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What makes the development of ceiling paintings across the world so intriguing amongst the many forms of human expression ever since the beginning of time? The ancient Neanderthal paintings all over the globe, as well as the static paintings of the ancient Egyptians both provide insight to the lives of the people of the time, as does the extravagance of post-renaissance European paintings. The solidity of these pieces of inter-epochal historicity is proof of man’s existence and how human’s experienced their given space in a given time.
Firstly, there are a myriad of pre-historic cave paintings which give us insight into the minds of the first humans to walk the earth. The time frame of 25000 BCE to 15000 BCE proposed various new struggles for humans due to the cold temperatures of the Ice Age. The first known culture to master these extreme temperatures was the Gravettian Culture. These people would gather in caves (for reasons still remaining unknown) where the artists of the time would paint illustrations of animals known to them on the cave ceilings. What is deemed interesting is the fact that these illustrations are of live, dynamic animals and it appears as though the artists practiced their skills thoroughly (CHING, 2017: 2). Red (iron oxide), and black (manganese oxides or charcoal) are the main colours used by these Paleolithic artists and there is evidence supporting that the artists of the famous Lascaux caves travelled far to gain access to these materials (CHALMIN, 2003: 1487-1740). I believe that this is proof of the beginning of man’s capacity to acknowledge and respect their surroundings. This reflects on our primal instinct to want to make sense of our surroundings through the use of images.
Furthermore, there are a variety of ancient Egyptian examples supporting the idea that historical paintings provide evidence into the minds of the people of the time. For instance, the ceiling illustrations inside the tomb of Senenmut1 portray this very clearly due to the mystery behind the knowledge of the time. This famous tomb contains many different fragmants of paintings and decorations including pictures of celestial diagrams which portray definitive understanding of direction and star constellations (including the Big Dipper we know today). The tomb’s ceiling on the southern side depicts the sky as studied in 1534 BC2. If it were not for these ceiling paintings, there would be little to no insight today to the extent of the Ancient Egyptian understanding of astronomy. (KLIMCZAK, 2016: online) Interestingly, the Ancient Egyptians were one of the first known people to make use of extracted pigments from the indigo plant to obtain a dark blue colour in their paintings. (VAN SCHOOR, 2013: online3) All of this evidence clearly indicates that the Ancient Egyptians were thinking in very pragmatic ways that were unquestionably ahead of their time.
1Senenmut was an architect, government official, as well as an astronomer in the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. (KLIMCZAK, 2016: online)
2 Although most of the planets we know today (Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn) are all depicted very clearly on the tomb ceiling, Mars is not illustrated in any form. Astroarcheologists have come to the conclusion that this would have been due to the fact that evidence points to Mars being in retrogade around the time of 1534 BC. (KLIMCZAK, 2016: online)
Lastly, the infamous painters and artists of the post-renaissance proved to have a erudite knowledge of dynamics and form. Given the renound status of Michelangelo in the early 16th Century, there is no doubt whatsoever as to why the Pope commissioned him to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel In Italy3. The process of painting the chapel’s ceiling took place in the 1500’s. A custom made scaffolding was created by Michelangelo to reach the ceiling. (RICHMAN-ABDOU, 2017: online) This indicates that these paintings were of great importance to the church due to the effort exerted to paint them. The transition in thoughts from the Renaissance to early Mannerism is clearly evidential inside the radius of the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s works.
The mental shift between the renaissance ‘The Creation of Adam’ and the mannerist ‘Last Judgement Day’ which was completed a long time after The Creation of Adam. The shift can be seen due to both masterpieces having one thing in common; the painter. Michelangelo clearly tried to express the typical depictions of Renaissance art, with themes of classic humanism and scientific naturalism. Given the circumstances of the time, these themes are deemed appropriate due to the rediscovery of a myriad of long-forgotten, scientific knowledge (AURET, 2017:online).This is evident in ‘The Creation of Man’ due to the proportionate ideals used and the humanistic approach taken. It is clear that the composition of the painting was well thought through, which agrees with the rational stances that the people of the time period took.However, this stands in contrast with the painting, ‘The Last Judgement’. The conflicting ideas presented in the painting stand true to Mannerism and how the people of the time started questioning things and were no longer striving for perfection. A more emotional approach is taken here.
3Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni had, by this time period, made quite a name for himself. He was a venerated artist and sculptor. His ability to render was widely praised (as seen in the Statue of David from 1504. (RICHMAN-ABDOU, 2017: online)
Over 300 figures are located on this masterpiece of contradictory ideas, thus allowing the viewer to ‘take a place’ oon the wall due to the infinite, dynamic figures. It includes each viewer’s fate. (CAMARA, 2015: online) Michelangelo truly captured and reflected the expression of the political unrest and more emotional outlook on life that the people of the time possessed.
In conclusion, the development of ceiling paintings across the world is captivating and will forever remain captivating due to the constant change of the human existence. Pieces of history will always give insight, whilst evidence of the life lived by the people of our time is being created in this time period. The ancient cave paintings, the ancient egyptian paintings, as well as the european ceiling paintings all provide insight into the lives lived of the people who lived in the time.
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