Lecture 2 – 1/20/11 – Historical Background and Art Historical Periodization
•Greek art refers to the art of the Greek cities in central and Northern Greece and
the Peloponnesus and on the Greek islands; but also to the Greek colonies in
Southern Italy and Sicily (and elsewhere, such as the coasts of the Black Sea and
Egypt), and the Greek cities on the West Coast of Asia Minor (now Turkey)
•Roman art refers not only to art from the city of Rome but also to art from the
various provinces of the Roman Empire. Roman provincial art often kept its distinct
•Our pictures of ancient art is distorted by the circumstances of preservation, which
depends on the materials from which a work of art is made and its original content
•Best preserved works of art are made of durable materials, e.g. stone, burned clay,
sometimes bronze. Much is lost because of its value (gold can be melted down, etc.).
Textiles (and wood) are only preserved under certain climatic conditions. Many finds
are found in shipwrecks or ancient cities. Most of the most famous art of antiquity is
•Funerary works are usually better preserved because they were well protected until
they were found. Almost all of the painted pottery we study comes from tombs.
•There was hardly any ‘art for art’s sake’ in antiquity. There was no concept of art in
the modern sense, the Greek equivalent would be ‘craft’ (techne). Art often served as
concrete religious, political, private purposes.
•The meaning of ancient art reflects the intentions of the patrons rather than the
intentions of the artist, as well as the contexts of display. There was appreciation of
art, but not so much of the artist.
•Responses to works of art could range from silent contemplation to an emotional
response, to a loud, rhetorical description meant to display the education of the
•People interacted with art in many ways in their daily lives. Statues could be viewed,
bathed, dressed, etc.
•Statues and other objects could often ‘speak’ as suggested by inscriptions
•Male bronze figures dedicated to Apollo: “Mantiklos dedicated me to the far-
shooter…” dedication into a sanctuary, idea of a reciprocal exchange
•Different contexts of art