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Head of an Akkadian Ruler, Case Study Example

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Case Study

The “Head of an Akkadian Ruler”, a work of Mesopotamian art from circa 2250 B.C. and “Akhenaten and his Family”, a work of Egyptian art from approximately 1345 B.C., are pieces of art dedicated to portraying the ruling social class and ruling social figures. In these ancient works one therefore sees an immediate connection between works of art and political hegemony: the works of art intend to depict those who possess power in society. Accordingly, the purpose of each work of art is to express the absolute pinnacle of the stratified society of these respective cultures. Concomitantly, this common theme suggests that in both cultures there existed a deep bond between art and political power: works of art were reserved in these societies for themes of social elitism and aristocracy. Aesthetic content in both Mesopotamia and Egypt serves as an expression of political power: to have works of art created in one’s image is a symptom of such power.

Whereas this unity of content brings the two works together, there is nevertheless an immediate difference in form: the head of the Akkadian ruler is a sculpture, whereas the portrayal of Akhenaten and his family is a relief. This suggests that the only true artistic freedom in both societies lay in the choice of medium in which the artist worked. Subject matter, in contrast, is dedicated to manifestations of social power. Hence, there is a familiarity in the composition of both works, despite their different mediums. Both the Akkadian ruler and the relief of Akhenaten and his family emphasize the regality of their subject matter, attempting to portray the almost transcendent character of these royal figures in the aesthetic form. A comparison of these two works thus yields a surprising continuity between Mesopotamian and Egyptian art, above all in terms of subject matter.

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