Museum Assignment Paper Primary Sources

analytical Essay
1177 words
1177 words

The historical object I picked when I visited the Princeton Art Museum was the "Relief of a seated poet (Menander) with masks of New Comedy" that was in the downstairs ancient art room with other Ancient Roman and Greek artifacts. The artwork is a relief which reflects its raised, three-dimensional perspective. It is made of white marble. The artwork shows a poet (presumably Menander), wearing a himation, sitting and studying over a dramatic mask of a young man. Meanwhile two other dramatic masks of a woman and an old man lay on a table. A scroll can be seen on the table where the masks of the woman and old man are. This scroll seems to be some type of poetic or theatrical composition that the poet is working on and was using the masks as inspiration. The poet in the piece is directly analyzing the mask of the young man so either the young man is important in the part the poet is writing or is important throughout the entire written piece. With the regard young men received in Ancient Rome, a young man being the focus of a piece of writing or a play would be quite common at the time.
The piece seemed quite interesting because there is such a contrast in facial structures between the poet (assumed to be Menander) and the face masks he is trying on while writing a composition. The poet looks upon the masks with a stoic and imperturbable visage while the masks portray a vast array of emotions. The young man and women masks look shocked and upset; the elderly man's mask looks more enraged and surprised. Why is there such a contrast between the poet's emotions and the masks he is using as inspiration? What does this artwork say about the significance poetry and comedy had in Ancient Rome? Many conclusions can be made about this histo...

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...e advertising a theater that showed Menander's plays. Menander was a famous Greek poet and playwright, but he probably died before this sculpture was made, so the poet was not as important as the plays that were being shown. This artwork also shows what Ancient Romans and presumably Greeks thought to be funny and artistic. The masks are making fun of a young man, woman, and old man and Menander as the stoic man is specifically not funny. If you think about it, a lot of cheap jokes in modern Western culture and media are based around young men, women, and old people. This conclusion reinforces that there is a connection between Roman humor and art and Western art. This is obvious in the language modern Western people use to describe theater and the dramatic arts such as comedy, drama, and even the word theater have informed the modern Western theatrical experience.

In this essay, the author

  • Describes the princeton art museum's "relief of a seated poet (menander) with masks of new comedy" which reflects its raised, three-dimensional perspective.
  • Analyzes the contrast in facial structures between the poet and the masks he is trying on while writing a composition.
  • Explains that the text panel next to "relief of a seated poet (menander) with masks of new comedy" states the piece was made between the first century b.c. and the early first-century a.d.
  • Concludes that ancient cultures wrote and made things that were important with durable materials because humanity was in peril and less stable in the past.
  • Analyzes how the poet assumed to be menander has some defining features about him, but he wears a himation which is reminiscent of ancient greeks.
  • Analyzes how the poet's head was recreated in modern times. the sculpture focuses more on the masks, which are bigger than his.
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