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Different cultures depict the human figure in various ways. For example, the cultures may stress a body part that they feel is particularly significant spiritually or to the human health. Two works, Menkaure and His Queen and the Moai in Easter Island clearly demonstrate this idea. Both have their own unique ways of depicting the human figure that reveal important information about their cultures.
In King Menkaure and His Queen, the anatomy is both the main tool and the most effective tool in conveying the message of the work. The legs are attached to the front of the throne, making the figures seem more permanent and solid. They have very rigid poses and they stare out into space. Their rigid poses represent strength and balance, and their facial expressions show that they do not feel threatened or worried about any threats to their power. As far as how the human anatomy is depicted, they are both heavily idealized. They both have very powerful, youthful figures. King Menkaure’s broad shoulders, powerful physique, and balanced stride symbolize his kingship and powerful. His body is straight, strong, and eternally youthful with no signs of age. His facial features are remarkably individualized with prominent eyes, a fleshy nose, rounded cheeks, and full mouth with protruding lower lip. He also has an artificial beard which was considered a sign of royalty in ancient Egypt. Menkaure’s queen provides the perfect female counterpart to his youthful masculine virility. Her body is perfectly proportioned and she has an affectionate, motherly pose. The king is very masculine and the queen is very feminine, showing that they have a remarkable individuality. Both King Menkaure and his Queen are about the same height, representing their equality. Therefore, this work even reveals the gender roles present in ancient Egypt, especially in the ruling class.
The depiction of the two figures in the work show what features were considered beautiful and what values were stressed in ancient Egypt. The fact that they both had powerful physiques and rigid poses shows that power was respected a great deal. The facial features that both the king and queen had were probably those considered most beautiful at the time, even if they do not match up with the reality of how they looked. The king’s beard shows that facial hair was seen as a sign of royalty and that there were many accessories and modes of dress that came with being royalty. Some aspects of how the human figure, such as their poses and facial features, had a very heavy influence on Greek art in the years to come, especially early ancient Greek art.
The Moai is part of a series of depictions of the human figure on Easter Island, called Rapa Nui by its inhabitants. The moai were carved to commemorate the ancestors of the inhabitants of Easter Island. Hoa Hakananai’a’s head is slightly tilted back in a thoughtful pose. He has a prominent eyebrow ridge shadowing the empty sockets of his eyes. His nose is long and straight, ending in large oval nostrils. His thin lips are set into a downward curve, giving this face a stern, uncompromising expression. A faint vertical line in low relief runs from the center of his mouth to his chin. His jawline is well defined and massive, and his ears are long, beginning at the top of the head and ending with pendulous lobes. His collarbone is emphasized by a curved indentation, and his chest is defined by carved lines that run downwards from the top of his arms. The arms are held close against the side of the body. His nipples are small, rudimentary bumps. The figure’s back has carvings that are supposed to be related the birdman cult, which started on the island at a later date and was added after the statue was created.
The Moai came at a time of conflict and unsureness for the inhabitants of Easter Island. Therefore, they carved a statue with very strong features to resist the conflict and famine. The carvings of the birdman cult indicate a ceremony for strength and fertility, which the pose and figure of the statue clearly represent. As well as this, the statue shows the culture’s reverence for ancestors and how they were called on for strength. In the time of European intervention, the statue was particularly significant.
Both of these figures are extremely culturally significant. They show how the cultures they represent valued strength and what proportions they thought were beautiful. They clearly show a mastery of the principles of art and how the human body can be represented to show things that rise above everyday life.
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