The Art Political (part 2)

Monday, March 10, 2008 Clinton and Obama haven't managed to settle anything in spite of their fliers and commercials, but McCain seems to be getting quite comfortable. Let's continue our brief survey of the history of political art, shall we?

Though much of the art created throughout history was politically motivated, certain examples stand out. One such is the statue Augustus Ceasar commissioned after an important victory over some Germanic tribes to the north.
This was by no means his first political art. Before becoming emperor he had, like many wealthy individuals, commissioned several portrait busts. These were not ordinary portraits because they depicted him as a bit of a rebel. He wore in them short hair and a clean shaven face to differentiate himself from the stodgy old Republicans in the Senate.
Ironically, he cultivated this rebellious look because he supported the idea of a monarchy in Rome - quite the strange idea from our perspective!
So this later sculpture continues his trend in utilizing art to promote a political message. Here, he wanted to make the citizenry both feel good about a victory over barbarians, and to thank Ceasar for it. His breastplate is carved with images of barbaric Germans being defeated handily. One of the odd things you'll notice is that even though he's in full battle dress, Augustus had bare feet. Could the sculptor have just forgotten them? Not at all - Ceasar's feet are bare because gods don't need shoes. That's a powerful statement, indeed.

Next week, we'll make a brief stopover in the Byzantine empire then move on to more recent political art...Look forward to it!


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