Women in Art Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1531 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

Female Art

Because women have always been an integral part of society, their role has been depicted in artwork from the very first sculptures and cave paintings. Not surprising, the way that they have been delineated through art has depended on their changing responsibilities. Also, when they create the art pieces instead of their male counterparts, differences are recognized.

The earliest art works, including those of women, stem back into the Paleolithic period from about 30,000 BCE. In fact, the majority of the artwork from this era was of women rather than men. Also, despite the fact that most males and females already wore clothing at this time, these women statuettes normally were nude (17). One of the first known prehistoric female figures is the four-inch-high limestone figure of a woman known as the "Venus of Willendorf," of Austria ca. 28,000 to 25,000. Based on the artwork from this period, females normally served as fertility figures. Although most scientists believe that the depiction of females was as mother goddesses or for procreation of the species, which was very important to survival, others say that they could also have been used as keepsakes when the men went away to hunt, education, toys and even self-portraits of women. The earliest cultures were not believed to be patriarchal, due to the importance of birth, and in fact were either equal between men and women or matriarchal (19).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Women in Art Assignment

In the period of approximately 3500 BCE to 635 CE, or during such cultures as the Akkadian, Neo-Summarian, Babylonian and Hittite, when looking at the art work it is difficult to know whether the women are depicting female humans or actual goddesses. For example, a female head from Uruk, Iraq, made out of marble from 3200 to 3000 BCE may be a female head or the Summarian goddess Inanna (34). Inanna., later known as Ishtar, was the Summarian goddess of love and war who was the most important female deity in all periods of Mesopotamian history (35). In a Sumerian ruin from the fourth millennium, statues and reliefs are found that are related to her worship. It is unsure, however, whether or not this goddess was represented in human form at that time. Because of continued importance of fertility at the goddesses at this time, women most likely continued to play an important role. However, some also believe that the man's role as protector was already starting at this time (35). Personally, I feel that times were already changing in regard to women's roles, especially since the days of hunting gathering were coming to an end, so women would remain in their communities as the men went out to hunt, and also the growing complexity of warfare.

Although in other civilizations, women never had an important status or already losing their status by the second millennium BC, Egypt was known for men and women having parity. In many cases, women were given the same legal and economic rights, hich is also seen in Egyptian art. The disparities between people's legal rights were based on differences in social class and not on gender. Legal and economic rights were afforded to both men and women. For example, when Thutmose II died in 1479, his principal wife and half sister Queen Hatshepsut had not given birth to any sons, so the expectation was that she would allow the 12-year-old-son of a minor wife become king. However, Hatshepsut instead proclaimed herself pharaoh and was crowned as such. As the first female monarch, numerous portraits were made of her vision (73).

An indication of the equal role of men and women in the Egyptian society is the artwork of the two together. Sculpture, unlike painting, usually only showed noble or influential people. When women were in a sculpture, they were usually part of a husband-and-wife relationship or family group. In fact, in many cases, the woman would actually be physically supporting her husband with an arm around his shoulder. Of course, when her husband was the pharaoh, the wife was normally on a smaller scale, because of the pharaoh's godly role.

It must be reiterated here that all women were not equal to men. Since there was a class structure in Egypt, it was only women who were in the upper and ruling class who had an equal status with men. In addition, the education of the boys and girls was different, indicating the varying power of the two genders. Education was recognized by parents as important for their children as a means of moral attitudes and views of life. Thus both genders would receive education basics when young. However, for girls, this was normally all the schooling they would receive; the boys' education would be supplemented by proper training in the field of endeavor they chose, or was chosen for them.

Approximately 1700 BC, a very advanced society developed around palace centers on Crete called the Minoans. Unfortunately, their ideas, stories, history and culture has been lost. What is known about them has been extrapolated from their considerably visual society and its records. Similar to the Paleolithic cultures noted above, much of the sculptures of the Minoan culture represented unclothed women with their arms folded over their stomachs. Since the feet are too fragile to support these figures, some archaeologists believe that they were used as offerings at funerals. Others believe that they are fertility figures as the previous ones. Women are also represented in the Minoan frescoes (92). Unlike ancient Egypt, Minoa had no temples or monumental statues of gods, kings or monsters. Figures of women with large exposed breasts and holding snakes and/or other animals, implies that these individuals had power over animals (95).

Above it is noted that when societies become more sedentary, there is a greater division of labor and men begin to dominate over the women. For example, most religions most likely started off as goddess religions. Yet the new urbanized societies, develop god religions instead. However, in the Minoan culture, apparently this did not take place. Anthropologists believe that Crete was a class-based class society where the classes were on equal footing. In addition, women continued playing an important role in the public life of the cities as priestesses and administrators. They also had similar occupations and trade, were in similar sporting events and even participated in the priesthood. It is believed, in fact, that it may have been a matriarchal society. It would be interesting to know how this anomaly occurred.

It is impossible to study the development of civilization without covering Ancient Greece. The status of women in Athens Greece was not egalitarian as in the Minoan culture. In comparison to present day standards, Athenian women not considered much higher than slaves. Girls were not expected to learn how to read or write, nor were they expected to earn an education. The situation was somewhat better in Sparta.

The artwork followed this trend, therefore. For example, huge amphoras and kraters were found on the graves of wealthy Athenians. The grave of Hegeso, for example, is in this tradition to commemorate her life as the daughter of Proxenos. Her name is inscribed on the cornice of the pediment. In this artwork, Hegeso is seen as a well-dressed woman seated on an elegant chair with a footstool. She is looking at a piece of jewelry from a box that is being handed to her by a servant girl. It would appear by this scene that women have a relatively high ranking position in Greece. However, this is a deception. This is not a calm scene before an untimely death. Instead, it is a setting in a Greek house from which Haegeso is rarely able to leave. Warrior, high-class men are free to come and go in the public domain as they wish. Women like… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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