Saturday, October 16, 2010

Notes on Prehistoric Western Europe Sculpture

The earliest surviving works of Western art correspond roughly to the final stages of the Ice Age in Europe and date back to about 30,000 BC. Before that time, objects were made primarily for utilitarian purposes, although many have esthetic qualities. It is important to remember that the modern western concept of art would have been alien in the Stone Age.

The most famous Paleolithic sculpture is the so-called Venus of Willendorf, carved out limestone and variously dated from 25,000 BC to 21,000 BC. 

The scale of the head, breasts, torso, and thighs in relation to the whole is quite large while the facial features, neck, and lower legs are virtually eliminated.

The emphasis on those body parts relating to nursing and reproduction has led scholars to believe that the five inch sculpture represented a fertility goddess. Most prehistoric sculptures are in the round. 

Reference: Adams, L.S., A History of Western Art (3rd Ed). McGraw Hill. New York: 2001.

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