Art and Its Function in Depicting History


This artwork depicts a battle between the Assyrians and the Elamites. The piece is a relief, and the artist used several methods to display this event on a two dimensional surface. These methods may appear strange to people of today, however; they were the common methods used in this time period. The artist used three main conventions to depict the battle, and they were pose, size, and the relative points of view.


The first technique used by the artist was the poses of the characters in the relief. The characters for the most part were displayed in mostly natural poses. For instance, The soldiers on the ground with their shields raised over their heads and daggers in their hands are depicted in a very natural pose. Their entire bodies were shown in profile, and their pose conveyed action and movement. The soldiers at the top of the relief are in profile as well, and they show action as well by having their bows drawn and ready to strike as opposed to laying unused at their sides. The men in the middle of the relief convey death by two main techniques. The first, and the most obvious of these two is the fact that they are depicted falling downward as if they were wounded. The second, however is less noticeable, but equally important. These men have a much different pose than any other in the relief, they are less rigid, and they look as though they have now control over what their bodies are doing. These poses are for the most part how the actual battle would have looked to someone who was there. The only real difference is in the relief the characters are shown in extremely similar poses.


The second technique is size, and what size means in this relief. Size in this relief has very little to do with distance, and the artist is not using size to show depth. Size has one main purpose in the relief, and that is to show the importance, or the non‑importance of any single characters. For example, all the men attacking the fortress are much larger than those defending it. The attackers were not giants, and they were not closer than the men defending. This technique tells us that this relief was done by an Assyrian, because it puts emphasis on the Assyrian attackers, and shows that they are more important than the Elamite defenders. If one was actually there, the men at the bottom of the relief would be larger than those at the top because they are closer.


The third and final technique is point of view. The artist also uses point of view to show importance. In the relief the fortress is considerably small in comparison to the men both attacking and defending it. This is done to emphasize the men in battle. Another example is the size of the attacker’s weapons with regard to the defender’s. The y are larger to show that their weapons are stronger and can do more damage. This drastically differs from an optical point of view. In real life the fortress would be considerably larger, and the weapons would be relatively the same size in comparison to each other.


In conclusion, while the relief gives a lot of information, and conveys its message well, it also compromises the realistic or natural look. It is however, typical of this time period, and considered to be standard in technique. The relief gives a detailed, yet one sided view into the battle, and other than the natural poses, has no natural point of view values.