A formal analysis, contextualizing, and compare and contrast of the Egyptian sculpture of Isis nurturing Horus and the Byzantine icon, The Virgin of Vladimir
This essay aims to investigate two different time periods in the history of art. It will scrutinize the influence that the respective societal contexts had on the different artists, which in turn, caused them to arrange the formal elements in a specific way. I will be examining an Egyptian sculpture of the god Isis nursing Horus, her son, as well as the Vladimir Virgin icon, which dates from the Byzantine era. Experts vary on the precise ‘lifetime’ of the Ancient Egyptian civilization, but according to Mason (2007:10) it existed from 3100 BCE up to 30 BCE. The Byzantine era, which
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Placing The Vladimir Virgin in its societal context aids our understanding of it. The artwork was produced against a chaotic backdrop of Arabian invasions and uncertainty (Nicol, 2006:par1). The use of blue and gold is a typical stylistic feature of the era, as it displayed “the unchanging brilliance of heaven” in a difficult and changing time (Nicol, 2006:par8). The portability of the icon was of great importance, and it is said to have “fulfilled…the same function in the home as the mosaic decorations of the churches, [which is] signalling the presence of divinity” (Piper, 1991:62). Icons were believed to be miracle-working and, as a result, the Vladimir Virgin was sent to Vladimir and later “to Moscow, to protect [the] city from the Mongols”, which it apparently did (Tansey & Kleiner, 1996:312). Nicol (2006:par7) tells us that a large part of the population consisted of uneducated peasants. Therefore, most works of this era is rendered with obvious features, like a ‘flat’, two-dimensionality and “stylized abstraction, which contributed to the didactic, narrative purposes of it (Tansey & Kleiner: 1996:312).
When comparing The Vladimir Virgin with Isis nurturing Horus, some clear similarities surface, on which I will expound in this paragraph. The concept of a mother nurturing her son is present in both works. Also, the mother-figure is portrayed much bigger than the child, in both artworks, which create the feeling that she is the most