Hellenistic Greece is the period between 323 BC and 30 BC. This is the period that marks by diminishing of the Greeks’ dominance and prosperity before the Roman Empire. This is when the influence Alexander on Greeks came to an end due to his death. After the death of Alexander, Roman Empire took over dispersing the Greeks. Hellenistic culture originated when the Greeks mixed with other cultures especially from the Asia and Middle East. One of the notable arts of this age is the Venus de Milo (Kousser, 4). This is a piece of architecture sculpture of a woman with no arms. There is a clear story why the statue has no arms. It was constructed in the year between 130 BC and 100 BC. It is made from marble and is standing at 203 centimeter tall (Kousser, 10). There is a small hole on the right hand side of the breast. Initially, there was a metal rod on this hole but it was removed during its transportation after its discovery.
The Greeks had a great respect for the women and endowed them with love. The Greeks used this statue as a simple and t representation of love. It was a significant art which showed the beauty of a woman. The woman was a very important person in the Greek history that represents gentleness and care for those who lack love. The woman signifies a new beginning of life that is surrounded with love and care.
It is believed the statue at first was a naked woman who had an apple on her hand, giving out to the less fortunate. However, a ruthless ruler who practices slavery and injustice cut the arms off as a sign of no love to humanity (Kousser, 27). However, this is yet to be confirmed. Others claimed the hands were cut off during the transportation to Paris where it is up to date.
Venus de Milo (Aphrodite of Melos, 1820)
The Greek used the art as a symbol of a goddess. They believed the goddess came out of heaven to search for her sons who had wandered into the earth. It is her love and compassionate for her children that forced her into the earth to look for her children. However, her beauty struck the gods who were on the earth that moment that they trapped her. She became the goddess of love, sexuality and beauty (Kousser, 102). She was pure with passion for the human kind. She was able to steal the heart of men and gods because of her flawless beauty. She showered them with affection that, in return, they gave her their hearts and surrender to her demands. This is how she received the symbolic of the goddess of her ability to win over the attention and then heart of the gods. She was the opposite of the goddess Athena, who was regarded as ruthless and goddess of war and justice. It gave hope to the low people in the society, that, with love, they will be able to conquer war or rejection. The statue is believed to belong to Alexandria of Antioch. It was brought to Paris by Marquis de Riviere, but Dumont d’Urvile claimed to be the one who discovered the statue. Marquis de Riviere made sure that the farmers in Turks sign an agreement in that nobody will claim ownership later. The statue was later represented to the French king Louis XVIII as a gift (Kousser, 13).
Thus, it borrowed much from the classical art with few innovations. The structure and design during this age were large and spacious. The Greeks was at this time mingling with other tribes because of the fall of the Alexander Empire. The Greeks creates statues for their gods to remember them. The nakedness of the art also symbolized an open culture to outsiders.
The surgeons use the statue at the moment as one of their treasured seals, something they have done for many years.
The Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance period run between 1330 and 1550. Two sessions, however, marked the Italian Renaissance; the Early Renaissance (1330-1450) and the High Renaissance (1450-1550). This period marks great revolution in the history of art (Berenson, 13). It was during this period that artists began mixing their art work with a great deal of humanism in them. The artists’ works were now not just meant to showcase the strength in artwork or a history but also to portray a sense of humanism (Michelangelo, 22). This revolution was necessitated by a paradigm shift in civilization. The society was becoming increasingly civilized. One of my major artwork attractions of this period is the Madonna of The Stairs. This artwork covers a great level of the history and culture of the renaissance.
Michelangelo, Madonna of the Stairs (c.1491) Marble. Casa Buonarroti, Florence
The artwork was designed by one of the most prominent to artists of the Renaissance, Michelangelo. At the time of the design of this sculpture, Michelangelo was just 17 years of age, and this signifies the level of talent in him. As a norm with the artists of the time, Michelangelo confined himself rote religious thought and gave priority to the meaning of his arts in relation to human life (Michelangelo, 48). During this period, the artists were incorporating the Gothic period ideologies with philosophical works to enable them solve the life problems that embody human kind. Thus, there was a great association between the artworks of this period with religion and humanism.
My personal analysis of Madonna of the Stairs is based on two notions; that religion and humanism were considered inseparable and that a higher power existed. My second notion is that there was a line between the higher power and human life. While human life was focused on the material and physical aspect, the higher power embodies material and physicality as a transition to a divine and valuable life. The artwork was commissioned in Florence, one of the major Renaissance cities, by a group of wealthy merchants within the city (Berenson, 71). They were very influential in making the artists of the renaissance very prominent persons within the society through supporting their artworks. It marked the period when artwork reached new levels where the most influential, entities in society would organize artwork competitions to choose the best artists. Lorenzo Ghiberti the designer of the Baptistery doors was one of the prominent artists of this period chosen from an avalanche of artists in the competition (Michelangelo, 114).
Madonna of the Stairs incorporates an image of the Virgin Mary and Christ. There are few depictions I can pick from this artwork. One, the highest of the stairs is set on the same level as the Virgin’s head. This implies that the stairs can lead you to the highest point. Decoding this statement the virgin acts as the stairway to the higher powers in heaven. One must thus strive to reach the virgin. The baby, Christ held on the Virgin’s lap, signifies that a virgin has in possession a great treasure, one that she is nursing, through which one can reach heaven. Christ is seen to be facing away from the front view while the Virgin is facing towards a certain target. This portrayal of different views could signify that while the Virgin has the natural sight of earthly matters, Christ has a different perspective on vision. Christ is not constrained by physical view. One of Christ’s hands is entangled on the back while the other one is hidden from the front view. The hidden hand is grasping a hammer that in my view signifies ‘continuation in sculpturing’ (Michelangelo, 106). It signifies that Christ is still dong the final sculpturing. This portrayal of Christ as ‘sculpturing’ and Virgin as the ‘sculpture’ separates the physicality of human life in the Virgin with the divine nature of Christ.
This artwork offers as an idea that to reach heaven; we must gain the access to Christ through the Virgin Mary. This is one of the doctrines of Roman Catholic to date, and thus the sculpture holds a lot of meaning to modern day Catholics. On the other hand, it is an artwork that means a lot to Michelangelo. He designed the artwork at a reedy young age and was able to achieve a way of rendering the anatomy in art as well as dapperly.
The 20th Century
In this period (1900s), artists were more focused on emotional expressionism and figurative painting color (Picasso, 9). Henri Matisse was one of the most prominent artists of the early days of this period of artistry work. One of his major works that remain a milestone of the generational change of artistry is the “Woman with a Hat”. This is paint art by Henri Matisse. It was exhibited to the public in 1905. It is an oil paint which was painted on canvas service. It has borrowed greatly from the renaissance style and creativity except on how the colors were painted on the covers. They had no any control style. It is a portrait of Matisse wife. Its unique paint since the colors is not uniform; they appear as if they have been smeared on the surface. The paint appeared as sketchy with non-uniform colors which made looks as rebellion to the normal way of drawing (Picasso, 50).
The purpose of the paint was to usher in a new change, in the art of painting where the artist could feel free to play with the colors and bring put their brilliance in convention ways. It was it brings out the scene of individualism. The paint was associated with ‘Fauvism’, a group of artists who are doing things their way not following the rules (Picasso, 127).
“Woman with a Hat” by Henri Matisse (1905)
The artwork is a tribute to Matisse’s wife who was a hat maker. The painting could define the shift to an individualism culture away from the historical, artistic works that were representational and had a reality meaning to the society. Civilization was taking pace, and people were gaining control of their self-identity and demanding less association to the society and centering on one-self (Picasso, 37). Visual art formed the most common and pleasing artwork of this period. Color was taking the space occupied by sculpture works in the renaissance.
In my opinion, the painting portrays the relationship between Matisse and his wife Amelie. By focusing the wife as the main core of painting, we can descriptively say that it depicts the new role of a woman in the family and the importance of family during this person. On the other hand, the saddened face of Amelie with whom Matisse had a 41 year old marriage could provide a brief into the struggles of they endured despite the effort they made together, one as an artist and the other as a hat maker. We can thus depict that the economy was strained and making a day’s living was a tough ask even for a couple.
The use of paintings to derive the inner meaning of the artists gained fame with the inception of a framework known as “stratified formation” (Picasso, 68). This entailed using a phenomenological event to cover a long range of issues in a process-centered approach. The painting for instance reminds of the life and times of Matisse and his wife Amelie. Her saddened face, as well as the lack of aesthetics around the painting, could mean that there were no significant “aesthetics” in real life for the two couples. Aesthetics in this case could refer to comfort and satisfaction and material belongings.
The painting marks one of Matisse’s achievements in trying to change the perception on what art entails. Use of paintings was not considered an artistic work. He, however, challenged this notion and achieved his ambition. His identified tat artwork encompasses “our interest in vision” (Picasso, 11). Thus by creating a vision, he was able to show the society that painting was an equal entity of artwork.
Berenson, Bernard. The Italian Painters of the Renaissance. New York: Phaidon Publishers; distributed by Garden City Books, 1952. Print.
Kousser, Rachel. Creating the Past: the Vénus De Milo and the Hellenistic Reception of Classical Greece. N.p., 2005. Print.
Michelangelo, Buonarroti, and Ledwig Goldscheider. The Sculptures of Michelangelo. Oxford Univ. Press, 1939. Print.
Picasso, Pablo. Woman with a Hat in an Armchair. New York N.p., n.d. Print.