Some of the greatest works of ancient art from around the world include spectacular artworks from diverse places and times, starting with cave paintings that were made at the dawn of human creativity in the Paleolithic Age, to the contents of tombs and buildings, remarkable stone sculptures, and wrought gold and textiles. They are the creations of times and cultures that make them unique, and they are among the finest examples of art from these cultures.
But how best to appreciate these ancient artworks? First, it is necessary to understand their cultural contexts, how individual pieces fit into the flow of world art, and what each has in common with the others. Also, which materials best expressed the creativity and concerns of the cultures that produced them should be considered.
Ancient artwork concerned itself with different subjects and themes. The importance of animals as subjects can be found in the earliest works of art, and continued as a recurring theme throughout ancient times. Representations of animals appear, among other places, in cave art, and as images and symbols of gods found in Egyptian pyramids and other tombs and buildings, including those of the Assyrian, Andean, and Incan cultures. Another important theme is how the human body was treated in sculpture over thousands of years, including the innovations that the Greeks made in representing humans.
Important themes that initiated much of the creation of art include the drive for immortality, and the need to legitimate a ruler or impart propaganda concerning the role of the state or ruler. Religious impulses and the drive for survival and fertility also show up as other major themes.
Different cultures emphasized different themes in their art and architecture. Due to the highly religious nature of art in ancient Egypt, many of its great works of art depict divinities: gods, goddesses, and Pharaohs. Many of the civilizations that flourished in Mesopotamia (the area of the Tigris-Euphrates river system), including Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria, left behind a rich legacy of ancient art, including decorated pottery, the use of brick that led to the early development of the pilaster and column, frescoes, enameled tiles, various sculpted figures, and jewelry.
The Minoan civilization of Crete was known for its beautiful ceramics, frescos, landscapes, and stone carvings. The Mycenaean civilization specialized in gold-working. In Persia, the Sassanian culture was known for its palaces and metalwork. Notable ancient Greek and Roman art includes pottery, sculpture, architecture, and panel painting.
Other ancient civilizations that produced notable works of art included the Asian civilizations of Japan, China and India. Japanese art was significantly influenced by religion. Chinese art included painted pottery and terra-cotta figures. Indian art included small stone carvings and bronze castings, as well as some of the most intricate bronzes in the world, and unrivaled temple carvings. Also, the Central American culture (Mexico) produced remarkable ceramics that were influenced by religion.
The study of ancient art will show how extremely labor-intensive work, virtuosity in a craft, and rarity of materials combined to produce objects valued in both ancient and modern times.
Source by Tom Littlepage