Throughout the ancient world, the human form has been the main subject for art pieces. Whether it was a painting or a sculpture, each culture had its own style in how they represented the human body. But each one has some similarities and differences when compares to the art of different cultures. Beginning in the Paleolithic and Neolithic age, some art was produced on cave walls mostly showcasing animals such as houses and buffalo and the human form in some occasions.
The human forms that were represented in a stick like a form with front facing bodies like the one shown in shown in “Deer Hunt” where multiple figures are hunting deer. (pg. Anatolia and Mesopotamia) Stone statues were another form of Paleolithic art.
One of the most famous depictions of the human form in the Paleolithic time was the stone statute ‘Venus of Willendorf”. The limestone statue, named Venus after the goddess of love and beauty and Willendorf after the location it was found in, depicts that of a for inch, nude, and rather rotund woman with large breast and stomach area.
The statue is largely thought to be connected to fertility. Showing that the people in Paleolithic time did understand the importance of women in their society. (Zygmont) A lot of Paleolithic art of the human seems to lack the facial feature are not able to be clearly read. I personally think that this is because people of in Paleolithic times did not make a the human form after a specific person but an idea whether it be hunting or fertility.
In the Near East the Sumerians, Hittites, Akkadians, Babylonians and Persians were very notable.
Near East art had many forms and styles which reflected the many peoples, cities, kingdoms, and empires that appeared in the region over a thousand years. However, the art did have some consistencies. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art “One of the constant and primary aims of ancient Near Eastern art was to capture the relationship between the terrestrial and divine realms…Whether in the form of a votive sculpture, dedicated in a god’s temple to worship in perpetuity, or a statue of a pious ruler who was guided by the gods in all his actions, these images were meant to communicate to both human and divine audiences. The world of the gods was also populated with supernatural creatures who could either protect or harm humans and other living creatures, and their vivid portrayals in art evoke their crucial role as intermediaries.”
These civilizations chose to depict their everyday life in their art. The males depicted in Near East art had their bare chest and females were depicted with a chest covered. This is unlike Paleolithic art that chose to depict their human forms in the nude. Also, unlike the artist in Paleolithic time Near Easterner artist chose to depict clear, expressive features on the faces of their art. A very expressive piece would be “Spout in the form of a man’s head”. It is a ceramic piece that shows a mans face with a wide-open mouth and raised eyebrows. The mustache and beard have inlaid with shiny iron pyrites. The long face and thin nose suggest that the ceramic piece was made in someone’s likeness. (Metropolitan Museum) The art of Ancient Egypt is very different from the Near East and Paleolithic art.
The Ancient Egyptian art was very expressive and beautiful. Two examples would the the bust of Nefertiti and the portrait of Tiye. Both of these work showcases the care and detail that an Ancient Egyptian artist would put into a commissioned piece that was supposed to show a likeness to an individual instead of ideas. In Ancient Egyptian art pharaohs where depicted with a well-developed, flawless body and a perfect face, regardless of his real age and appearance. They did this because Egyptians considered there Pharaohs as God-like and the ideal proportion where the only thing that was appropriate for representing them. However, nonelite subjects where molded closer to realistic, showing chubbiness and clear signs of aging. This can be seen in the “Seated Scribe”. (pg Sculpture) The way that the Egyptian depicted the god and goddess and pharaohs in their art is having them larger then the mortals they are depicted with like in the art piece.
This show the individuals rank. The human form in Ancient Egyptian at was shown in the classic front facing bodies and the faces shown in profile. This is something that has been showcased in many Paleolithic and Near Eastern works as well. Aegean culture crafted their art in mostly marble. One early work called the ‘Male Harp Player was a very abstract piece of art with no facial feature. In paintings, the human form is exaggerated like in the piece “La Parisienne “that depicts a woman or a goddess with exaggerated eyes and facial structure. Exaggeration of the human form as always been a part of ancient art. Whether exaggerated to for the ideal body for a high-rank person like Ancient Egyptian art or exaggerated to represent an idea like the Venus of Willendorf. In Aegean art, the way that could tell you the difference between males and females were that female were presented with a light and fair skin while males were of a darker tone. This can be seen in the piece “Bull Leaping” where two fare skinned females are standing on either side of the bull while a dark-skinned male leap over it.
They, like many ancient cultures, make statues and paintings depicting gods or goddesses. The faience statute simply names “Snake Goddess” show a bare-breasted woman in a long dress holding two snakes and a cat over her head. This represents her power over animals. Roman art was a big leap into a very realistic and beauty of the human form. Each body part was carefully detailed to accentuate the natural beauty of the human body. That being said the Geometric period, which occurred in the eighth century, showed cased the human form very stylized. On the “Dipyon Krater” The humans are painted on a vase as silhouettes constructed of triangular torsos facing frontwards with attached profile arms, legs, and heads, following the age-old conventions. Around 500 BCE the Roman art style began to become more naturalistic.
This can be seen in the statue of Kroisos. A man who died in battle and had a statue erected over his grave to commemorate his life. The smiling statue had a more realistic proportion than those in the Geometric period. The head is no longer too large for the body, and the face is more rounded, with pump cheeks replacing the flat planes of the earlier work. The long hair is not just a stiff backdrop to the head but falls naturally over the back. The statue also has rounded, fleshy hips. Roman art sculpture does not only show the average human they also show roman religious figures. Buy the Hellenistic period Roman art has become more realistic and has a sense of weight and balance. They produce many sculptures of their gods and goddess, much like most other ancient cultures. (textbook) One of my personal favorites being she statue that depicts the Goddess Aphrodite, Eros, and Pan.