of this period to be the
● During this period Greece
consisted of several
independent city-states, often
at war among themselves
“Warrior A,” discovered in the sea near
Riace, Italy. c. 450 BCE, bronze, with bone
and glass eyes, silver teeth, and copper lips
and nipples, height 6’8”, Museo
Archaeologico Nazionale, Reggio Calabria,
Classical period of art 480 – 323 BCE. The Greek concern with lifelike
representation flowered fully in statues such as this bronze warrior. Here is
an idealized, virile male body, it’s a distillation from observations of
hundreds of athletic physiques. The warrior stands in a relaxed yet vigilant
contrapposto – the pose the Greeks invented to express the potential for
motion inherent in a standing. Bronze was the favored material for
freestanding sculpture in ancient Greece, yet very few examples survive.
Metal was too valuable for other purposes – especially weapons – and most
bronze works were melted down centuries ago.
If not for the statues commissioned by later Roman admirers, we would
have far less examples of Greek art. The statue here is one of two life-like
bronze warrior figures discovered off the coast of Riace, Italy, in 1972. They
had escaped destruction only by being lost at sea. The Riace warriors were
created during the Classical period of Greek art, although the ancient Greek
and Roman periods are broadly known as Classical, the art produced during
these decades was considered by later European scholars to be the finest
of the finest. During this period, Greece consisted of several independent
city-states, often at war among themselves. Chief among the city-states from an artistic and cultural point of view, if not always a military one – was
• Many gold and bronze ancient statues
do not survive today because they
were melted down for their value
• Later, Christians has no use for pagan
statues and needed to use the bronze
for armor
• These two warrior are rare bronze
Greek statues that survive today
• The original material expressed the importance
of the warrior on Greek culture
• The eyes were ivory and colored
• The lips are copper and the teeth silver
• These statues were lost
during a shipwreck off the
coast of Italy soon after
they were made
• Two scuba divers found
then in the sea off Riace,
Italy in 1972
• Their finding was a major
news item since such
statues were so rare
• Because they were under the sea for
over 2,000 years, they were in terrible
• In 2010, they underwent more scientific
• These life-size statues are now on
display in the museum at Reggio di
Calabria, in the “toe” of Italy’s boot
Nikodemos, Panathenaic Prize Amphora
with Lid, 363-362 B.C.E., Terracotta.
Ceramic – clay hardened by heat.
Clay is a common material.
Nikodemos created this ceramic pot or vase.
Panathenaia is represented on the vase and was a
festival held every four years to celebrate Athena,
the patron goddess of the Greek city of Athens.
Amphora – a tall, two-handled jar with a narrow neck.
This example originally help precious oil.
Nike, goddess of Victory, represented presenting this
vase to winner of a boxing match.
The Panathenaia, a state religious festival, honored Athena, the patron goddess of Athens.
Held in its expanded form every four years, the festival included athletic, musical, and other
competitions. Amphorae filled with oil pressed from olives from the sacred trees of Athena
were given as prizes in the Panathenaic Games. These amphorae had a special form with
narrow neck and foot and a standard fashion of decoration. One side showed Athena, the
goddess of war, armed and striding forth between columns, and included the inscription
“from the games at Athens.” The other side showed the event for which the vase was a prize.
Leading vase-painters, commissioned by the state, decorated these vessels, which continued
to be decorated in the black-figure technique long after it had gone out of fashion for other
vases, probably due to religious conservatism. The same conservatism applied to the
depiction of Athena.
On this example, the figure of Athena is portrayed in an Archaistic or old-fashioned style. The
Nike figures atop akanthos columns flanking Athena are a detail that allows scholars to date
this vase precisely to 363/2 B.C., and an inscription records the name of its maker,
Nikodemos. The back of the vase depicts Nike, the goddess of victory, crowning the winner
of a boxing match between young men, while an older, bearded judge looks on. The leather
thongs held by the youths identify them as boxers; they were wrapped around the hands and
served as the ancient equivalent of boxing gloves. In 370 B.C. the victor in youth boxing won
forty amphorae of oil; the second place winner took home eight.
Andokides and the “Andokides Painter.”
Amphora with gymnasium scene, c. 520
BCE, Terra cotta, height 22 13/16”,
Staatliche Museum zu Berlin,
Preussischer Kulturbesitz,
This amphora is decorated with a scene set in a gymnasium. From
childhood on, exercise at the gymnasium was as much a part of
Greek education as learning mathematics, music, and philosophy.
Male citizens were in constant training, for they also formed their
city’s army. Greek athletes trained and competed in the nude.
The scene on the amphora depicts to pairs of men wrestling. A
trainer stands watching them, holding a flower up to his face. The
flower, a symbol of beauty, indicates that the toned bodies of the
athletes are to be openly admired as their wrestling ability.
Well-developed male bodies were on constant display, and their
beauty was celebrated and depicted in art. There was an erotic
component to this, but also a moral one for beauty was felt to go
hand in hand with nobility and goodness. Women were largely
confined to the domestic realm, and their bodies were not for
public display, either in life or in art.
WATCH THIS: Intro to Ancient Greece, Pottery

Andokides and the “Andokides
Painter.” Amphora with
gymnasium scene, c. 520 BCE,
Terra cotta, height 22 13/16”,
Staatliche Museum zu Berlin,
Preussischer Kulturbesitz,
Acropolis of Athens.
• The height, or what was once
considered the ‘best’ or pinnacle,
of Ancient Greek art is referred
to as Classical.
• Today, most Ancient Greek
scholars no longer think of one
sub-style being “better” than
• An acropolis is the highest point in an ancient Greek city and houses sacred buildings.
• The most famous is the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
Reconstruction of the Acropolis, Athens
Iktinos and Kallikrates. Parthenon, Athens, 447-432 BCE.
Like many Greek cities, Athens had been built around a high acropolis. Ancient
temples on the Acropolis had crumbled or been destroyed in the wars. About
449 BCE, Athens’ great general Perikeles came to power as head of state and
set about rebuilding. He soon embarked on a construction program, meant not
only to restore the past glory of Athens and also to raise it to a previously
undreamed-of splendor.
Perikeles’ friend, the sculptor Phidias, was given the job of overseeing
architectural and sculptural projects on the Acropolis. The work would continue
for several decades, but it took an amazingly short time give the ambitious
nature of the scheme. By the end of the century, the Acropolis project looked
much like the reconstruction shown here.
The crowning glory of the Acropolis was and is the Parthenon. Dedicated to the
goddess of Athena parthenos, or Athena the warrior maiden the Parthenon is a
Doric-style temple with columns all around the exterior and an inner row of
columns on each side of the short walls. The roof originally rose to a peak,
leaving a pediment (visible in the reconstruction) at each end.
The pediments were decorated with
sculptures, as was the frieze. In the
manner of Greek temples, the
Parthenon was painted in vivid
colors, principally red and blue. The
architects Iktinos and Kallikrates,
directed by Phidias completed the
structure in just fifteen years.
Three Goddesses, from the east pediment of the Parthenon, c. 438-432
BCE, marble, over life-size, The British Museum, London.
WATCH THIS: Rescued or Seized?

The Parthenon sculptures represent
a high point in the long period of
Greek experimentation with carving
in marble. One existing sculpture
group, now in the British Museum,
Three Goddesses. In Perikeles’ time
this group stood near the far right
side of the pediment; if you imagine
the figures with their heads intact,
you can see how they fit into the
angle triangle.
Lapith fighting a centaur
High relief sculpture is when more than half
of the sculpted form projects from the
background surface.
• This creates and effect called an undercut,
where some of the projected surface is
separate from the background surface.
• This scene from the Parthenon, an ancient
Greek temple, shows an example of an
*slide from previous lecture to connect
that it originally was on the Parthenon
Hellenistic period
dated to 323 BCE with
the death of Alexander
the Great and
influenced by the
spread of Greek culture
to the regions he
Course Alexander the
Aphrodite of Melos (also
called Venus de Milo) c 150
BCE, marble, height 6’10”,
Musée du Louvre, Paris.
The last phase of Greek art is known as Hellenistic- a
term that refers to the spread of Greek culture
eastward through Asia Minor, Egypt, and
Mesopotamia- lands that had been conquered by the
Macedonian Greek ruler Alexander the Great. The
beginning of the Hellenistic era is usually dated to
Alexander’s death in 323 BCE. Hellenistic sculpture
developed in several stylistic directions. One was a
continuing Classical style that emphasized balance
and restraint, as seen in one of the most famous of
extant Hellenistic works, the Aphrodite of Melos, also
known as the Venus de Milo. Venus was the Roman
equivalent of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love,
beauty, and fertility. Sculptors of the late Classical
period had begun admitting female nudes into the
public realm – though only goddesses or mythological
characters. The statue exemplifies the ideal of female
beauty that resulted. Her twisting pose may be
explained by the theory that her missing arms once
held a shield propped up on her raised knee. She
would have been admiring her own reflection in a
mirro, her draperies slipped provocatively as she
contemplated her beauty.
The second Hellenistic style overthrew Classical values in favor of
dynamic poses and extreme emotions. One of the best-known
examples of this style is the Laocoön Group, which we know from
what is probably a Roman copy of a Greek bronze of the 2nd
century BCE. Laocoön was a priest of the sun god, Apollo, and his
story involves one of the most famous events in Greek mythology.
In the last year of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans,
the Greeks devised a fabulous ruse to overrun the city of Troy.
They build a giant wooden horse, concealed inside it a large
number of Greek soldiers, and wheeled it up the gates of Troy,
claiming it was an offering for the goddess Athena. While the
people of Troy were trying to decide whether to admit the horse,
their priest, Laocoön, suspected a trick and urged the Trojans to
keep the gates locked. This angered the sea god Poseidon, who
held bitter feelings toward Troy, and he sent two dreadful
serpents to strangle Laocoön, and his sons.
Laocoön Group, Roman copy, late 1st century BCE –early 1st
century CE, of a Greek bronze original, possibly by Agesander,
Athenodorus, and Polydorus of Rhodes, marble, height 8’, Musei
Vaticani, Rome.
The sculpture depicts the priest and his children in their
death throes, entwined by the deadly snakes. Its subject
matter, filled with drama and tension, would have been
unthinkable three centuries earlier. The Classical sculptor
wanted to convey outward serenity, and thus showed the
hero in perfect but not in action, outside time, not throwing
the spear but merely holding it. Hellenistic sculptors were far
more interested than their predecessors in how their
subjects reacted to events. Laocoön’s reaction is a violent,
anguished one, and the outlines of the sculpture reflect this.
The three figures writhe in agony, thrusting their bodies
outward in different directions, pushing into space. Unlike
earlier figures, with their dignified reserve, this sculpture
projects a complicated and intense movement.
Laocoön Group, Roman copy, late 1st century BCE –early 1st
century CE, of a Greek bronze original, possibly by Agesander,
Athenodorus, and Polydorus of Rhodes, marble, height 8’, Musei
Vaticani, Rome.
Art and
Lecture 10 Part 2
● The year 510 BCE is usually cited as the
beginning of the Roman era, for it was
then, according to historians, that the
Roman Republic was formed.
● A long period of expansion brought Roman
legions eastward through Greece and
Mesopotamia, west and north as far as
Britain, across the sea to Egypt, and
throughout the northern rim of Africa.
● In 27 BCE, when Augustus took the title of
‘caesar,’ Rome officially became an
Banditaccia (Cerveteri)
Before the Roman Empire other cultural
groups lived on the Italian peninsula,
one of them were the Etruscans. Burial
was and is an important ritual for many
people around the world. Burial sites
often include grave goods, such as
personal possessions of the buried
individual such as food, tools, objects of
adornment, and even a variety of
household goods. The Etruscans in Italy
from around 800-264 BCE, developed
elaborate burial practices. They built a
tumulus (tumuli = plural) for burial,
which resembled an underground
house. Together, the chambers made a
necropolis, city of the dead.
Banditaccia (Cerveteri)
• Burial was and is an important ritual for
many people around the world
• Burial sites often include grave goods,
such as personal possessions of the buried
individual such as food, tools, objects of
adornment, and even a variety of
household goods.
• The Etruscans in Italy from around
800-264 BCE, developed elaborate burial
• They built a tumulus (tumuli = plural) for
burial, which resembled an underground
• Together, the chambers made a
necropolis, city of the dead
Tomb of the Reliefs at Banditaccia necropolis.
• Inside the tumulus, the Etruscans
decorated the space with
sculptural reliefs of daily objects
they wished to have in the
Sarcophagus of the Spouses, Cerveteri, 520 BCE.
• Etruscan terracotta sarcophagi
included portraits of individuals
and couples who expected to
reunite and continue their
married life in the afterlife.
• Notice the man is embracing the
Sarcophagus with Reclining Couple from Cerveteri, c. 520 BCE
5th century BC fresco of dancers and musicians, Tomb of the Leopards,
Monterozzi necropolis, Tarquinia, Italy.
• Many of the paintings show
banqueting scenes.
• Like the Egyptians, the
Etruscans believed they
would join family in
celebration in the afterlife.
What do you notice is different
from the figures in the fresco
found on the Italian peninsula
versus the figures of Greek vase
Roman Funerary Relief
Funerary sculptures were
important to Romans as well,
this example showing Etruscan
influence of the banqueting
position as well as the inclusion
of relatives. However, instead of
burials in sarcophagus, Romans
typically cremated their dead as
part of funerary rites.
As a funeral marker, who do
you think this is
Relief of a sacrificial altar.
• Ritual practices often centered
around an alter
• The ancient pagan Romans would
sacrifice animals for their deities
• This Roman relief shows a scene of
sacrifice: notice the bull being led to
the altar
• Fire sometimes held symbolic
• See here a fire burning on the altar
is part of the ritual
Man with Portrait Busts of his Ancestors, c. 25 BCE
What do we notice in the difference between the way
that men are depicted in this sculpture and the way
men were depicted in Greek sculpture? What is
significant about the figure holding two busts? What
can it tell us about what was important to Romans?
or verisimilitude – means the artist
strives to make a truthful rendition of
a person’s likeness.
The idealization for beauty was no
longer the young and perfect, an
athlete such as a boxer might be
portrayed as a survivor of years of
physically punishing bouts, his face
lines, his body thickening with the
onset of middle age. Roman sculptors
excelled at this realism in their
portrait busts of ordinary citizens,
who wanted to be remembered as
Glycon of Athens, Hercules Farnese, c. 216 AD, marble.
The Hercules Farnese is an example the Roman Republican
style of art.
The dates of this style overlap with Ancient Greek art, but it’s
geographical location, the Roman Empire, influenced the artists to
work in a different style. Anti-idealized representation has a frank
and unvarnished study of individuals that are often older, more
mature citizens. However, the Romans looked to Greek mythology
and incorporated and interpreted it into their own narratives and
forms of visual expression.
For a sense of scale, here’s my head
next to the ankle of a cast of the
Hercules Farnese, displayed on a
pedestal. Also included a meme so
that you understand why the
sculpture has been doing crossfit
versus the veristic sculptures we’ve
been looking at.
Cubiculum (bedroom) from the Villa of P. Fannius
Synistor at Boscoreale, Pompeii, Italy.
Murals are paintings on walls. This
ancient Roman example represents
landscapes and architecture as if viewed
from inside the villa, or country house. If
it were not for the eruption of Mt.
Vesuvius that buried the town of
Pompeii, about a hundred miles south of
Rome, along with the neighboring town
of Herculaneum, little Roman paintings
would survive. The lava and ash spread a
blanket over the region and this blanket
acted as a kind of time capsule. Pompeii
lay undisturbed, immune to further
ravages of nature, for more than sixteen
centuries. The wall paintings give us some
indication of the styles of art practiced
within the empire at the time.
Wall painting, from Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii, c. 50 BCE, Fresco.
One fresco, from a house known as the Villa of the Mysteries, shows a scene believed to represent secret cult rituals
associated with the Greek god of wine, Dionysus, known to the Romans as Bacchus. The figures stand as though on a
ledge, in shallow but convincing space, interacting only slightly with one another. Although the artist has segmented
the mural into panels separated by black bands, the figures overlap these panels so freely that there is no strong sense
of individual episodes or compartments. Rather the artist has established two rhythms – one of the figures and another
of the divided bands – giving a strong design unity. IF YOU’RE UNFAMILIAR WITH POMPEII WATCH THIS:

The floors of the finer houses at
Pompeii were decorated with mosaic,
a common practice in ancient Rome.
The panel illustrated here graced the
floor of a triclinium, or dining room.
At the center, an octopus and a
lobster are portrayed locked in
combat. Around them swims a crowd
of creatures that could have been
fished up from the Mediterranean
Sea, an appropriate subject of a
house so near the shore. Floor mosaic
depicting sea creatures, from
Floor mosaic depicting sea creatures,
from Pompeii. 1st century CE, 34 5/8 x
34 5/8”, Museo Archeologico
Nazionale, Naples, Italy.
Augustus of Prima Porta, 1st century AD, white
• This work dates to the Early Imperial era (27 BCE-197
• Idealization of the human figure is used for
representation of rulers like Emperor Augustus and
emphasizes a mental conception of beauty, a
standard of perfection.
Who was Augustus? Watch this: History Vs Augustus

Ara Pacis in Rome, Italy.
• Propaganda
• Example from ancient Rome: Altar of
Peace (Ara Pacis) commissioned by
Emperor Augustus, the first Roman
emperor from 1st century BCE
• Contains message about peace and
• Emphasized Augustus’s role as high
priest (sacrificial altar inside)
• Ara Pacis accidentally discovered in
Rome in 1903
• Many pieces, placed together in
• Panel of Roma (Rome)/ Mother
Earth (Tellus)
• Monumental goddess in center
• Flanked by wind and sea gods,
holding two babies who reach
for her breasts
• Fruits in her lap and fresh water
runs freely beneath her, spilling
from the jug on the left
• She symbolizes the peace and
prosperity that Augustus
brought in under his rule
• Over time original pigment lost
• Conjecture what the original color
looked like
Politics and the
Social Order
Expression of divine approval or
the authority of the ruler
The Equestrian statues of rulers
and soldiers that ornament
American and European cities
are the direct descendants of
this type of work.
Equestrian Statue of Marcus
Aurelius. 161-80 CE, Gilded bronze,
height 11’ 6”, Musei Capitolini,
This illustration gives a glimpse into the multicultural world of Rome. It shows a
young man named Artemidoros, from Fayum, in Egypt. It dates from sometime
in the second century of our era. Egypt was then part of the Roman Empire,
and Artemidoros a Roman subject. Artemidoros, however, is a Greek name, and
it is written in Greek letters on his mummy. Alexander the Great conquered
Egypt in 323 BCE, for the next three hundred years, Egypt was ruled by a Greek
dynasty, the Ptolemies. Greek constituted an elite portion of the population,
but though they preserved their own language, they acquired the Egyptian
religion, with its comforting belief in an eternal afterlife.
Mummy case of Artemidoros, from Fayum. 100-200 CE, Stucco casing with portrait in encaustic on limewood
with added gold leaf; height 5’71/4”, The British Museum, London.
Rome conquered Egypt from the last of the Ptolemies, the Queen,
Cleopatra, in 31 BCE, Greek remained the principal administrative
language of Egypt, even under Roman rule. Roman customs and fashion
however, were widely imitated by Egyptians who wanted to appear
fashionable. One such custom was the funeral portrait, a commemorative
painting of a recently deceased person. Thus, Artemidoros’ mummy
includes a portrait painted in encaustic on wood in a Greek-Roman style.
What are we to call Artemidoros, Roman-Greek-Egyptian? After
thousands of years of history, cultural identities could have many layers in
the ancient Mediterranean world.
Mummy case of Artemidoros, from Fayum. 100-200 CE, Stucco casing
with portrait in encaustic on limewood with added gold leaf; height
5’71/4”, The British Museum, London.
Colosseum, Rome. 72-80 CE.
For all their production in sculpture and painting, the
Romans are best known for their architecture and
engineering. The Colosseum was planned under the
emperor Vespasian as an amphitheater for gladiatorial
games and public entertainments. It is a large oval
covering 6 acres, the Colosseum could accommodate
some 50,000 spectators – about the same number as
most major-league baseball stadiums. Even in its ruined
state, this structure displays the genius of the Roman
builders. The Colosseum rises in four stories, each of
which corresponds to the level inside. Archways on the
first three stories open onto the barrel-vaulted corridors
that ring the interior. The upper two tiers of arches once
held statues; the street-level arches served as numbered
entrances, the original numbers can still be seen. The
arches are framed by ornamental half-columns, with
each tier distinguished by a different order. On the
fourth level arches give way to small windows, which
originally alternated with large shields.
Tall masts once ringed the top of the wall. They
served to spread a gigantic awning over the interior,
shading at least some seats from the Roman sun. The
arena consisted of a wooden stage covered with sand
fitted with trapdoors. Beneath it was a warren of
stone corridors (still seen today), cells for animals,
hoisting equipment, and a subterranean passage that
led to a nearby gladiator training camp. The building
was fitted with an intricate drainage system for
rainwater, and its massive foundations were almost
40 feet into the ground.
Colosseum, Rome. 72-80 CE.
Structural Systems in Architecture
• Tensile Strength – the ability to withstand tension and or compressive strength from
loads, what structural materials must possess
• Load-Bearing Construction— “stacking and piling” simplest method of making a
building, and it is suitable for brick, stone, adobe, ice blocks, and certain modern
• Post-and-lintel— based on two uprights (the posts) supporting a horizontal
crosspiece (the lintel, or beam)
• Round Arch and Vault
• Pointed Arch and Vault
• Dome
• Capital- the topmost part between the
shaft of the column and the roof or lintel
• Orders- the three major architectural
styles developed by the Greeks
• Doric- has no base, nothing separating it
from the floor
• Ionic- has a stepped base and a carved
capital in the form of two spirals
• Corinthian- elaborate style with a
detailed base and capital carved as a
stylized bouquet of acanthus leaves
• Entablature
• Architrave
• Frieze
• Cornice
• Pediment
Kallikrates. Temple of Athena Nike, Acropolis, Athens.
427-424 BCE.
Round Arch and Vault
• Arch- a compressive structure, its
components push against each other to
achieve stability.
• Keystone- the topmost block of the arch
compressed between the two sides of
the arch
• Arcades- rows of arches set on columns
• Pont du Gard is an aqueduct built to
move water across the river to a nearby
Roman town
Pont du Gard, Nimes, France. Early 1st century CE,
length 902’.
Pantheon, Rome, 118-26 CE.
One of the first domed buildings ever erected dates from the
early 2nd century. It is called the Pantheon, which means a
temple dedicated to “all the gods” – or at least, all the gods
who were venerated in ancient Rome. As seen from the
inside, the Pantheon has a perfect hemispherical dome
soaring 142 feet above the floor, resting upon a cylinder
almost exactly the same in diameter – 140 feet. The dome is
made of concrete, which would have been applied over
wooden centering erected in the interior, though exactly how
this centering was constructed remains a mystery. The ceiling
is coffered – ornamented with recessed rectangles, coffers,
which lessen its weight. Only about 2 feet thick at its highest
point, the dome increases dramatically in thickness toward
its base as a series of step rings appear on the outer surface.
The rings add weight to the base of the dome and increase its
At the very top of the dome is an opening 29 feet
in diameter called an oculus, or eye, thought to be
symbolic of the “eye of heaven.” This opening
provides the sole (and plentiful) illumination for
the building. The structural possibilities of the
dome and the vault enabled the Romans to open
up huge spaces such as the Pantheon without
interior supports. Another important factor that
allowed them to build on such a scale was their
use of concrete. Whereas the Greek and Egyptians
buildings had been made of solid stone,
monumental Roman building were made of thick
concrete, tamped down into parallel brick walls as
though into a mold, then faced with a stone
veneer to look as though they were made of solid
stone. An important technological breakthrough,
the use of concrete cut costs and enabled building
on a grand scale.
Pantheon, Rome, 118-26 CE.
The Tetrarchs, 300 AD, porphyry.
• Tetrarchy means “the rule of four”
• This sculpture represents the four co-ruling
emperors, or tetrarchs, who worked together
to rule the four divisions of the vast Roman Empire.
Transition from the Roman era into the Medieval
period, didn’t happen at once and our system for
understanding history and change doesn’t always
account for slow changes.
This map is significant in
illustrating the areas that
would develop during the
following centuries and
how the movement of
people, goods, and ideas
impacted the development
of art and architecture as
well as the formation of
political systems.
Marble portrait head of the Emperor
Constantine I, c. 325-370 A.D., marble.
We’ll look more into Constantine and his influence on
art and the Roman empire in the next lecture.
He is known for being the first Roman emperor to
adhere to Christianity and converted on his deathbed.
His image here is significant for the changes in stylistic
representation that were happening and how that
would influence subsequent styles.
Christianity and the Formation of Europe – Lecture 11
Christianity was but one of numerous religions in the late Roman
Empire, but it quickly became one of the most popular and well
organized. Rome’s attitude toward this new cultural force within its
borders varied. Without going into too much detail, essentially many
Romans used the Christians as scapegoats essentially for the
instability in the empire. For the Romans everything was tied up in
the benevolence of the gods, and if they were not being properly
worshipped or acknowledged it was easy for them to blame the
As an increasing number of wealthy and influential people converted,
it became accepted as Christianity became the official religion of the
Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine in 306-337 CE.
Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, but the empire
itself was going through a transition, the political system and military
were overextended, internally weakened, and as a whole
under-constant invasion. The Roman empire collapsed into what
would emerge as Western Europe and in the East the Byzantine
Empire. The Byzantine Empire was a Christianized continuation of
the Roman-Empire. The Near East, Egypt, North Africa, and most of
Spain became principle in another religious culture, Islam.
Looking at the map with an understanding of geography and
modern nation states we can see how this transitional period
had an impact on the development of cultural variety.
The Rise of Christianity
Artists utilized motifs and iconography during the
transitional period that by were recognized both Christians
and pagans. Some of the earliest Christian art has been
preserved in underground burial chambers that were later
forgotten. The portion of a mosaic illustrated here is from
the vault of an underground necropolis in Rome. The
mosaic was created around the same time as the Fayum
mummy we looked at in the last lecture.
Christ as the Sun, detail of a mosaic under St. Peter’s
necropolis, Rome. Mid-3rd century.
In depicting Christ in triumph, the artist has borrowed the
iconography of the Greek sun god Helios, who was
worshipped in the later Roman Empire as Sol Invictus,
invincible sun. Patron of soldiers, he was often portrayed
driving his chariot across the sky, light radiating from his
head. Rays of light emanating from the head of this
Christ-Helios are modified to suggest a cross. The grape
leaves of the surrounding pattern were associated with the
Greek god Dionysus, known to the Romans as Bacchus, the
god of fertility and wine. Christians appropriated the grape
leaf as a symbol, for Christ had spoken of himself as the
true vine, whose branches (the faithful) would bear fruit
(the kingdom of God on Earth). The benefit for artists was
that the grape-leaf patterns they had learned as
apprentices could serve for Christian clients as well as
pagan ones.
Christ as the Sun, detail of a mosaic under St. Peter’s
necropolis, Rome. Mid-3rd century.
Basilica— a multipurpose meeting hall developed by Roman architects.
What should a church look like? Most Roman,
Greek, and even Egyptian and Mesopotamian
temples had essentially been conceived as dwelling
places for the gods they were dedicated to. Priests
might enter to perform rites of sacrifice and
worship, but groups of ordinary people viewed
those rites from outside, if they viewed them at all.
Roman basilica
1. Nave-used to admit light, extended up higher than the aisles
2. Aisles
3. Apse- curved section at one or both ends
4. Entrances
Christianity from the beginning emphasized
congregational worship, and so, a fundamentally
different kind of building was needed, one that
could contain a lot of people. Roman architects
already had such a structure in their repertoire
of standard building types, a multipurpose
meeting hall called a basilica. As the plan shows,
a basilica was basically a long rectangular hall.
Entrances might be on the long or the short
sides, at one or both ends might be a curved
section called an apse. To admit light, the open
center space, called the nave, extended up
higher than the surrounding aisles.
Roman basilica
1. Nave-used to admit light, extended up
higher than the aisles
2. Aisles
3. Apse- curved section at one or both
4. Entrances
The upward extension that held the windows to let light into the
basilica is known as the clerestory. With windows, called clerestory
windows. This plan of the Old St. Peter’s in Rome is illustrative of
the basilica structures adopted for use as a Christian church. This
was built on the spot in Rome where it was believed that Peter,
Jesus’ first apostle had been buried. Old St. Peter’s is a modified
basilica plan with entry on one of the short sides, inside there is a
wide central nave flanked by narrower aisles. At the far end is the
apse. A natural focal point for anyone entering the church, the
apse provides a setting for the altar, the focal point of Christian
worship. In addition, this far wall is extended slightly to each side
of the building. The extensions create a lengthwise section
perpendicular to the nave called a transept. Together the nave and
the transept form a cross, a fundamental Christian symbol. An
open courtyard surrounded by a covered walkway, the atrium was
a standard element of Roman domestic architecture. The arm of
the walkway directly in front of the church served as an entry
porch called a narthex. The elements here – nave, aisles,
clerestory, apse, transept, and narthex – formed the basic
vocabulary of church architecture in the West for many centuries.
Clerestory- the upward
extension that held the
windows, called clerestory
Transept- extensions at the
apse perpendicular the the
nave creating a cross
Narthex- the walkway directly
in front of the church serving
as an entrance porch
The structure of Old St. Peter’s was demolished in 1506 to
erect the “new” St. Peter’s now in Rome, but contemporary
descriptions and drawings have enabled scholars to make
informed guesses about its design. A similar church built
some sixty years later, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, stood
intact until the 19th century, and an artist’s rendering gives
testimony to its grandeur.
Giovanni Battista Piranesi. St. Paul’s Outside the
Walls, Rome, begun c. 385 from Vedute di Roma
(Views of Rome). 1749. Etching, 15 3/16 x 24”, Yale
University Art Gallery.
The Roman emperor
Constantine issued an
edict of tolerance of all
religions in the year 313.
Not only were all faiths
now free to practice
openly, but Constantine
himself patronized
Christianity, for he
attributed his success in a
key battle to the Christian
God. Under his imperial
sponsorship, architects
raised a series of large and
opulent churches at key
locations in the empire.
One of these was Old St.
In 323 Constantine made another decision with far-reaching
consequences: judging that the empire could be more securely
ruled from the East, he ordered his architects and engineers to
transform the ancient Greek colony of Byzantio, known in Latin as
Byzantium, into a new capital city called Constantinople
(present-day Istanbul, in Turkey). Six years later, he moved his
administration there.
As a symbol of his continuing presence in Rome, Constantine
commissioned a 30-foot-tall statue of himself, portrayed seated in
majesty, and had it installed in an apse added especially for that
purpose to a prominent Roman basilica. Fragments of the statue
have survived, including the massive head. The prominent nose and
chin undoubtedly reproduce Constantine’s distinctive features. But
the overall style of the image is far from the idealized naturalism of
Greece and the realism of earlier Rome. Instead, exaggerated,
stylized eyes stare out cut from geometric, semicircular sockets
under an abstracted representation of hair.
Constantine the Great, 325-26 CE, marble, height of head 8’6”,
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome.
The actual territory ruled from Constantinople varied greatly over
the centuries. At first, it was the entire Roman Empire. By the time
the city was conquered by Islamic forces in 1453, it was a
much-reduced area. But no matter the actual extent of their
dominion, the title that Byzantine rulers inherited was “emperor of
all the Romans.” They viewed themselves as the legitimate
continuation of the ancient Roman Empire, with one important
difference: Byzantium was Christian. Whereas Constantine had
extended his protection and patronage to Christianity, his
successors went one step further: they made Christianity the official
state religion. Church and state were intertwined in Byzantium, and
its art marries the luxurious splendor of a powerful earthly kingdom
– its gold and silver and jewels – with images that focus on an
eternal, heavenly one.
San Vitale, Ravenna, c. 527-47
A gem of the early Byzantine style is San Vitale, built during
the 6th century in Ravenna, Italy, which was then under
Byzantine control. San Vitae does not follow the cross plan
that became standard for Western churches but, instead,
uses a central plan favored in the East. Central-plan
churches are most often square with a central dome, as is
the Hagia Sophia. San Vitale, however, takes the unusual
form of an octagon. Although an apse protrudes from one
wall and a narthex is attached to two others, the
fundamental focus of the building is at its center, over
which rises a large dome. The major axis of central-plan
church is thus vertical, from floor to dome, or symbolically
from Earth to the vault of heaven.
San Vitale, Ravenna, c. 527-47
Plan of San Vitale.
Mosaic – made of small, closely spaced
particles called tesserae
The interior of San Vitale is decorated in
glittering mosaics, including portrayals of the
emperor Justinian and the empress Theodora,
under whose patronage the church was built.
Like the statue of Constantine we examined
earlier, the images conveyed the rulers’
symbolic presence in this distant portion of their
empire. Mosaic continued as a favored
Byzantine technique. Notice the shift in the way
that the people and space are represented. The
hanging feet and the eyes.
Empress Theodora and Retinue, detail, San Vitale,
Ravenna, c. 547 CE, Mosaic.
Emperor Justinian and his attendants, San Vitale,
Ravenna, c. 547 CE, Mosaic.
Empress Theodora and Retinue, detail, San Vitale,
Ravenna, c. 547 CE, Mosaic.
Emperor Justinian and his attendants, San Vitale,
Ravenna, c. 547 CE, Mosaic.
In the interior of the 12th century cathedral of Monreale, in Sicily is
the half-dome crowning the apse illustrated here is a large figure of
Christ as Pantokrator, Greek for “Ruler of all” A standard element of
later Byzantine iconography, the Pantokrator image emphasized the
divine, awe-inspiring, even terrifying majesty of Christ as opposed to
his gentle, approachable human incarnation as Jesus. Directly below
Christ is Mary, the mother of Jesus, she is flanked by angels and saints.
We can see here how Byzantine artists had moved away from
naturalism and realism of Greece and Rome toward a flattened,
abstracted style. Like the artists of ancient Egypt, Byzantine artists
strove to portray often complex religious doctrines and beliefs, not
scenes from daily life. Their subject was not the impermanent Earthly
world of the flesh but the eternal and sacred world of the spirit. By
de-emphasizing the roundness, the weight, the “hereness” of human
bodies in this world, they emphasize that what we are looking at is not
in fact here, but there. The glittering gold background of the mosaics is
typical, and it sets the figures in a Byzantine vision of heavenly
Christ as Pantokrator, Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, Before 1183,
Christ as Pantokrator, Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, Before
1183, mosaic.
A distinctive form of Byzantine art is the icon, named after the Greek word
for image eikon, Within the context of Byzantine art, an icon is a specific
kind of image, either a portrait of a sacred person or a portrayal of a sacred
event. Icons had a mysterious status in the Byzantine world. They were not
images as we understand them but points of contact with the sacred realm.
Divine power flowed through them into the world, and through them
believers could address their prayers to the sacred presence they saw
portrayed. Some icons were believed to have been miraculously created,
others were believed to have worked miracles.
-Byzantine Madonna in encaustic close visual connections in form to the
mosaic of emperor Justinian.
Icon- named after the Greek word for image eikon, a
specific kind of image, either a portrait of a sacred person
or a portrayal of a sacred event.
Madonna Enthroned, Byzantine,
Encaustic, Constantinople, Saint
Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai.
Icons were most commonly painted in tempera on gilded wood. But
other media were also used, including miniature mosaics, precious
metals, and ivory. Ivory was a luxury material in Byzantium, and thus it is
likely that this exquisitely carved image was made in Constantinople
itself, perhaps for a member of the imperial court.
By the time the ivory icon was carved, vast changes had occurred in the
territories that Constantinople was built to rule. Constantine’s vision of a
unified Roman Empire did not prevail: the territory was simply too vast.
His successors partitioned the empire into eastern and western halves,
each with its own emperor. Within 150 years, the western empire had
fallen, overwhelmed by a massive influx of Germanic peoples arriving
from the north and east. Constantinople again claimed authority over
the entire empire but could not enforce it. The western Church, based in
Rome, preserved its imperial organization and religious authority, but
true political and military power had passed to the local leaders of the
newcomers, who settled throughout the lands of western Europe.
Plaque with Enthroned Virgin and Child.
Byzantine (Constantinople?), c. 1050-1200.
Ivory, with traces of red from original
gilding, 10 x 6 7/8”, The Cleveland Museum
of Art.
The Early Middle Ages
Animal style- delicately made
design motifs typical of the art of
northwestern Europe during the
Early Middle Ages
Interlace- patterns formed by
intricately woven ribbons and
Purse cover, from the Sutton Hoo ship
burial, 625-33. Gold with garnets and
enamels, length 7 ½”, The British
Museum, London.
The middle ages is the name that historians long ago gave to the period in Europe between the defeat of the last
western Roman emperor in 476 and the beginnings of the Renaissance in the 15th century. To those early
historians, the period was a dark one of ignorance and decline, an embarrassing “middle” time between one
impressive civilization and another. Today we view the Middle Ages as a complex and fascinating period worthy of
study in its own right. During these centuries, Europe was formed, and a distinctive Christian culture flowered
within it. Far from ignorant, it was a time of immense achievement.
The kingdoms of the early Middle Ages in Europe were inhabited by descendants of migratory tribes that had
travelled southward and westward on the continent during the 4th and 5th centuries. By the year 600 the
migrations were essentially over and kingdoms whose area roughly approximated the nations of modern Europe
had taken form. Their inhabitants had steadily been converted to Christianity. For purposes of this discussion we
will focus initially on the people who settled in two areas—the Angles and Saxons in Britain, and the Franks in Gaul
(modern France).
On the island of Britain northeast of London (then the Roman Londinium) was Sutton Hoo, where the grave of an
unknown 7th-century East Anglian king has been found. Objects discovered at the burial site include a superb
gold-and-enamel purse cover, with delicately made designs. The motifs are typical of the animal style prevalent in
the art of northwestern Europe at that time – a legacy very likely from the migratory herdsmen who were these
people’s ancestors. Animal-style images were often accompanied by interlace, patterns formed by intricately
interwoven ribbons and bands. We can see interlace clearly in the upper-center medallion of the Sutton Hoo purse
cover, where it is combined with abstracted animals.
The Early Middle Ages
Animal style- delicately made
design motifs typical of the art of
northwestern Europe during the
Early Middle Ages
Interlace- patterns formed by
intricately woven ribbons and
Purse cover, from the Sutton Hoo ship
burial, 625-33. Gold with garnets and
enamels, length 7 ½”, The British
Museum, London.
Belt Buckle from Sutton Hoo ship burial, early 7th century, gold.
• Art often contains expressions of mythical accounts that people shared about their beliefs and
ways of living.
• Found in the hoard (a collection of objects) known as the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial, found in England
and deriving from the early Middle Ages era known as the Migration Period (300-700 CE).
Among the most important artistic products of the early Middle Ages were
copies of Christian scriptures. In the days before the printing press, each
book had to be copied by hand. During the early Middle Ages, this copying
was carried out in monasteries, for monks, educated by the Church, were
largely the literate segment of the population. Monks not only copied texts
but also illuminated them – furnished them with illustrations and
decorations. The full-page illumination on the left was probably made by
Irish monks working in Scotland. It announces the beginning of the Gospel
of Mark – one of the four accounts in the Bible of the life and works of
Jesus – and it shows how the monks adapted animal style and interlace to
a Christian setting. At the center of the page is Saint Mark’s symbolic
animal, the lion. Monks in Scotland could never have seen a lion, the
fanciful creature they have come up with closely resembles the beasts on
the cover of the Sutton Hoo purse. The borders of the illumination display
the intricate interlace patterns that became a specialty of Irish
illuminators. The second page comes from the Lindisfarne Gospels, named
for the monastery where it was illuminated about a hundred years after
the other page. This example illustrates the use of Latin in the texts, so
even though the Roman empire no longer existed the way that it had the
Page with lion, from the Gospel Book of
language and writing survived through the copying of texts.
Durrow, Scotland (?), c. 675, ink and
tempera on parchment, 9 5/8 x 5 11/16”,
The Board of Trinity College, Dublin.
Illuminated illustrations and
decorations added
to hand copied texts
Page with lion, from the Gospel Book of
Durrow, Scotland (?), c. 675, ink and
tempera on parchment, 9 5/8 x 5
11/16”, The Board of Trinity College,
The Lindisfarne Gospels, an
eighth-century manuscript in which
calligraphy is combined with intricate
decoration. Cotton Nero D IV, f.139
Historiated Letter L, with illustration of the Tree
of Jesse, Capuchin’s Bible, c. 1180.
• This page is part of a codex, a bound manuscript
book with pages
• This one is from the 12th century CE but manuscripts
such as these were likely developed by the Romans
over a 1000 years prior
• During the medieval period, books such this were
illuminated, meaning illustrated (illumination means
given light)
Annunciation of the Shepherds,
Illumination from the book of Periscopes
(Lectionary) of Henry II, 1002-1012 C.E.
• Medieval manuscript for Christian religious
• Made of 24K gold leaf (monetary value)
• Material chosen because gold often symbolic
of heaven or sanctity (cultural value)
Lindau Book Gospels Front Cover
• Liturgical books of Scripture held special
• Covers were richly adorned too, such as
this golden cover showing a triumphant
Christ from the 9th century
• Gems are set in raised prongs
In France, a different style of art was taking root, called Carolingian after the emperor Charlemagne. Charlemagne, or
Charles the Great, was a powerful Frankish king whose military conquests eventually gave him control over most of
western Europe. Like his father before him, Charlemagne was asked by the pope for military help against the
Lombards, a Germanic tribe that had conquered Ravenna and besieged Rome. In 800, he intervened yet again on the
pope’s behalf, this time to restore order in Rome. On Christmas Day of that year, a grateful pope crowned
Charlemagne Romanorum Imperator, Emperor of the Romans. It was the first time the title had been used in the West
in over 300 years. Even before being crowned emperor, Charlemagne was well-aware of his preeminence among the
rulers of Europe. Frankish kings had traditionally moved from palace to palace throughout their realm. Charlemagne,
while continuing this custom, also decided to build a permanent and more magnificent capital in Aachen, in
present-day Germany. With papal permission, he transported marble, mosaics, and other materials from buildings in
Rome and Ravenna for his project. It is likely that he brought artisans as well, who worked side-by-side with their
Frankish colleagues.
Carolingian- named after the emperor Charlemagne, a
style of art in France and Western Europe approximately
780-900 CE.
The chapel from Charlemagne’s monumental palace complex has
survived, for it was later incorporated into the Aachen Cathedral.
The basic plan of the chapel was probably inspired by San Vitale in
Ravenna, which Charlemagne had visited several times. It was an
appropriate choice for a ruler determined to revive the idea of the
Roman Empire. Like San Vitale, the chapel consists of a domed
octagonal core with a surrounding aisle and upper gallery. But
Charlemagne’s architects created a weightier and more rectilinear
interior featuring Roman arches set on massive piers, and they
covered the aisles with stone vaulting. The central plan of
Charlemagne’s chapel links it to the many central-plan churches of
the Byzantine Empire to the east. The Roman arches, massive piers,
and stone vaulting, in contrast foretell the next style to emerge in
Europe, the Romanesque.
Interior, Palace Chapel of Charlemagne, Aachen, 792-805.
Carolingian- named after the emperor Charlemagne, a
style of art in France and Western Europe approximately
780-900 CE.
Also included an equestrian statue of Charlemagne
and the one of Marcus Aurelius to further
demonstrate the ways that Charlemagne was using
known images and constructions to connect his rule
with that of the Romans.
Charlemagne Equestrian Statue, Louvre and Marcus Aurelius,
Aachen, Palace Chapel of Charlemagne, c. 800.
• Here, the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne the Great
repurposed porphyry columns in his palace in Aachen,
present-day Germany
• Charlemagne specifically pillaged and re-used porphyry
columns for their historical reference to power
• Re-used parts such as the porphyry columns, gemstones,
and ivory panels are known as spolia
• This “reuse” signifies the revival and replacement of the
old Roman Empire with his own reign as a Christian
world ruler.
• A royal throne would have been on the 2nd tier/ floor so
the emperor could view the high altar
• The high altar was a table where the ritual sacrament of
the Eucharist would take place
The High Middle Ages
The Middle Ages was a time of intense religious preoccupation in Europe. It was during this era that most of the
great cathedrals were built. Also, a major portion of the art that has come down to us is associated with
monasteries, churches, and cathedrals. Historians generally divide the art and architecture of the high Middles
Ages into two periods: The Romanesque from about 1050 to 1200 based on ancient Roman architecture, and the
Gothic from about 1200 into the 15th century, which was created in northern France and spread from there. The
term gothic derives from the Goths who were among the many nomadic tribes sweeping through Europe during
the 4th and 5th centuries. It was applied to this style by later critics in the Renaissance, who considered the art and
architecture of their immediate predecessors to be vulgar and “barbarian”.
The Romanesque period was marked by a building boom. They’re called Romanesque to refer to certain features
reminiscent of ancient Roman architecture, including an overall massiveness, thick stone walls, round arches, and
barrel-vaulted stone ceilings. One reason for the sudden burst of building was the popularity of pilgrimages. In the
newly prosperous and stable times of the 11th and 12th centuries, people could once again travel safely. Although
some made the trip all the way to Jerusalem, in the Holy Land, most confined their pilgrimages to sites associated
with Christian saints in Europe. Churches –and also lodgings and other services – arose along the most popular
pilgrimage routes as way stations for these large groups of travelers.
The earliest Romanesque pilgrimage church still standing is the Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy, in France. This aerial
photograph makes clear the churches cross-form plan. Even from the exterior we can distinguish the nave, the
slightly less tall aisles, and the transept. Two square towers flank the entry portal, and an octagonal tower marks
the intersection of the transept and the nave. The round arches of the windows are continued in the interior, which
has a barrel-vaulted nave and groin-vaulted aisles. The plan shows how Romanesque architects modified church
design to accommodate large crowds of pilgrims. Aisles now line the transept as well as the nave and continue in a
semicircle around the back of the apse, allowing visitors to circulate freely. The aisle around the apse is called an
ambulatory, Latin for walkway. Small chapels radiate from the ambulatory. The apse itself is now preceded by an
area called the choir. Together, apse and choir served as a small “church within a church”, allowing monkts to
perform their rites even as pilgrims visited.
The High Middle Ages
Romanesque 1050-1200 CE
Gothic 1200 to 15th century
Ambulatory- the aisle around the apse, Latin for
Pilgrims stopping at Sainte-Foy would have come
to see the relics of Sainte Foy herself, which were
kept there in a statue made of gold hammered
over a wooden core and set with gems. Sainte Foy,
known in English as Saint Faith, was supposed to
have been put to death as a young girl, possible in
the 3rd century for refusing to worship pagan gods.
The reliquary statue of Sainte Foy is a fine example
of the treasures that were offered to and displayed
in medieval churches.
Reliquary statue of Sainte-Foy, Late 10th – early
11th century, gold and gemstones over a wooden
core, height 33 ½”, Cathedral Treasure, Coonques,
Ambon (11th century) of Henry II, Holy
Roman Emperor. Aachen Cathedral,
• Later Henry II chose to add other fine materials to the palace
complex decoration to exude royal opulence
• The semi-circular pulpit has a smaller semi-circle to either side,
a shape known as a trefoil.
• chased gilt copper rectangle panels (9) that has been formed
by hammering into low relief images of the Four Evangelists.
• Enamel – or powdered glass fused to the surface by heat, and
gemstone detailing
• Filigree – beads or threads of gold or silver arranged in designs
on a metal surface.
The Barbarossa chandelier.
• In the 12th century CE, Holy
Roman Emperor Frederick I
and his wife, Beatrice,
commissioned a chandelier
to hang below the
octagonal dome in the
• “Barbarossa” referred to
the emperors red beard
• The chandelier’s 48 candles cast a tremendous spread of
light in an age when artificial illumination was costly,
emphasizing its association with earthly wealth and
heavenly light.
• It was commissioned to
honor the Virgin Mary and
pay tribute to Charlemagne
Shrine of Charlemagne, Interior of palatine chapel in Aachen Cathedral,
• The golden shrine made to
honor Charlemagne was also
display of imperial and
heavenly glory
• Gold symbolizes holiness and
• Frederick II completed this
shrine, elevating Charlemagne
to the realm of a saint
Shrine of Charlemagne.
• the shrine shows Charlemagne enthroned,
blessing worshippers with his right hand
• It is a statement of imperial power—made
of rich materials that reflect popular
Christian notions of the Heavenly Jerusalem,
where these saintly rulers were thought to
act as intercessors for the believer.
Cross of Lothair, 1000 AD, gold and jewels.
• Imperial works often featured objects or
significant decorative details from imperial
Roman works to make a connection of power
• This cross for Emperor Lothair II features a
cameo of the Roman Emperor Augustus, the first
Roman Emperor from a 1000 years prior
• The gilded cross is covered with 102 gemstones
and 32 pearls
• It also has a rock crystal seal near its base
bearing a portrait of Lothair
Augustus cameo.
• Detail of the spolia
• cameo of Augustus shows him
wearing a laurel wreath, a symbol
of victory
• Lothair hoped to make association
to Augustus’ successful reign
Another famous work of Romanesque art that was kept for
centuries in a church treasury is the Bayeux tapestry—misnamed
because it is actually a work of embroidery. In the past,
large-scale fabrics, especially those hung in buildings, often were
loosely called tapestries regardless of the construction method.
Embroidery is a technique in which colored yarns are sewn to an
existing woven background; frequently the sewing takes the
form of decorative motifs or images.
The Bayeux tapestry is like a long picture book, 20 inches high
and 231 feet long – telling the story of the conquest of England
by William of Normandy in 1066. The scene illustrated is one of
72 separate episodes reading from left to right. The
Anglo-Saxons who fought on foot against the Norman cavalry
assault. Casualties from both sides fill the lower border. It has
been debated for a long time but now scholars agree that it was
likely made in an English workshop, under the patronage of Odo
of Bayeux, William’s half-brother and Bishop of Bayeux, who is
depicted in the tapestry a number of times.
The Bayeux Tapestry, Musée de la Tapisserie de
Bayeux in Bayeux, Normandy, France
Embroidery- a technique in
which colored yarns are sewn
to an existing woven
background, frequently the
sewing takes the form of
decorative motifs or images
The Bayeux Tapestry, Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in Bayeux,
Normandy, France
From the period following the Norman Invasion depicted in the Bayeux tapestry, a style
of embroidery known as Opus Anglicanum was highly valued, and purchased widely
across Europe. Falls under gothic period and designs mirror representations in all other
art being made at this time. The embroideries vary but are largely represented in
ecclesiastical garments worn by the clergy. The Vatican has a large collection of them
that have survived, while many of those that remained in England were destroyed
either during one of the iconoclasms or by fire. Some of the documented garments
have the maker’s name attached to them and quite remarkably a number of women.
It’s an important distinction to note that the access to designs used in workshops
making altar pieces, stained glass windows, and sculptures were shared with
workshops where the embroideries were made shows a cooperation and a reverence
for the significance for embroidery. This contrasts the ideas that embroidery was an
occupation for wealthy women to do isolated in their homes that developed later.
Eventually the quality of Opus Anglicanum diminished and they stopped being
produced around the time of the Black Plague due to the massive population decrease
in skilled labor.
Opus Anglicanum
Opus Anglicanum
The Chichester Chasuble c. 1335-45, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Tree of Jesse Cope, c. 1310-25, The Victoria and Albert Museum.
Throughout art history we are able to categorize shifts in styles but
we may not know exactly where they came from. With the Gothic
style that followed the Romanesque, we are fortunate to know
Romanesque 1050-1200 CE
Gothic 1200 to 15th century (1400s)
exactly where it came about. A powerful French abbot, named
Suger wanted to enlarge and remodel his church, the Abbey Church
of Saint-Denis, near Paris. Inspired by early Christian writings, he
came to believe that an ideal church should have certain
characteristics: it should appear to reach up to heaven, it should
have harmonious proportions, and it should be filled with light. To
fulfill those goals, his architects responded with pointed arches,
ribbed vaulting, flying buttresses, and stained glass windows so
large they seemed like translucent walls. Finished in two stages in
1140 and 1144, the graceful, light-filled interior of Saint-Denis
immediately attracted attention and imitation.
Chartres Cathedral, France, begun
1134, completed c. 1260.
The cathedral at Chartres, in France, shows the soaring quality of Gothic architecture. Here, the unadorned, earthbound masses of the
Romanesque have given way to ornate, linear, vertical elements that direct the eye upward. Clearly visible are the flying buttresses
that line the nave and apse to contain the outward thrust of the walls. Because portions of Chartres were built at different times, the
cathedral also allows us to see something of an evolution of Gothic style. For example, the first thing most people notice about the
façade of the cathedral is the mismatched corner towers and spires. The north tower was built first, between 1134 and 1150. Its plain,
unadorned surfaces and solid masses are still fundamentally Romanesque. The south tower and its spire were completed next,
between 1142 and 1160. Designed in the very early gothic style, they are conceived so that each level grows out of the one before, and
all the elements work together to lead the eye upward.
The towers, south spire, and façade had originally been built as additions to an older Romanesque church that stood on the site. When
a fire in 1194 burned this church to the ground it was rebuilt over the course of the next sixty years in the Gothic style we see today.
The plan shows the familiar cross form, but the choir and ambulatory have taken on much larger proportions compared with those at
Sainte-Foy. The soaring, open spaces of the interior were created with ribbed vaulting and pointed arches much like those we saw with
the Cathedral at Reims in the architecture lecture, it was built at the same time as Chartres. The final addition to Chartres was the
north spire, built in the early 16th century, it illustrates the last phase of Gothic style, a slender, elongated, and highly ornamental style
called Flamboyant, French for “flamelike”.
Chartres Cathedral, France, begun 1134, completed c.
Plan of Chartres Cathedral.
West façade, Chartres Cathedral.
Sculpture in the Middle Ages was often created to embellish architecture.
Over two thousand carved figures decorate the exterior of the Chartres
cathedral. Concentrated especially around principal entryways, they serve as
a transition between the everyday world of the town and the sacred space
within, forming a sort of “welcoming committee” for the faithful as they
enter. Like the architecture itself, the sculptures were created at different
times, and in them, too, we can appreciate the evolution of Gothic style.
Early gothic style can be seen in the elongated and flattened bodies of the
12th century carvings from the principal entry of the cathedral. In fact, it is
difficult to believe that there are actual bodies under the draperies at all. The
linear folds of the draperies are not so much sculpted as incised –drawn into
the stone with a chisel. We can think of them as a sculptural equivalent of the
garments in the Byzantine mosaic we looked at earlier, created around the
same time.
Door jamb statues, w…

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