02. Ancient Mediterranean, Art & Humanities

AP Art History: Theories & Interpretations of Ancient Mediterranean Art

AP Art History: Theories & Interpretations of Ancient Mediterranean Art
*Note: The enduring “Enduring understanding,” “Learning Objective,” & “Essential Knowledge” language comes from the 2019 AP Art History Curriculum and Exam Guide.

Enduring Understanding: The study of art history is shaped by different theories and interpretations of art and art making that change over time. These theories and interpretations may be generated both by visual analysis of works of art and by scholarship that may be affected by factors including, but not limited to, other disciplines, available technology, and the availability of evidence.

Learning Objective: Explain how theories and interpretations of works of art are shaped by visual analysis as well as by other disciplines, technology, or the availability of evidence.

Essential Knowledge: The study of art history is shaped by different theories and interpretations of art and art making that change over time and may be generated both by visual analysis as well as by scholarship. These theories and interpretations may be used, harnessed, manipulated, and adapted in order to make an art-historical argument about a work or a group of works of art. Contextual information for Ancient Greek and Roman art can be derived from contemporary literary, political, legal, and economic records, as well as from archaeological excavations conducted from the mid-18th century onward. Etruscan art, by contrast, is illuminated primarily by modern archaeological record and by descriptions of contemporary external observers. The arts of these early western artistic cultures are generally studied chronologically. Additionally, archaeological models and stylistic analysis have identified periods based on stylistic changes. Artworks are assigned to periods according to styles (e.g., archaic Greek), governments, or dynasties (e.g., the Roman Republic).

Essential Knowledge: Ancient Greek and Roman art provides the foundation for the later development of European and Mediterranean artistic traditions. From the 18th century onward, European and American observers admired ancient Greek and Roman ethical and governmental systems, which contributed to prioritizing art and architecture that could be associated with political elites and cultural capitals (e.g., Rome). More recently, art historians have examined art produced by contemporary subjects or “provincial” populations.

Essential Knowledge: Some of the earliest written statements about artists and art making survive from the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Little survives of the rich Etruscan literary tradition that is documented in Roman sources.

Etruscan Art:

*Note: I tell my students why we do not have a lot of Etruscan art, especially architecture. Etruscan temples were made out of perishable material, i.e. wood. And secondly, much Etruscan art was actively destroyed by the Romans but you can find good examples of Etruscan terracotta sculptures in Central Italy. In fact, Florence has a great Etruscan museum & the town of Fiesole, outside of Florence, is filled with Etruscan history.

Suggested Works: 

  • #31. Temple of Minerva (Veii, near Rome, Italy) and sculpture of Apollo. Master sculptor Vulca. c. 510–500 BCE. Original temple of wood, mud brick, or tufa (volcanic rock); terra cotta sculpture.
  • #37. Winged Victory of Samothrace. Hellenistic Greek. c. 190 BCE. Marble.

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