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Art of the Western World Essay

The chosen work is a statue of Dionysos leaning on a female figure. This is a Roman copy of the original 4th century B. C. Greek statue. The statue is entitled “Hope Dionysos” after its former owner, Thomas Philip Hope. It was a Gift of The Frederick W. Richmond Foundation. The original statue was made of bronze and it is not certain if the woman was included. It is believed that it may have been added to the Roman copy for support. The artist depicts Dionysos, god of wine and divine intoxication. This statue stands at 82  inches and is made of marble.

Its composition is arranged in a compact matter, with much 3-D texture in the body and intricate attention to detail. Dionysos is standing in contrapposto, which is a prevalent technique in Ancient Greek sculpture to achieve a life-like representation of the human body through the shifting of weight. He has massive limbs, with calves that are very muscular and large in comparison to the rest of his body. The arms are also very large and the forearms, very muscular. His fingers are thick and slightly bent attempting to make fists.

This exaggeration of the large size and contour detail of Dionysos’ body represents his high power and great strength. Dionysos posses idealized features, providing evidence of a god. It is apparent that the statue is essentially of the period of Classical Greece, but contains evidence of Rome through the use of clothing. This blend of culture portrays the strong relationship between the artwork of Greece and Rome. The ideal statues of Greece were essentially nude and created to display mans intention to be strong in nature.

Even clothed, this intention to recognize strength is achieved. The representation of strength is supported essentially through his clothing. Dionysos wears the skin of a panther around his upper body. The head is tied around his waist and the paw hangs over his right shoulder. He is not holding a weapon, which represents the ability to overcome even the most dangerous animal simply with his own power. Under the animal skin, Dionysos wears a fluted chiton. This is a form of clothing worn during the time of Ancient Greece.

On his feet, high laced sandals are worn. This is evidence that Dionysos is a god in the body of a man, with features that can far surpass any man. The clothing worn is of the time period of Ancient Greece but is Roman in style as it is depicted in the sculpture. The head of Dionysos is somewhat smaller in scale compared to the rest of his body. It can be seen that the head is from another statue through the seam located on the neck. His face is very smooth with few contour lines and he is appearing to be gazing downward.

Dionysos further portrays idealized qualities through his long hair that cascades onto his shoulders in curls. He also wears a crown of ivy leaves on his head which is worn by Olympians. The use of the leaves represents Dionysos’ athleticism and reference to Greek culture. Dionysos is seen leaning on an archaistic female figure that is suspected to have been added for structural support. In The archaistic maiden represents Spes, who is the personification of hope. This is ironic due to the name of the statue, Hope Dionysos.

The female is much smaller in size than Dionysos, which provides evidence to the use of hierarchy of scale in Ancient Greek sculpture. Even when standing on a block of stone, the woman is much smaller, indicating that women are of less power than man. Despite this concept, the female appears to be the guiding force of Dionysos, possessing some underlying control over his actions and personality. The reference of her purpose to support can extend to an emotional and psychological level. It is as if she is a protector of him and her external projection of purity is depicted in his demeanor.

The female is firmly grasping a single flower in one hand, which may represent her virginity and expression of purity that will not be tainted. This can also be related to the representation of Spes, who is usually depicted holding a flower. Hope is present in the flower and is the source of the female’s divine wisdom. The female’s other hand is holding up her dress to expose her bare feet. Wearing sandals in Roman art indicates becoming a part of the human world, yet the female is not wearing any sandals.

This illustrates that the she is the divine power possessed by Dionysos as a god. Her dress can reveal some shape to her body, but she is standing very rigid and upright compared to the stance of Dionysos. This confirms that the female figure is of an earlier time period in Ancient Greece than the statue of Dionysos. This idea contributes to her value of wisdom achieved through her experience. Indication of the varying time periods of the figures is found in their hairstyles, as the female wears a bonnet and tight spiral curls.

She also possesses a rounded face and displays the Archaic smile. The statues are connected as the fluted drapery of Dionysos’ toga drapes over the head of the female with his arm extending outward. His hand is raised and clenched as if he could be holding a glass about to give a toast. This idea can be supported because Dionysos is god of wine and divine intoxication; therefore it would be appropriate for him to be personified holding a glass of wine. He may be giving a toast based on the idea of hope for man to be strong during a time of rebuilding in Ancient Greece.

These figures together make a statement to display the power of the world of Ancient Greece achieved through belief in the gods. This statue gives viewers a unique perspective on the power of the gods by providing an explanation as to how Dionysos achieved his divinity. His association with the personification of hope is portrayed in the work both physically and spiritually. Association with the gods played active role in the society of Ancient Greece and consumed the artwork of this time.


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