Human Body in Western Art

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Representation of the human body in Western art has changed greatly over the course of time. Beginning with the Egyptians, the human form has progressed and has been depicted in various ways throughout the many different stylistic periods. Three stylistic periods which have represented the human form in similar, yet different, ways include the Egyptian, Classical Greek, and Renaissance periods. Three examples of such art from these periods include the statue of Khafre, Polykleitos’s Doryphorus, and Donatello’s David. In Egypt, statues fulfilled an important function in the tombs. Sculptors created these images of the deceased to serve as abodies for the ka should the mummies be destroyed. The seated statue of Khafre (2520-2494 BCE), was carved for the pharaoh’s valley temple near the Great Sphinx. Khafre is shown with a well-developed, flawless body and a perfect face. These characteristics do not portray his actual age and appearance. The divine ruler wears a simple kilt and sits stiff, upright in the throne. He is shown with a royal false beard fastened to his chin and wears a nemes headdress with the uraeus cobra of kingship on the front. This statue, as well as other representations of the pharaohs, were not intended to be true portrays. They served the purpose of showing the godlike nature of Egyptian kings. This seated pose, with its rigidity, was created by the sculptor to last for eternity, resembling the timelessness of the afterlife. One of the most frequently copied Greek statues in Western art was Polykleitos’s Doryphorus. The Doryphorus (450-440 BCE), epitomizes the intellectual rigor of High Classical statuary design. Polykleitos aimed to create a statue that imposed order on human movement. He achieved this through a system of cross balance of the figure’s various parts.
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