Multi-modal Object Analysis REFLECTION

The analysis that I wrote was based on the way the lions have been represented by humans in art throughout history. To complete an analysis on this subject, I had to think heavily about the relationship that lions had with people. People’s perceptions of lions have a very strong direct correlation with how lions are portrayed in art, so understanding the relationship between the people and the object (in this case, lions) was very important for my analysis.

 

In the early portions of the project, my assumption was that because lions are strong, people portrayed them in art as strong. However, as my research progressed, I noticed many other qualities consistently developed in lion-based art, as well, such as bravery, guardianship, loyalty, and peace. Lions were often portrayed as wise, calm creatures when they are typically violent, aggressive animals in the wild. While the relationship between humans and lions in nature could often be violent, the relationship between humans and their perceptions of lions is typically warm and respectful, making the art humans make based on lions very flattering to the lions.

 

In terms of multi-modality, writing the analysis made me think a lot about how I could best hold a reader’s intrigue and best communicate something to them. I occasionally incorporated a video in areas where I felt a visual representation of something could better communicate the message I was trying to convey.

 

Whenever I mentioned a specific piece of art I chose to reference an image of the piece in my analysis, as well. I felt as though showing the reader what the pieces looked like and how they developed throughout the different cultures and time periods rather than just showing them would add to the experience of learning about the development of my object.

 

The object analysis forced me to consider object/person relationships in ways that I had not done before. After creating my multi-modal object analysis I feel as though I have a better understanding for the ways in which the opinions people have of a specific object or type of object can shape how the object is treated in popular culture and society as a whole.

Presentation Peer Review – Austin Williams

Presentation Design – I liked the PowerPoint format that you used, although I would have made the colors a bit brighter. Keeping the background dark may have been intentional, though, to match the war aesthetic which comes with the Civil War belt buckle. If so, I like the idea.

 

Content Layout – Beginning the presentation with a discussion about the history or culture’s perception of belt buckles was very engaging. I think everyone connected with the presentation once you told us that our thoughts about cowboys and belt buckles were wrong. After the discussion about belt buckles as a whole, the transition into the discussion about Civil War belt buckles was easy to engage with because our interest in the subject was peaked.

 

Quality of Historical Content – I liked how you discussed the differences between the belt buckles from different sides of the Civil War. Knowing which side used what type of buckle and the reasons WHY they wore those buckles (economic differences in manufacturing) was important to the context of your object. It would have been interesting to know how those economic differences continued to develop after the war, though. If that is not in your analysis it may be something worth adding.

Presentation Free Write

  1. When I think of tea, I imagine drinking it late at night when  I’m trying to relax. That is typically the only time when I drink tea. I also think of the image of colonial-era British citizens drinking hot tea as Britain is a major consumer of tea.
  2. My definition of cultural appropriation is essentially one dominant culture engaging in activities that are very specific to a culture that could easily be taken advantage of. It is particularly appropriation when the history of the practice being appropriated is not recognized.

4/17 Class Notes

Museum of Jurassic Technology

  • Museums have ethos of being accurate, but the Museum of Jurassic Technology presents information that is knowingly false
  • What is the line between skepticism and conspiracy theorist?
  • What motivates this line?
  • What does it mean to have healthy skepticism?
  • The internet and the ease of access for people wanting to publish something decreases credibility of information
  • The aesthetic of an information source adds to the credibility of the source, whether it should or not
  • Are we reading into the Museum of Jurassic Technology as a rhetorical act more than it was intended to be read into?

Object Analysis Draft

General Information

Objects can offer insight into different aspects of both an individual and the society in which that individual lived. Their design can communicate what was valued by the individual which they were created by or the individual which they were created for. In addition to this, they allow people to peer into what society may have been like at the time of the objects’ creation. What did that society deem as important and valuable? How did they communicate their value system through things? This lion figurine, which was discovered through the excavation of MARTA properties in Atlanta during the 1970s, offers an example of how the beliefs of a group of people can be translated through their use of objects. Throughout history the lion has been used symbolically to relay a message of strength. This lion, channeling some of its historical counterparts, seems to serve a similar role. In this object analysis, I will discuss the nature of the lion figurine itself, as well as discuss its significance by reviewing historical representations of lions in art. These historical representations will be selected from four world regions: Ancient Greece, China, England, and the United States of America. In addition to these three regions I will discuss the origin of lion depictions in art.

 

Physical Description

The lion is a stone figurine standing in a strong, proud stance, such as the lion below.

A lion standing in a powerful pose.

Beige in color, but with blemishes scattered across the surface: spots of dirt and stains that have accrued naturally with age. While the stains appear almost as wounds to the lion, it still stands firmly, adding to the aura of power encompassed by the animal. Though it is covered in blemishes, it is still able to stand strong and impose upon those who approach it. This is a trait commonly associated with lions and may have been an influence on the artist who designed this figurine, although the blemishes on it came after its production. The lion stands on a platform, but the back portion of the platform is missing, along with the lion’s lower half of its right hind leg and its tail. Though portions of the lion are missing, the powerful and intimidating aura exuded from the lion’s stance is not detracted from. The face of the lion still appears prepared for battle, almost as if its viewer has wronged the lion in some way and the lion is angrily planning retaliation. One of the primary features of the lion – its domineering head – is very much intact.

 

The lion measures roughly 4 inches long, ¾ of an inch wide, and 2 and ½ inches tall. Its head is surrounded by a mane which is detailed by flowing curls that flow along its body. The mane (depicted below)  is one of the most commonly known lion traits and stands out on the figurine as a prominent feature. The artist clearly put a lot of effort into preserving the details of the mane to improve the authenticity of the lion figurine. Without the mane the figurine could be mistaken for a different type of big cat, but with it, the figurine is easily identifiable as the king of the jungle.

A lion with a large mane.

It has small, piercing divets to represent its eyes and a large snout. The torso of the lion is lean, it gradually gets smaller as it gets further from the lion’s expansive mane. The legs which do appear on the lion are fairly short, but show the muscular power which a living lion would possess.

 

Historical Significance

 

First Appearances

While the history of this object is rather unknown, the history of lions being represented in art is quite storied. For centuries, lions have been represented through art for a variety of reasons. They were often used to signify strength because of their strength in the wild, but in some cases the reason for a lion’s depiction is unknown.

 

One of the earliest known uses of a lion in the form of a sculpture is the Lion Man figure (Figure 1). This figure is dated to be from about 30,000 B.C.E. Its exact origins are unknown. Resembling a being that is half-man and half-lion, the figure stands about 30 centimeters tall.

Figure 1

The reasoning behind the sculpture’s creation are not known, but the sculpture does show that lions have been important animals in artistic culture for many generations. The lion figurine which is the subject of this exhibit seems to be fairly young, so what could have made lions still a prominent subject of sculptures for such a long amount of time? Why are lions still popular subjects of art after over 30,000 years? The answer to this question becomes a bit more clear as time progresses and newer sculptures are revealed.

 

Ancient Greece

A Greek sculpture from 525 B.C.E. entitled “Lion felling a bull, from a marble pediment” (Figure 2)  by the Metropolitan Museum of Art depicts a lion attacking and eating a dead bull.

Figure 2

While much of the sculpture has been destroyed over time, the portions that remain clearly communicate the original intended depiction of the sculpture: to show the lion in a position of power. The lion has dominated the bull and is feasting on its prey. This was an activity that the lion often did in the wild. People of Greek culture viewed it as strong and chose to represent that strength in art. Lions would go on to be an animal which were consistently associated with strength and power in the years to come.

 

The Ancient Greeks and Romans were particularly fond of the lion. Many lion sculptures have been unearthed from those cultures. The reasoning behind this is likely because of the strength which the Greeks perceived from lions. This can be observed in the myth of Hercules. According to the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University, Hercules was told by King Eurystheus to complete a variety of challenging tasks, the first of which was to slay and skin a legendary, powerful lion whose skin was impenetrable by any weapon. While Hercules did end up defeating the lion, the myth created by the Greeks told of how it took a demigod to slay the powerful beast. It is fitting that the first task assigned to Hercules was to slay a god-like lion because the Greeks viewed lions as creatures of strength. This can be observed other lion statues, as well.

 

The  marble statue of a lion (Figure 3) exhibit, which is showing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, depicts a large lion in an attack stance, growling at whatever would be in front of it.

Figure 3

It is likely that this lion statue was used to guard a grave site, as this was a common practice during that era. The power of lions was thought to protect the dead that were buried inside of the tomb which the lion was guarding. Perhaps, the cultures of this era viewed lions as beings which outranked humans in strength. Weaponry at the time was far less advanced then it is today, so an encounter with a lion would pose much greater damages to the person who found it. The fear that a person had of lions likely influenced the level of detail placed into the sculpting of the muscles on the statues created in the era.

 

A grand direct example of a lion figure being used to guard a grave site is the Amphipolis Lion at the Amphipolis Tomb (Figure 4).

Figure 4

 

Lions were often placed at areas where prominent battles took place. The warrior mentality held by the lion likely was thought as a symbol of the warriors who lost their lives in the battle. However, there were no known large battles at the original site of this tomb, so it is believed that the tomb holds the body of a major military figure, such as an important general. The usage of lion statues in situation like this tells us a little more about how the lion figurine in question could have been used.

 

Seeing as how lion statues were often constructed to commemorate a battle or a military figure, the small figurine in question could have been a piece of memorabilia sold at a historical battle site or created to be sold in memory of a significant military moment in history. The association of lions with power is not limited to European culture, though.

 

China

During the Northern Qi dynasty period in mid-sixth century China, a pair of large lion statues (Figure 5) were constructed outside of Han-dynasty tombs.

Figure 5

These lion statues were also thought to protect the dead – the roots of power associations with the lion remain clear. It is difficult to draw any clear conclusions about the lion figurine in question from examples of just one culture. While links can be made, a larger pool of evidence is needed for one to make an assumption about an unknown object and its meaning. The fact that the association of lions and power crosses over between multiple cultures gives ample evidence to suggest that the figurine unearthed through the MARTA excavation may have been used for a similar purpose.

 

England

From the mid-sixth century in China to the year 1805 in England, the association of lions with power, particularly in cases involving the military, continued strongly. At Nelson’s Column (Figure 6), a monument to English Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson and a multitude of battles, four lion statues rest around a large column which  supports a statue of the military figure.

Figure 6

While it is often easy to draw conclusions about meaning from how things change over time, it is often even easier to draw conclusions from how things remain the same. The consistent usage of lions in statues and figurines as symbols of power and strength speaks to the depth of the association between these traits and lions, as well as the influence that human perception can have on a thing’s representation in art. In the same way that the way an author perceives the world influences how the author will write a novel, the way an artist perceives lions, which has typically been as animals of strength, influences the way that the lions and shown to exist in forms of art.

 

Another case of the lion being used as a symbol of strength in England is through the character Aslan in C.S. Lewis’s novel The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Originally published in 1950, the novel tells the tale of four children who venture into an alternate universe called Narnia. Narnia has been taken over by an evil witch, but the former King, a lion named Aslan, fights alongside the four children to save the land. Aslan is depicted as a god-like creature with incredible power. For a British author to choose a lion as the heralded, god-like figure in his story shows that the associations of lions with strength have not gone away since the days of the Greeks.

 

Due to the historic human perception of lions, the beast’s portrayal in the artistic realm has not strayed far from a central theme of dominance. Not only have artists historically made lions appear physically strong in their work, but they place lions in positions of power, often as guardians of important individuals who need to be protected after death. The way that the strong traits of the lion are being used by humans, though, shows a self-absorbed side of human nature.

 

United States of America

Lions are instinctively protective of their families, according to Animal Planet, but they have no reason to be protective of humans. In fact, lions have a large incentive to hunt and kill humans. Despite the position of conflict which lions and humans have been placed in, though, artists continually portray lions as beings who seem to have a vested interest in the well being of people as they are often depicted protecting humans or memorializing them. This reveals a tendency of people to center behavior around their own self-interests. This trait can be seen again through the lions placed at the New York Public Library (Figure 7).

Figure 7

Named Patience and Fortitude, the two lion statues in front of the library were named to honor the qualities that a New York City mayor believed New York citizens possessed during the Great Depression. This is another example of people taking the historically recognized strength of lions and relating that quality back to human nature.

 

The lions placed at the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial (Figure 8) in Washington D.C. are very similar in purpose to the lions at Nelson’s Column.

Figure 8

They also surround the statue of the individual, likely placed to protect or guard the famed military figure. With this statue being placed in America in the 20th century, the trend of lions being used for strength figures and in situations of human guardianship is shown to again carry far across cultures and different time periods.

 

Conclusion

While cultural practices often vary widely across different nations and shift throughout the course of time, the practice of utilizing lions as symbols of strength and guardianship in art has continued throughout thousands of years of cultural shifts across many different nations. Though lions in the wild are often violent toward humans and may not entirely possess the qualities which have seemingly been assigned to them by a variety of cultures, they are consistently treated and powerful guardian figures who elicit respect. Seeing as how this traditional viewpoint has remained consistent through thousands of years of history, it is unlikely that it will change anytime soon in the future.

 

Works Cited

Ancient Origins. Stella Novus, 2013, http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/mystery-lion-man-sculpture-00464. Accessed 1 April 2017.

Animal Planet. http://www.animalplanet.com/wild-animals/10-animal-dads/. Accessed 28 March 2017.

 

Architect of the Capitol, https://www.aoc.gov/capitol-grounds/ulysses-s-grant-memorial. Accessed 1 April 2017.

 

“Guardian Lion.” The Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/30.66.2/. Accessed 2 April 2017.

 

“Lion attack Cheetah Male lion kills 2 cheetahs.” YouTube, uploaded by Reda Ezzariohi, 29 Dec 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g09B6f1oohU.

 

Lion felling a bull, from a marble pediment.” The Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/254478. Accessed 2 April 2017.

 

“Marble statue of a lion.” The Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/248140. Accessed 2 April 2017.

 

“The Lion.” The Amphipolis Tomb. http://www.theamphipolistomb.com/lion. Accessed 2 April 2017.

 

“The Nemean Lion.” Hercules, Greece’s Greatest Hero. Tufts University, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/lion.html. Accessed 29 April 2017.

 

van der Krogt, René & Peter. Statues – Hither & Thither, 2008, http://statues.vanderkrogt.net/object.php?webpage=ST&record=gblo023. Accessed 28 March 2017.

 

 

DRAFT Object Analysis

Objects can offer insight into different aspects of both an individual and the society in which that individual lived. Their design can communicate what was valued by the individual which they were created by or the individual which they were created for. In addition to this, they allow people to peer into what society may have been like at the time of the objects’ creation. What did that society deem as important and valuable? How did they communicate their value system through things? This lion figurine, which was discovered through the excavation of MARTA properties in Atlanta during the 1970s, offers an example of how the beliefs of a group of people can be translated through their use of objects. Throughout history the lion has been used symbolically to relay a message of strength. This lion, channeling some of its historical counterparts, seems to serve a similar role.

 

The lion is a stone figurine standing in a strong, proud stance.

Beige in color, but with blemishes scattered across the surface: spots of dirt and stains that have accrued naturally with age. The lion stands on a platform, but the back portion of the platform is missing, along with the lion’s lower half of its right hind leg and its tail. Though portions of the lion are missing, the powerful and intimidating aura exuded from the lion’s stance is not detracted from.

 

The lion measures roughly 4 inches long, ¾ of an inch wide, and 2 and ½ inches tall. Its head is surrounded by a mane which is detailed by flowing curls that carry along its body.

It has small, piercing divets to represent its eyes and a large snout. The torso of the lion is lean, it gradually gets smaller as it gets further from the lion’s expansive mane. The legs which do appear on the lion are fairly short, but show the muscular power which a living lion would possess.
Lions such as this were valued by societies throughout history because of their strength. Strength has traditionally been viewed as a commodity in many cultures and because of this lions were often used in burials as a means of protecting the dead as they rested. This not only shows how much cultures have valued the dead but also the role in which lions often served in the lives of people across the globe. When this specific porcelain lion figurine was made, a similar goal of creating something built upon a foundation of strength may have been in mind.

3/22 Notes

  • Walter Benjamin, Unpacking My Library
    • Starts off by saying he will discuss the relationship between objects and their collectors – books and their collectors, specifically.
    • Benjamin is a Marxist – concerned with it in a philosophical sense, not necessarily an economic standpoint. Interested in how the economy can influence our being, how we’re able to exist, how the society is constructed.
    • One way to acquire books – write them yourself.
    • You can love objects for reasons that are very different from their practical use – objects separated from the concept of a commodity.
    • Auction description – doing work and having someone else benefit from it – is labor alienation. Making a profit for someone else, making a product that you can’t use or afford. Capitalizing on the work someone else did.

Wanting Things Blog Post

Sales for large corporate retail chains often increase in December because people go out to spend money on gifts for the holiday season. The recipients of the gifts often do not need the gift which they received, but a culture has developed around the holiday season that makes people have a strong desire to receive a gift. This desire makes others feel obligated to buy gifts for their friends and family. Despite the lack of necessity involved in making the purchase, the desire involved pushes people to go out of their way to acquire the objects to give as gifts.

 

Basic necessity, while it does influence our shopping habits in many ways, is often not the primary influence in our decision to make a purchase. Often, people are influenced to buy objects out of desire to own something new or just because they think a specific object is interesting. The way large corporations market products can lead to this affect, as well.

 

Often, companies advertise products as much more grand than they actually are. Companies are motivated by profit to have people gain interest in their products. Because of this profit motivation, they go to great lengths to have people gain an interest in what it is that they are selling. If people do develop a desire for a product based on the advertisement, they will be likely to buy the product and the company will have achieved its goal of increasing its profit.

 

Overall, while consumption is influenced in many ways by basic necessity, it is more so influenced by simple desire for certain things and this can be influenced in the shopping habits of consumers.

Reading Thing Blog Post

The way society perceives an object, regardless of just how true the perception may be, has a great influence on how that object is written about. My research has been centered around a small figurine of a lion, so I have been looking into how lions have been viewed throughout history and how they have been shown in different cultures. I have been finding that many cultures viewed lions as powerful and portrayed them in that way. I believe that this is the case because of a societal belief that lions are creatures of strength.

 

The text that I chose to study is a video of a lion hunting and attacking its prey. The video shows a lion chasing and pouncing on the animal which it wanted to kill. It illustrates just how powerful a wild lion can be when it is motivated to kill. By witnessing actions like this, humans developed a belief that lions were strong and should be represented as animals that are strong and powerful. This belief resulted in many representations of lions throughout many cultures following this pattern.

 

One example of a lion being portrayed as a strong, dominant figure is in C.S. Lewis’s novel The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In the novel, there is a lion named Aslan that serves as a God-like figure over a world called Narnia. The perception of lions as strong figures likely influenced Lewis as he decided what animal to make Aslan. Since lions are typically thought of as strong leaders, making Aslan a lion was a very understandable choice.

 

Also, in the movie The Lion King, lions are presented as the heroes of the movie and as strong creatures that save the day. The lion assumes a role similar to Aslan in Lewis’s novel, the  most powerful figure in the story that is full of good, bravery, and strength.

 

While lions are certainly strong creatures in the wild, society has built a perception of them that is valiant and almost angelic. This perception has led to lions being portrayed in an almost holy light. Lions are not always the saviors of all creatures as some popular media and writing has painted them to be. The holy image of a lion is just a perpetuated meaning assigned to them based off of how people have come to perceive them.

 

The relationship between object perception and the object’s portrayal in society is a key component of understanding the true meaning of an object. To analyze objects, one must first understand the perception that led that object into being.

Question about Project 4

After reviewing the description of the project, I was a little unsure about how we would create the timeline. What format should we use? Is it open-ended? Is there a specific software that we should use to make the timeline?