Art of the Ancient East

The Ancient Near East was characterized by unique and distinctive features. The region was defined by contrasting attributes such as fertile river valleys and arid deserts, great violence and notable developments, wandering nomads and settled civilizations. The region covered an area of three million square miles spanning from the north of the modern Turkey, through the Mediterranean coast through to the east of Mesopotamia and Iran, up to the Indus River valley. It spanned from 3000s BCE TO 600S CE. The complexity and diversity of the region are also reflected in its art. The art of the region varies depending on the period and area of origin (Meyer 301-302).The paper focuses on examining and analyzing the art of the Ancient Near East.

There are some major distinctive characteristics that define the art of the Ancient Near East. The art focuses on expressing the relationship that exists between humanity and divinity. Most of the artistic artefacts are religious in nature and were in honoring gods during religious practices.  The Ancient Near East art is political and was used by rulers to proclaim power and prestige. In most case, the artists focused on showing their expertise instead of their imagination. Animals were frequently displayed in the art, and are used to represent kingship, divinity, fertility and strength. The human images present in the art are idealistic and less naturalistic. Images are used to depict the power, wisdom and strength of rulers.  The art is defined by relief carvings. The carvings are some kind of 3D design that stand out from the flat surface (Meyer 301-302).

The Great Lyre sound box is a unique and outstanding art of the Ancient Near East (figure 1). It was created between 2600-2500 BCE.  It is an example of the Sumerian art.  The Great Lyre sound box has a front panel comprising of four different registers. The registers have four scenes made of figures that are mostly animals doing various activities. The front panel of the Great Lyre sound box focuses on portraying the effect of dynamism and energy despite the fact that compartmentalization of the four scenes in the sound box is rigid. The energy effect is created by the curvy compositional lines and the color of the figures. The sound box is made of two distinct colors that include light tan and a dark black. The colors come about due to the medium of the panel. The dark black is created using bitumen. And is used in making the lines and the panel of the background. The inlaid shell is applied to create light tan color. The inlaid shell is used on the objects and the figures of the body. A sense of dynamism to the figures is added by the start contrast created by the light tan against a dark background. The figures seem to have some sense of glow and life in them. The viewer perceives a sense of presence and energy since the lightly colored figures appear closer to the viewer while the black background is pushed faraway (Steadman and Jennifer 6-10).

The figures on the sound box and established in a way that the idea of energy is depicted. The entire space of the registers and scenes are filled with figures with the aim of portraying a strong and energetic presence. Some straining and twisting occur in the bodies of the figures so that they can fill and fit the space within the register. For instance, the upper-most register shows the dynamic twisting of two bulls. The human figure is portrayed as the “Master of the Animals” by symmetrically placing the bulls beside it. The bodies of the bulls twist inwardly towards the human figure while their heads and necks twist outwardly and slightly downwards.  The beards and hairs of the three figures are used to accentuate the theme of energy and curves in the piece of art and this detail and some others were described in this art introduction essay.

The curvaceous lines in other figures of the art are used to symbolize energy. The second register located at the top of the box has tails and backs of the lion and hyena (Figure 2). Swooping lines are used to portray the distinctive features of the two animals. The bushy mane of the lion is depicted using swooping short lines on its back. A sense of energy and movement occurs by using opposing compositional lines on the panel. The bottom of the second register shows the back of a bear curving downward and upward in a dynamic swoop. The bear’s body is placed in a dynamic angle as it leans towards the lyre on left side of the scene. Opposing movement and dynamism is added to the overall composition of the art by the manner in which certain strings of the lyre curve are placed in relation to the position and of the bear’s body (Hall 22).

Some of the most dynamic lines and curves are contained on the lowest register of the front panel (Figure 3). The tail of the scorpion man situated on the left side of the art is the most obvious curve. It curls with an upward swoop, and end with a downward loop. Energy is strongly depicted using the detailed lines and shape of the scorpion. The tail is made of a number of oval shapes with characteristics decreasing size. The multiple lines appearing within each of the oval shape indicate that the tail is full of energy (Steadman and Jennifer 23).

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