Art works of the past preserved for the present civilizations represents a great deal knowledge and information regarding the characteristics of the society and values in the past. These preserved artworks through antiquity represent the social values and humanistic nature of the people who have once existed in the previous timeline. Contained in the artistic elements of their design, fine characteristics and mediums are the abstract concepts of their social structure, civilizations intellect, artistic domain, and others. Each example of the art product of the ancient society becomes a representation of the characteristics of their culture and the symbolism of the expression and abstract concept of their artist.
True, the different aspects of art had long been involved in the human expression of their deepest thoughts and opinions about the different issues that are present in the society during the different eras of human history. This is particularly the reason why an intricate examination of the characteristics and elements of each art work will reveal the symbolized conceptual elements symbolized by the said piece. Through the said approach in analysis and observation, the different trademarks of each artist are revealed through the artworks that they particularly present to the society as a piece of their legacy. In this regard, this paper will consider and examine two artworks preserved from the past with each symbolize a particular characteristic and element of its parent society and artist. These are namely the Herm of Dionysus (Bacchus) and the Bust of Menander.
The sculpture style of presenting the subject in bust mode or picturing from chest level to the anterior part is a common approach in ancient art work. This approach is commonly used in presenting an artistic expression of a person subject and his or her image through capturing the anterior imagery of his or her abstract individuality. This is the approach common to the Greek, Roman and other ancient civilization style in capturing the artist and their society’s conceptual view towards their chosen subject. On this aspect that both of the art sculpture mentioned before are created in similarities wherein they depict the social and mythological value of their respective subject.
Art depiction of person’s image does not necessarily require actual live subject such as in the case of the art piece of Herm of Dionysus. This sculpture depicts the bust image of Dionysus who is the Greek God of Wine. In the Greek culture, represents different social values and cultural elements such as the intoxicating power of wine (the frenzy), its social, economic and political influences, and the health benefits gained from the said product. In other studies and analysis, Dionysus is also presented as the promoter of political aspect and awareness through fostering lawmaking, skepticism and critical thinking. He is also associated as the patron deity of agriculture and theatre particular the music. In the mythological stories, Dionysus is told to uphold the mission of creating the music that will relieve the stress and worries from the world through music. All of these mythological and social aspects are all presented in the art depiction of the said subject. Thus, this sculpture is said to represent or is molded from the significance of the mythological image of this subject.
In view of the sculpture of Dionysus representation, the said bust art piece present the social, political and cultural relevance of the said subject as captured in the depiction of his anterior part. Certain characteristics such as the angle of the image’s head depict a sense of positive authority towards the social and political order in their society. Likewise, the facial emotion of the image also presents a touch of discernment and deep analysis while the slight grin in the lips shows satisfaction towards the thought of the image. The angular display of the eyes and its emotional imagery show the concept of an optimistic outlook and positive hope towards the future development of the society which the subject supports as contained in its mythological background.
Considering the material factor of the said subject, the said art sculpture is basically made of marble depicting a sense of cultural and artistic superiority and respect towards the chosen subject. As Dionysus is considered an important god in his society’s cultural and religious aspect, Dionysus is presented in the bust mode to highlight the said characteristics of the said subject using the expensive medium of marble. This is also the second characteristic wherein the two bust sculptures falls under the same category as important artworks of their society. Marble is considered as an expensive and hard material thus, commonly used in important representation. Considering this, the two sculptures must then be considered to be important images in their religious and cultural aspect.
Over time, the Herm of Dionysus has already absorbed and contained several signs of antiquity and historical factuality manifested in its sustained corrosion and certain damages. This aspect is more observable in this art piece compare to the Bust of Menander which appears to have been protected under cultural consideration. However, several characteristics have been intentionally placed to display the contrasting views and interpretation towards the personality of Dionysus based on the interpretation of the painter and the society. The face is created with an authority and integrity through the facial figure, hair and beard however, a certain aura of relax and soft emotion is also added in the lips signifying certain opinions of his womanish personality. In general, this sculpture has depicted the complete image and personality of the said subject as a representation of his social, political, and cultural relevance in his civilization.
Another good example of classical art depiction the characteristics of the society and artist’s perception is the sculpture entitled as the Bust of Menander. The said art sculpture presents the subject Menander who is a renowned Greek dramatist and the leading writer of the form of New Comedy. Contrasting to the first sculpture subject, Menander is an actual individual who fostered a contemporary movement in their society and not a mythological character. His dedication towards the artistic culture of drama earned him a prestigious title in his society thus, resulting to the artistic preservation of his fame in his sculpture.
Analyzing the stylistic characteristic of the said sculpture will reveal the personal and conceptual characteristics of the said subject represented by the fine details in the sculpture. The angular display of the head projects the concept of deviance from the norm with a positive outlook towards the movement. This can be related to the fact that Menander fostered the contemporary views of New Comedy during his lifetime. His facial expression is depicting as strongly stern and resolute towards his thoughts and ideals signifying his credibility and importance in the social field his involved with. It is also noticeable that the subject is depicting during the prime of his youth which is considered by most as the most beautiful stage in a person’s life displaying the concept of the subject’s strength and resolute force on his desire. This is also contained in the artistic element of smoothness in the figure and the clarity in the
The social and political significance of Dionysus and the cultural value of Menander are presented effectively in their artistic representation contained in their marble sculptures. As such, through intricately analyzing the fine characteristics and artistic qualities of the said art pieces will its audience acknowledge the implied value and concept in each element becoming a physical symbol for the abstract nature of their nature preserved through antiquity and historical posterity. Indeed, art pieces such as the sculptures of Herm of Dionysus and the Herm-bust of Menander manifest as effective physical representation of the artistic, cultural, and social value of their subject preserve in their stylistic qualities and artistic body as both anthropological figures and abstract expression through the art medium.
Herm of Dionysus. Perseus Image Browser. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1997.03.4417. November 23, 2007.
Herm-bust of Menander. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. http://www.mfa.org/collections/search_art.asp?recview=true&id=151124&coll_keywords=menander. November 23, 2007.