The three works that I chose that are art of portraiture are Head of a King, Mask of an Lyoba, and Mother Goddess. The first two portraits are West African Art from two different tribes, Ife, who created the Head of a King and Benin, whom created the Mask of an Lyoba. The Mother Goddess is an Aztec piece. These groups of people are from different cultures, time periods, and share different religious beliefs. The similarity of the groups is the symbolic meaning the portraitures brought to its people. The first work is the Head of a King.
This Ife creation altered the perception that scholars had of the tribe. It was known that the Ife tribes did not do portraits because of the spirits that could harm the subjects. The sculptures that were discovered all seemed to resemble rulers, so the conclusion was that the institution of kingship and the need to revere royal ancestors were strong enough to overcome concerns. Also the figures were naturalistic. The proportions of the few knownful figures are characteristically African.. The heads may have been taken from life models, but seem more like idealized images.Order now
An example is of the proportions of the head of the sculpture. These proportions probably reflect a belief in the head’s importance as the abode of the spirit, and the focus of the individual identity. Life is the sacred city of the Yoruba people, were naturalistic sculpture began. The Benin tribe arose after the Ife, and was greatly influenced by their art. Their portraits were also naturalistic, but as they grew more knowledgeable in art, they drew away from the naturalistic works of the Ife people into stylized works of their own.
The Mask of an Lyoba is a beautiful ornamental mask of royalty. This works shows that the people no longer use the naturalistic approach, but a bold, more idealized, representation of its people. The art of Benin is a royal art, only the oba could commission the works. This work was commissioned in ivory, but most of the works were commissioned in brass. The Benin transition from naturalistic to stylize is better explained in the brass heads. It ranges from small, thinly cast, and naturalistic to large, thickly cast, and highly stylized.
The conclusion of scholars is that in their Early Period, their heads were small and naturalistic from the Ife influence. Heads then grew increasingly stylized during the Middle Period. Then in the Late Period, the heads were very large and heavy, with angular stylized features and an elaborate beaded crown. In Mexico there was also portraitures. Specifically in the Aztec Empire were the Mother Goddess was created. This was a strong and powerful empire that was divided in classes.
The religion was based on a complex pantheon that combined the Aztec deities with more ancient ones that had long been worshiped in Central Mexico. According to the Aztec belief, the gods created the current universe at the ancient city of Teothhuacan. Which is similar to the Ife belief that Gods came down and created the people. The culture and purpose of the people is then to worship and honor their gods forever. This was done by sacrifice and in their art. We are aware of the religion and the beliefs of the Aztec people because of their art.
The gods were represented in statues and paintings that were narratives to teach their people and show respect to the gods. The Mother Goddess was a broad shouldered figure with clawed hands and feet has a skirt of twisted snakes. A pair of serpents, symbols of gushing blood, rise from her neck to form her head. Their eyes are her eyes; their fangs, her tusks. The writhing serpents of her skirt also form her body. Around her stump of a neck hangs a necklace of sacrificial offerings- hands, heart, and a dangling skull.
Despite the surface intricacy, the sculpture’s simple, bold, and blocky forms create a single visual whole. This dramatic impact was also heightened by the color. This portraiture is very symbolic. Unlike the previous two works it is not of the rulers or the people at the time, it is of a god. But much like the first two works it is also idealized. This is what their mother god that guides them should look like. The Ife people created works that were spiritual and revealing their group’s identity.
The Benin people, once understanding art created stylized works that also expressed their identity, far more than anything naturalistic did. All three works represents the people and what is important to them. For the Aztec people it was their gods, and representing them in a dramatic and powerful way to teach their people. While the Ife people believed that the gods created them in likeness to themselves, so the portraits were also of their people in the ideal form that the gods wanted. The Benin culture were fascinated by art, and wanted to show respect to their rulers by their representation of them.