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The Functions Of Funerary Art & Sculptural Influences

3414 words - 14 pages

From the Paleolithic aura to this present day the functions of funerary art have provided the basic outlets for coming to terms with death. Funerary art is posed to bare the function of the disposal of the body; express a culture’s belief in the afterlife; the care or fear of the deceased; a part of the mourning process; the status of the individual and their family; a step to forgetting and that for the most part is for the living. Sculpture plays a predominant role in funerary art and is a common feature amongst all the functions in both western and nonwestern cultures. Funerary art lends to the visceral qualities of sculpture to assist in projecting the functions for those dealing with ...view middle of the document...

The ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman cultures shared similar believes but the cultures are distinguished by the sculptural component of disposing the body. The ancient Greeks reframed from elaborate tombs and sarcophagi, as a result of anti-sumptuary laws against funerals, up until the Hellenistic period (330-150 BCE) for rulers in Greek-controlled Turkey (CN). Despite the lack of sculpture in their funerary art, the Greeks were making monumental stone architecture, improving on representational sculpture and large-scale sculpture also for funerals.

In necropolis, the ancient Etruscans built large tombs cut or build out of rock, with carved furniture and decretive relief carvings or painted interiors. Further south, the Romans had a variety of options for burial sites, including cemeteries outside of city limits. In most cases the body was directly placed in the earth, while sculptures of the deceased or ash urns were stored in columbiums (CN). Since the fading popularity of cremation in 2nd century CE, 6.5 million burials in Rome are contained in 600 miles of catacombs. Catacombs hosted burials for Jewish, Christian, and Pagan religions but use decreased in 4th century CE with the legalization of Christianity. Alternatively the deceased were buried in hypogeal or subterranean chamber tombs, which are hollowed earth or rock-cut enclosures, adorned with paintings and occupied by a collective or single family. Consequently the Romans proceeded to above ground tombs that are scattered throughout the empire in a variety of shapes and sizes.

In the burial chamber, the Romans placed tomb sculptures that posed as signifiers of identity with a stress on family. In the form of glass, ceramic or stone, ash urns shared the same focus with diverse subject matter. Above all ancient Roman sarcophagi are immaculate, first fashion out of wood, then terracotta, limestone and marble. The sarcophagi are distinguishable by the region. In the Eastern/Asiatic region all four sides are carved that perhaps stood on roads, while carving on three sides is the Roman type commonly found in tombs. The lids are either sloped or flat, with a carved panel. The shapes and styles of body offer creative narratives through different forms of symbolism, projection of beliefs and character traits of the deceased. The carvings on well-crafted Roman sarcophagi display technical skill and an understanding of the material that have been lost over the centuries.

Ancient Egyptians had the most an extensive process of treating the body after death; developed over centuries mummification preserved the deceased and was a component in their extravagant body funerary art. Originally the bodies were wrapped with bandage, but the mummification process became quite meticulous later in the Old Kingdom. During this period natron was used to preserve the body, and the organs (stomach, intestines lungs, and liver) are removed, separately wrapped and placed in four canonic jars (CN)....

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