Hall of Bulls

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The Hall of Bulls
The Hall of Bulls at Lascaux holds a special place in the ongoing history of mankind. Created from 15,000 to 13,000 BC during the Upper Paleolithic period the Hall of Bulls is some of the earliest known art. These great bulls may have been the first works of art many men or women ever saw; surely the Hall of Bulls is one of the first great masterpieces an introductory art history student ever sees and learns about. About 17,500 years ago the temperature of the earth began to change. The climate was no longer frigid but became more mild and hospitable to the Magdelenians, the people living during that era. During this time of increasing warmth "the landscape was completely altered and the fauna increased… it was during this interstadial that Lascaux was decorated" (Ruspoli,17). Along with the rising temperature and increasing fauna the number of hunters grew and people moved around more. It was a time of great improvements and new technology. Humankind learned to burn fat in lamps which may have "encouraged the artists to go deeper into the caves" (Ruspoli, 17). Amazingly these prehistoric artists went to extremes to create their art; they were brave and unafraid to explore the caves. The artists crossed underground lakes and broke their way through walls of stalagmites to get to the precious spot where they would make their beautiful mark. Unfortunately the mild weather did not last and once again the climate became frigid and harsh, about 16,500 years ago. The Hall of Bulls is a magnificent example of humanity's bold first attempts at art. A perfect example of Upper Paleolithic cave art, the Hall of Bulls at Lascaux is composed predominantly of animals, the animals are full highly detailed, and finally the cave art leaves the viewer with a sense of intrigue, why did our ancestors create this art? The Hall of Bulls was produced between 15,000 and 10,000 BC by prehistoric man. The masterpiece is located on the walls of a cave in Lascaux, France. Many of the animals are painted using pigments of ochre and manganese that were manipulated by heat or by other chemical changes. The pigments were applied by "brushes made of hair or vegetable fibers, ‘sponges' of fur or tufts of horse-hair" (Ruspoli, 170). It has also been supposed that a sort of stencil made from skin was used to create a straight line. Engravings of bulls were also made using flint tools though this is much less common than painting bulls. The animals in the Hall of Bulls "appear singly, in row, face to face, tail to tail, and even painted on top of each other" (Stokstad, 51). The animals are also very large, one particular auroch (a type of oxen) is eighteen feet long. Of all the prehistoric cave art that has been presently discovered the figures depicted are predominantly figures of large mammals. The large mammals that are most often found on wall cave art are "in descending order of frequency: horses, bison, wild oxen, stags and reindeer, and ibex" (Leroi-Gourhan, 8). Though paintings of men or women are not entirely unheard of, they are extremely rare. One of the most famous men of the Upper Paleolithic era is the Bird Headed Man who also resides in the caves at Lascaux. The difference between the Bird Headed Man and the animals in the Hall of Bulls is obviously disparate. The bulls are full of life with detail and great dimension. However, the man is simply a basic stick-figure. He is an abstract man that shows no sense of the individual characteristics of the man being portrayed. The animals on the other hand are descriptive and symbolic. All of the animals in the Hall of Bulls are painted with extreme attention to detail. It is thought the artists painted each bull and each animal as an individual. Each bull seems full of life; "Lascaux is like a theatre where the lights have suddenly gone out: some actors are frozen in natural attitudes of rest… but more often the artist has caught them in action, animating the whole of their...
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