The naturalistic portrayal of gods through religion and art

In many different cultures, man often sought to depict gods in naturalistic form. The portrayal of gods and goddesses as natural beings allowed them to remain representations of the human world, while still possessing godly abilities, mentalities, strengths and nobility. To be a god, one had to perform an extraordinary task and exert their inner vigor, stability and absolute reign. Gods and goddesses were believed to be untouchable beings whom were invincible and invulnerable to pain or emotions. There were however, a handful of gods that were not fully naturalistically portrayed (being portrayed as half animal), nonetheless, they still defied boundaries by completing the role of a god while still being human. Animal body parts were merely used to personify them both distinctly and uniquely. 

This sculpture of the Greek hero Herakles can be considered one of the prime examples of religion and mythology dominating culture. He is often depicted carrying both a club and a lion skin (both in correlation with his mythological story), and is also displayed in the nude, being that male nudity was the highest form of beauty in the Greek age. This particular sculpture was found near the ruins of the former roman emperor Hadrian's villa, but there were several works of art that displayed Herakles in his might and power all throughout Greek and Roman art. As a matter of fact, according to the J. Paul Getty Museum, no other hero or god appears as often as Herakles does in Greek and Roman art.
This Roman statue of the Greek god Zeus is another concrete example of religion forming culture. Here, Zeus would have originally been holding a scepter and a thunderbolt. The fact that Zeus is presented here as a mature bearded man, embodying wisdom, strength, and power, and seated with his signature scepter and thunderbolt in hand, his unwavering influence and might are intensely brought through (perhaps in an attempt to make viewers feel small in comparison with him). Interestingly, although the sculpture itself is Roman, the treatment of the drapery that covers Zeus's lap and even the sculpting done on his hair and face replicate the Greek hellenistic period. The influence that this sculpture and other works of art that included their king of the gods must have had on the people of Greek and Roman culture is unimaginable.
The Madonna in Church is a small oil painting, created by Netherlands painter Jan Van Eyck. The painting was started in 1438 and finished in 1440. Immediately upon glancing, it is clear to see the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus Christ while standing in a Gothic cathedral. Details to pay attention to are the fact that Mary is depicted with a jewel studded crown. This crown she displays clearly symbolizes her eternal power and importance. While she sports this crown, she still remains depicted as a mother in time appropriate attire. Baby Jesus is depicted in naturalistic form, though he is the descendant of a god and withholds some power himself. From the moment he was born it was clear what his purpose and powers were. While being portrayed as a normal innocent baby, there was in fact nothing normal about this gifted child
This is a circular panel painting by the Italian painter Giovanni Francesco da Rimini in 1460. The painting shows God surrounded by four angels. Also, God seems to be releasing a dove from his palm, which is meant to represent the Holy Spirit. If one can see God's left hand, it gives the impression that he is reaching out for towards somebody, as if he is helping or is offering his help. Furthermore, one can also see mantle and what appears to be a scarf around hanging from his neck which have crosses on the edge. In this picture, the painter depicted god in a naturalistic form by painting him as a human being. As one can see, God is painted with a beard and curly gray hair. Here, it's obvious that God was being depicted in the human form. It was a controversial thing to depict God in human form, but the personifying of each character in this painting shows the way that humans were constantly trying to make God relatable to them while still depicting his sovereignty.
Though Anubis was originally known as being a god of the underworld, he is mostly associated with the process of mummification and embalming. He is the one responsible for the embalming of Osiris, lord of the underworld. His own given name roughly translates to say, 'to decay.' Here in this figurine made approximately between the years of 700 BCE and 332 BCE, Anubis is shown with the body of a man, and the head of a jackal. Though this representation does not entirely resemble the human form, it shows the connection between the rulers of Egypt and how they were divine in life though they were only mortal and how they would become gods themselves in the afterlife.
In this portrayal of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of Motherhood and Fertility, she holds her son Horus, the god that most pharaohs resonated with and who also helped Anubis with finding Osiris. In this pose, Isis looks like any other mother holding her child, though she herself is anything but common. One does not immediately assume that each is a god, but instead takes in the scene with recognition. It is not until one looks deeper into the appearance of the statue that each headdress is taken into consideration. This statue of Isis holding Horus demonstrates just how the Egyptians viewed their gods as otherworldly, whilst giving them human qualities in both appearance and emotion.
This intriguing bronze statue, created between the period of 5th century BCE and 4th century BCE, depicts Horus, most commonly referred to as the protector and ruler of Egypt. The falcon headdress might look like something comical, but the power he withheld was nothing to be mocked or belittled. Horus was bestowed with such prestige and honor after he lost one of his eyes in a battle between him and Seth (his father's killer). The recognition and appreciation for his bravery is why he is portrayed with two crowns, which represents his rule of upper and lower Egypt. Horus possesses an animal facade, and though this may depict him as not fully human, he is still shown with a human torso, arms and thighs. Though he had Godly strength and protected the people of Egypt, he was still human enough to simply resonate and coincide with them.
This beautiful statue, having been worked on from 10 B.C to 40A.D, depicts a powerful goddess by the name of Isis. Being portrayed in an extremely regal and luxurious form, she is adorned with jewelry, fancy garments, hair accessories and ofcourse her majestic crown. She is regarded as one of the most important goddesses of Ancient Egypt as she prominently and dominantly led a cult that spread far and wide. It was because of her great feminine reign that she promptly received worship from many people across the land. Though she withheld such a prestigious title, one might mistake her aura in this statue as one of a regular lavish female, rather than a God. But behind this pretty face was a fierce female who's rule is legendary. She is not depicted as a hybrid of both animal and human like most god's were in Ancient Egypt. She was able to withhold an immense amount of power, while still being illustrated as a royal human being
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