Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 21 Thursday Building a Bridge Across the Mediterranean : Power and Propaganda

Minoa, Mycenae, Archaic Greece and the Mediterranean that Unites them With Asia and Africa

Lyre Player, 2700-2500 bce, marble, 9", Cycladic
Some of what we've shared with you this term fits into what's called historiography-- the history of Art History. Today's class places greater focus on that as we begin using more of the tools of Art History. I start this way to share some of the foibles that have occurred in the name of recording facts, and also many of the extraordinary revelations. Today's materials fit inside  the vein of historiography, and give a preliminary introduction to using formal analysis to draw conclusions about the makers of a particular culture.

Black Athena, Black Pharoahs and Asians in Italy: Connecting Greece to her neighbors

Key Terms: style: period style, regional style, representational style, saturation, naturalism, Minoan, Mycenaean

style:distinct combination of form and content (Stoksdad)
period style: traits in common detectable in works of art and architecture from an era (Stoksdad)
regional style: traits that persist in a geographic region over time, distinguishable from neighboring regions (Stoksdad, roughly)
representational styles are those that include recognizable subject matter including naturalism, realism, and illusionism

saturation, the quality of brightness or dullness in a color.... a highly saturated color will shout it's hue/color name-- pure yellow, pure red. Colors of low saturation will appear dark or murky. (Stoksdad, roughly)
color, see Stoksdad, xxvii

Civilizations in the Indus River Valley give little evidence of Social or political hierarchy. Because the language of the Indus Valley Civilizations has not yet been translated, many questions remain open. There is some indication that the caste system familiar from recent centuries in India had already begun, with a Warrior, Priest, and Peasant class. At this time, though the plan indicates that people lived in relative equality and in close proximity to each other. 

Images from Harappa and Mojenjo Daro, the two major cities under excavation, appear to deal much more with everyday life than spiritual or political life.  Some examples: 
File:Harappan small figures.jpg
Votive Figures, Models, or Toys, from about 2500 bce

Thousands of stone seals have resurfaced during excavations at Indus Valley Sites. some examples:

This is an Indus Valley seal

The cities of the Indus River Valley were not the only ones that suggest this more equitable government structure. My favorite is the earlier 'giant village' of Çatal Höyük in Anatolia (modern day Turkey.), which I mentioned a couple weeks ago and wrote about in the article on mud bricks.  If you'd like to know more about this city, where people lived on roofs, and slept on their dead, here's a resource with links to others.

In Ancient Minoa, on the Island of Crete, life offered a higher degree of luxury than we've seen elsewhere, 
Fisherman, Akrotiri, Thera, ~1500 bce

Key Work: Bull Leaping, wall painting, Knossos, Crete, ~1500
including  time for what appears to be recreation, including fishing, and boxing, but focused on the so-called sport of Bull Leaping.

Minoan artwork has a highly decorative quality, with curving lines, all-over patterns, and bright colors. In many areas of Minoan palaces, every possible surface receives decorations. (We'll encounter this horror vacuui  as a trait of several cultures).

File:Knossos - North Portico 02.jpg

Key Work:  Young Girl Gathering Saffron (4-4), ~1500 bce

Key Work:  Young Girl Gathering Saffron (4-4), ~1500 bce
File:Snake Goddess Crete 1600BC.jpg
Snake Figurine,  ~1500, Faiance

The fisherman fresco
Fisherman, Akrotiri, Thera, Greece, ~1500 bce, and Fishing and Fowling scene from the tomb of Nebamun, 1350 BC, Egyptian source, British Museum

Antelope fresco shows purely ThĆ?Ā©ran styleLascaux Cave Paintings - horse

Painting from Minoan Crete, ~1500bce, painting from Lascaux Cave, ~15,000 bce

Key Work: Bull Jumping Mural, (4-5) , Knossos ~1500 ce

What three words would you use to describe the style of Minoan Art? Do you see any similarities between Minoan art and art of other civilizations we've seen or that you know?

Rhyton in the form of a bull's head, ca. 1450 BCE.;
Crete, Terracotta
Bull's-Head Rhyton, c. 1550-1450 BCE (Minoan Crete. Steatite with shell, rock crystal, and red jasper.
The gilt-wood horns are restorations. Height 12

Bull's Head Lyre, ~2500bce

Bull's-Head Rhyton, c. 1550-1450 BCE (Minoan Crete.
Steatite with shell, rock crystal, and red jasper.
The gilt-wood horns are restorations. Height 12

Not too long after the Minoan civilization fell into decline-- probably due to a combination of natural disaster (earthquakes) and hostile takeover-- the Myceneans occupied Crete and other islands of Greece after the Minoans. Though their art shares some traits, you can see a distinct difference between Mycenean art and architecture  and that of Minoan Crete. Some examples of Mycenean work:

Key Work: The famous Lion Gate, 1250 bce, image source.

Key Work: Lion Gate, Detail. About 1250bce. Monolithic Stones, Mycenae

Simply by studying this reconstruction drawing and the ruins above, what can you tell about the Mycenean Civilization? How does it seem to differ from Indus Valley civilization and Minoan?

Palette of Narmer, siltstone, 3200 bce.

File:NarmerPalette ROM-gamma.jpg
Egyptian art, perhaps more recognizable  than any other period or style. What do you think? 

However, Egyptian art didn't spring fully formed in Egypt. Much evidence points to borrowing from one of the civilizations we've looked at already, the Mesopotamians... or to the Mesopotamians borrowing from the Egyptians.  Here's a good example of close correspondence.
cylinder seal, ~3000 bce, Uruk, Mesopotamia; narmer palette

Visual art plays an important role in establishing the power of leaders during their lifetimes, and the flavor of that power. History also plays a role in establishing or breaking down the power of leaders after the fact. The history of Egypt offers some great examples of how history writers shape knowledge and understanding.

National Geographic does a great job telling one story about the rewriting of Egyptian Art here.

Key Work:  Funerary Vase from Dipylon (4-13), ~800-700 bce, footed krater, Geometric Period of Greek Art

File:Ur chariot.jpg
This image of a wheel decorates the Standard of UR, a Sumerian object from about 2500bce, or 4500 years ago, Mesopotamia. 
it's big! This is a different vase by same master

Key Work: Kouros from Attica (4-19), source- metmuseum, Archaic Greek, 580 bce

As I said, I imagine that of any period in the history of Visual Culture (including Art History), more people would recognize Egyptian Art than any other period or style. But plenty of individual pieces will confuse you. Looking at the above piece, What do you think? What elements of style do you notice?  What clues distinguish this piece?

Egyptian Art provides a great example of how learning to recognize details of style allows you to identify art from a particular culture simply by 'reading' the clues.... but tricky pieces and periods will appear!

Menkaure and His Queen, c. 2500 B.C., Egyptian, Old Kingdom. 

What features or artistic choices tell you unmistakably that it comes from Egypt?

What happens, though, when I place these two sculptures side by side?

Describe similarities and differences. What conclusions can you come to about where the sculpture on the left came from? We'll answer this question fully in class, but I thought you might like to see his hair, as well.

Menkaure and his Queen,2500bce, Egyptian,  Kouros from Attica, ~600 bce, Greece, Kritios Boy, ~480 bce, Classical

The Great Greeks

Our ideas of Ancient Greece have influence the history and aesthetics of the United States far more than any other culture of ancient times. Our understanding of ancient Greece continues to influenced our ideas of government, art, history, science, exploration, writing and literature, theater, law, human relationships, social structure, and much more.

Timeline of ancient Greece, with representative examples
Cycladic Greece (~6000 bce-2500 bce)

 Cycladic Lyre Player,  about 2700bce

Minoan Greece ~3000 bce-1500 bce
Key Work:  Young Girl Gathering Saffron (4-4), ~1500 bce

Mycenean Greece  1600-1100 bce (Helladic Greece)

 Mycenean Dagger blade, Mycenae, ~1600bce

Greek Dark Ages .... very little work remains from 1100-900 bce:

Early Greek Geometric Style 900 bce-700 bce

 Key Work:  Funerary Vase from Dipylon (4-13), ~800-700 bce, footed krater, geometric style
Orientalizing Period: ~750-600 bce
Following the Period of the Geometric style, a period of political instability and military intervention involving Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia, Anatolia (Turkey) and Phoenicia (Eastern Mediterranean) arose;  this brought Greece many technological and literary innovations—including the alphabet!—and these interactions left their mark on the artwork: Greek pottery from this time show demonstrable Egyptian and Mesopotamian influence.

Corinthian Olpe, black figured ware, so-called Orientalizing Style, 600 bce

Archaic Period 600-480 bce ,

Exekias, Vase  (Amphora) with Achilles and Ajax, ~540 bce, archaic greek

Exekias's Vatican amphora
Exekias, Vase  (Amphora) with Achilles and Ajax, ~540 bce, archaic greek

Key Work Kouros, from Attica, Greece, ca. 600 BCE.  Marble, 6′ 1/2″ high.  
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.Key Work: Peplos Kore (4-20),  ~530 bce
archaic period  Great source on the Peplos Kore here: 

Beginnings of Greek literature (in which many see Mesopotamian influence), and the early investigations in representing anatomy which resulted in the Archaic style of sculpture: freestanding nude male figures and clothed females, the static, somewhat lifeless ‘archaic smile’,
your beautiful archaic smile

Classical Greek Period 480-323 bce 

Kritios Boy, standing in contrapposto, Sir Kenneth Clarke called him, "The first beautiful nude in history," 480 bce 

extreme naturalism in sculpture, relaxed, freestanding males in contrapposto the ideal,  and the development of the Classical orders in architecture, with the Parthenon providing the most recognizable examples.

Extra Materials

Martin Bernal
Cornell University Professor of History Martin Bernal published a book in 1987-90 that forever shook the way we looked at the history of Greece. Though many dispute his thesis in whole or in part, he demonstrated the way that History could contain as much story as fact, and that racism had colored much of the story of our human past.
black athena
The following video introduces Bernal's theory, and may open up for you the reasons for the controversy. I give you a link for just the first ten minutes. Feel free to watch the rest of the program. Start here:

Make notes about the ideas in the video that caught your attention.

Black Pharaohs Hdr