A look into history through art pieces from the Prehistoric, Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greek, Ancient Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Romanesque, Gothic, African, Renaissance, and Southern Baroque periods.
Woman from Willendorf, Paleolithic, c. 24,000 BCE
A small statue depicting a well-fed and or fertile woman which during the time it was created was scarce due to limitations/scarcity of resources. Created to be small and mobile because the culture that it was made from was moving around constantly.
Hall of Bulls, Paleolithic, c. 15,000 BCE
This cave painting of bulls gives us an early representation of the hierarchical scale, meaning that the people who made this had the concept of perspective in mind. Plenty of theories surround cave paintings like this one, being used for ceremonies, teaching, or perhaps spiritual respect.
Warka Vase, Ancient Mesopotamia, c. 3300–3000 BCE
A vase that depicts offerings to a goddess by using registers as a form of multiple story tellings. It depicts a river, agriculture, men carrying offerings, and finally at the top of the vase, is a representative taking the offerings for the goddess.
Cuneiform Script, Ancient Mesopotamia, 3200-3000 BCE
The first known form of writing that we could derive. Made from soft clay and a stylus pushed in the clay to form specific symbols that were derived from early pictographs, given new or similar meanings.
Stonehenge, Neolithic, c. 3000–1500 BCE
A few theories surround this formation as to what the purpose was to create this. One theory was that it was a type of calendar where it would mark both the Summer and Winter Solstices. The other theory was that it was a gravesite as there were many skeletal remains found around the formation.
Great Pyramids of Giza, Ancient Egypt, c. 2575–2450 BCE
The smallest pyramid, in the back is the pyramid of Menkaure, the second bigger pyramid in the middle is the pyramid of Khafre, and the final and largest of the three is the great pyramid of Khufu. The three are also surrounded by smaller pyramids.
Ti Watching a Hippopotamus Hunt, Ancient Egypt, c. 2450–2325 BCE
This is painted limestone relief in the Tomb of Ti. There was belief in the afterlife in Ancient Egypt, and paintings were often used to depict what might be found in the afterlife, this painting being a hippopotamus hunt.
Nanna Ziggurat, Ancient Mesopotamia, c. 2100–2050 BCE
Built to hold a temple on top to worship selected gods, ziggurat were built to stand tall in order to be closer to the gods. Built with clay bricks that weighed roughly 30 pounds and with holes in order to release moisture and harden over time.
Judgment of Hunefer before Osiris, Ancient Egypt, c. 1285 BCE
A painted illustration of a page from the Book of the Dead. The painting depicts the spirit of a man being led to Osiris to be judged as to whether or not he may pass into the afterlife by weighing his heart against a feather.
Krater with the Death of Sarpedon, Euphronios (painter) and Euxitheos (potter), Ancient Greece, c. 515 BCE
A red-figure pottery piece depicting the death of Sarpedon, showing possible mythical beings (because of the wings) carrying Sarpedon's body away. The piece is fairly symmetrical with roughly three registers. The two end registers are repetitive and look to be depicting foliage.
Sculpture from the west pediment of the temple of Aphaia in Aegina, Ancient Greece, c. 500–490 or 470s BCE
These sculptures were built specifically to fit within the west pediment of the temple of Aphaia. The scene depicts a battle showing wounded soldiers with shields and weapons.
Nike (Victory) of Samothrace, Ancient Greece, c. 180 BCE
An important piece in history as it captures movement, an action in progress. Before, the contrapposto pose was significant because it showed relaxation in a way. Sculptor then began to take higher chances with creating more and more movement.
Aulus Metellus, Ancient Rome, c. 80 BCE
This is when verism begins to take place and sculptures of people begin to capture what they truly looked like during the time, rather than a younger version or something along those lines. Aulus Metellus is also depicted as a strong power by his outstretch hand addressing his audience.
Commodus as Hercules, Ancient Rome, c. 191–192 CE
Commodus depicted as Hercules, portraying himself as a demigod as was Hercules. The main telling factor is the lion skin draped over his head and body, depicting Hercules's conquest. This is important because portraying oneself as a higher being depicts power and strength.
The Tetrarchs, Ancient Rome, c. 300 CE
This sculpture is very different compared to the other very realistic sculptures during the time of Ancient Rome. Everything about them is nonrealistic to their facial structure to their body proportions.
Good Shepherd, Byzantine, c. 425–426 CE
A mosaic in the lunette over the west entrance, depicting the common story of the Christ as the good shepherd tending to his sheep, making sure non of them stray away from God.
Empress Theodora and Her Attendants, Byzantine, c. 547 CE
This piece lies on the south sanctuary wall of the church of San
Vitale, Ravenna, Italy and goes along with the a-joining piece on the north sanctuary wall. It depicts the ceremony of receiving the blood of Christ.
Emperor Justinian and His Attendants, Byzantine, c. 547 CE
This piece lies on the north sanctuary wall of the church of San
Vitale, Ravenna, Italy and goes along with the a-joining piece on the south sanctuary wall. It depicts the ceremony of receiving the eucharist, the body of Christ.
Christ in Majesty, Romanesque, c. 1115 CE
This carving on the Priory Church of Saint-Pierre depicts the second coming of Christ or the end of time. Jesus is seated with his right hand extended outward in a gesture of a blessing while his left holds a book. He is accompanied by the four men who wrote the bible on his left and right. Out of the four, three of them are depicted as a lion (Mark), ox (Luke), and (John) eagle while Matthew is represented by a winged man.
The Last Judgment, Gislebertus, Romanesque, 1120–1130 or 1130–1145 CE
Gislebertus's sculptures in the Cathedral of Saint Lazarus of Autun or the Autun Cathedral, show biblical stories of both the old and new testament using narrative story telling. This piece in particular, depicts the final judgement as Jesus sits in the center, with his mother and his apostles while Saint Peter guards the gates of heaven.
Chasse with the Crucifixion and Christ in Majesty, Romanesque, c. 1180–90 CE
This chasse is an adaptation to a sarcophagus and used to honor saints at their burial sites. This chasse in particular depicts the crucifixion of Jesus surrounded by the apostles and on the left and right of Jesus is the sun and moon.
Crowned Head of a Ruler, African, c. 1200-1500 CE
The discovery of art pieces like this one was monumental as it discarded the stereotypical ideas of African art because it was realistic and natural, rather than abstract. These metal heads were made using a technique called lost-wax casting, creating custom model heads for those in power or political statuses.
Salisbury Cathedral, Gothic, 1220– 1258 CE
A beautiful building that was built within thirty-eight years and had the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom. Visitors could even tour the spire as it was hollow. The cathedral also holds one of the worlds oldest functioning clock as well as four original copies of the Magna Carta.
Rose window and lancets, Gothic, c. 1230–1235 CE
This stained glass window depicts the Virgin Mary with Jesus surrounded by dove, angels, and twelve major prophets. As most churches and cathedrals, all stained glass holds important iconography and tells stories of those icons.
Maestà altarpiece, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Gothic, 1308–1311CE
This altarpiece comprises of multiple commissions. The front panels depict Mary, the mother of Jesus with the child enthroned. The two are surrounded by saints, angels, and prophets. The combined pieces depict both lives of Mary and Jesus in a total of forty-three scenes.
Tile Mosaic Mihrab, Islamic, c. 1354 CE
Located in the Madrasa Imami, from Isfahan, Iran, the Tile Mosaic Mihrab is the qibla wall that indicates the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca. The mihrab is also covered in blue tile and calligraphy, which is an important aspect of Muslim art. The mihrab is not covered in figures because it is against the religious practices to worship anyone besides Allah.
Court of the Lions, Islamic, 1354–1391 CE
This once held more vegetation rather than rocks, but still it's still a beautiful place. The architecture made sure to also include four small water ways to depict the rivers of paradise.
Muqarnas Dome, Islamic, 1354–1391 CE
The Muqarnas Dome creates an eight pointed star because of the squinches made to support the dome and the muqarnas make the entire dome look almost like a honey comb.
The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance, 1495–1498 CE
This mural painting depicts Jesus with his twelve apostles, six on each side of him, as he tells them that one of them will betray Jesus. This painting depicts the apostles reactions as they are divided into groups of three, being balanced on each side while Jesus sits at the vanishing point.
Memorial Head of an Oba (King), African, c. 1500–1600 CE
Another example of lost-wax casting where the hole in the head was thought to have been intentional to later install a crown fixture to the head. The style is more natural as opposed to other abstract art that has been thought to be from Africa as well.
David, Michelangelo, Renaissance, 1501–1504 CE
Michelangelo's David is a large sculpture as he was commission to create the piece to be seen from a high position, however, because it was so beautiful, the patrons who commissioned for the piece decided to put it on ground level for people to admire it's beauty. The sculpture shows mastery levels of understanding the human body and the idealized form.
Philosophy or The School of Athens, Raphael, Renaissance, 1510–1511 CE
A commissioned mural painting by Raphael in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The painting depicts two philosophers in the center, where the vanishing point is, Plato and Aristotle with surrounding famous philosophers on each side depending on where they stood in terms of belief.
Hip Pendant Representing an Iyoba (“Queen Mother”), African, c. 1550 CE
A pendant that represents the mother of the king as a sign of respect. What surrounds the head is an alternation of a mudfish and a human to be depicted as Portuguese as these two figures helped the king spread his territory. This pendant pays respect to these three figures of history.
David, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Baroque, 1623–1624 CE
Bernini's David is quite different from Michelangelo's as the body is more contorted, not the contrapposto pose and expresses much more emotion. The sculptor captures the large movements of David as he prepares to fling a stone and also takes into consideration the viewer as one can witness the sculpture from multiple angles and still be captivated where other sculptures were only meant to be seen from the front.
Las Meninas, Diego Velázquez, Baroque, 1656 CE
A commission painting done for the king and queen of their daughter being tended to. Velázquez even inserts himself into the painting and the mirror reflects the king and queen as if the viewer is them. The gazes of each person is directed toward someone else and draws the viewer in as if they are apart of the painting as well.
Woman Holding a Balance, Johannes Vermeer, Baroque, 1662–1663 CE
Vermeer depicts balance in the painting, not just by having the woman holding a balance but to also carefully compose the painting where the center of the painting is at her hand and balance. Even the painting in the background is cut in half by the woman's head, showing the difference between the left and right, being the damned and the blessed.