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  • Art of Ancient Chinese civilization


                                                       Art of ancient Chinese civilization


    Fragment from Emperor Huanshong painting
    Fragment from Emperor Hongzthong painting

    Art of Ancient Chinese Civilization

    Art of ancient Chinese Civilization is very peculiar, distintive from others because Chinese Civilization is likely one; among most ancient civilizations that have particularly maintained a cultural continuity and philosophical cohesion throughout its history, thanks in part to its geography location that is unique, situated at the end of the Asian continent facing the Pacific Ocean, which allowed them to keep their strong culture pretty much intact, but thanks also to their way of life, which was very intimate keeping their distances from the influences of the outside world across millenniums.

    Even though few of the invaders along Chinese history could have diluted their way of life and Idiosyncrasy by absorbency, the Chinese choose to stick to their traditions and belief firmly, continued their devotion to nature and their ancestors, even when different religious believes were sustained in the country, as well as when invaders forced their violent ways in China.

    Chinese people keep as well their country, reliable on a self-sufficient economic, since traditional customs and artisanal trades knowledge pass from generation to generation among members of the families. Their art productions were a direct reflection of their particular believe and their philosophy of life. Particularly in early times, art also had social and moral functions. Witch the beginnings of the modern world in the XVI century was brought to them as well the effects of a huge wave of events that imposed important changes in the world. Chinese culture was also in certain way influenced by those changes and other internal issues, but this article would concentrate in ancient Chinese period art.

    Up to the Warring States period (475–221 B.C), the artistic representations were produced by anonymous craftsmen for the royal and feudal courts. It is thought that during the Shang and early Zhou periods the production of ritual bronzes was exclusively regulated under the authority of the court in which patrons design features were shared among specialists working in the various media and were remarkably uniform from bronzes to lacquer wares to textiles.


    Chinese Bronze Zhou Dynasty (1046-256).
    Chinese Bronze Zhou Dynasty (1046-256).
    Freer Gallery of Art. W.D.C


    Chinese culture promotes and emphasizes a form of social life in their communities rather than give more importance to the individual lives of human beings, but underlines the importance of the relations between the members of a family or between the individual and their King or Emperor according to the historical period. In their efforts to confront the challenges of everyday life as society get their greatest strength using the gifts from nature and working very hard. Among the typical themes of traditional Chinese art there is no place for war, violence, the nude, death, or martyrdom. Nor is inanimate matter ever painted for art’s sake alone. All traditional Chinese art is symbolic, for everything that is painted reflects some aspect of a totality of which the painter is intuitively aware.Their society was more prone to secularism and respect for nature than devotion to omnipotent gods as it was certainly the trend in Western civilizations.


    Chinese neolitic ceramic from Basham phase.


    So far the history of Chinese civilization has been situated in the Valley of Yellow River in China; between approximately 5,000 to 4,000 BC in the ” Early Neolithic period “. New archaeological findings at Sanxingdui, a small village about 20 miles northeast of Chengdu in Sichuan province have uncovered objects dating from  around 1200 B.C. There were two sacrificial pits containing hundreds of foreign objects never before found buried and hidden for 3,000 years,.

    Among them objects of gold, imposing human heads made in bronze, bronze with unusual shape masks, as well as some tools of stone and jade, showing how these early men already have certain skills that allows them to represent the elements that make up their daily lives such as viticulture, hunting and fishing. There are aspects of social coexistence represented with themes such as banquets and acrobatic shows, as well as its incipient world of mythology and religion. Today the Chinese people are learning much more about their own culture thanks to the multidisciplinary studies that are underway in this vast country in Asian region.


    Sanxingdui sculptures


    The agricultural villages in the Valley of the Yellow River tamed animals, made pots for storing grains and liquids and also produced bronze vessels and effective weapons. People who settled in homes along other rivers like the Yangtze and the Huai developed similarly their life. Artistic objects found in these ancient civilizations of China’s approximately 4,000 BC placed them as one of the cultures most skilled in the creation of beautiful and practical objects.

    The early history of China is traditionally divided into three dynasties:

    – Hsia or Xia (2205-1766 B.C.).

    – Shang (1766-1050 B.C.).

    – Zhou (1050-256 B.C.).

    As I had mentioned before;Chinese culture since ancient times has always been closely identified with nature, in which the rivers and Mountains occupy the center of their attention. Nature was widely represented in their paintings and ceramics decorations, even the buildings were made with shapes that resemble the mountains. Those buildings are focused on the practical use not in its decoration. Chinese architect and craftsmen from ancient times combined the architectural features of the building with its surrounding and integrate them perfectly balanced with nature. The Great Wall of China a renowned architectural wonder made to protect the country along miles and miles was at the top of mountains, taking advantage of a natural geography of a protruding landscape.

    They made gardens with gentle and simple designs with the intention to represent a perfect microcosm where water, plants, flowers and animals are perfectly combined. With this representation of natural elements, the Chinese people wanted to get a balanced integration between man and nature. During the Buddhist and Taoist period this respect, veneration and protection of nature rich a peaks and can be perceived very well in its representations of art in the caves, sanctuaries and decorated objects of everyday life that have been conserved.




    Thematics of artistic expressions, including stories and poems, mainly revolved around nature, rivers, mountains and valleys where mythological creatures with super powers influenced their lives. It is known that in the Shang dynasty period, they believed in the existence of a good and all-powerful dragon that they believed lived in the seas and rivers, and could rise to the heavens. They do not directly worship the gods in ancient times; they demanded justice and favors through their ancestors.

    Legends and stories told at night in discussions around campfires must have helped spur the social and cultural evolution of these first humans, who poured their imagination in to decoration of objects, such as pottery, paintings and weapons. Their imagination was later reflected in their writings symbols and thanks to this the legends and important historical events have come to us.


    Han Xizai
    Two fragments of this large painting.


    Importance of the Chinese’s people calligraphy in their works of art.

    In early times the Chinese paintings were made using a lot of colors and artistically located in them was their calligraphy, once this one was invented, to the point that it prevails over the images represented throughout its history in some stages.

    The calligraphy of China raise the level of their artistic decorations and was perfectly integrated into their pictorial representations, on the embossment of practical bronze vessels, as well as in the grip of weapons, in their beautiful lacquered wood objects, in their colorful textiles of exquisite beauty and even in decorative wood elements that were part of its buildings.

    This form of artistic expression and communication is considering an art that is helping today the better understanding of their plastic works in general and the historical and socio-economic context in which they were created. Skill and expressive quality in the practice of calligraphy and painting helped establish one’s status in a society of learned individuals from the Song dynasty (960–1279) onward.

    Calligraphy was represented in decorations since the days when they only were pictograms, until they become ideograms artistically representing ideas trough symbols. Their calligraphy was unified by imperial decree throughout China by the first emperor Ying Zheng, so even though they were speaking different dialects across the country could understand each other thanks to the writing symbols. He imposed in the country the use of the zhuanshu style as standard writing system, laying thus the basis for the further evolution of Chinese characters. Calligraphy has also led to the development of many forms of art in China, including carved seals, ornate paperweights, flags or banners and other pieces made of stone. All made with a practical function but in which the decorative aspect was also observe.


    color to monotone


    Their representation of nature although very detailed and colorful in early periods as mentioned earlier, dramatically changed along the way to become a painting style with two tones of colors with different shades, although they continue working with high attention to details. This change is related to the school of painting creation by the artist and patron, Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty in the 12th century, which promotes Taoism during his tenure. This is the style of Chinese painting period in which their artistic creations were not based on real scenes, they are more idyllic, yet imaginative and gentle, with very detailed depiction of nature feature, but in which the human figure is no more than a tiny element represented in beautiful and romantic landscapes and integrated seamlessly in it. The calligraphy gets from this point on an important role in the painting.


    The Ancient Chinese people art and their religious belief representation.

    For the ancient Chinese was always very important show respect to their ancestors, probably to the same level as other cultures worshipped their gods. They performed the Oracle divination by reading the bones. Remains of those pertaining to the Shang dynasty have been found in which can be perceive they valued bronze material more than gold. On the bronze vessels, the Shang King offered wine as a tribute to their gods and honored their ancestors. The bronze also was used in domestic tasks developing vessels to contain wine and water, although its high content of lead may had been harmful to their health.

    Religion was associated with the cosmology in ancient Chinese culture, the movements of the planets and stars were represented in Shang dynasty (1766-1050 B.C.); showing their acute observation capacity and proverbial patience when they use this knowledge to their advantage in agriculture. They represented in art this knowledge, leaving proof of this in pottery with decorations of stars and Zodiac symbols.


    bronze wine continers


    Shang bronze


    Inventions attributed to Chinese civilization related to art.


    Many are the inventions attributed to the Chinese people in ancient times that are directly related to their art, and those are the one about to talk in this article. They were known for keep the secrets of their skills in each trade well protected for millenniums in with no foreigner could obtain them. Many inventions related to the art in China were invented hundreds and even thousands of years before the Western civilizations. The invention of a method to print with ink over paper made from rice paste was one of the most significance.

    Noteworthy was also the elaboration of beautiful ceramics with practical use, but when the porcelain was discovered, were famous for their perfection in its design and detailed decoration. They kept for centuries for themselves the secret of how to do porcelain vessels. For the Chinese, it was not only an economic issue, but also a way to honor family traditions.


    Sung Dynasty ceramic



    Its artisan tradition, with attention to detail and hard work turned their developed objects into exquisite works of art. As soon as the products of this ancient Chinese culture are known in Western civilization have high demand, mainly for its high quality, plus an aura of mysticism about the unknown Eastern civilization that captivated immediately the imagination and desire of upper class in the West to own so wonderful and exotic goods.

    The secret of making porcelain for example was protected by the Chinese authorities with the death penalty to those who dared to reveal it, even it was forbidden for the foreign dealer visit the interior of China and only in specific commercial places designated near the coast they could obtain the goods. They have always been cautious about the commercialization of their products tending to rather be economically self-sufficient, but they had to adapt to new economic necessities’ to increase its monetary flow due to the growth of the population, creating specific products to export in line to the Western taste.


    porcelain and jade


    Equally protected was the method for the production of silk fabrics which was discovered in China 5000 years ago. The famous Silk Road was developed by Western countries to obtain coveted merchandise, its soft and light texture reached high appreciation and demand that were compared with the value of gold and even magical attributes were also conferred to the silk. It is well known that the Roman Empire citizens did care so much for this fabulous fabric and imported such huge amount that textiles trade protection laws was decreed by the Roman authorities.

    Chinese were masters in the use of wood for construction, furniture and artistic decorations.

    In China the elaboration of various wooden objects becomes also a trade which passes from father to son for generations; as other trades did. Bamboo and precious wood objects were developed for centuries by them with practical use and detailed decoration, some with very difficult intricate designs, among them hand fans, jewelers boxes, containers for incense, as well as diverse architectural elements such as doors and windows in which not a single nail is used, but putting instead overlapping wood pieces with a pretty clever technique that has tested for centuries the efficiency of their innovative constructive skills using wood.


    Hand fans


    In Chinese art is often used lacquer; a clear layer of the SAP of the trees used to add beauty and luster to objects made of wood which protects them from insects and the deterioration of climate. The western culture try to imitate in different ways the incredible finish the Chinese provide to their artistic objects some of which had up to sixteen layers of the lacquer. Lot of time, try and error efforts had to be endure by the western artisan’s until they found some decent approach using different techniques that offered a look alike lacked itch effect in their pieces. Although they had certain demand were very expensive due to the hard work and time consuming task that their technique require.



    Laque wood


    The ancient Chinese Folding Screens.

    Highlighted among the furniture produced by the Chinese art are the folding screens. The Chinese people have known them as ‘pingfeng’ meaning in Chinese language “to protect from the wind”. It is known the existence of these panels or folding screens from the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).This screens were very popular through the years and found in palaces and mansions of kingship both in China and European courts, where they used them to divide rooms and for privacy. These folding wooden lacquered panels are combined often with paintings on paper and are true masterpieces showing the screens mostly secular content where dragons, birds, colorful peacocks and landscapes support the illustration of Chinese boundless imagination.

    There are a variety of types of screen, to be the principal which have vertical and folding screens, although very few of the older ones are preserved. They have been used extensively throughout history and were made as well in other countries over time, following the traditional Chinese mode.




    Their amazing ability to create beautiful carved ivory objects is also proverbial. These objects have a wide range of different use with elaborate designs that show scenes of hunting, military confrontations and the courtly life. This illustrations help us to understand the life of these ancient men, their philosophy of life, love for nature and its conflicts as a society.


    Ivory and bone


    Development of carved jade figurines is another artistic manifestation where Chinese artisans shine since ancient times. This material was also used in jewels, boxes and formidable decorative containers intended for religious purposes, many have secular content and practical use and is truly remarkable the quality and beauty reached because this material is very hard and difficult to carve.




    The aesthetics of line in calligraphy and painting have had a significant influence on the other arts in China. There are many artistic manifestations in which Chinese ancient culture excel, among them its painting really protrude, with the distinctive way to represent nature perfectly balanced with human life and using calligraphy in them, as well as by combining delicate and poetic typical expression of popular Chinese traditions and legends in their work with clever technique and inventions and applying them to painting, architecture, sculpture, pottery and textiles. This was possible thanks to the imagination and hard work of the unknown craftsmen first and to more intellectually developed artists latter since the creation of the school of painting that produced true masterpieces, many of which have been preserved despite the effects of wars, weather, and religious clashes.


    Chinese Hanguing scrool



  • Gothic Art Architecture





    Gothic Art Architecture


    The architecture was the first manifestation of artistic development in Gothic art and it has a wealth of forms and accentuated ornamental variety that intensifies gradually coming to cover the external walls of these buildings with beautiful decorations. Sculptures with religious themes, vegetal and geometric motives join gargoyles, canopies and beasts like figures of fearful aspect in its pinnacles and flying buttresses. Sculptures and reliefs that are placed by thousands in the outer part of the cathedrals look more realistic, moving away from the symbolism of the Romanesque era.

    The Gothic Cathedral is the main building during this long period in the middle ages, representative of the ideals of the new bourgeoisie and its most refined tastes. This architecture is monumental, is constantly seeking to extend its structures as high as possible, thanks to new techniques to lighten the walls allowing out magnificent upward constructions carried out with voluntary labor and the contribution of craftsmen guilds.

    This search for closeness to God and his heavenly kingdom justify the unbridled search for elevation for which displayed a remarkable number of innovative construction techniques and masterful display of engineering and mathematical knowledge. Regions compete for having the highest Cathedral and this leads to a constant challenge in the search for technical solutions that make possible such audacity.

    European Ghotic Cathedrals

    New religious tendency make light a leading element, for them light represents God and the more iluminated were those enclosures more effective communication with God, therefore the spatial conception of these cathedrals focuses on the effective use of the light coming from the outside. Also pay attention to the architectural space designed to properly locate luminaries, chandeliers and any other element of lighting where daylight does not get there or during hours when it was not available.

    In the large openings at the front of Cathedral were placed an enormous amount of stained glass containing historical narrations about the martyrs of faith with colorful decorations through were plenty of natural light filled the spaces. Among these amazing decorations are beautiful circular rosettes also in glass with both religious scenes as with ornamental forms placed radial from a prominent center usually on the main façade and the arms of the transept (the transversal gathering large room that crosses the big salon in the churches).


    Gothic circular glass rosettes


    In the Gothic style the capitals lose its importance within the framework of the building instead of sum importance are the Baquetoneado a type of rounded molding that looks like a stem of a plant that is vertically row-shaped one with the other forming the support column. Although the Baquetoneado process do not reinforce the column as such properly from the structural point of view, if helps give visual unity to the space of the Gothic building and mark the lines of force that guide the displacement of the tensions of the dome to the ground. In these columns is where rest the nerves of the vaulted naves. These columns with ramrods are known also by fasciculate pillar having different decorative variations.



    Main construction elements of Gothic art:


    The pointed arch It is much more effective in the transmission of weights than the round arches used in Romanesque buildings.

    The ribbed dome or ogival whose support lies in the fasciculate pillars. They endure only vertical forces. The vaults are evolving from the quadripartite or ribbed, the sexpartitas, (six nerves) and the starry ribbed form.

    The flying buttresses: Are elements of lateral push that complement the resistance of the structural pressures allowing a lighter wall and build higher.

    The buttresses: Structural support element attached on the outside of the walls to lighten the weight of these ones.




    Topics and main motives used in buildings decoration on Gothic architecture.


    1 –Of tracery. (Ornamental decorative lines of branched that support the work in windows) Among them are:

    (a)Geometric motives.

    (b) Clovers and flamboyant designs.


    2 –The naturalist topics that include:

    (a)Designs with vegetable motifs.

    (b)Which represent animals and mythical beasts.

    (c)Representations of the human figure.



    Gothic pointed arch & ribbed dome


    In these lavish Gothic cathedrals altarpieces takes place an evolution in the front of the altar dominated mostly for decorations relating to the last supper, sacred stories to the martyrdom of Jesus on the cross and the descent from the same. It occur a widening proliferation of sculptures to decorate the architectural spaces, both indoor and outdoor. Sculptures are placed in the flying buttresses and prominent pointed structures, some looking beast like forms. Outstanding carved works in choirs have a profuse decorative style done with masterful skill and quality.


    Gothic Gargolas


    Main changes in Gothic decorative elements and the sculptures locations.

    -The eardrum in this new style is pointed and they are divided into strips or bands.

    -The archivolts are longitudinally as opposed to the previous Romanesque style in which were vertically.

    -The jambs are also sculptures with canopies of Gothic tracery.

    -In the transept are located sculptures under the canopy.

    -The Gables (a triangular ornamental wall, built on an arch with very acute form) underlined the verticality of the set.

    The plant and the uprising of the Gothic buildings:

    -The plants of Latin cross are maintained on these monumental cathedrals with three or five Naves with the transept highlighted.

    -They have ambulatory with to hall and radial chapels.




    -In the uprising are made present galleries and clerestories placing on them the clerestory (which is the level where the large windows are). This is the top point on the side walls and gradually occupying more and more space over time as they are becoming higher buildings.

    -The facades have capitals that are large towers topped with needles. (These capitals resemble lace due to the draught that is abundant in stone decoration). They emphasize the height of the building on the outside.




    In the Gothic period sculptures are gradually released from its architectural framework and changes occur in the gestural treatment and in the representation of the characters that are symbolized. In the eardrums of the facades are reliefs and sculptures with the theme of Christ risen and triumphant, the Marian theme and scenes from the old and New Testament.

    During the stage of the so-called Gothic Classic, through the Court of Fernando III French influence is reflected in the cathedrals of Burgos, Toledo and Leon. But it should be noted that the Spanish cathedrals were not parochial copies of the French models, and in them can be perceived architectural and decorative features of the Hispanic culture, as they were Muslin elements from the time of Arab domination.

    In the 14th century the greatest architectural progress occurred in Catalonia and Levant, with examples like the cathedrals of Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and Gerona. In this area it is adapted to the propositions and foundations of the South of France, by what has been called Mediterranean Gothic.

    The unique features of English style include structures with extreme length and height that incorporated very elaborate desings but really beautiful . Additionally, those buildings moved away from large, bulky structures to more elegant, thin and refined works. Ornamentation and decoration both internally and externally utilized carvings and detailed capitals. The “Perpendicular Style” is unique to England and cannot be found in other European countries. It developed after the “Decorated Style” and marked the last era of Gothic Architecture in England. All this elements are very important because they made possible the way to Renaissance style in the 16th and 17th century.

    In German Cathedrals the moldings used were simple and basic no so elaborated like they were made for example in England. The most internal distinctive feature of German Gothic design was the great height of the triforium, a shallow gallery of arches within the thickness of inner wall, which stands above the nave. Although buildings in Germany possess many structures pretty much standars or specific to Gothic Architecture, quite amount of then possess a distinct national character that is not found in other European countries.
    German designers experimented with geometrical figures and lines, which mostly translated into elaborate tracery for windows and paneling.


    cologne cathedral


    Civilian Buildings in Gothic architecture


    Although preeminent the religious architecture; civilian buildings have also become important in Gothic period as for example private residences and the palatial type. Improvements in the quality of life are introduced in these buildings which although not characterized by the pursuit of height as in cathedrals, if stand by the richness, comfort and abundant decoration on the outside in many of them. Corridors with sequence of ogival arches between the thin columns and decorated capitals are placed both outside and inside the buildings.


    Gothic civil architecture


    These edifices of a civil nature and the one dedicated to the Administration and political centers reflect plant and Freehand designs typical of the architecture in the Gothic art but also respond to local regions specifications where they were built so; a great architectural variety it is observed across Europe. As example are those carried out for housing of the bourgeoisie and the upper class as well as major universities where now is studying also the culture and art outside of the churches.

    In Italy they acquire huge practical importance as a meeting place congregation and business centre, adapting to urban conditions and away from the militarization of medieval castles. Among these buildings in Italy are the communal Palace of Siena and the Vecchio palace of the Signoria in Florence. Highly for its beauty and local adaptability the ones located in Venice are very important as well.

    In Spain the civil buildings during the greater part of the Gothic and the high Gothic remain faithful to the French models but develop decorative elements of Arab influence, (Mudéjar) which led to the formation of local stylistic variants . Significantly in Valencia are The Silk Exchange, the Palace of Generalitat in Valencia and the Palace of the Borja family. The Civil Gothic building in Catalonia shows its splendor in the Palace Mayor Real of Barcelona, the Palace of the Generalitat of Catalonia and the Santa Cruz of Barcelona Hospital.

    In the Gothic period not all the cathedrals made in this style were decorated with rich elements  because this factor of monumental construction seeking high was not present in order consagrated to poverty. Therefore are differences in the level of decorative elements among the cathedrals of the order of Cluny and the Cistercian monasteries since the latter reflected an austere art corresponding to the ideals that advocates the Cistercian Order for instance:

    The CISTERCIAN Orders simplifies some elements

    1. Only have two floors
    2. The stained glass windows are not colored.
    3. They have no triforium.
    4. The capitals are cubic and without decoration.
    5. The transept and the apse are not deep.
    6. the utilitarian dependencies are separated from the main building.


    Ghotic Monasterie Santes Creus. Cistercian order. Auster Art that correspond with the idea of poverty of the order.





    Gothic art



    Gothic European art

     The Gothic art derived from Romanesque art and introduces new ideas, techniques and above all a new way of Christian thought which drive would give the necessary introductory step to the Renaissance. The increase of commercial activities occurring in the period corresponding to the late Middle Ages, coupled with the growth and development of cities, the gradual emergence of the bourgeoisie and a large number of new religious orders, conducive conditions to make it possible as artistic style.

    The Gothic art was initially developed as a different style of architecture in the North of France to the year 1140 and continued evolving and spreading to the rest of Europe after incorporating other means of artistic expression such as sculpture, stained glass, fresco and illuminated manuscripts. The realization of painting on wooden boards or panels is not incorporated to the new style until approximately the year 1200 (around 50 years after this phenomenon came about in architecture and sculpture).

    The solidification of important elements for their creation won nevertheless against the initial rejection faced and the critics by the Renaissance authors further in time who stigmatized the new style as a threat and artistic debacle of the traditions and values of classicism as they perceived in their rigid eyes and believes. Furthermore the Gothic term was used pejoratively by their opposite’s as a synonym for barbarians as they usually referred to the Goths. Although of course this art nothing has to do with the art of the Goths. The artist and Italian writer Giorgio Vasari popularized the term; and use it as early as the year 1530. This style was severely criticized until it was finally recognized as an art form.




    As we mentioned its beginnings dating back to when the choir of the Abbey of Saint Denis was constructed, work in which already are highlighted elements of the Gothic although their promoters do not called with that name. They also highlight these new elements in the reconstruction works of the Cathedral of Chartres after the fire, carrying out for a long period of time the reconstruction work using the Gothic style. It is an interesting example of how was introduced it, in this case on the basis of a cathedral which was originally Romanesque.

    There are distinctive elements in the realization of the works done in this style in every country in Europe, even local variations within them were adopted, but nevertheless can be perceive unifying elements with maintain the essential traits that represent it at the general level especially in religious art.

    Gothic architecture  art is magnificently expressed in all kinds of civil, military or religious building, private houses and palaces where luxury and proliferates decoration predominate above the intention to achieve height like the cathedrals did and is granted special attention to the construction of public buildings, castles, bridges, fortresses and churches.


    civil architect


    In reality, the highest value of these centuries work was the Cathedral, which possess in the Gothic period urban character in contrast to the Romanesque churches that were made mainly in rural areas. Only can one imagine the amazement of villagers whose majority lived in huts; shock by the glittering decorations and sculptures made in white and polished stone, the feeling of humility that must have they experienced front monumental height and daunting appearance of these buildings.


    Gothic architec


    The constructive elements essential in Gothic architecture are:

    -The pointed arch.

    -The Gothic ribbed Vault.

    – Flying Buttress.

    This extraordinary architecture never ceases to astonish those who contemplate it for being dynamic balanced and dominate in the vertical line, which produces an impression of upward propulsion, accentuated by the acute forms of the arches and the abundance of sharp elements. These buildings reach heights of vertigo in its search for approaching God. The Gothic towers ending in pointed conic geometric bodies; like if they were elaborate lace in stone seems to defy the laws of physics in some regions.




    Chief Architect in whose charge was the synchronization of all the constructive aspects straitened to maximize the possibilities of new techniques that put into action what it was a formidable feat of engineering ability. He coordinated the work of craftsmen; that already then had settled in cities and perfected the trades. Their professional knowledge was passed from families to their descendants’ for generations, putting their skills to the service of these construction works for which were highly appreciated; even sometimes exempt from taxes while they were working in the buildings.

    The narratives stained glass huge and plentiful that replaced the decoration made in frescoes at the extensive walls in Romanesque churches, now take a leading role thanks to the possibilities to disseminate the message of faith more effectively from the light which penetrates through them. The stained-glass windows produce an hypnotic feeling in the filigrees, the light gives the mystical atmosphere sought to achieve by artists, instructed by the clergy; who was the one to commissioned those stained glass windows that become an impressive homage to the light; the real essential protagonist through which they tried to approach God.


    Stained glass Cologne


    This is one of the most notable features of the Gothic and the one for which is credited and difference. In the realization of them collaborated financially rich and poor, each Guild felt honored to be represented in these Church stained glass windows been represented all the trades; Masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, bakers, weavers, merchants, glassmakers and even the prostitutes.

    Among the best examples of stained glass windows are those that are performed in the Cathedral of Chartres, the Cathedral of Notre – Dame de Amiens, Notre-Dame de Paris, Saint Denis and the stained glass windows of the chapel of Sainte-Chapelle; made to decorate the place where was placed the Crown of thorns; one of the relics more idolatrize in an age whose religion reveres and represents in their works of art the martyrdom of Jesus and the descent from the cross as a highly of the Christian sacrifice. The English cathedrals with their over the top and abundant elaborate designs are not left behind. But also the Germans produced exquisite and very particular works that leave the audience stunned to such a construction achievement.

    Painting on board in Gothic period appears from the fourteenth century, consisting of small portable altars and altarpieces, formed by one or several panels. They try religious themes, with great finesse of detail in the human figure, but no intension of depth. The painters strive to reproduce the naturalness of movements and gestures with accuracy; a bit exaggerated to the dramatic side though, looking to show piety, humility, stoicism as well as other gestures and postures that help promote the religious message. It was not important the spatial proportions sense, neither is the perspective entirely realistic as long as it was understood. The most beautiful of these Gothic tables is their colorful look, glowing with intensity. The figures clearly established categories among the characters represented by the size in which they are drawn.


    painting on board


    Gothic sculpturemaintains the character of propaganda of the faith as they did in the Romanesque period. Craftsmen and artists represent though progressively virgins, Saints and angels with more expressivity, dynamism and volume noticeably differentiating them from the Romanesque predecessor sculptors.


    Gothic sculptures


    There are also represented Kings, prophets and allegorical figures that fill the interior and exterior of the building, topped by pinnacles, covering the friezes and the archivolts, tympana and all possible spaces to which the figures were added in perfect harmony with the space they occupy. To give idea of the magnitude that reached the sculptural decoration, just know that the decoration of the Cathedral of Chartres in France has more than 8,000 figures.




    The illuminated manuscripts in Gothic period reached a master and Supreme beauty, many of them despite representing numerous elements at a time in the scenes throughout; manage to reflect the message with ingenious simplicity based on the use of color and the detail of the figures so that it can be understood by those who are aimed; many of them couldn’t read since only a privileged few learned.


    Gothic Manuscript


    Although initially the manuscripts were only made by monks, artists and people who dominated the technique join the artistic realization latter and were paid by completing these types of works, among them were women. To these paintings in manuscripts are added gold pigments that make them shine, that’s why the name of “enlightened”. Frequently letters or texts were combined with drawings to best contribute to its understanding and differ from the Romanesque manuscripts in the better management of the detail of the figures showing that these artists had knowledge about the anatomy of animals and men that was lacked by their predecessor.

    The Gothic European art that included a vast period is established and develops over four centuries, come into being important to the civil architecture and free the other art manifestations of their subordination to the architecture. Gothic artists use the “Transfigured light” of stained glass as a key element, which virtually dissolve the building material elements, getting the viewer in to experience mystical feelings of elevation and weightlessness. This style gave way with his novel perspective of creation and technical skills to the Renaissance period.


    Coming soon will be addressed in other articles more detail concerning the architecture, painting and sculpture.


  • Roman’s reliefs sculpture.

    R Relief



    Roman’s reliefs sculpture.


    Chronicle and narrative style tendency in Roman’s reliefs.

    Rome became the center of great empire who bind different cultures under its military power and cultural influence, so in consequence also applied the relief technique in their conquered territories in the same way that anonymous craftsmen did in Rome to decorate architectural monuments, commemorative columns and funerary pantheons walls as well as sarcophagus and the famous Arches of triumph . They are like Roman historical accounts made in stone, containing significant information on many aspects relating to the social, religious, political, military, cultural and economic life of this city and the regions they conquered.

    Can be said that “Relief Sculptures” are a creation resulted from the combination of two-dimensional pictographic arts and the three-dimensional sculptural arts. Accordingly a relief, dependent of a background surface and is extended with the combination of protuberances and deep carving in order to be visible.

    A relief also has a degree of real three-dimensionality, just like a proper sculpture. Roman artisans’ made a very good use of this technique when chronics and honoring representations were needed.


    naval batle


    Although mainly Roman’s chronic reliefs were carried out in order to decorate the walls of monuments and sarcophaguses, they meticulously captured as well important historical and commemorative dealings in Roman’s daily lives.

    Through stories narrated with vivid realism and detail, important figures of the government and their families are portrayed in scenes that are sore of visual rendering in stone or marble of them as well as other ordinary citizenso who are held at a certain moment of the action or event that was perpetuated.


    Some of the relief decoration technique advantages over the sculptures are:


    –           A relief sculpture can represent a far wider range of subjects than a statue because of its economy of resources allowing a better understanding of the messages.

    –          Because is attached to its background surface, problems of weight and physical balance are not a concern – unlike in statues and other freestanding sculptures where weight and balance can be critical.

    –          Also because reliefs are carved directly onto walls, portals, ceilings, columns, floors and other flat surfaces, they are ideally appropriate to architectural projects decorations.


    Myth of Medea


    The Roman sculpture during the first century of our era takes place away from the idealism and produced a series of important plastic works on a large scale, such as the arches of Titus and Trajan, columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius; whose relief are very well know for been true realistic masterpieces.


    Trajan column



    Key elements in the chronic relief in Roman sculpture:


    -Care in the representation of natural fall of the folds can be seen.

    -Serene expressions of faces and  attitude of the portrayed.

    -Gestures and postures strengthen communication with the viewer depending on the scene and purpose they want to achieve.

    -Legs and arms as well as the direction of the head support the representation of the dynamics of the scene for example: those who are advancing in the procession, speaking or reaching something.

    -They provide visual aspects of their clothing, rituals, social status, gods they revere, mythological heroes, musical instruments and other elements.

    -These reliefs added the didactic and narrative function to the decorative.

    – They also were made for practical use of decoration, tribute, memorial, banality or personal ambition.

    -They are anonymous, made by different sculptors of stone and marble whose craftsmanship is commissioned by the customer for what guidelines and specific requirements were followed.

    -The ductility of the stone allowed these artists to print in stone important moments in history that have been left for posterity thanks to its durability.

    -They use the perspective in reliefs with the intention of depth.


    Sidamara Sarcophagus


    The admiration of the Roman upper classes towards the Hellenistic art and the fact that many Greek sculptors were working in Rome supported the influence of the Greek plastic in the Italian Peninsula. This one was considered a model of beauty and copies of Hellenistic pieces proliferated thanks to what was possible to see the work of classical artists in Rome and be also appreciating for posterity.


    Sarcophagus scenes


    Those reliefs show interest in represent important events, heroic epics, staging with mythological figures and gods and were perfect related with the pride of the Romans as a nation, its power and the need to use any means possible to actually perform the work of propaganda that supported the actions of conquest, domination and subjugation of numerous nations and cultures.


    Antonino Pius column


    Therefore every detail of the scenes has been planned with a thorough preliminary dissertation; nothing is left to chance; resulting in a very natural and realistic work even so nothing has been improvised. Every gesture, character and size of the scene in relation to the whole responds to a carefully calculated project.

    For Roman’s, was important to represent realism in their works of art because for them the sculptor missions is not only represent beauty and pleasant features, but also represent nature and reality as good as the stone work carvings technique made it possible. Against the classical Greek abstraction preference for perfect characters, the Romans favorite to represents real-life people, portraying them with their personal characteristics, even if they were not precisely good looking.


    thematics relief



    Reliefs were done not only to communicate a message to society through an excellent propaganda, but also to honor their gods. They were as well consequently a vehicle of communication between divinities and worshipers. Have divinities made in stone ensured that those religious offerings would last eternally,  with the height quality of what in their eyes these divinities deserved. The same desire of everlasting respects and honoring to their love one applies at the sarcophagus decorations.


    Ara Pasis Augustae


    Through these “relief- chronic” in Rome they obtein the main purpose of communication, handling carefully each of the artistic elements that need to be represented, even thoug they are subordinated to the principles of the narrative in plastic media  did not failed in their task to represent the personal imprint of the nation and propagandistic purposes of the Empire as well.




  • Babylonian King Hammurabi’s code of laws.

    Hammurabi Babilonian ruler 1792-1750
    Relief representing Babylonian king Hammurabi


    Babylonian King Hammurabi’s code of laws.


    In 1902 French explorers discovered a stone of black diorite in the city of Susa in which were record the laws promulgated by King Hammurabi, King of Babylon, 2285-2242 BC. These so-called “laws” were somewhat personal determinations that the King promulgated as regards as justice and how should be provided in his Kingdom. He made sure however that what was stipulated therein were fulfilled and even terrible curses by his orders were also written for all those who would dare to change them or do not comply with them.

    Despite these superstitious curses the laws were not preserved in their original entirety length; since in a remote past were erased approximately 34 sections of the stone. Not because they have been objected but as result of the column of black diorite fallen into the hands of a monarch who lived many years after the Hammurabi’s reign was over. He took the stone cylinder as a trophy of conquest and deliberately deleted those 34 sections from the base in the front to record therein his name when he move the column from Babylon to Susa where was later found.




    The code of Hammurabi has an amazing property and that is the ability to be understood, its wisdom and understanding of human behavior; which is show clearly troughs the sections of the code destined to address the most important domestic aspects in the daily live of Babylon’s city people. It is not a surprise that many of its provisions are in force in the current legal system because they were foreseeing many of the possible situations that in general can occur in the individual’s social or private life.

     Hammurabi says that he received this laws from Samash; the Sun God. That milestone moment is represented in a relief at the top of the black cylinder stone. Those laws are written in a way that attracts the attention of who reads them, rather unusual in comparison to the way in which were traditionally written in Mesopotamia cuneiform clay tablets; since these are commonly read in linear horizontally from left to right.


    Samash giving to Hammurabi the code of laws.


    The code of Hammurabi is however written in the style of writing that was only used in sculptures and inscriptions with formal or solemn character. These laws made in a simplified style called ancient Babylon italics are written in short columns that are read from the top down; as you read the Chinese writing and they were written in the back and part of the front of the stone pillar in cuneiform writing hieroglyphs. These laws were divided into sections, each of which explains a trial that corresponds with a general law.

    Although it was not the intrinsic purpose which they were written; however reveal important information for us today in relation to agriculture, society and its habits, trade, sex, politics, military life, inheritance, adoptions, the law over the private property rights as well as other aspects of the private life of citizens. This Babylonian code was predecessor in time to the short code of the exodus.

    It is noteworthy that the criminal law section is rather brief since most of them correspond to aspects of civil law. The separation between civil and criminal law does not have a scientifically planned division demonstrating the spontaneity with which they were written. They contain principles in general about what is today considered jurisprudence, particularly; criminalization as a result to inflict harm or damage to others and the right for the affected part to be paid in retribution for the damages the other part cause.

    While in many ways according to our modern vision of law, seeking justice they will reach extreme measurements as the famous law that stipulates eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand and foot for a foot this laws accomplished to control and prevent the improper behaviors using an organize written form that establish the consequences of defiant them.


    black diorite colum


    In those consequences can be mention; death by impalement, drowning and mutilations as retribution for the offense. Many of these laws that are so harsh and extreme as we would say today; come from accounts of exemplary punishments that correspond to former times previous to the time that the laws of Hammurabi were written and which correspond to stages more primitive or uncivilized, but perfectly in accordance with the hardness that it was traditionally dealt in the Mesopotamian region. Not that they were not applied in Hammurabi’s time though in all the rigor when was needed.


    Although it does not appear to us that those laws contained in this Babylonian code are precisely mild, in some aspects; compared to the laws of other civilizations and cultures in different periods of mankind history and how they determined the punishment or justice applied to offenders, this Hammurabi’s laws are pretty mild indeed.

    Curiously are absent from these Babylonian laws references about the theological or ceremonial aspects. This omission seems to indicate that there was a separation of the canonical laws from the State, we can infer that unlike laws in cultures and periods with monotheist religion; who successively develop in history and penalized with death to its citizens with religious differences, at less many Babylonians preserved their life thanks to the religious aspect not be contemplated in Babylon laws.

    Hammurabi achieve in his quest from so remote time though give form to a code of law that gaze crucial aspects that are today contained as well in the modern laws of many countries. This advanced thinking that systematizes and governed by a written code to imposed justice and behavior of the citizens, reveals a high level in the development of this civilization and Hammurabi as a precursor for the establishment of these laws which he organized by intuition, personal experiences, the ones of his predecessors and his own conception about the right and wrong.



    – Hammurabi Code and the Sinaitic Legislation W… (Paperback) by Chilperic Edwards. Watts & co. printers. London.

    – Jenkins Owen B. The Code of Hammurabi compare with American law. Library of the University of Michigan. Law school. Gaylord Bros. Makers. Syracuse. N.Y.1908. Digitized copy by Google.