The art work of John Deare, Judgment of Jupiter, is a sculpture in the form of a marble relief. The relief is made on a plate-sized 148 x 297,8 x 25,4 cm (Ramsey, p.2). The prominent English sculptor created the relief while living in Rome, in the time of his most prolific work in 1786-1787. The form of the art work varies from bas-relief for the background to high-relief for major objects (characters of the scene).
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The figures in the relief are well-composed, with six main characters being placed at the front line and the rest 17 figures being allocated further from the viewer. The central point of the composition coincides with the center of the rectangular plate, where the figure of Mars is situated. This is obvious because of the figures being turned to the center of the rectangle and their looks being pointed at this very direction.
In addition, the spear of a warrior on the right is also pointed to the center of the rectangle. The main figures are three-dimensional and very realistic, while the figures and objects that are further from the viewer are less volumetric, with the furthest space being flat.
With such a technique, the sculptor achieved an impressive realistic effect and a well-designed composition. An important detail which also contributes to the sense of spatial location is that the figures are standing on the clouds.
The relief is also rather expressive. The art work presents a scene from the Illiad, where the gods are discussing the case of Jupiter. The artist managed to depict figures of various physical types (Myron, 285), which helped him to show different characters. Also, the famous scene which preceded the Trojan War has a strong emotional emphasis. Thus, some characters are anticipating, some are furious, and others are showing fear.
All these emotions make the relief rather expressive; moreover, they help the sculptor to convey the message to the viewer. The concept of the art work, which is the tension of the gods’ council, a decisive moment of Greek history, is shown through the composition and accurate work on postures and facial features of the figures. As a result, the art work makes an impression of a well-designed, coherent and emotional scene.
The material used for the sculpture, marble, has its main properties and qualities preserved in Deare’s work. The smooth surface of the relief suggests that the artist spent a lot of time polishing the figures and shaping the marble to fit perfection. Also, the small details of the relief point to the fact that special instruments were used for work on details.
As the artist spent a major part of his life in Italy (The Henry Moore Foundation, p.1), the discussed art work is influenced by the culture of this country. In the mid 18th century, the Rococo style was on the peak of its development and Barocco art was still popular, and the features of both styles can be traced in the relief.
The artwork analyzed in this paper shows a great sense of space and shape presented by the author. Its size is rather impressive; the human figures depicted are nearly 1 meter high, which contributes to the general expressive value of the relief. One of the most striking features that make the art work valuable and that impressed me is the smoothness of its surface.
Also, I find it amazing how the author managed to organize 23 figures harmonically, with everyone having a special role in composition and expression. I believe this work is one of the best made by the sculptor in his youth.
Severed Head of Saint John the Baptist by Augustin Roden
The art work of Augustin Rodin, Severed Head of Saint John the Baptist, is a three-dimensional sculpture with a size of 20.32 x 40.01 x 34.29 cm (De Caso, p.85). The French artist created the sculpture in approximately 1887-1907. However, the certain date of its creation is unknown. The sculpture presents a head of Saint John the Baptist lying on a small round surface.
The composition of the sculpture is rather modern; it presents a shapeless piece of marble, which can seem to make no sense from a certain perspective. However, the front view of the sculpture allows us to see the distinct lines that show the facial features of a middle-aged man. The sculpture did not show too many details in his work; he only paid attention to the major shapes which were needed to show Saint John’s face.
However, in spite of the absence of precise details, the sculpture has an outstanding expressiveness. The face of the man is expressing pain and resignation, piece and suffering at once. Lying on a plate with the man’s cheek on the surface, it looks even more pathetic, as the motionless head is apart from its natural position.
The concept of the art work is conveyed successfully with the chosen material and technique. The feeling of pity, sympathy, and helplessness are evoked in the viewers by the benevolent features of the man’s face and by the position of the head.
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An interesting detail is that the hair is joined to the plate, with little attention paid to the curls and other traditional details of a religious theme. This proves that the artist wanted to pay attention to the general composition rather to the accurate details.
Some sources (De Caso, p.85) point out that the sculpture is made of untinted plaster. The sculpture is very smooth, with no sharp lines or edges, which creates an unusual and rather modern effect.
The historical background of the late 19th century in France, which is associated with Napoleon’s rule and certain moods of the nation suggests the presence of romanticism and mysticism in the art works of the time. The influence of these art kinds is obvious in the analyzed art work: the vague lines and mild shapes convey the ideas typical of romanticism.
Despite depicting one of the most horrifying scenes in history, the sculpture does not convey fear or aversion. In contrast, I felt a desire to come closer to the sculpture and see every detail. I was impressed by the unity of the composition and by the perfection of forms achieved by the artist while shaping the John the Baptist’s face.
I find this sculpture very attractive due to its modern shaping and lines, which are well-designed and good enough to convey the mood set by the scene and the artist without showing any extra details, which often distract the viewers.
De Caso, Jaques. Rodin’s sculpture: a critical study of the Spreckels Collection, California Palace of the Legion of Honor. San Francisco: Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, 1977.
Myrone, Martin. Body Building: Reforming Masculinities in British Art 1750-1810. NY: Yale University Press, 2005.
Ramsey, David. John Deare: Judgment of Jupiter. Accessed June 5, 2013. <http://www.davidrumsey.com/amica/amico13101803-72461.html#record>
The Henry Moore Foundation. A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain, 1660-1850. Accessed June 5, 2013. http://188.8.131.52/henrymoore/sculptor/browserecord.php?-action=browse&-recid=762