With the examples of contemporary Western Art, as

opposed to the period they are depicting, used in the lecture by Sand Kakuda there can be seen vast amounts of themes being played upon that are distinctly related to the Greco-
Roman Era. Since these cultures are the primary beginnings of Western Civilization it is safe to say that their
lifestyles, socially and politically, and works of art have served as a model and basis for art in cultures and
generations to come. The legacy of the Greco-Roman culture can be seen in practically all of Western Art even up to
the most contemporary works of today.
The first two pieces called Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, done in the 1980’s, are used for comic purposes. However, one
may ask why are they comedic and what was their influence? In the Greco-Roman culture nudity was accepted as
something that showed the beauty of the human body, in both males and females. When looking at ancient art one
can see that a vast majority of the models used are nude. To the Greeks and Romans the human body was a work of
art. In contemporary times this is still the opinion. One can see works done today of nude models everywhere. The
one main difference between more contemporary periods and the Greco-Roman period was that people wore
transparent clothing or were practically nude in any situation, such as a picnic or a walk. In more contemporary
times this behavior is not as accepted. The pieces shown in lecture were simply spoofing the behavior by interjecting
modern environments and people. The humor is drawn from the awkwardness of the situati!
on. More influence can be seen because the models are drawn in the same position as the Greeks and Romans had
for models in their works of art.
The actual work of art done by Manet in 1863 is influenced by the Greco-Roman legacy because it shows how these
cultures viewed the body of the female. Manet uses many similar themes seen in Greco-Roman sculptures. He
especially understood the view of the body these cultures had. For example the posing of the body, the smoothness
of the lines, the silky texture of the skin, the physique of the woman, the hair color and the naturalistic setting all
make clear what these cultures felt about the depiction of women. By understanding these concepts and using them
so well, these paintings practically give the women god-like qualities.
The next works seen were the Judgement of Paris(1520,Raimondi), the Fountain of Four Rivers(1648,Berini), and S.
Maria Maggiore(430,Mosaic Detail). These works were influenced by the day to day activities of the aristocracy in
the Greco-Roman cultures in peacetime. These cultures intensely enjoyed lounging around, eating, and drinking.
This is shown in the paintings by the position of the body, as seen in sculptures. The figure is laid back on the
ground or on a rock at a riverbank in an obviously relaxed position. They are usually by a body of water, which also
signifies a relaxed atmosphere. The smooth lines used to draw the water and body give a relaxed feeling to the
viewer of the art. These pieces also show the beauty of the human body. The figures are mostly men. They are
perfectly shaped and toned to show the greatness of the culture. By doing this one can see that god-like attributes
shown in the works which are representative of a perfect culture created by!
beautiful gods. Even in contemporary times, leaders are shown in a relaxed state during peacetime, which depict the
same principles as the Greco-Roman cultures did.
The works entitled Gigantomacy, Treasury of the Siphnians, Delphi(525BCE,Greek Relief), Deidamia attacked by
Centaurs, Temple of Zeus, Olympia(477BCE, Greek Relief), the Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs, Florence(1491,
Michealangelo), and Athena & Alcyoneus, Altar of Athena & Zeus, Pergamum(180BCE,Greek Relief) all depict a
fighting scenario. These works show scenes of war overflowing with battles, heroism, triumph, courage, bravery,
loyalty and strength. The works are also created so that there is no space between figures in battle. This gives the
viewer a feeling of extreme discomfort, confusion and chaos. With this at hand, the viewer gets an idea of what the
Greco-Roman depiction of war was like. Many of the figures are shown with swords killing and trampling the
enemy. They often have the leader of the battle in the front and sometimes on a horse. This type of depiction shows
the greatness of the leaders and warriors. Usually influenced by gods they went into battle !
without fear or self-interest. They were very powerful men and highly revered by their cultures. Obviously, these
ancient works have influenced contemporary art. One can see in almost any type of art depicting a battle, principles
used that came from the Greco-Roman cultures. While modern, works depicting war still show the leader of the
army up front and almost always on a horse and the groundmen selflessly and bravely going into battle, many to
their utter demise. Also seen is the same mayhem by filling the space up with chaotic battling and dying men
everywhere.
The work entitled Camilla and the Centaur(1484,Botticelli) is a depiction of a woman with an axe petting a centaur.
While the theme of beauty was played upon, other themes came into the picture. It shows a woman of compassion,
yet at the same time a woman with power and strength. Botticelli perhaps admired these traits in a woman and so
created a work of art from it. In his time and in more modern times this depiction of women is unfortunately not
often seen, but it still exists. Anyone can see a painting of Queen Elizabeth and see the same features of strength and
power. This Greco-Roman influence is seen even today in portraits of Princess Diana or Mrs. Clinton. The Greco-
Roman legacy of women with these features is seen in the admiration and adulation of these types of women in art
throughout time.
Another of Botticelli’s works, entitled Primavera, done in 1482 is yet another depiction of women of the Greco-
Roman era. The work exhibits women in the woods dancing, with transparent clothing showing their body. There is
a cupid on the top and the background is very natural and bright. This work gives the viewer the feeling of the
beauty of the body, as seen in almost any female depiction, the harmony of nature with humans, love, kindness,
innocence, virginity and purity. This gives the viewer yet another idea of how women were seen in the Greco-
Roman era. Obviously, the virtuousness of the woman with nature can be seen in many contemporary works, such as
this Botticelli, and also modern works. While most people today may link nude women to pornography there are
artists that can still redefine and capture the virtuous essence of a woman with nature. These works and previous
works are all influenced by the Greco-Roman cultures’ view of women.
Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus(1484-86) and Titian’s Venus of Urbino(1538) are contemporary works that have
been directly influenced by the Greco-Roman cultures depiction of a female goddess. The depiction is of a woman
born from nature with a perfect body and extreme beauty. The works give a feeling of how the Greco-Roman
cultures felt about heavenly apparitions. The beauty of the body is shown through smooth lines and curves and very
soft textures. The goddess is a perfect creature. While there is not a following of the myths and legends of the
Greeks and the Romans today or very much after their cultures existed, the legacy of a goddess being perfect in
every way is shown in many paintings of them throughout history. This can be seen in a poster designed by Andy
Warhol in 1984 and a German movie poster for Marlene Deitrich in “Blonde Venus” in the 1930’s.
Warhol depicts Venus’ head, but in four different frames of different colors. Andy was a very contemporary and
very psychedelic artist. By combining the beauty of the goddess with his own vision he maintained her beauty and
brought it to a new modern level. The movie poster shows a beautiful blonde woman with a see through top-
something Venus might even wear. This poster was created in a time when Germany was beginning to increase its
patriotism and bring itself to believe that it was the best and only country and race. This poster uses the beauty of
Venus’ to help them with certain propaganda during that time. The influence is obvious. The beauty and perfection
of a goddess has a profound impact on whoever may see it. These modern artists used that influence to try to benefit
or promote something.
Finally, the painting of Odalisque by Ingres in 1814 is also heavily influenced by the Greco-Roman cultures. His use
of line, texture, contour of the body, physique, and color all related directly to these cultures view of the women.
The Guerilla Girls, a bus poster made in the 1980’s, is the same as the Odalisque, except a guerilla head is on the
body. This poster was making a point on art. That is, why are most works of art of nude women? As can be seen
here the influence is somewhat hidden, but it is still there, and used to make a social point.
These particular works of art and countless others all delve into the Greco-Roman cultures’ psyche. Their legacy of
myths, legends and especially their lifestyles, which were based on these myths and legends, has generated priceless
and timeless works of art. The themes they used were used throughout the history of Western Art, all the way up to
the present, and definitely beyond. As a matter of fact, there may be no escaping the influence these cultures had on
art. Although an artist may think s/he has created something new, the fundamental themes seen in the Greco-Roman
arts, are still being played upon to create that art.