Power Portrayed


This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.

I've created this collection in order to explore the concept of power and what that means in regards to art. Throughout history art has been created for various reasons: to record important events, for religious or political causes, etc. And many times works of art were created and used to as propaganda. Pieces were created purely to "advertise" the good qualities of a certain person and to convince people or entire populations of that person's competence as a leader. Or it could be used for the opposite reason: to show a certain individual or event in a bad light, and thus cause others to reject them. However, in this collection I will focus on how art has been used to shed a positive light on an individual and what that looks like. In other words this collection will explore how an artist uses image to convey a sense of power and leadership to the viewer, enough that they

Bronze statuette of a huntsman, perhaps Alexander the Great, -250/-100, From the collection of: British Museum
This statuette of a huntsman is presumed to be that of Alexander the Great. I chose to add this piece to the collection because it is a good example of the important role the physical appearance of the subject matter plays in the promotion of that subject as a powerful person. This figure is strong. Although he is not standing erect he is standing steady and he looks planted, as if it would be impossible to move him. In this piece strength is not only shown in his stance but in the details as well. His body is defined and muscular and his face looks firm and commanding.
Napoleon at the Great St. Bernard, Jaques-Louis David, 1801, From the collection of: Belvedere
I chose this piece because Napoleon was one of the most powerful men in History, and in my opinion this painting is a perfect example of a propaganda piece. In history books Napoleon is described as short (and is still referred to as "the Little Corporal" to this day), often sickly, and with prominent features.However, this pieces shows Napoleon as a tall, strong, capable soldier who is ready to lead. In fact the artist went so far as to completely also his hand, which in real life was disfigured, making it graceful and without flaw. Everything in this painting speaks of power and ability; from the stallion he is seated on to his his stately pose.
George Washington (Porthole type), Rembrandt Peale, c. 1853, From the collection of: Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
George Washington is probably the most well known men in American History. Being the first president of a new Nation would not be an easy job. It would take a strong willed and determined man to lead a new Nation and I chose this portrait of George Washington because I think it shows that side of him. In this, his gaze is determined and stern. His head is turned slightly upward and to the side, giving him an elegant profile. His Military uniform also adds to the feeling of power and refers to his ability to lead others.
Queen Victoria Taking the Coronation Oath, June 28, 1838, Sir George Hayter, 1792–1871, British, 1850, From the collection of: Yale Center for British Art
Queen Victoria. I couldn't have a collection about power without adding this portrait of Queen Victoria. Her whole demeanor demands respect, and her rigid yet graceful stance emanates authority. Although her power is shown in the way she is posed, the artist seems to have focused more on the material side of power, and shows this through many bright and decorative objects. Her rich and detailed clothes are a sign of wealth and power, and her hand is gracefully wresting on a bible, showing that her power as queen does not simply come from the state but from God.
Although the previous painting and this photograph are both of Queen Victoria, both are very different. In the previous painting there was an emphasis on symbolism and materialism. In this photograph, however, there is no sign of either. Although she is dressed well, in a rich gown with an imposing crown on her head, Victoria's dress is black and fairly simple. She is standing rigidly, with her arms crossed and an imposing expression on her face. There is no sign of rich furniture around her, except for a chair, and even then the majority of that object is not shown. In this picture it is Victoria herself who holds the power, and not the riches of the state.
This poster used in WWII is a perfect example of art used as propaganda. "Believing in Germany, we shall fulfill our destiny". The Nazi party used posters like this to promote and gain support for the war effort. It is easy to see that as a German citizen this would be an appealing message. Especially during a war. Many people today do not realize that a large majority of the German people did not know of the atrocities that were taking place at the time, and I believe posters and advertisements like this enabled the German state to keep these distasteful events away from public knowledge.
Begining and Ending of Destiny (Pieta), Domoto Insho, 1954, From the collection of: Kyoto Prefectural Domoto-Insho Museum of Fine Arts
I wanted to put this piece in the collection because although it shares similarities with the previous pieces (for example His power is shown through the physical homage being done to Him by the angles and apostles), for the most part it is extremely different. While the other pieces show the figures standing in a powerful pose and rich clothing, Christ is broken. He is laying across His mothers lap and only the angels, Mary, and the Apostles are keeping him from falling to the ground. Why did the artist portray Him this way? I think He is showing that the power of God is so great, and because God in Himself is so perfect, it it not necessary to "idealize" the scene.
Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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