Compare And Contrast 2 Essay, Research Paper
In this paper I will compare and contrast two pieces of art work that are religious in nature. Through these pieces, I will show a theme of depicting death as heroic and beautiful, though painful and horrific.
The first piece that I selected is a marble statue made in Hellenistic Greece (323-31 BCE.). It was sculpted by Hagesandros, Polydoros, and Athenodoros and is titled “Laocoon and His Two Sons.” The second piece is an oil painting on wood panel made during the Baroque time era (1590-1750 CE.). It was painted by Peter Paul Rubens and is titled “Fall of the Damned.”
The sculpture of Laocoon is from the tales of Homer. It deals with the Trojan War and, in particular, the fabled Trojan Horse. Laocoon was a Trojan hero and a priest. Upon seeing the Trojan Horse, he told the Trojans not to accept “the gift” from their enemies, the Greeks. The Trojans did not heed his warning and accepted the Horse. That evening, the Greeks came out of a secret door and slew the Trojans. Laocoon attempted to flee Troy with his sons. He was attacked and killed by sea serpents, sent by Poseidon, before the walls of Troy. This sculpture is a depiction of that moment.
Though this piece is mythological in nature, it does not serve a religious purpose. It was probably created for the rich to own and enjoy for their own pleasures. Many pieces similar to this (late Hellenistic style) were placed in gardens or transported to Rome. It has also been said that this piece was possibly created for the Roman Emperor Tiberious.
I feel that this piece is a fantastic image from the Hellenistic era. It contains many Hellenistic traits: detailed hair, deep set eyes, not in religious context, and does not represent nobility. One can see why this piece came to influence so many of the Renaissance artists. Laocoon’s emotions are pouring forth in his facial expression as well as his muscular strain. He is in agony and reaches into my own emotional state. Though this image is depicting a man facing death, Laocoon is shown in full glory. His muscles ripple and veins swell, as he tries to free himself from the serpent. You can sense his fear and pain, but he continues to struggle for his life. The diagonal form of his body is amazing, Laocoon stretching to be free. All of these traits are also seen in Laocoon’s sons, especially the son on the left side (his agony is quite apparent). This is a beautiful image of man versus nature/the gods. As are all late Greek pieces, this shows amazing contra posto and detail. The beauty in this piece is everywhere; the emotion spewing forth, the tension, the fear in their eyes, the pain in their bodies, and primarily the depiction of man (in all his nude glory).
The “Fall of the Damned” illustrates that moment when the Bible states that “the blessed will be raised to Heaven and the damned forever consigned to Hell.” This painting was commissioned for a Jesuit church in Neuberg, Germany.
This painting has been said to be “one of the most powerful works of the visual imagination ever created by an artist.” The contrasts between light and dark are what start to stir the viewer’s emotions. The tumbling naked bodies make one feel helpless and fearful. This piece is religious in nature and exemplifies the point of the painting; the damned consigned to Hell. If I believed in Hell, this is what it would look like. There is no escape from Hell, and this image depicts that very well: tormented bodies spiraling down with demons everywhere, the damned having no hope, evil devouring the damned (the hydra and biting devils), and fire surrounding the picture.
Rubens was, undoubtedly, inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy for this piece. John Milton’s Paradise Lost was, in turn, probably inspired by “Fall of the Damned.” The following are descriptions of Hell by Milton in Paradise Lost.
Down from the verge of heaven, eternal wrath
Burnt after them to the bottomless pit.
…Encumbered him with ruin: hell at last
Yawning received them whole, and on them closed,
Hell their fit habitation fraught with fire
Unquenchable, the house of woe and pain.
…Immediately a place
Before his eyes appeared, sad, noisome, dark
A lazar-house it seemed, wherein were laid
Numbers of all diseased, all maladies
Of ghastly spasm, or racking torture, qualms
Of heart-sick agony, all feverous kinds…
Demonic frenzy, moping melancholy
And moon-struck madness, pining atrophy,
Marasmus, and wide-wasting pestilence,
Dropsies, and asthmas, and joint-racking rheums.
Dire was the tossing, deep the groans, despair
Tended the sick busiest from couch to couch;
And over them triumphant Death his dart
Shook, but delayed to strike, though oft invoked
With vows, as their chief good, and final hope.
Sight so deform what heart of rock could long
Upon reading through Paradise Lost, and in particular these two passages, I am positive that Rubens influenced one of the greatest achievements in literature with this painting. The images that come to mind from Milton’s writings are depicted in “Fall of the Damned”!
This piece exemplifies the beauty of man, while facing unavoidable death. Rubens masterfully treats each character as an individual, and gives them all special attention and detail (just look at even the obese figures as well as the demons). Even though all the people are damned (except for St. Michael), they all seem heroic, in true Rubenesque form. This piece is simply amazing due to the emotions that it imposes upon the viewer: breathtaking, excitement, fear, wonder, and praise.
Both of these pieces are marvels to the artistic achievement of mankind. They both show a masters’ knowledge of the human body and form. “Fall of the Damned” is, by far, the more religious of the two pieces. I feel that there is a heavy influence on present artists, from those of the past. This is evident in the two pieces that I have chosen. Death is a common theme in art. These two pieces take death to a higher level by appealing to the audiences’ emotions through there depictions being extremely beautiful and heroic. Anyone can see the pain and suffering in the subjects, and sympathize with them, as well as marvel at the supreme beauty of the artworks. These two pieces, “Laocoon and his Two Sons” & “Fall of the Damned”, have influenced art for centuries, and will continue to, because of the truthful representation of man as heroic and beautiful… even while facing death!