Visual Symbols, Formal Conventions and Compositional Strategies- Ancient Greek Art and Baroque

Examine how artists use visual symbols, formal conventions and compositional strategies to construct meaning in artworks.                                  

Throughout the ages formal conventions, compositional strategies and visual symbols have been used to construct meaning in artworks. These artworks have reflected the feelings of the people during the time as well as historical meanings. Such artists include Polycleitus, Caravaggio and Bernini. Some artists, who have created even the most important artworks are   unknown. In this essay I will describe the paintings and sculptures by the artists named and describe the meaning behind them.

Polycleitus worked primarily with bronze, the most popular material of the time due to its adjustable strength and dazzling beauty and much of his work was a visual symbol for physical perfection in ancient Greece. Polycleitus was a Greek sculptor of the fifth and early fourth century BC. In Doryforos, the Spearcarrier, (460-450bc) the perfect balance in the position of the athlete is shown and the body appears relaxed yet ready to move.   Polycleitus created a series of rods passing through key points of the body, with four quarters marked out. The body weight is supported by one leg and the body is rotated with the hips and head facing one way and the chest the other. The right arm is bent, while the other relaxed. The position is called contrapposto. The angles of the body oppose but also compliment each other. Polycleitus formed the rules for the human anatomy in art and this compositional strategy became the key to understanding how other ancient Greeks could capture physical beauty. The sculpture captured the ideal of physical perfection and was more human than human. Polycleitus new law of proportions, “the canon of Polycleitus” served as the root of Greek idealism and became a formal convention.

The Riace Bronzes (sculpted in 460-450bc) are two full sized Greek bronzes of nude warriors that was inspired by the...