How Have Female Figures Played a Role in Art History

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Throughout history female figures have played an important role as subject matter. The female figure is very subjective, as peered through the different lenses of varying cultures. The status and functions of women in these cultures are the primary factors that influence how they are portrayed in art of a certain culture. However, the female figure itself through its natural and inherent iconography represents fertility and the importance of women in society. This natural iconography creates certain parallels in content between all works that use the female figure as subject matter. This varying subjectivity of a female’s status based on an artist’s culture will create differences in content and themes; however some aspects remain similar to most art with a female subject. Parallels, content inconsistencies, and how culture affects these, is visible in the Shango Shrine Figure, Athena Parthenos, and Venus of Willendorf.

In the Shango shrine figure created by Abogunde of Ede of the Yoruba culture, the female subject is used to represent a variety of cultural beliefs. The choice to use a female figure is important because of the inherent themes it represents; fertility and culturally portrayed status. The Shango Shrine Figure is a female figure adorned by two other adolescents. All three figures appear to have transformed into the shango staff itself. The double blade axe that balances on the head of the female figure and her children represents an authoritative status that cannot be abused; hence the double blade. This shows that women of this culture were able to wield power, perhaps even in government. The Yoruba culture is a matrilineal society and this aspect of the art reflects the status of women perfectly. In this statue, the female figure has been inhabited by the god, Shango. The figure also wears a white and red bead necklace to symbolize the power that she has been granted is devastating yet just. The two adolescent figures that adorn the primary...
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