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History of Propaganda in Art Essay

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Throughout history, the purpose of art is dedicated to anything from decorative embellishments to religious tributes. However, art was also used by rulers and other powerful figures for propagandistic reasons as well. This can be seen through a survey of art pieces ranging from the Hellenistic period to the Ottonian period.
At the beginning of the Hellenistic period Alexander the Great had just passed away, leaving his vast empire fragmented amongst many individual leaders. Many of the Greeks left the Balkan Peninsula to seek commission abroad, thus forsaking their identity and ties to the old Greek city states. The result was a greater focus on the individual, a psychological sense of isolation, as well as a mixture of foreign and Greek elements in the arts. The bust of Euthydemos I, King of Bactria, exemplifies all of these features. At the time period, many other leaders sought to liken themselves to Alexander and his greatness in the arts. However, unlike the other leaders of the fragmented kingdoms, Euthydemos does not conform to this practice for propagandistic reasons. Being the ruler of the highly prone and unstable kingdom of Bactria (modern day Afghanistan and Pakistan), Euthydemos wanted a depiction of himself to be harsh and feared. Thus, the bust portrays a cruel-looking old man with individualistic features, exaggerated creases, and a ruthless expression. No doubt, Euthydemos commanded this interpretation of his personality to serve as a warning that he could potentially be a terrible enemy.
Moving forward to the Hellenistic Baroque period, the Greeks now experience attacks from the Gauls of central Europe. Eventually, the Gauls were crushed in battle by the Pergamon army under Attalos I. Attalos I then construc...


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...of the Byzantine era. In the Liuthar Gospel illumination of Otto III enthroned, this is Byzantine feature is replicated and expanded upon. Instead of just depicting Otto as divine authority on earth, Otto seems to replace Jesus entirely. This seems to be the case due to the following reasons: he is enthroned in heaven, being crowned by the hands of god, he is surrounded by symbols of the evangelists, and he sits on the personification of the earth. Similar to the panel in San Vitale, where Justinian is surrounded by military officers and clerics, Otto III is also surrounded by the officials of the Church and State. This serves to show the ruler’s head authority over both sectors of the empire. Yet, unlike the Justinian panel, this illumination of Otto III is far more audacious via the grandiose symbols of heaven and god’s direct crowning of Otto III’s divine power.



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