The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of art from the ancient Mediterranean region. Particularly famous works in its Etruscan galleries include two tomb sculptures that both depict an embracing couple.
More on these works can be found here:
Both works covered coffins of members from the same family, the Tetnies family in Etruria (Tuscany), located in a necropolis or “city of the dead” in Vulci in central Italy. Discovered in the mid-1840s, they came to Boston in the 1880s.
For this assignment, write a 3-4 page paper (between 900 and 1,000 words), comparing and contrasting the two sculpture groups.
- FORMAL ANALYSIS:
Use the museum’s website to LOOK CAREFULLY at both works of art, taking notes on your observations for later consultation. Spend at least 10~15 minutes on each work, observing the photographs taken at different angles. It might be helpful to make drawings (doodling is fine) to commit details to memory. What do you notice about each work? What are the artists’ goals? What are their main concerns? What did they struggle with? Describe in your own words what forms you see, colors (if any), proportions, line, shadow, space, composition (how the figures are framed and posed), technique (sculptural method), gesture, movement (if any) and mood. This is a visual exercise.
- BACKGROUND READING:
Although this is not a research paper but a visual analysis paper, reading a scholarly article on a similar type of art will help cultivate your analytical skills and strengthen your own interpretations. The article below might seem long, but it’s beautifully illustrated, and you will recognize some of the works mentioned from our lectures. Read for the big picture rather than for factual details, taking notes on the author’s big arguments.
Nathan Arrington, “Touch and Remembrance in Greek Funerary Art,” The Art
Bulletin 100 (September, 2018): 7-27. (A pdf file is posted on Canvas)
Read with the following questions in mind:
- Does the paper have an argument? (If so, what is it?)
- How does the author support the argument? (what is the evidence used?)
- What ideas in this article about Greek sculpture are useful to you as you formulate your own interpretation of the two Etruscan sculptural works?
- Does Arrington’s analysis of Greek funerary sculpture inform your paper?
- WRITING YOUR PAPER (ANALYSIS & INTERPRETATION):
How do the two works in Boston compare and contrast with one another? What are their similarities and differences? The objective of this paper is to explain how the paired paintings are similar and how they are different in terms of both content and form. What speaks to you about the two objects?
Always start from an outline.
Watch out for spelling and grammatical errors.
Make sure to mention your sources in foot-notes if you borrow an idea that is not yours.
- EDIT, EDIT, EDIT:
This is the most important step in the paper-writing process. Before hitting “send” and mailing off that paper to my email address, make sure you have done the following:
Re-read the paper from start to finish – is your writing clear and concise?
Does the paper have your name at the top?
Does the paper have a creative title that prepares the reader for your analysis?
Does your paper use the active voice as much as possible?
Have you run the spell-check function?
Have you foot-noted your sources wherever you’ve borrowed an idea that is not yours?
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