Isis Figurine

Isis Figurine

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Isis Figurine - History

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A basic distinction is between sculpture in the round, free-standing sculpture, such as statues, not attached (except possibly at the base) to any other surface, and the various types of relief, which are at least partly attached to a background surface. Relief is often classified by the degree of projection from the wall into low or bas-relief, high relief, and sometimes an intermediate mid-relief. Sunk-relief is a technique restricted to ancient Egypt. Relief is the usual sculptural medium for large figure groups and narrative subjects, which are difficult to accomplish in the round, and is the typical technique used both for architectural sculpture, which is attached to buildings, and for small-scale sculpture decorating other objects, as in much pottery, metalwork and jewellery. Relief sculpture may also decorate steles, upright slabs, usually of stone, often also containing inscriptions.

Another basic distinction is between subtractive carving techniques, which remove material from an existing block or lump, for example of stone or wood, and modelling techniques which shape or build up the work from the material. Techniques such as casting, stamping and moulding use an intermediate matrix containing the design to produce the work many of these allow the production of several copies.

The term "sculpture" is often used mainly to describe large works, which are sometimes called monumental sculpture, meaning either or both of sculpture that is large, or that is attached to a building. But the term properly covers many types of small works in three dimensions using the same techniques, including coins and medals, hardstone carvings, a term for small carvings in stone that can take detailed work.

The very large or "colossal" statue has had an enduring appeal since antiquity the largest on record at 182 m (597 ft) is the 2018 Indian Statue of Unity. Another grand form of portrait sculpture is the equestrian statue of a rider on horse, which has become rare in recent decades. The smallest forms of life-size portrait sculpture are the "head", showing just that, or the bust, a representation of a person from the chest up. Small forms of sculpture include the figurine, normally a statue that is no more than 18 inches (46 cm) tall, and for reliefs the plaquette, medal or coin.

Modern and contemporary art have added a number of non-traditional forms of sculpture, including sound sculpture, light sculpture, environmental art, environmental sculpture, street art sculpture, kinetic sculpture (involving aspects of physical motion), land art, and site-specific art. Sculpture is an important form of public art. A collection of sculpture in a garden setting can be called a sculpture garden.

One of the most common purposes of sculpture is in some form of association with religion. Cult images are common in many cultures, though they are often not the colossal statues of deities which characterized ancient Greek art, like the Statue of Zeus at Olympia. The actual cult images in the innermost sanctuaries of Egyptian temples, of which none have survived, were evidently rather small, even in the largest temples. The same is often true in Hinduism, where the very simple and ancient form of the lingam is the most common. Buddhism brought the sculpture of religious figures to East Asia, where there seems to have been no earlier equivalent tradition, though again simple shapes like the bi and cong probably had religious significance.

Small sculptures as personal possessions go back to the earliest prehistoric art, and the use of very large sculpture as public art, especially to impress the viewer with the power of a ruler, goes back at least to the Great Sphinx of some 4,500 years ago. In archaeology and art history the appearance, and sometimes disappearance, of large or monumental sculpture in a culture is regarded as of great significance, though tracing the emergence is often complicated by the presumed existence of sculpture in wood and other perishable materials of which no record remains [3]

The totem pole is an example of a tradition of monumental sculpture in wood that would leave no traces for archaeology. The ability to summon the resources to create monumental sculpture, by transporting usually very heavy materials and arranging for the payment of what are usually regarded as full-time sculptors, is considered a mark of a relatively advanced culture in terms of social organization. Recent unexpected discoveries of ancient Chinese Bronze Age figures at Sanxingdui, some more than twice human size, have disturbed many ideas held about early Chinese civilization, since only much smaller bronzes were previously known. [4]

Some undoubtedly advanced cultures, such as the Indus Valley civilization, appear to have had no monumental sculpture at all, though producing very sophisticated figurines and seals. The Mississippian culture seems to have been progressing towards its use, with small stone figures, when it collapsed. Other cultures, such as ancient Egypt and the Easter Island culture, seem to have devoted enormous resources to very large-scale monumental sculpture from a very early stage.

The collecting of sculpture, including that of earlier periods, goes back some 2,000 years in Greece, China and Mesoamerica, and many collections were available on semi-public display long before the modern museum was invented. From the 20th century the relatively restricted range of subjects found in large sculpture expanded greatly, with abstract subjects and the use or representation of any type of subject now common. Today much sculpture is made for intermittent display in galleries and museums, and the ability to transport and store the increasingly large works is a factor in their construction. Small decorative figurines, most often in ceramics, are as popular today (though strangely neglected by modern and Contemporary art) as they were in the Rococo, or in ancient Greece when Tanagra figurines were a major industry, or in East Asian and Pre-Columbian art. Small sculpted fittings for furniture and other objects go well back into antiquity, as in the Nimrud ivories, Begram ivories and finds from the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Portrait sculpture began in Egypt, where the Narmer Palette shows a ruler of the 32nd century BCE, and Mesopotamia, where we have 27 surviving statues of Gudea, who ruled Lagash c. 2144–2124 BCE. In ancient Greece and Rome, the erection of a portrait statue in a public place was almost the highest mark of honour, and the ambition of the elite, who might also be depicted on a coin. [5] In other cultures such as Egypt and the Near East public statues were almost exclusively the preserve of the ruler, with other wealthy people only being portrayed in their tombs. Rulers are typically the only people given portraits in Pre-Columbian cultures, beginning with the Olmec colossal heads of about 3,000 years ago. East Asian portrait sculpture was entirely religious, with leading clergy being commemorated with statues, especially the founders of monasteries, but not rulers, or ancestors. The Mediterranean tradition revived, initially only for tomb effigies and coins, in the Middle Ages, but expanded greatly in the Renaissance, which invented new forms such as the personal portrait medal.

Animals are, with the human figure, the earliest subject for sculpture, and have always been popular, sometimes realistic, but often imaginary monsters in China animals and monsters are almost the only traditional subjects for stone sculpture outside tombs and temples. The kingdom of plants is important only in jewellery and decorative reliefs, but these form almost all the large sculpture of Byzantine art and Islamic art, and are very important in most Eurasian traditions, where motifs such as the palmette and vine scroll have passed east and west for over two millennia.

One form of sculpture found in many prehistoric cultures around the world is specially enlarged versions of ordinary tools, weapons or vessels created in impractical precious materials, for either some form of ceremonial use or display or as offerings. Jade or other types of greenstone were used in China, Olmec Mexico, and Neolithic Europe, and in early Mesopotamia large pottery shapes were produced in stone. Bronze was used in Europe and China for large axes and blades, like the Oxborough Dirk.

The materials used in sculpture are diverse, changing throughout history. The classic materials, with outstanding durability, are metal, especially bronze, stone and pottery, with wood, bone and antler less durable but cheaper options. Precious materials such as gold, silver, jade, and ivory are often used for small luxury works, and sometimes in larger ones, as in chryselephantine statues. More common and less expensive materials were used for sculpture for wider consumption, including hardwoods (such as oak, box/boxwood, and lime/linden) terracotta and other ceramics, wax (a very common material for models for casting, and receiving the impressions of cylinder seals and engraved gems), and cast metals such as pewter and zinc (spelter). But a vast number of other materials have been used as part of sculptures, in ethnographic and ancient works as much as modern ones.

Sculptures are often painted, but commonly lose their paint to time, or restorers. Many different painting techniques have been used in making sculpture, including tempera, oil painting, gilding, house paint, aerosol, enamel and sandblasting. [2] [6]

Many sculptors seek new ways and materials to make art. One of Pablo Picasso's most famous sculptures included bicycle parts. Alexander Calder and other modernists made spectacular use of painted steel. Since the 1960s, acrylics and other plastics have been used as well. Andy Goldsworthy makes his unusually ephemeral sculptures from almost entirely natural materials in natural settings. Some sculpture, such as ice sculpture, sand sculpture, and gas sculpture, is deliberately short-lived. Recent sculptors have used stained glass, tools, machine parts, hardware and consumer packaging to fashion their works. Sculptors sometimes use found objects, and Chinese scholar's rocks have been appreciated for many centuries.

Stone Edit

Stone sculpture is an ancient activity where pieces of rough natural stone are shaped by the controlled removal of stone. Owing to the permanence of the material, evidence can be found that even the earliest societies indulged in some form of stone work, though not all areas of the world have such abundance of good stone for carving as Egypt, Greece, India and most of Europe. Petroglyphs (also called rock engravings) are perhaps the earliest form: images created by removing part of a rock surface which remains in situ, by incising, pecking, carving, and abrading. Monumental sculpture covers large works, and architectural sculpture, which is attached to buildings. Hardstone carving is the carving for artistic purposes of semi-precious stones such as jade, agate, onyx, rock crystal, sard or carnelian, and a general term for an object made in this way. Alabaster or mineral gypsum is a soft mineral that is easy to carve for smaller works and still relatively durable. Engraved gems are small carved gems, including cameos, originally used as seal rings.

The copying of an original statue in stone, which was very important for ancient Greek statues, which are nearly all known from copies, was traditionally achieved by "pointing", along with more freehand methods. Pointing involved setting up a grid of string squares on a wooden frame surrounding the original, and then measuring the position on the grid and the distance between grid and statue of a series of individual points, and then using this information to carve into the block from which the copy is made. [8]

Metal Edit

Bronze and related copper alloys are the oldest and still the most popular metals for cast metal sculptures a cast bronze sculpture is often called simply a "bronze". Common bronze alloys have the unusual and desirable property of expanding slightly just before they set, thus filling the finest details of a mould. Their strength and lack of brittleness (ductility) is an advantage when figures in action are to be created, especially when compared to various ceramic or stone materials (see marble sculpture for several examples). Gold is the softest and most precious metal, and very important in jewellery with silver it is soft enough to be worked with hammers and other tools as well as cast repoussé and chasing are among the techniques used in gold and silversmithing.

Casting is a group of manufacturing processes by which a liquid material (bronze, copper, glass, aluminum, iron) is (usually) poured into a mould, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowed to solidify. The solid casting is then ejected or broken out to complete the process, [9] although a final stage of "cold work" may follow on the finished cast. Casting may be used to form hot liquid metals or various materials that cold set after mixing of components (such as epoxies, concrete, plaster and clay). Casting is most often used for making complex shapes that would be otherwise difficult or uneconomical to make by other methods. The oldest surviving casting is a copper Mesopotamian frog from 3200 BCE. [10] Specific techniques include lost-wax casting, plaster mould casting and sand casting.

Welding is a process where different pieces of metal are fused together to create different shapes and designs. There are many different forms of welding, such as Oxy-fuel welding, Stick welding, MIG welding, and TIG welding. Oxy-fuel is probably the most common method of welding when it comes to creating steel sculptures because it is the easiest to use for shaping the steel as well as making clean and less noticeable joins of the steel. The key to Oxy-fuel welding is heating each piece of metal to be joined evenly until all are red and have a shine to them. Once that shine is on each piece, that shine will soon become a 'pool' where the metal is liquified and the welder must get the pools to join together, fusing the metal. Once cooled off, the location where the pools joined are now one continuous piece of metal. Also used heavily in Oxy-fuel sculpture creation is forging. Forging is the process of heating metal to a certain point to soften it enough to be shaped into different forms. One very common example is heating the end of a steel rod and hitting the red heated tip with a hammer while on an anvil to form a point. In between hammer swings, the forger rotates the rod and gradually forms a sharpened point from the blunt end of a steel rod.

Glass Edit

Glass may be used for sculpture through a wide range of working techniques, though the use of it for large works is a recent development. It can be carved, with considerable difficulty the Roman Lycurgus Cup is all but unique. [11] Hot casting can be done by ladling molten glass into moulds that have been created by pressing shapes into sand, carved graphite or detailed plaster/silica moulds. Kiln casting glass involves heating chunks of glass in a kiln until they are liquid and flow into a waiting mould below it in the kiln. Glass can also be blown and/or hot sculpted with hand tools either as a solid mass or as part of a blown object. More recent techniques involve chiseling and bonding plate glass with polymer silicates and UV light. [12]

Pottery Edit

Pottery is one of the oldest materials for sculpture, as well as clay being the medium in which many sculptures cast in metal are originally modelled for casting. Sculptors often build small preliminary works called maquettes of ephemeral materials such as plaster of Paris, wax, unfired clay, or plasticine. [13] Many cultures have produced pottery which combines a function as a vessel with a sculptural form, and small figurines have often been as popular as they are in modern Western culture. Stamps and moulds were used by most ancient civilizations, from ancient Rome and Mesopotamia to China. [14]

Wood carving Edit

Wood carving has been extremely widely practiced, but survives much less well than the other main materials, being vulnerable to decay, insect damage, and fire. It therefore forms an important hidden element in the art history of many cultures. [3] Outdoor wood sculpture does not last long in most parts of the world, so that we have little idea how the totem pole tradition developed. Many of the most important sculptures of China and Japan in particular are in wood, and the great majority of African sculpture and that of Oceania and other regions.

Wood is light, so suitable for masks and other sculpture intended to be carried, and can take very fine detail. It is also much easier to work than stone. It has been very often painted after carving, but the paint wears less well than the wood, and is often missing in surviving pieces. Painted wood is often technically described as "wood and polychrome". Typically a layer of gesso or plaster is applied to the wood, and then the paint is applied to that.

Worldwide, sculptors have usually been tradesmen whose work is unsigned in some traditions, for example China, where sculpture did not share the prestige of literati painting, this has affected the status of sculpture itself. [15] Even in ancient Greece, where sculptors such as Phidias became famous, they appear to have retained much the same social status as other artisans, and perhaps not much greater financial rewards, although some signed their works. [16] In the Middle Ages artists such as the 12th-century Gislebertus sometimes signed their work, and were sought after by different cities, especially from the Trecento onwards in Italy, with figures such as Arnolfo di Cambio, and Nicola Pisano and his son Giovanni. Goldsmiths and jewellers, dealing with precious materials and often doubling as bankers, belonged to powerful guilds and had considerable status, often holding civic office. Many sculptors also practised in other arts Andrea del Verrocchio also painted, and Giovanni Pisano, Michelangelo, and Jacopo Sansovino were architects. Some sculptors maintained large workshops. Even in the Renaissance the physical nature of the work was perceived by Leonardo da Vinci and others as pulling down the status of sculpture in the arts, though the reputation of Michelangelo perhaps put this long-held idea to rest.

From the High Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo, Leone Leoni and Giambologna could become wealthy, and ennobled, and enter the circle of princes, after a period of sharp argument over the relative status of sculpture and painting. [17] Much decorative sculpture on buildings remained a trade, but sculptors producing individual pieces were recognised on a level with painters. From the 18th century or earlier sculpture also attracted middle-class students, although it was slower to do so than painting. Women sculptors took longer to appear than women painters, and were less prominent until the 20th century.

Aniconism remained restricted to Judaism, which did not accept figurative sculpture until the 19th century, [18] before expanding to Early Christianity, which initially accepted large sculptures. In Christianity and Buddhism, sculpture became very significant. Christian Eastern Orthodoxy has never accepted monumental sculpture, and Islam has consistently rejected nearly all figurative sculpture, except for very small figures in reliefs and some animal figures that fulfill a useful function, like the famous lions supporting a fountain in the Alhambra. Many forms of Protestantism also do not approve of religious sculpture. There has been much iconoclasm of sculpture from religious motives, from the Early Christians, the Beeldenstorm of the Protestant Reformation to the 2001 destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan by the Taliban.

Prehistoric periods Edit

Europe Edit

The earliest undisputed examples of sculpture belong to the Aurignacian culture, which was located in Europe and southwest Asia and active at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic. As well as producing some of the earliest known cave art, the people of this culture developed finely-crafted stone tools, manufacturing pendants, bracelets, ivory beads, and bone-flutes, as well as three-dimensional figurines. [19] [20]

The 30 cm tall Löwenmensch found in the Hohlenstein Stadel area of Germany is an anthropomorphic lion-man figure carved from woolly mammoth ivory. It has been dated to about 35–40,000 BP, making it, along with the Venus of Hohle Fels, the oldest known uncontested example of figurative art. [21]

Much surviving prehistoric art is small portable sculptures, with a small group of female Venus figurines such as the Venus of Willendorf (24–26,000 BP) found across central Europe. [22] The Swimming Reindeer of about 13,000 years ago is one of the finest of a number of Magdalenian carvings in bone or antler of animals in the art of the Upper Paleolithic, although they are outnumbered by engraved pieces, which are sometimes classified as sculpture. [23] Two of the largest prehistoric sculptures can be found at the Tuc d'Audobert caves in France, where around 12–17,000 years ago a masterful sculptor used a spatula-like stone tool and fingers to model a pair of large bison in clay against a limestone rock. [24]

With the beginning of the Mesolithic in Europe figurative sculpture greatly reduced, [25] and remained a less common element in art than relief decoration of practical objects until the Roman period, despite some works such as the Gundestrup cauldron from the European Iron Age and the Bronze Age Trundholm sun chariot. [26]

Ancient Near East Edit

From the ancient Near East, the over-life sized stone Urfa Man from modern Turkey comes from about 9,000 BCE, and the 'Ain Ghazal Statues from around 7200 and 6500 BCE. These are from modern Jordan, made of lime plaster and reeds, and about half life-size there are 15 statues, some with two heads side by side, and 15 busts. Small clay figures of people and animals are found at many sites across the Near East from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, and represent the start of a more-or-less continuous tradition in the region.

Löwenmensch, from Hohlenstein-Stadel, now in Ulmer Museum, Ulm, Germany, the oldest known anthropomorphic animal-human statuette, Aurignacian era, c. 35–40,000 BP

Classical authors on Isis

Several Greek and Roman poets wrote about Isis. Most notably the poet Tibullus complained that his lover would not have sex as part of her adherance to the goddess.

The two most fulsome accounts of the cult are the writers Apuleius and Plutarch.

Apuelius The Golden Ass

Apuleius was a writer in Latin from North Africa. In his mostly humourous book The Golden Ass his hero is saved by Isis, who is portrayed as a powerful and good goddess. Apuleius describes the initiations his hero undertakes involving water purification, overnight stays in temples and visions. It remains hard to see how much historical knowledge we can glean from his account.

Plutarch’s On Isis and Osiris

Plutarch was a priest of the Delphic oracle and notable writer of biographies and essays, In his small work on Isis and Osiris Plutarch describes the cult in symbolic terms.

His version of the myth tells how Osiris was murdered and cut up into 14 pieces by his brother Seth. The pieces were scattered across Egypt. Isis, with the help of her step-son Anubis, found all the pieces but one. The missing piece was Osiris’ phallus. Isis moulded one from the mud of the Nile. Anubis mummified Osiris, putting him back together. Isis said the magic words which brought him to life. In this state, Isis and Osiris procreated and conceived Horus.

Plutarch’s account is important as it is the only full account of the myth from the ancient world. However, t here were different versions in the Pharaonic period gleaned from fragmentary texts or allusions. Some versions said that Hathor, another goddess was Horus’ mother. During this period Isis was iconographically portrayed as a mourner of her dead husband with her sister Nephthys.

It is not clear if Plutarch’s version of the myth was the only or even predominant version in the Roman period. For him, the mythic act of death and resurrection is the key insight into the cult. It is not clear how widely this would have been held both within Egypt itself and in the various locations around the Roman world. There wasn’t a centralised organisation to the cult.

Isis Figurine - History

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El, the general term for “deity” in Semitic languages as well as the name of the chief deity of the West Semites. In the ancient texts from Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit) in Syria, El was described as the titular head of the pantheon, husband of Asherah, and father of all the other gods (except for Baal). His most common epithet was “the Bull,” but he was also sometimes called “Creator/Possessor of Heaven and Earth.” Although a venerable deity, he was not active in the myths, which primarily concerned his daughters and sons.

He was usually portrayed as an old man with a long beard and, often, two wings. He was the equivalent of the Hurrian god Kumarbi and the Greek god Cronus. In the Old Testament, El is commonly used as a synonym for Yahweh and less commonly as the general term for “deity.”

Isis Figurine - History

As the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus, Isis was the most popular Egyptian goddess. She was widely regarded throughout antiquity as the personification of the ideal wife and protective mother. Here she wears a tripartite wig with a uraeus surmounted by a modius (a supporting element of a complex headdress) that probably bore either a throne or the attribute of her son Horus, cow horns cradling a solar disk, such as on the DMA figurine Isis and Horus (1997.114). She wears a broad collar but is otherwise unadorned in this fragment. Her female form is emphasized by a clinging garment with breasts bared. With one hand she cups her left breast, while the other hand probably would have prepared to draw the infant Horus to it. The rectangular form that extends midway up the goddesses's back was likely the top part of a throne, to recall her close association with the royal succession of the king. Isis is the Greek form of her name in ancient Egyptian, she was called Ist, meaning "seat." Known as the "goddess of many names," she was thought to be a great magician, capable of controlling others through her magical knowledge of their names.

After Osiris was murdered by his brother Seth, Isis helped to revive his dead body. In the cult of Osiris, the god became King of the Afterworld, while their son Horus was identified with the Egyptian Pharaoh. These associations of Isis, as the goddess of life and rebirth, led to the great popularity of the cult of Isis during the Greek and Roman periods. It is also possible that figures like this one influenced early Christian imagery of the Madonna and Child. The form of Horus called Harpokrates ("Horus-the-child") was especially popular in Late Period and Greco-Roman Egypt, where he was believed to avert evil. Divine mother and nursing infant statuettes are representative of the ex-voto type Isis Lactans, whose archetype can be traced to the Eighth Dynasty or before.

Alan M. May, "Isis Nursing the Infant Horus" in Searching for Ancient Egypt: Art, Architecture, and Artifacts from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, David P. Silverman, ed., (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), cat. 4, 52.

David B. Elliott, "Isis Nursing Horus" in Searching for Ancient Egypt: Art, Architecture, and Artifacts from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, David P. Silverman, ed., (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), cat. 15, 71.