Portraiture in the History of Art: Informative Essay

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Portraiture has changed drastically over hundreds of years and influenced the way view and create it. There have been many eras of art throughout history that have slowly evolved into what we now recognize as a portrait.

The earliest forms of portraits dated back to the era of Ancient Egypt, about 5000 years ago. Portraiture was created for religious and funerary purposes, as the ancient Egyptians believed that it would help them in the afterlife and immortalize them. Many of the artworks they created were of gods and were offerings to them. The sculptures and portraits were highly idealistic versions of themselves and did not have distinct characteristics of the face; bodies in most portraits or sculptures looked almost identical to each other. The funerary mask of Tutankhamun does not specifically depict the individual itself but rather depicts a figure. The features of the mask are slightly vague in individuality and are almost identical to other funerary masks of pharaohs. The form of art was idealistic and religious, often offerings or artworks of gods or pharaohs.

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Approximately 1300-1600, Renaissance portraiture came into popularity and often depicted biblical themes or was commissioned by wealthy people who wanted to show their status through portraiture. Portraiture in this period was realistic and highly rendered. They were created mainly to show the wealth of the people who commissioned them, often husbands having their wives painted. It was a popular choice to have the pose be a side view of the face or 3/4. The heavy biblical themes in art were also a popular choice as stories and events from the Bible were painted, such as ‘The Creation of Adam’ by artist Michelangelo. They were put up in churches because they heavily relied on art to depict biblical stories. The Renaissance was a historical movement in portraiture as it moved closer to realism and was not only used for religious use but for personal and decorative use.

The Baroque era was a very influential period for portraiture as it depicted a more dramatic and emotional exuberance through the use of coloring and contrast. They focused on the emotion through the face and background. The artworks tended to portray the more gruesome and gory scenes that the Renaissance era strayed away from. Many of the artworks created during this era were extravagant and highly detailed with a strong contrast between light and shadow giving a dramatic effect. One is the artwork ‘Judith Slaying Holofernes’, created by the artist Artemisia Gentileschi. The dark atmosphere with the strong contrasting light gives a dramatic or thrilling disposition. It is used for decorative or religious purposes in households or churches. It is only shown through Baroque art the true horrific gore and overly dramatic atmosphere of the artwork itself.

Throughout the years, portraiture has become what we know today, and it is through these periods that have the most influence on portraiture. It is shown how portraiture has evolved in different times in different civilizations and has made an impact on how we create them in the modern day.

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Portraiture in the History of Art: Informative Essay. (2023, October 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/portraiture-in-the-history-of-art-informative-essay/
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Portraiture in the History of Art: Informative Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Oct 11 [cited 2024 Apr 18]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/portraiture-in-the-history-of-art-informative-essay/
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