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In this essay I am going to discuss three artworks from three different time periods that represent or symbolize authority and power in relation to different understandings and needs for invoking these ideas across time and cultures.
The first work is one from the Old Kingdom of Egypt, “King menkaure and Queen” which is a life size statue made out of greywacke, a dark stone, which is carved meticulously smoothly. The two stand with their arms interlocked looking forward with serene slightly smiling faces. King Menkaure is standing stoically with his arms tightly against his sides. Meanwhile the Queen has one arm wrapped around his side and another holding his arm. They both look majestic and are portrayed in a way that upholds the ideals of that time such as royal power and immortality. The King must be portrayed as almost god-like. During this period they made figures and architecture to show power and control and demonstrate their dominance. The Egyptian government was more centralized in the Old Kingdom so the Pharaoh had absolute power over large workforces that he had to keep in line.
Another work that represents power and authority is the “Head of a Roman Patrician” which is a portrait from the Roman Republic and made out of marble. His face is wrinkled, old, and sagging in an exaggerated style called verism. The portrait is a powerful representation of a male aristocrat with a hooked nose and furrowed brow. In the Republic the most highly valued traits included devotion to public service and military prowess, so citizens of that time sought to protect these ideals through their representation in portraiture. Roman patricians used verism in their portraiture to express their experience in life, seriousness and virtue to be able to compete in the political arena of the Republic.
The last work that I am going to talk about is “Augustus of Primaporta” an Early Roman statue of Augustus himself represented ideally and as a powerful leader. It is a free standing marble statue in a contrapposto pose in his military armour and his arm outstretched as if he is addressing his troops. This shows his capability of being a military leader as well as a conqueror. He is portrayed as youthful and flawless, muscular and perfect aka idealized. Augustus is relating himself to a greek athlete, and is modeling himself after the Doryphoros by Polykleitos to connect himself with the Golden Age which is when Athens had great power and influence. The statue has even more to it, a cupid riding a dolphin by his right leg. The dolphin is a symbol for Augustus’s great naval victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra. The cupid is saying that Augustus is descended from the gods. Cupid is the son of Venus who is the goddess of love. Julius Caesar the adoptive father of Augustus claimed to be descended from Venus and so Augustus shares this connection to the gods. The last factor about this piece that shows Augustus’s power as a military leader is his breastplate which is filled with propaganda meaning that he has the gods on his side and that he is the bringer of the Pax Romana, a peace that spreads across all of Rome.
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