(Dipylon Cemetery, Athens. c.750-700 BCE. Ceramic, height 42 5/8")
The Greek style of vase painting originated in the Geometric period. Originating in approximately 1050 BCE, this style greatly varied from the previous Minoan and Mycenaean approaches. Being in the Geometric period, these vases started using different shapes, such as spirals, and diamonds, which the previous are styles were not accustomed to. Last week I wrote on the Octopus Flask, which showed the techniques of the Minoan’s vase art. This marine style ceramic illustrated sea life of the time, with only animal shapes. It is a sharp contrast to the Greek’s Geometric period.
Looking at the funerary vase, there are many intricate geometric details that give layers and dimension to the ceramic. In addition to using geometric shapes for the first time in ceramics, it was also the first time that humans were put into a narrative (Stokstad, 112). Knowing this, one can assume that these vases, used as grave markers, must have depicted part of the soul’s life that grave it marked (generally the funerary act itself). The top scene depicted on the vase shows a body, lined on either side with figures. On the bottom portion of the vase, there are chariots and horses, which we most likely part of a procession for the dead. This incredibly detailed vase is an astonishing piece of art, which truly demonstrates the Greek artists’ work ethic of always striving for perfection.
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Celebrating the sea, and what it had to offer the Minoans, this piece elaborately shows an octopus sprawled over the vessel, with other sea life surrounding it. I think it is amazing, that even when the potter's wheel first was used, that much detail could be put into art. It also makes you wonder what technologies Minoans used to grasp the knowledge of sea life? Although it's facial features aren't incredibly true to form, the rest of the details are quite impressive for a second century marine vessel.
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The piece of art that I found particularly interesting this week was The Narmer Palette from the Early Dynastic Period. One of the primary reasons I found this piece so fascinating had to be the fact that it was fabricated at the of Egypt's history. Not only does it represent many of Egypt's early styles of art, it also plays with early hieroglyphics. In addition to the magnificent engravings of the palate, I also enjoyed how Stokstad incorporated the history of the palettes. Before reading this, I had no idea why Egyptians painted their eyelids. By having the first king as the primary figure in one Egypt's first discoveries in art, I believe that the palette set a standard for royal, or other power paintings and low relief carvings. Having Narmer larger than the other individuals in the painting gives a sense of power; Narmer has a way of then watching over his people.
Additionally, the Narmer Palette preserves Egypt’s history in engraved story telling. By using symbols to narrate the junction of Upper and Lower Egypt, the palette sets characteristics that preceding art would follow, and evolve into different art forms and cuneiform.
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Making the leap between stone and earthenware to metalwork was a huge step in Neolithic culture. Before metalwork came to be, many of the medias such as stone, bone, wood and clay were commonly used in trades. Ceramics were a key player in turning a simple trade into art. Tradesmen had to have technical skills, and the knowledge of aesthetics, but when ceramics were created, this gave way to a whole new culture. Beauty could be seen in ceramics, earthenware, stoneware and metalwork.
I chose to write about the Horse and Sun Chariot because of its exquisite attention to detail, and use of multiple medias. As an artist, I always have admired pieces that draw upon different medias, and combine them in such a way that they complement each other. Looking at this remarkable 1800 B.C.E. piece, it is noticeable that the artist was very skilled in metalwork, but also went beyond with its unique composition. With the ever-increasing use of horse drawn carriage (approx. 2000 B.C.E.), this metalworker studied the anatomy of it, and turned it into art. Stokstad also gives a detailed drawing of the horse's face, which shows the attention to detail. The horse's eyes are made of sun, and there are intricate patterns along its neck. Not only is the horse in great detail, but the sun as well. Similar to pottery and ceramics, these designs were most likely made by sticks, shells, and teeth as stamping implements. I also enjoy the fact that the artist uses this piece to comment on social activity of the time period. Having organized agriculture, the use of horse and cart was a great technological advancement.
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