ANALYSIS OF CINERARIUM WITH LID
ANALYSISOF CINERARIUMWITH LID
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Artisticworks are ancient forms of communication. As such, they reflectculture, identity, and the zeitgeist attitudes of the period in whichthey are situated. Apart from that, art is used to express feelings,sensuality, and as decorations or just for art’s sake. Museumrepresentations of these creations try to represent such elements ina manner that retains their beauty and relevance. For example, theGetty Museum uses colour and contrast to attract attention to thepieces. In this way, the gray artifact entitled Cinerariumwith Lidis strategically placed against a red wall and mounted on a blackplatform with accompanying inscriptions explaining the details of therelic. Primarily, the following essay analyses the artist’s use ofvisual arts elements, including shape, line, form, texture, space,and value in the decorative relief sculptures on the cineraria tocreate the three-dimension and realism in line with the socialfunction of the artifact in honoring the dead.
Inthe first place, the Cinerariumwith Lid isusing marble. According to the inscription, it is 42 × 45 × 39.5 cmin size and dates back to 20-40 AD. Notably, the lid of the chest istriangular with inwardly curling ends that form cylindrical shapeswith flowers in them. Generally, the sculpture has a coarse texturedue to the rough edges and carvings as well as the gray pigmentationson the overall gray piece. On the front of the chest is aforegrounded rectangular blank panel. According to the inscriptionson the platform upon which the artwork is mounted, the relic was usedby the Romans to hold ashes of the dead.1Therefore, space is meant to accommodate the name and age of thedeceased whose ash remains the vessel holds.2At the museum, the piece is placed on a black pedestal against a redwall. Consequently, it can only be observed from three angles.However, the artistic relief sculptured decorations on the object arebetter viewed the front and sides, and they contribute to thecreation’s authenticity.
Oneof the noteworthy aspects of the Cinerariumwith Lid isthe three-dimensionality of the decorative carvings on the urn thatadd a sense of realism. Obviously, the artifact itself is in 3Dformat and is very representational as is characteristic of Roman artantiquities.3In this manner, it looks exactly like a chest or storage device.Similarly, the relief sculptural decorations, carved from thevessel’s surface on a two-dimensional plane, project the illusionof reality. For example, the leaves and birds are exact imitations ofnature. Such depth is achieved through the elevation of the plantsand animals above the chest’s panel as well as the application ofform and space.
Moreover,the artist creates depth in Cinerariumwith Lidby using geometric and organic shapes. For example, the chest is madeup of rectangles while the lid consists of triangular contours. Inaddition, the artifact displays irregular shapes on the leaves andflowers. In this manner, the sculptor is able to replicate the freeflowing and asymmetrical characteristics of nature.4 Notably, the shapes of the plants are emphasized by the use ofcurved lines which generate value, further enhancing the practicalnature of the objects, and by extension, the general artistic piece.5Besides, the horizontal and vertical outlines that form the geometricshapes create a linear perspective which is useful in projectingdepth.
Asidefrom the shapes, realism in the artifact is achieved through the useof space. Mainly, the sculptural element refers to the setting or theplace where art is displayed.6As such, it also includes the surrounding area, in this case, theposition of the Cinerariumwith Lid inthe museum. Concerning the positive space, the artist achievesbalance in the sculpture since in every panel there is a centralimage that is framed by the leaves. In the front, this effect iscreated by the blank square in the middle. Similarly, on either sideof the vessel is a horizontally placed flower that is enclosed by theplants. Moreover, the lid of the cineraria has two scroll-likeobjects that also create a sense of equilibrium. As such, the panelsare not crowded, thus, enhancing the decorations beauty.
Similarlycontributing to the realism of the artifact is texture. Bydefinition, the term refers to the degrees of smoothness or roughnessof a surface, or the illusion of such attributes.7In this case, the artist has employed both real and implied texturesfor an authentic effect. For example, having been made out of marble,the chest has a natural feel. However, the sculptor increasedartificial coarseness using pigments and avoiding complete flatnessaround the edges of the urn or leave surfaces, consequently enhancingthe three-dimensionality of the art.
Althoughthe artist is unknown, the chest owes its origins from the RomanEmpire and represents their funeral ideologies. Accordingly, it isadorned with acanthus leaves, birds, and lion heads. Primarily, theRomans are known for their elaborate rituals and visual attributes totheir dead.8Therefore, funeral art was an integral part of Rome’s picturesquescenery and to date remains a significant testament to its arthistory. Such practices inform the aesthetic choices in the creationof Cinerariumwith Lid. Sincethe vessels’ primary function was to hold the remains of thedeparted, the artistic carvings and drawings on them are fashioned torecall and manifest the characters of the deceased.9For instance, the lion heads on the lid symbolize the courage of theperson while they were alive and act as guards to wade off evilspirits.
Further,Roman’s applied the sculptural art in decorating cinerarium withimages and motifs that reflected the culture’s ideologies on deathand afterlife. In this case, the Cinerariumwith Lid bearssymbols, which apart from their decorative function bear meanings.For example, the concave carvings of the leaves are a cemetery motifthat signifies the never-ending nature of human life. According tothe museum’s inscriptions, the plant is called Acanthus. Apart fromtheir ornamental role, acanthus leaves also denote heaven’sgardens, rebirth, and the soul’s immortality.10As such, the artist’s decision to use the plant in adorning theCinerarium was deliberate and consistent with the Roman belief oflife after death.
Allin all, an artist’s application of line, shape, texture, space, andform significantly create realism, which is an important aspect ofsculptural art. As such, sculptors are always conscious and keen toaccurately represent nature and people`s cultural values. In theCinerariumwith Lid, theartist employs the above elements to affect three-dimensionality,thereby achieving authenticity while also reflecting its funerarypurpose.
Elsner,Jaś, and Michael Squire. “The Visual Art of Roman Mnemonics.” InSightand the Ancient Senses(New York: Routledge, 2015): 180-190.
Janick,Jules. “Horticulture and Art.” In Horticulture:Plants for People and Places, 3,(New Yorrk: Springer, 2014): 1197-1223.
Nagy,Helen. “An Etruscan Stone Cinerary Sculpture from Chiusi now inFlorence: Function, Style, and Artist.” EtruscanStudies17, no. 2 (2014): 154-171.
Nassar,Mohammad. "The Portrait Art during the Byzantine Period, Jordan:A Comparative Study." MediterraneanArchaeology and Archaeometry16,no. 3 (2016): 93-105.
1 Helen Nagy, “An Etruscan Stone Cinerary Sculpture from Chiusi now in Florence: Function, Style, and Artist,” Etruscan Studies 17, no. 2 (2014), 154.
2 Ibid., 157.
3 Jas Elsner and Michael Squire, “The Visual Art of Roman Mnemonics,” in Sight and the Ancient Senses (New York: Routledge, 2015), 181.
4 Mohamed, Nassar, “The Portrait Art During The Byzantine Period, Jordan: A Comparative Study.” Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 16, no. 3 (2016), 102.
5 Ibid., 102.
6 Nassar,“The Portrait Art,” 102.
9 Elsner and Squire, “The Visual Art,”184.
10 Jules Janick, “Horticulture and Art,” in Horticulture: Plants for People and Places, Vol. 3, (New York: Springer, 2014), 1198.
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