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Hannah Mount
Don Hazlitt
Art History
12 December, 2014
Art History Final
Art has always fascinated me, and this semester I have been exposed to a lot of
great works and creative periods of art. After the trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
my three favorite civilizations quickly became Egyptian, Greek and Roman. Seeing
those ancient forms of art in person really solidified my attraction to them, they were just
that more breathtaking in reality. Egyptian art is so mystical with all of the connections
to their Gods and concern for the afterlife, and the story telling the Greeks and Romans
were able to accomplish through their art is mind blowing. Each civilization was so
advanced for its time; they inspired each other and even us today.
Of course the most obvious reason for any sort of fascination with Egyptian art is
the pyramids. These massive structures all stem from the Funerary Complex of King
Djoser which was a step pyramid. While very similar in shape and design, the step
pyramid was exactly what its name implies: a series of steps that formed a pyramid that
were meant to serve as a means for the king to climb to reach the gods in the afterlife.
Then during the fourth dynasty the step pyramid made the transition to a smooth sided
one. The most fascinating part of these magnificent structures was the complex chambers
on the inside meant to fool tomb robbers. Specifically in the King Djosers tomb
chapels dedicated to local gods were simply facades with false doors, behind which was
a fill of rubble, sand, or gravel (Jansons History of Art 54) to foil any attempts to raid

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the tomb. Also within these tombs were paintings and reliefs which allowed the
deceased to continue activities he or she had enjoyed while alive (Jansons History of
Art 62). The Egyptians were so steeped in their religious traditions that virtually every
work of art they produced served some purpose towards a successful afterlife and
relationship with the gods. Pictures of family members, scenes of rituals for the dead,
and offerings were painted inside the tomb to provide the Ka (the deceased persons
spirit) with everything it could possibly need to be happy in the afterlife. One of the most
well known relics that were placed in every tomb was The Book of the Dead. Painted on
papyrus scrolls, The Book of the Dead ensured that the deceased had the knowledge
required to pass the judgment of the gods of the underworld. The Book of the Dead
contained illustrations of funeral processions, the weighting of the heart, and the
provision of nourishment for the dead (Jansons History of Art 77).
When I think of Greek art/architecture, the first thing that springs to mine are the
massive columns. The Greeks predominately used two types of columns: the Doric
column which consists of a shaft, usually marked by shallow vertical grooves [flutes]
and a capital (Jansons History of Art 110), and the Ionic column which differs from a
Doric column in having an ornate base (Jansons History of Art 110). Columns were
used in virtually every Grecian structure but most specifically in the massive temples.
On the Athenian Akropolis is the Parthenon, which was the largest and most lavish
temple of its time on the Greek mainland (Jansons History of Art 131). This temple is
one of the most impressive ones in history, it featured an octastyle (meaning it had 8
columns on the front entrance) and an enormous statue of Athena. In stark contrast to the
massive temples the Greeks produced are their fine pottery. The Greeks utilized the

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black-figured technique (the design was painted in black on red clay) and later the redfigured technique (being the opposite of the black-figured technique, the design was left
with the original coloring of the red clay and the rest of the vessel was painted black).
These vessels depicted scenes from everyday life, mythology, and legend. The decorated
vases were used for special occasions, like symposiums which were an exclusive
drinking party that was a central feature of Greek lifeMusic, poetry, storytelling, and
word games accompanied the festivities[but] there was also a serious side to
symposiawhich centered on debates about politics, ethics, and morality (Jansons
History of Art 120-121).
The Romans created two of my favorite structures in all of ancient art, the
Colosseum and the Pantheon. They also utilized my favorite form of column, Corinthian,
which was a fancier version of the Ionic column, its shape is an inverted bell covered
with the curly shoots and leaves of an acanthus plant, which seem to sprout from the top
of the column (Jansons History of Art 142). The part of the Colosseum that really
piques my interest is the fact that this structure uses every form of column, every level of
this amphitheater features a different column. The Pantheon on the other hand I admire
for its unique overall construction and its function as a temple to all of the gods. The
Pantheon gives the appearance of having just another rectangular cella, but when one gets
beyond that first entryway theres an enormous dome. Domes were very unique for this
time period as were arches. So the dome, with its oculus and coffers, is what really what
makes this structure so breathtaking and unique. The Romans also reached a new level
with narrative strategy, for example, The Column of Trajan. This column is a 656-footlong continuous narrative relief that winds around its shaft in a counterclockwise

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direction, celebrating the emperors victorious campaigns against the people of Dacia
(Jansons History of Art 211). Trees and buildings were placed to separate scenes, but the
column still comes across as one continuous picture. That much effort and ability to
convey an entire story through visual alone is amazing.
The Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations highlight some of my favorite
things about art: the ability to tell a story, mythological connections, meaning through
personalization and just being completely unique for their time. Some of what they
accomplished seems so commonplace now but we need to keep in mind that back in their
day they were complete revolutionaries. I admire those who push the boundaries for the
sake of art and innovation.

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Citations
Janson, H. W., Penelope J. E. Davies, and H. W. Janson. Janson's History of Art: The
Western Tradition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2011. Print.