Artwork is almost as old as humanity and it developed over thousands of years from the cave paintings to the magnificent architectural masterpieces that have been seen throughout history. The result has been that artwork has come to be greatly appreciated and associated with civilization as well as sophistication. The function and purpose of artwork has over the centuries changed as it has been used to represent different purposes; representing religion, political power, or the personalities of the individuals who commissioned these works.
The pyramids of Giza are among the most important and recognizable artworks in the history of man and this are mainly because of their durability for over five thousand years. They included incredible effort, considering that hundreds of thousands of tons of rock and limestone were used for construction (Romer, 2007, p.157).The purpose of these great works of art was not only to serve as tombs for the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, but they were meant to be a display of their power and the durability of their rule. It is essential to note that in Ancient Egypt, the pharaohs were considered gods or descended from gods, and the pyramids of Giza served the purpose of showing the immortality of these individuals.
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The Great Sphinx is another artwork of the ancient world that is quite recognizable for many people in the world. The purpose for its construction was to show the majesty of the individual who commissioned it, in this case the pharaoh Khafre who wanted to ensure that his legacy would last forever (Galassi, 2014). In the years following the death of this pharaoh, the Sphinx became a place of pilgrimage and worship for many individuals in Ancient Egypt and this in such a manner that it became one of the most important religious icons in the ancient world. It became so important that many centuries later, the Pharaoh Thutmose IV commissioned for the sand that had almost completely covered the Sphinx to be removed. Therefore, while it had started out as a symbol of Khafre’s power ended up being an extremely important artwork of religious significance.
The Renaissance brought with it a renewed interest in art and this came in the form of the use of artwork for the purpose of religion. This is especially the case with Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper which depicts Christ’s final meal with his disciples. In a period when Christianity was not only the dominant religion in Europe, but also the center of life for most individuals in this continent, artwork of religious significance was extremely important (Shelley, 1996, p.131). This is the reason why individuals and the Church were willing to pay large amounts of money for such works. The Last Supper can be considered to be a means of showing the significance of Christ and his disciples, as well as serve as a reminder of the sacrifice that Christ was about to make for the purpose of saving mankind.
The Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is another example of religious artwork that was developed during the Renaissance. This artwork, by Michelangelo, was not only the manner through which to express religious sentiment, but it also showed the boldness of a new age of art (Partridge, 1996, p.15). This work of art shows such depictions as the creation of man, as well as his fall and being driven from the Garden of Eden, among many other themes. The Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel can be considered to be a means of showing the power of God and the nature of man. Considering that it was commissioned by Pope Julius II, it is an artwork whose main function was to ensure that individuals who looked at it were reminded of their mortality and their religious obligations not only towards the Church, but towards God as well; depicting the Church as the legitimate religious authority in the world.
The St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most iconic figures in the world today as a result of its being representative of the Catholic Church. This church was developed through the contributions of many architectural minds of the sixteenth century and these included Michelangelo (Frommel, 1986). Michelangelo was one of the most significant contributors to the development of this church and among his major contributions was the development of a centralized dome at the chancel or eastern end. This church is a representation of the endurance of the Catholic Church in the tradition of the Church Fathers and it has become a place of pilgrimage for many faithful from all over the world. During its construction, the Protestant movement began and this church came to symbolize the continued authority of the papacy over what was believed to be the one true Church.
In conclusion, the artworks that have been studied above are among the greatest masterpieces to have ever been developed in global history. They have shown that the function and purpose of artwork has over the centuries changed as it has come to represent different functions and purposes. Therefore, artwork has continuously evolved to cater for the needs of individuals or societies at the time when they are developed.
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