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Sculpture: From Ancient Egypt to Modern Times
Even though sculpture dates back to prehistoric times, Egyptian sculpture is probably the best known. Surprisingly, the Sphinx is not the oldest known Egyptian sculpture.
A raised relief known as the Narmer Palette dates from the 31st century BC. It is shaped in the form of a shield and was carved from a single flat stone, probably used for ceremonial purposes. The palette is double sided and is thought to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by the pharaoh Narmer, thus becoming the first king of a united Egypt.
Other recognizable Egyptian sculptures to follow would be the Great Sphinx of Giza (2500 BC) and statues of the pharaoh Akhenaten and his wife, Nefertiti.
A bust of the famous queen can be seen at the Altes Museum, part of the Staatliche Museum in Berlin, Germany. What I find most amazing is that the original colors are intact, and were not restored. The facial features are seen portrayed in a realistic manner.
Egypt was invaded by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. Coincidentally around the same time, the Greek sculptor Leochares made a bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo. As most Greek bronzes were melted down in later centuries, a Roman copy remains. Carved in white marble, the "Apollo" epitomizes ideal male perfection. Having once stood in the Belvedere, a summerhouse adjacent to the Vatican Palace, it was brought indoors, and now resides at the Vatican Museum in Rome. Many Roman copies of Greek statues would follow.
The story of sculpture proceeds through the 19th century, with Auguste Rodin's "Thinker," another version of the human ideal. Even the Impressionistic artist Edgar Degas would cast a sculpture in bronze of a fourteen year old ballet dancer.
During the twentieth century many great sculptors would emerge. Best known perhaps is Constantin Brancusi and his works "The Kiss" and "Bird in Space." I have seen both in a room designated exclusively to Brancusi at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and found them to be brilliant works of art. A friend who accompanied me said she didn't see the bird in the bronze sculpture. It does take some imagination, but it can be easy to embrace the artist's vision of the "bird" taking flight.
A sculptor I would like to credit for his simplicity is Alberto Giacometti and his figure "Standing Man." One might ask if this is today's version of the ideal human form?
I also admire Fernando Botero for his wonderfully whimsical full-figured bronzes. Although the artist denies that these are "fat" people or animals, he says instead that his intention is to fill the space fully with his artwork. Bravo!
You can own your very own Rodin statue, available here from Amazon.com.
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