Groomof Tang Dynasty and theVenus of Willendorf: A Comparison
Thepalmer art work here is a full dimensional human figure. Myobservation is that this is a man standing with the right hand raisedand folded. The hand could probably mean a sense of power orauthority that this man portrays. The facial expression of this manis of a person who looks happy or contented. He is looking towardsthe sky which may suggest that he was at the height of power.Although this is an ancient Chinese art work, the facial featuresgive you an idea about a mixed western characteristic. Particularlythe eyes and nose show distinct western appearance. Moreover the manis well dressed in ancient expensive cloaks. This suggests that theart is of a man who was wealthy.
Theart work is referred to as the figure of the standing groom. It wassculptured during the Tang dynasty in the ancient period of 618 to906, in ancient China by an unknown artist. The material that madethe sculpture is earthenware, which is a pottery material. Lead glazeis used to bring out the shade of green and beige colors of thecloak. The figure is 13 and1/4 inches tall (Pope 30). The groomstands with his right arm raised as if to show or indicate reign. Hislapelled cloak is glazed in green and amber. The trousers and highboots that the groom is wearing indicate that he was indeed Persian.His unglazed head clearly retains discernible traces of his facialfeatures (Pope 28). In addition, the facial features indicate thatthis groom was directly painted into the earthenware surface of thebody.
Moreoverhis costumes and some painted details underline the fact this groomwas a foreigner. There is a distinct western appearance observing hisnose and eyes. The historical explanation is that this groom was fromcentral Asia and had more experience with horses than anybody else(Pope 25). In this regard, his kind was hired to manage the horses ofthe Tang elite during their dynasty. Due to this fact they were afamiliar sight in the capital of Tang called Chang’ans.
Unlikethe standing groom the Venus of Willendorf portrays a carving of awoman. The carved woman is naked showing full obese woman whosefacial details are withheld by the artist. It is very clear that theartist has deliberately emphasized her sexual organs clearly anddetailed. This sculpture is an idol that perhaps epitomizes femalefertility or female procreativity (Hephaestus 11). On the other handthe standing groom is fully clothed with his facial features clearlyoutlined by the artist. All human physical body parts are clearlyillustrated.
Thetype of materials used by both artists is totally different. Thestanding groom is made of earthenware pottery. The technique employedin this piece of art was that it was first fired at a relatively hightemperature of about 1000 degree Celsius (Pope 30). It is importantto note the green paintings on the earthenware that emphasize thegroom’s green and beige color of the cloak. This is because of thewhite clay that was applied at the surface of the piece. This whiteclay created room for the glazing process which is directed atdecorating and illustrating the object (Pope 30). On the other handthe Venus of Willendolf is carefully carved the only technique thatmade carved the piece from a fine limestone stone (Hephaestus 11).There is however no painting or another technique that is employedhere to bring about any decoration.
Therepresentation to the human body of the standing groom indicated aperson who was regarded high status in the society. This is becauseof the type of technique employed particularly the use of decorationsusing the glazes (Pope 30). The glaze was applied to the standinggroom through the painting technique. It is obvious observation thatthe head and the extremity of the standing groom were unglazed. Thischaracterizes the process of glazing that was employed to make thepiece more beautiful and also try and achieve an imitation of anexpensive bronze art pieces (Pope 31). This process was reserved forthe high, imperial and elite in the society.
Howeverthe Venus of Willendolf lacks any sort of decorations only traces ofochre that produce red tints. The representation to the human body isconcentration laid on her sexuality. Normally in any human body aface is a key feature. Despite this knowledge, the artist hasintentionally withdrawn her face and hence her identity. Therepresentation being her sexuality, the artist has mainly andcarefully illustrated her sexual organs very carefully carved(Hephaestus 12). In this regard the Venus of Willendolf is to beregarded as an anonymous sexual object rather than a person as in therepresentation of the standing groom. It is hence the physical bodyof Venus of Willendolf and what it represents that is importantaccording to the artist.
Thecultural representation of the standing groom is very evident fromhis appearance and the type of clothes he is wearing. Theinterpretation is that this particular piece of art showscharacterizes some imported cultures to the then Tang dynasty (Pope32). This is such from his appearance, the type of clothes and mostimportantly he was well conversant with horses. This indicates thatthe person represented was wealthy enough to keep a stable ofimported horses or may have aspired to (Pope 31). In this particularcultural setting, this activity was reserved for the rich andwealthy. It was a favorite pastime activity of both men and womenaristocrats. It is also evident to know the most prominentinterpretation was the Tang cultural influence from the west.
Incontrast the Venus of Willendolf represents a woman and mostparticularly not an ordinary woman. Her specialness is wellrepresented through the well developed areas of the sculpture thatreveal that she is obese and not pregnant. This particular sculptureis believed to date back to Paleolithic period (Hephaestus 8).According to history, this period indicates that the most culturalhuman activity was hunting and gathering. In this sense, it was notpossible for anyone to grow obese easily under such circumstances. Inthis regard the artist has clearly shown that the woman had gonethrough great trouble to create the likeness of her. Further it ispossible that her torso and her hairstyle indicate that she was aprominent female goddess. The interpretation is that it is possiblethat women in Paleolithic period had a great significance in thesociety unlike now (Hephaestus, 8).
Thestanding groom represents an era when there was a significant arteryinnovation by the fine art that is produced. This art was howeverreserved for the wealthy and rich because of the culturalrepresentation. It was a period when the Tang dynasty had a strongmilitary and a system of centralized civil service that as a resultbrought about stable political rule and a stable government (Pope29). Further the standing groom represents an era when China hadgreat interactions and relationships with her neighbors, particularlythe West (Pope 30).
Onthe other hand what makes the Venus of Willendolf interesting is itsexplicit portrayal of obesity. In Stone Age very few male figureshave been discovered hence indicating the traditional culture ofhallowing female bodies as fertility symbol (Hephaestus 12). It isvery important to note this distinct difference between the two arts.While the standing groom represents material wealth and possession,the Venus of Willendolf represents the human basic social needs. Thisis sexuality, fertility and procreation.
Itis very possible to understand the humanly representations of thesetwo pieces of art. They both represent the great innovations and thecultural representations of their works. It is important to note thatsince ancient times, skilled workers in such work were greatlyvalued. The beauty that was derived from their works was of highsignificance to their cultural lives were often reflected andrepresented in their work. The standing grooms for instance depictsthe cultural believe and high regard of wealth and materialpossessions by the Tang dynasty. The Venus of Willendolf bring tolight the traditional culture of celebrating women through the nudesculptures to emphasize the important role they play in the humanlives. Beauty in arts was for a long period depicted through nudesculptures. These were seen to bring to light the emphasis of thegoal and underlying meaning in their work.
HephaestusBooks. Articleson Paleolithic Periods.London. Hephaestus Books Publishers, 2011, Print.
UphamPope. PersianArt from Prehistoric Period.Iran. A survey of Persian Art.2005, Print