Descriptive Art History Essay
This work resembles a four-legged animal wearing a mask with human features. It is a sculpture in the round created using an additive method. The smooth, highly polished texture and reddish colour of the sculpture give the impression that the material is ceramic. The sculpture’s head displays both human and animal qualities. The ears are positioned symmetrically, slightly off center of the head.
They are of a triangular shape and stand erect in a pointed manner resembling ears similar to those of some dog breeds. They are slightly concave and face frontwards.
Around the face there is a raised layer of the material creating the illusion that a mask has been superimposed onto the sculpture. The “mask” is a slightly different colour than the head and covers what would be the sculpture’s face. Right in the center of the “mask” are human features. The eyebrows are slightly raised and low set, sitting unusually close to the eyes.
The eyes protrude slightly from their sockets. They are almond shaped with incisions outlining the eyeballs. The top of the nose begins between the two eyes, lengthwise it occupies about a third of the “mask”. It is highly protruding with a sharply defined bridge. Under the nose there are two raised areas denoting lips. There is an indentation representing the space in between the lips, which is curved slightly upwards suggesting a smile. The ears sit half way down the “mask”, they are proportional to the mask features with slightly exaggerated ear lobes.
There is a hole in the right lobe that appears to be an artistic choice rather than a preservation problem. The inner edges of the hole seem scratched, perhaps there was previously an item sitting in the hole. The front legs are short in comparison to the rest of the body. There is an outward bend half way down each leg. The base of the legs taper off slightly, resembling paws. There are three equally distributed indentations on each paw, the indentations span from the where the legs begin to taper to the tip of the paws.
These indentations delineate toes on the paws. The stomach is not in proportion with the rest of the body as it is quite wide and sits slightly off the ground. It is a bulbous shape and suggests that the dog is overweight. This could be a signal of the domestication of this particular breed of dog. The breed was probably native to the area of the artwork and consequently domesticated, serving as companions to humans. The rotundness may suggest that they were pampered, idolized animals. Unlike the two front legs, the two back legs are completely straight.
They do not have bends or indentations to resemble paws, instead they slightly flare out towards the bottom. The tail also does not resemble the tail of any known animal. In proportion to the rest of the statue the tail is extremely wide. It is rounded and appears hollowed out. It appears to be diagonally sliced downwards, the highest point being at the back of the tail. This suggests the sculpture could have a dual purpose as an ornament and a storage vessel. The tail could be an opening to a hollowed out stomach that would provide an appropriate storage facility for grain or liquid.
The sculpture’s purpose of creation could be symbolic of shamanism. The mixed representations of human and animal features are possibly the artist’s way of exploring the relationship between these life forms. The human mask could be demonstrating the shamanist practices in which animal spirits work in harmony with a human host through ritualistic trance states. In summary it could be concluded that the artwork could be used both for decorative purposes and for a deeper spiritual use within the rituals of its social setting.