In humanities, especially anthropology, a cultural artifact is anything that is or was created by people, and that signifies information on the culture of its creator and users. Artifacts can be of the ancient, early modern or modern times. They can also be social archaeological artifacts. Examples of cultural artifacts include paintings and drawings, poems, songs, dance, literature, film, or even a peoples’ clothing, or other things like a television, air conditioning machine, etc. The common thing about all cultural artifacts is that they help in the understanding of a peoples’ culture and their way of life at the time of the artifact’s creation. To understand cultures through cultural artifacts, one must first understand their themes. In this context, a theme is a central idea or topic that is expressed by different artifacts. This paper will identify two artifacts, examine a theme that they both share, and the effects of these artifacts and idea to the individuals and society. The cultural artifacts to be used is a painting called Mona Lisa and a curving called Pieta.
Mona Lisa, one of the most valuable paintings in the world, was painted by Leonardo da Vinci, an Italian architect, painter, musician an engineer. He was also a very significant figure of the Renaissance period, as his works were very influential to the time. He was born in Florence, Italy in 1452. There are some difficulties in confirming the actual dates of the painting (Martin Kemp). However, many historians believe that he did the painting between 1503 and 1506 and extended its completion up to 1517. There are however some other historians who hold that the art was not started before 1513. Mona Lisa is a painting of Lisa Gherardini, the young wife of an Italian merchant called Francesco del Giocondo. King Francis I of France, acquired it and made it the property of the French Republic. Since 1979, it is held as a permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Below is the Mona Lisa painting.
The Pieta is a carving that was made by Michaelangelo Buonarroti, an Italian architect, sculptor, and painter. It shows the dead Christ lying across on his mother’s lap, after his crucifixion. Like da Vinci, Michaelangelo was born in Florence, where he completed this and many more of his works. He was also a significant scholar of the Renaissance period. The sculpture is made in Carrara marble and was built between 1498 and 1499. It is housed in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. It was commissioned for Jean de Bilheres, who was a representative in Rome, as his funeral monument, before it was moved to its current location. It balances the Renaissance ideals of classical beauty and naturalism (Wikipedia). Below is a picture of the sculpture.
One of the significant common themes shared by the two cultural artifacts above is the Renaissance, which is also known as the Rebirth. The Renaissance as a theme is a broad historical period between the 14th and the 17th centuries, that marked the major transitions from the medieval period to the modern system. It was characterized by humanism, that stressed that man was the only creature endowed with the sense of reason, and this helped the people to abandon the bad ideas that were dominant during the medieval period and usher in a new way of thinking. This new thinking was shown in architecture, politics, literature, and art, like the works identified in this paper. It was also during the renaissance that the first printing press was established in Europe, allowing more actions of the renaissance period to spread across Europe. Renaissance affected many fields, including literature, philosophy, art, politics, science, history, religion, etc. It was the period when people started questioning the legitimacy of their leaders, and especially the link between the church and politics.
How is the theme of renaissance shown by the two cultural artifacts identified in this paper? The first way can be identified from the way the two artifacts were made. Leonardo da Vinci used the technique of oil painting to complete his work. This expresses the theme of the renaissance in that this was a new technique of art that had been invented during this same period. It was a better way of making the paintings more durable, because it made them resistant to moisture, and made the ink to stick more to the paper. Michelangelo uses Carrara marble to curve the Pieta. Carrara marble was a new type of marble that had been discovered during the renaissance period, as a durable object for making sculptures. It was more tolerable to weathering due to exposure to the weather. This two new modes of art marked a significant turn in the field of art that had been established by the Renaissance. Another notable feature of the Renaissance period is seen in the Pieta, which has two figures in it, that is, Jesus and Mary. Multi figured sculptures started being made in the renaissance period, and the Pieta was one of the few ones that existed in this period. The two works also express renaissance in that they were both made in the city of Florence, Italy, by Florence born people. This is in that, historians hold that Florence was the beginning of the Renaissance.
How is the theme related to your personal experience? It is correct to state that the theme of renaissance affects all of us today in very many ways. This is because the renaissance introduced many of the political structures and technologies in many fields of our lives. A good example is in religion and politics. Since the medieval period, the church had held a significant significance in government, and this had led to misuse of power over the years since the leaders were not questioned. Thanks to the Renaissance, people started to examine the church’s role in government and this paved way to the Christian reformation which led to the emergence of Protestantism, which I subscribe to. Renaissance thus is very significant to my religious beliefs.
A profession that contains evidence of influence/influenced by the renaissance theme is the media profession. This has been evidenced by the fact that the very first print media station was established in Europe, during the Renaissance period. This did not only spread the humanist ideas across Europe but also increase the number of works produced. This media station can be termed as the ‘mother’ of all media stations, and the many developments that have been developed in the field, including the television and radio.
Three humanity resources that can be used to investigate my artifacts and theme include the following books: a) “Painting and Experience in the Fifteenth Century Italy,” by Michael Baxandall. The book explains the various structures of the various aspects of life during the beginning of the Renaissance period, while also discussing some of the major works of art of the period, and their significance; a). “The Reformation,” by Diarmaid MacCulloch, in which he explains how the Renaissance, its many scholars, and ideas influenced and ushered in the Reformation; c). “Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance,” by Lisa Jardine, in which she describes the various features and characteristics of the Renaissance period and their influence on today’s society.
Both of the artifacts in this paper were developed during the historical period of the Renaissance. They are similar in that they contain some of the humanist ideas that were very common during this period of renaissance. The symbols of these artifacts have already been discussed, when discussing the theme. The medium mainly used to convey their works by placing their jobs in museums.
Thesis Statement-Most of the technologies in today’s world is owed to the renaissance period as has been shown by the artifacts of that time.
The most important audience for my paper are students who wish to carry out a research project on the Renaissance and its artifacts.
To communicate effectively with the audience through a good explanation of relevant terminology and through giving relevant examples to the ideas.
Hall, M. B. (1992). Color and meaning: practice and theory in Renaissance painting (pp. 14-29). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Findlen, P. (1998). Possessing the past: the material world of the Italian Renaissance. The American Historical Review, 103(1), 83-114.