If I was selecting art for a museum, of course I would want the most iconic, most famous peices. Of course, this means that I will start with the Greek Room. I chose Discobolos (discus thrower) because it is a leading example of Classical Greek culture. It was originally sculpted in bronze by an Athenian man named Myron sometime in the mid-5th century B.C. The calm face and perfectly proportioned body brings to light the prominent thinking of the day. The idea was that the body is and should be controlled by the mind. Logic and philosophy were the answer to life’s questions, and this is exemplified in the Discobolos. He is in the action of throwing the discus yet his demeanor depicts the mood that his mind in so that he can complete his task of throwing.
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The other major era of Greek art is the Hellenistic era. I chose the painting Hades kidnaps Persephone, from Vergina (ca.330 BC) because it personifies the change of thought in Greece. The emphasis moved from the logic and philosophy of the mind over to the drama and emotion of feelings. The picture shows Pluto grabbing Persephone of the ground and riding off his chariot. This painting was found in the tomb of Persophone and it is thought that “The artistry of execution, strength of conception and restraint of coloring all denote an artist of great talent (perhaps Nikomachos) of the mid-4th century BC” (Athenon, Ekdotike. Hellenic Macedonia. macedonian-heritage.gr/HellenicMacedonia/en/C188.8.131.52.html, Accessed 7/22/18). However, we cannot firmly determine who painted the picture, but we do know that the skillful artist used oil paint on a limestone wall to create this dramatic scene.
Next, we have our Roman room to decorate. Who could collect famous Roman art and not grab the Bust of Emperor Augustus along the way? Busts are the epitome of Roman art. No other culture produced and perfected the skill of creating busts like the Romans did. The point of busts was to create something that was instantly recognizable. It had to contain the distinct characteristics that the real person possessed in order to accomplish this. The Bust of Emperor Augustus accomplishes this to perfection. It was made when Gaius Caesar obtained the title of Augustus in 27 B.C. White Marble is the medium of choice, yet the artist himself is unknown. That fact has not reduced the fame of this piece, however.
Arimaspe and Gryphon is an incredible piece of art, mostly because it was found in the ruins of Pompeii. It is estimated that it was made between 60 and 50 B.C. about 120 years before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Like most of the frescos in Pompeii, the artist is unknown by name. We do know that the painting is done in the second style and came from the Villa of the Mysteries just outside the city. I believe this is an important piece of art because it connects us to a past that is no longer existent in any other way. All we know about Pompeii is from a few written accounts and the art we have been able to recover. These frescos are an important part of history.
If I was able to remove a mural from a catacomb, I’d pick the catacomb of Santi Pietro e Marcellino in Rome. One of the murals painted on the wall, Jesus the Good Shepherd, is a stellar example of early Christian art. The theme, of course, is biblical and the style is transitional. It was done in the 4th century for Santi Pietro e Marcellino’s catacomb. Going back even further, I think that the carved stone relief of Jonah and the Whale which was done in the late 3rd century as decoration for a sarcophagus. It is unfortunate that the particular artists who created these works are unknown. While there are many pieces of art that are similar to these, I thought that the two works I chose were fully adequate in displaying the skill and the style of these Christian themes.
Moving into our Gothic Room, I selected Monument to Cardinal de Braye by Arnolfo di Cambio completed in 1282. This sculpted stone shows the creative yet structured method used by gothic artists. Since I couldn’t get a cathedral to fit in my museum, I decided that this monument would suffice show the columnar, detailed work of the gothic style. On a more secular note, I decided to include a self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer. Simply entitled Self-portrait at 26, the artwork of Durer remains some of the most astute expressions of the artistic mindset at the time. He used oil on an oak panel to complete the painting. He made this portrait in 1498. While this is nearly to the Renaissance period, it still retains a distinctly gothic flavor.
Renaissance Room: Monsa Lisa, The school of Athens. No debates here. I want the best of the best in my museum. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is classic Renaissance style. It is realistic, detailed and quite revolutionary as far as depicting a three dimensional picture. The Mona Lisa is an oil painting, with a cottonwood panel as the surface and was completed in 1506. Raphael also displays great skill in three dimensional space on canvas. He completed The school of Athens in 1510 as a fresco using paint on the stone walls. The work was meant to be a representation of the old ideas of Greece such as logic, order, intellect and science. Vibrant color and contrast is used as well as detail in each figure. This detail allows us to know who is who in the painting.
Finally, my Baroque Room would include the David by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The life-size marble sculpture took almost a year for Bernini to complete starting in 1623 and finishing in 1624.The implied movement and very theatrical stance cause the viewer to move around the work in order to see it completely. Bernini brings us back to the concept of time frozen in space. Drama and theater is creeping back into the arts. My final piece that I decided to purchase for my museum The Conversion of St. Paul by Caravaggio. This oil on canvas painting depicts the moment St. Paul receives his message from God on the way to Damascus. This great example of chiaroscuro brings the old style of Hellenistic art but with new techniques, mediums and context. As you may notice, we are basically back where we started with the Greeks. The riveting story of art is repetitive, yet it is never the exactly the same. It is never boring.
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