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Thesis Statement: In art history, the human form is a major characteristic figure of art. Art history clearly portrays the development of creative skills of people and, most essentially, the representation of the human forms and their civilization through art.
All works created by people of the Old Stone Age date back to about 30K BCE. During that time, sculptors and painters nearly always portrayed them naked. Nevertheless, scholars, in general, presume that both women and men during the Stone Age used to wear garments to cover parts of their bodies. As a matter of fact, the human figure in the form of naked women was a portrayal of matriarchal civilization. As a result of a few creative skills, those forms were mostly less natural, exaggerated, featureless, and geometrical. The exaggerations proposed to many statues acted as fertility imagery. Venus of Willendorf acts as a grand example of them.
Venus of Willendorf
The Venus of Willendorf is the representation of a feminine figure that dates back to the Palaeolithic period. This work of art helps to indicate the significant role played by women in society during that time. The object is barely one foot long and its rough texture shows the primitive tools used to create it (Witcombe). However, given that the sculpture was made during the Palaeolithic period, there is a high level of artistic skills portrayed in designing the form. The piece of art shows a woman who bears a large stomach, which does not conceal her private parts. She is portrayed as a very fat woman with big flat buttocks. She has very large thighs, but her hands are very thin and are resting on her big breasts. Her genitals are also seen to be intentionally emphasized (Witcombe). It can therefore be said that the sculpture has been made with all its reproductive organs given more emphasis. Therefore, this suggests that the object was acknowledged as a fertility idol.
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Another thing about the statue is that it does not have feet. Perhaps the woman was not meant to be very mobile and do much work, but to carry out the role of taking care of the young. Also, she has plaited hair on her head. Hair was used as a tool for erotic attraction during ancient times. Therefore, as already mentioned above, only the organs of the female body that are meant for sexual reproduction and raising of children are vividly represented.
The Great Sphinx: Ancient Egypt Period
Egyptian sculptures such as the Great Sphinx form one of the sequences of similar statues carved for the valley temple of Pharaoh to fulfil an imperative task of portraying his power. As suiting a godly ruler, the sculptor showed Khafre with a well-built, perfect body and a wonderful face irrespective of his real appearance and age. Khafre ambitiously positioned his pyramid beside his father’s (Barden 8).
The Great Sphinx is a massive representation of ancient Egypt that inclines idolatry, especially sun worship. There are many other sculptures made by people of Ancient Egypt, but this one stands out distinctively. The uniqueness of this statue is its size and the fact that it was fashioned straight from an existing rock, and it stands roughly 65 feet high. It is typically revealed as a male figure on the face. As a matter of fact, the face is symbolized as that of a god, while the body is that of a lion. The head has a scarf around it, thereby symbolizing a king (Barden 8). Another thing about this sculpture is that the attachment of the head to a lion body signifies the power vested on a king to connect men to gods.
The ancient world usually associated animals such as lions and snakes with power. This explains why images of these animals were common on palaces to signify that the king’s power was as great and domineering as that of the wild beasts. The images of animals were also found on temples where people went to worship their gods. They could only think of their gods’ power as might as that of the wild animals. The reason behind this is because people in ancient times feared wild animals as a result of their overwhelming and frightening power. However, this perception faded gradually as people discovered cunning ways of taming wild animals. Therefore, the lion’s body is deliberately used during the making of the sculpture to signify the dominion and mighty power of the king. Egyptians are understood very well as people who practised divination sorcery. The Great Sphinx was thus strategically placed at the doorway to the consecrated cemetery to act as a guardian (Barden 8). It was thus a symbol of protection and also a warning to the perilous forces.
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Myron, the Discus Thrower (Diskobolos)
Ancient Greek civilization takes into account more than one thousand historical years beginning from the initial civilizations to the cultures which became the Ancient Greeks (Boundless 239). During the mid 5th century BCE for example, Myron, an Athenian artist, made bronze sculptures. His most popular work was that of the Discobolus, or the discus thrower (Boundless 317). The Discobolus portrays a youthful, athletic, nude man with a stern style face. A contrapposto pose holds his body; one of his legs carries his heaviness, while the other looks relaxed. His body is balanced by his relaxed arm, while the other arm is tensed getting ready to release the disc. The Discobolus exhibits a dynamic, chiastic opus, which relies on diagonal lines to shift the eye about the sculpture. The figure also embodies another new aspect in classical sculpture: the image of the potential for energy (Boundless 317). The form is energetic and moving. Actually, the uniqueness of this sculpture is how it symbolizes an athletic model. The statue represents a transitory and swift moment, which is frozen at an accurate moment to display the rhythm, balance and harmony perfected by both the artist and the athlete. A clear development, in fact, exhibits itself from one period to the next.