Naturalism in Art Throughout the Ages
Figural representations in art can vary from stylized or idealistic all the way to naturalistic. For the purpose of this essay, naturalism is defined as strictly abiding to the true physical appearance of a representation with little to no exaggeration of details. Artworks from five different historical periods: Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Romanesque, show varying levels of naturalism. The least natural artwork is “Menkaure and Khamerernebty(?)” (Figure 1), followed by “Crucifixion Mosaic” (Figure 2), “Head of an Old Man” (Figure 3), “Kroisos”(Figure 4), and “Virgin of Paris”(Figure 5). Each of these pieces portrays some sort of human figure, but with different levels of detail and adherence to the true form. Exaggerated forms or more stylized ones places the work further down the spectrum from naturalism.
The statue of the pharaoh “Menkaure and Khamerernebty”(Figure 1) from Gizeh, Egypt during the Fourth Dynasty is an Egyptian representation of one of their rulers. The artificial posture of the figures is demonstrated in the fully frontal and rigid poses that do not allow for the natural movement or fluidity of the human body. The lack of movement is emphasized by how the male figure is standing with one foot slightly forward, and yet there is no shift in the hips to distribute his weight. Menkaure and his queen are both bilaterally symmetrical down the center of their respective bodies. Symmetry, with regards to human form, is very unnatural because people are not identical on either side of their body. Figure 1 shows how the Egyptians sculpted their rulers based on idealized, godlike anatomical shapes rather than the natural appearance of the person. Menkaure is stocky and muscular with broad shoulders to show his power and strength. The idealized nature of the figures as well as the lack of movement is far from natural. Their faces are both blank and expressionless with both eyes staring...
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