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Animal Influences In Paleolithic Egyptian And Greek

Animal Influences In Paleolithic, Egyptian And Greek, Essay, Research Paper Animal Influences in Paleolithic, Egyptian and Greek Art There are numerous ways in which animals have resonated within the

Animal Influences In Paleolithic, Egyptian And Greek, Essay, Research Paper

Animal Influences in Paleolithic, Egyptian and Greek Art

There are numerous ways in which animals have resonated within the

human mind. Throughout history there have been representations ranging

from the realistic, to myths, legends, symbols, and even horrific murderous

beasts; at the same time providing fascinating perspectives of our own

humanity. Various forms of art have conveyed ideas and concepts of

animal’s intelligence, as well as behavior, from generation to generation.

Animal art is used as a tool to make the connection between different

cultures at different time periods and it relates historical and symbolic

meanings. In most cultures animals have been linked with the supernatural

forces which were believed to control the natural world and the destiny of

humans. They were often revered as the agents. or associates, of gods,

and goddesses, and were even the focus of worship as deities. Following

the tracks of historical animal art, through the human imagination

introduces a trail of creativity and unsurpassed beauty.

Paleolithic art:

Cave paintings are the earliest known example of human art dating

40,000 to 8,000 BCE. The paintings mainly feature various animals

running, sleeping, and eating. Some also contain a few humans,

geometrical shapes, and even hand prints. The artist used permanent

features like ceilings, floors, and walls of rock shelters and caves as their

canvas. Pigments of black, yellow, red, and brown were utilized to display

the observations of animals. The painters gathered a great deal of

information about finding food, and which foods were safe to eat or to

hunt, by closely observing animals. The valuable information was passed to

others through the detailes in the artwork. The construction of the figures

are sporadic over uneven surfaces and small confined areas in the caves.

Paintings in this position would have been difficult to view, and may not be

simple decorations, but possess a special or spiritual purpose.

Researchers, “took what they thought were the most important

features of the content of Paleolithic art (the animals, the arrows. etc.) and

stressing the locality of the art (deep done in caves far from habitation)

inferred a secret magical function.”1 The paintings depict strong,

dangerous, and swift animals which may be a form of sympathetic magic,

in an attempt to control them through representation.(fig. 1) Many

paintings have marks indicating wounds or bleeding, which may be

connected with hunting. One theory is that prehistoric hunters believed

that by depicting the animal on the wall they would capture it’s soul, and

inevitable death during the hunt. However there has also been evidence

“that the animals used most frequently for food were not the ones

traditionally portrayed in cave art.”2 The paintings reflect the human

relationship with animals; for admiration, fascination, the feared and the

hunted. Reasearchers have divided the animals into three major groups.

“The first comprises the large herbivores-bison, ox, mammoth, horse; the

second, the small herbivores-stag and ibex; and the third, the most

dangerous animals-lion, bear and rhinoceros, all of which occur by

themselves in the rear portions of the caves.”3(fig. 2) Smaller animals such

as rabbits were not painted, perhaps because they were very abundant. The

reason for the paintings will never be fully answered. They may be part of

rituals marking a successful hunt or maybe it is ‘art for art’s sake.’ Andre

Leroi-Gourhan feels, “By this route alone, thoughts of these men who are

the only people anywhere in the world, at any epoch, to have sheltered

their works of art in the dank depths of caves.”4

Egyptian art

Egyptians and animals (3150 to 2700 BCE) together symbolize many

mysterious and magical powers. Marilyn Stockstad states, “The many god

and goddesses were depicted in various forms, some as human beings,

others as animals, and still others as creatures half human, half animal.”5

The symbolic nature of the lion, like that of many animals, is ambivalent.

In Egypt it represented notably the living power of the sun in it’s

identification with the solar deity Ra, but also death and afterlife, because

of its association with Osiris, the ruler of the underworld. The lion was also

believed to guard the spirit realm. The Sphinx at Giza (fig. 3) is a

recumbent, lion bodied statue of the pharaoh Khafre. The tradition of the

sphinx combined the idea of the lion, the king of beasts with that of the

divine ruler, symbolize the union of intellectual and physical powers

incarnated into the pharaoh. The Ibis was widely associated with the

sacred to the moon god Aah, and the god Thoth, who were often depicted

with an ibis’s head. The wading bird was thought to be free from illnesses.

The bird’s ability to fly makes it a natural symbol of the flight of the human

soul, but sometimes the connection is less obvious. In a frieze from

Tutankhamun’s burial chamber (fig. 4) combines the symbolism of the

leopard, death and the afterlife. It shows Tutankhamun’s successor, King

Ay, wearing the magical leopard skin mantle and engaged in the

ceremonial ritual of opening the mouth on Tutankhamun’s mummy, This

would ensure the passage of his soul into the other world. Whether

consciously or not, the Egyptians recognized the vital role animals played

in ensuring the constant recycling of elements that make life possible. H.

W. Janson observes, “Egyptian art alters between conservatism and

innovation, but is never static. Some of its great achievements had a

decisive influence on Greek and Roman art, and thus we can still feel

ourselves linked…by a continuous, living tradition.”6

Greek art

It is often possible to trace the evolution of a myth almost like the

development of a real animal. There are few imaginary beasts that do not

contain some element of zoological truth. The early adventures of warriors,

and sailors, with sea animals, conjured imaginative stories that when they

returned to Greece, theses stories inspired Homer to create the Cyclops, in

his epic, “Odyssey.” A feature throughout history has been imagining

animals that are the magnification of the human body to superhuman size

and power. The Greek’s Centaur (900-400 BCE) were said to have the

power and speed of a horse with the intelligence and emotions of humans

(fig.4). The frieze at the Parthenon (fig. 5) shows the battle between the

Lapiths and the Centaurs. Stockstad detects, “What should be a grueling

tug-of-war between man and beast appears instead as an athletic ballet…”7

Many pieces have broken off but what is left is a masterpiece of it’s time.

“Of all Greek originals which have come down to us the sculptures from the

Parthenon reflect this new freedom perhaps in the most wonderful way,”8as

commented by E.H. Gomribrich. An influenced of the Egyptian art ,is the

sphinx. It’s appearance and envolved into a lion’s body and the wings of

an eagle with a woman’s head. It was a enhanced feature on the helmet

Athena, the warrior goddess of Athens, and a frequent image on

gravestones. The Greeks were inspired from the past, which created a new

and original period. This style of art is a delicate mixture of artistic styles,

and image, which blend the realism and idealism, mythology, and

monstrous beasts (fig. 6). Robert Scranton says, “Greek art is

notable,…for it’s concentration of focus; there is almost always a

well-established dominant to which all else is subordinate and related in a

definable scale.”9

Different cultures grab on to different attributes to construct very

different mythologies, but all cultures, have integrated a close observation

of the animal kingdom into their artistic style, symbols, and stories. The

evolution of animals in the human imagination stretches from teachers to

ancestors, to protective and finally gods. Humans have developed a world

where animals were once beyond control, or understanding, could now be

understood and affectionately appreciated through the arts.

Bibliography:

Avery, Catherine B. The New Century Classical Handbook. New York, 1962

Beckett, Sister Wendy. The Story of Painting. New York, 1994

Boardman, John, Greek Art. London, 1964

Durant, Will. Our Oriental Heritage. New York, 1935

Fleming, William. Arts & Ideas. New York

Gombrich, E. H. The Story of Art. London, 1967

Hall, James. Dictionary of Subjects & Symbolism in Art. New York, 1974

Kirk, G. S. The Nature of Greek Myths. New York, 1975

Janson, H. W. History of Art. New York, 1969

Leroi-Gourhan, Andre. Treasures of Prehistoric Art. New York

MacClintock, Dorcas. Animals Observed. New York, 1993

Metropolitan Museum of Art. Treasures of Tutankhamun. New York, 1976

Richter, Gisela M. A. A Handbook of Greek Art. New York, 1987

Scranton, Robert L. Aesthetic Aspects of Ancient Art. Chicago, 1964

Stockstad, Marilyn. Art History. New York, 1995

Avery, Catherine B. The New Century Classical Handbook. New York, 1962

Beckett, Sister Wendy. The Story of Painting. New York, 1994

Boardman, John, Greek Art. London, 1964

Durant, Will. Our Oriental Heritage. New York, 1935

Fleming, William. Arts & Ideas. New York

Gombrich, E. H. The Story of Art. London, 1967

Hall, James. Dictionary of Subjects & Symbolism in Art. New York, 1974

Kirk, G. S. The Nature of Greek Myths. New York, 1975

Janson, H. W. History of Art. New York, 1969

Leroi-Gourhan, Andre. Treasures of Prehistoric Art. New York

MacClintock, Dorcas. Animals Observed. New York, 1993

Metropolitan Museum of Art. Treasures of Tutankhamun. New York, 1976

Richter, Gisela M. A. A Handbook of Greek Art. New York, 1987

Scranton, Robert L. Aesthetic Aspects of Ancient Art. Chicago, 1964

Stockstad, Marilyn. Art History. New York, 1995

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