Comparison Between Menkaure and His Wife, and Nike from Samothrace

Naturalism in art refers to the depiction of realistic objects in a natural setting. The Realism movements of the 19th century advocated naturalism in reaction to the stylized and idealized depictions of subjects in Romanticism, but many painters have adopted a similar approach over the centuries. One example of Naturalism is the artwork of American artist William Bliss Baker, whose landscape paintings are considered some of the best examples of the naturalist movement.

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Idealism is the attitude that places special value on ideas and ideals as products of the mind, in comparison with the world as perceived through the senses. In art idealism is the tendency to represent things as aesthetic sensibility would have them rather than as they are. In ethics it implies a view of life in which the predominant forces are spiritual and the aim is perfection. In philosophy the term refers to efforts to account for all objects in nature and experience as representations of the mind and sometimes to assign to such representations a higher order of existence. It is opposed to materialism.

Menkaure and his wife, and Nike from Samothrace are based of the same idea, idealism, but at the same time they do have few naturalistic qualities. The statue of King Menkaure and his Queen exhibits with clarity the Egyptian devotion of art to cannon of proportions. Its strictly frontal view point, the rigid poses of the figures, and a faithful accordance to rules and established customs can be interpreted as manifesting the nature of the Pharaoh’s authority over his subjects while at the same time exemplifying the highly regulated, hierarchical structure of ancient Egyptian society.

The measured grid of verticals and counterbalancing horizontals, the stiff artificial postures and the overall idealized shapes of the bodies combined with naturalism is indicative of Egyptian taste for art and a representation of the character of Egyptian culture. Menkaure’s stance appears assertive, indicating his power. He is portrayed in the familiar Egyptian pose, with his left leg extended forward, his arms held stiff at his sides and his fists clenched. He is represented as a mature, vigorous man. He has slender hips, broad shoulders, and well-developed arms.

His body has been made to appear life like; overall he represents the ideal of manly beauty in ancient Egypt . The image of his face and clothing are idealized and indicative of his power. On his head he wears a headdress, the sides of which are pulled back behind his large ears. The beard and headdress are the primary symbols of his status. The only other article of clothing he wears is a kilt. Next to Menkaure stands his wife. She stands in a more naturalistic way than Menkaure. Her right arm reaches around his waist and her left one is bent at the elbow, holding his left arm.

The Queen’s gesture serves to bring them unity. Her relaxed pose, her smaller stride forward, the less rigid position of her arms, and her open hands indicate her subordinate position. Therefore, her pose can be seen as that of a passive, dutiful wife standing next to her powerful husband. The treatment of her clothing is intended to reveal and describe the forms of her body. She wears a long, very thin, close fitting garment, which clings to her body without folds or creases. Her breasts are outlined and the nipples showing, her navel and the bulge of her tummy are also indicated.

The material clings around her pubic area, showing a triangular shape with the two lower converging sides following the curving lines of her groin. This possibly is a representation of her fertility. The portrait must be a replica of the man in order to serve his spirit after death. Therefore, the sculptor has gone into detail to show the individuality of King Menkaure and his Queen. This is seen in his strongly defined features. His firmly set jaw, slightly tilted face and direct line of sight are indicators of his authority. This portrayal gives him permanence for eternity and proper housing for their ka.

The Victory is considered one of the great surviving masterpieces of Greek sculpture from the Hellenistic period, despite the fact that the figure is significantly damaged, missing its head and outstretched arms. By an unknown artist, the sculpture is thought to date from the period 220 BC – 190 BC (though some scholars date it as early as 250 BC or as late as 180 BC). Her drapery serves to dramatically emphasize both her dynamic forward movement against the wind and her full, robust form-her powerful thighs and the active, contracted muscles of her torso.

The drapery clings with thin, long, and uneven ripples to her breasts, abdomen, right leg, and left thigh, its near transparency revealing these parts of the body almost as if they were nude. Excess fabric forms heavy yet dynamically irregular shapes and bunches. A long, uneven arc of cloth between her legs accentuates their motion and implies the counter-force of the wind against her body. The sculptor draws attention to this downward arc with a swath of drapery that flies forward from the left hip and collides in a V-shape with the longer swath at the Nike’s pelvis.

At the same time, in the back of the statue fabric soars out behind the figure in rigid crests. The effect of this drapery is choppy and uneven, the wind whipping the cloth as it does sea below into irregular peaks and troughs. A partial inscription on the base of the statue includes the word “Rhodhios” (Rhodes), indicating that the statue was commissioned to celebrate a naval victory, at that time the most powerful maritime state in the Aegean . The statue stands on the prow of a ship, and probably served as part of an outdoor altar, representing the goddess as she descended from the skies to the triumphant fleet.

The statue has been reassembled in stages since its original discovery in 1863. Neither the arms nor the head have been found. The statue shows a mastery of form and movement which has impressed critics and artists since its discovery, the Nike of Samothrace is particularly admired for its naturalistic pose and rendering of the figure’s draped garments, depicted as if rippling in a strong sea breeze. Also, Nike the sports company eventually labeled their brand after this work, because they felt it embodied strength and power.

The Nike’s wings are intensely naturalistic, and also contribute to the uneven, chaotic, and exuberantly active tone of the statue. In a motion that echoes the V-shape of the drapery between her legs, the goddess pushes her wings back as far as they seem capable of going, and extends them to their full length. In doing so, she exactly mimics the behavior of a bird about to land. Indeed, her wings seem an enlarged copy of real bird wings, from their curved crests to the joint mid way through, to their outspread, textured feathers. However, the feathers lack the regular, fan-like arrangement found in real birds.

Instead, they are arrayed at odd and overlapping angles to one another, much like the folds of the drapery. Thus, though naturalistic, the wings betray the sculptor’s interest in creating irregular patterns to suggest straining, immediate action. The wings are in use in a real-life situation, thrown out against the real wind that sweeps over the Samothracian hills, to affect an imminent landing. This combination of naturalism and exaggerated irregularity in the statue gives it a breathtaking sense of urgency and actuality: this Nike, with her very corporeal body and realistic, non-ideal wings may be an unearthly being, but he is made of the stuff of this world, and the viewer can relate to her here and now. Menkaure was believed to represent a god because of his wealth and status that he withheld. The pharaoh was believed to have some kind of divine right and they were responsible for phenomenons like making the sun rise in the morning. Nike is the goddess of victory in Greek Mythology. Nike with Athena is always wingless while Nike as a separate goddess is always winged. Nike appears carrying a palm branch, wreath, or a caduceus of Hermes in works of art. She is also seen erecting a trophy or recording a victory on a shield.

Frequently she is seen hovering with outspread wings over the victor in a competition. Nike gradually came to be recognized as a sort of mediator of success between gods and men not only in war but all sorts of human undertaking. Both of these works of art are from two totally different cultures and yet they are both symbols of power, victory, and triumph in the sense that Menkaure was a pharaoh and within his culture he was believed to be a god. His wife wasn’t could have possibly been behind him in all his great decisions; kind of like behind every man there is a great women.

Nike was an actual goddess and her name literally means victory, so there must e been different artists that had their own visions of what she should look like and how they would portray beauty. They are both different because they were made for two different purposes one being a place to hold souls and the other as part of a ship, one has movement and the other is rigid, one has two figures and the other just one. Menkaure and his wife, and Nike from Samothrace are based of the same idea, idealism, but at the same time they do have few naturalistic qualities.

The famous Nike of Samothrace, long described simply as an exquisite depiction of forward motion, becomes an intellectually complex monument to the fall of the one-time conquering Macedonians. While other interpretations of the date and purpose of the Nike fail to account for all the elements relevant to the work: style, site specificity, and cultural traditions of commemoration, the interpretation correlates all of these components and lends a new dimension to our understanding of the Nike. She becomes an emblem of the famous generosity, intellectualism, and interest in cutting-edge artistic epiction, using formal elements (such as drapery folds and bodily torsion), a fountain installation, and reference to the natural surroundings to create a dramatic and immediate sense of the struggle with chaos. The portrayal of ancient rulers is dependent not only on the style of art popular during the era, but also on the evolution of the political climate. The portrayal of Menkaure, a pharaoh of the Old Kingdom in Ancient Egypt, is of complete authority, control and power. His face does not show concern or grief over his people, because he is not challenged politically, the image of control coincides with his sole power over the kingdom.


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