Portrayals of Divinity by Aaron Hostutler

Despite differences in time periods, religions and geographic locations, artists from every era and place use similar design elements to portray their gods or goddesses. While in many cases the mediums are different, the artists' use of color, space contrast and quite often shapes are often similar and are all used to portray the feeling of divinity or holiness. 

This granite sculpture measuring just over five feet tall depicts Karttikeya, the god of war sitting on top a peacock with six heads and 12 arms, 10 of which are holding weapons. As in many other cultures, the artist carved out a semicircle around Karttikeya most likely depicting a sense of spirituality or power. Depicting the god with multiple heads and arms also suggests that Karttikeya has superhuman or godlike powers.
Katya Medvedeva made this painting in 2013 making it the most recent work of art in this collection. Depicted is ‘The iconostasis of the Kazan Mother of God’ along with several images surrounding the subject depicting other holy men and women. What you immediately notice about this painting is use of contrast in color between the blue subject/background and the bright yellow used to paint in what can be interpreted as a halo or other depiction of holiness. Many of the smaller images in this paining also portray their subjects with similar circular bright lights around their head.
This funerary stele, thought to be created in the 6th or 7th century shows the priest Hor presenting offerings to the sun god. While this is a different medium from most of the other artworks in this gallery, the same use of shape and contrast to portray holiness remains. Despite their being two different depictions of the sun god, both are depicted with head dressings. In further contrast, the priest has a normal skin tone with the sun god is portrayed having completely black skin.
This banner portrays Agni, the ancient Indian god of fire sitting on his throne. Above him the Eight Auspicious Symbols are depicted, and below are the seven treasure of the universal monarch. The artists use of contrast in size and embroidery clearly set aside the main subject as a god. In addition you’ll notice a very similar ‘halo’ effect behind Agni that is very similar to other religious depictions especially in the christian artwork.
This paining completed by Pieter Coecke van Aelst in 1518 depicts God with symbols of the four evangelists. Behind ‘God’ van Aelst painted in several encompassing circles seeming to protrude from the clouds giving the effect or emotion of holiness that is consistent with several other cultures' depictions of their gods.
This painting by an unknown artist is approximately 100 cm across and was believed to have been completed in 1123. It’s one of my favorites in this collections as it depicts only the hand of god yet still maintains a reverent feel. Once again the artists used the circles or halo effect to depict the holiness in this piece. The artists shows the hand and sleeve protruding from the circle as if it was a portal to the heavens.
This is by far the smallest piece of work in the collection measuring under 6 centimeters in diameter. This brooch, made in the Castellani Workshop is made of gold and enamel and depicts the Lamb of God, meant to symbolize Jesus Christ. Again in this piece we see the use of several circles both surrounding the lamb as well as the the one giving the ‘halo’ effect to the lamb. The artists detailed work is astonishing at such a small size. Also the use of contrast in having a dark background behind the lamb and the bright yellow halo again gives the depiction of holiness.
While not much information is available about this piece, it is a clear depiction of the Sun God. The artist portrayed the god sitting upon his thrown with what appear to be additional limbs protruding from his sides. Another element of this piece is the artists use of circles or rounded lines to surround and decorate the god. As in many pieces in this collection the circles behind the god seem to indicate a portal to the heavens as if the Sun God had come down to earth on his thrown.
This engraving by Philip Galle depicts ‘The people of Samaria receiving the word of God.’ The artist included several of the townspeople praying and on their knees. In contrast, the priests or potentially the angles walking among the people are shown with Halos around their heads separating them from the rest of the people. Then at the top of the piece we see the dove apparently coming from the heavens representing the holy spirit. Again we see the use of circles and contrasting light to depict holiness.
This engraving by William Blake was made in 1825 and depicts God towering above an older man and younger woman apparently passing to them knowledge or visions while other characters cower in the background unable to handle the bright light of God. This is one of the only pieces of art in this collection that depicts god on the same plane as those around him. Despite this though, the artist still used bright circles in the background circling god as if he was the source of the light. Also the rays of light protruding from the circles work as leading lines directing the viewer directly to the subject of this piece.
Credits: All media
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