To be an art historian is to understand that the field is shaped by evolving theories and interpretations of artwork. These theories are usually developed as scholastic understanding related to these cultures increases. There is one main thing to understand: do not evaluate art from only a visual lense. Use the knowledge you have about their works' history, the culture and society that created it, etc. to form a deeper understanding of the works.
To further elaborate, we have included information directly taken from the AP Art History CED
by the College Board, about information related to this skill within Ancient Mediterranean 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" (pg. 60).
"Etruscan art... is illuminated primarily by modern archaeological record and by descriptions of contemporary external observers" (pg. 60).
Thus, "Theories and Interpretations of Ancient Mediterranean Art," simply means that you must understand that the evidence we have related to a particular civilization influences our ability to understand their artifacts. As our knowledge deepens about a particular area, we can use various technologies from the ancient and modern world to form a deeper understanding of their artistic traditions.
There are several interpretations of ancient Mediterranean art. These are the main theories historians have developed to be the functions of most art within this unit.
They could have been used to depict the gods and goddesses of the time; either as a way to worship the deity or venerate (honor) them. (Ex. The Great Altar of Zeus and Athena at Pergamon)
Some pieces are narrative art, meaning that they were used to tell stories and convey historical events. (Ex. Palette of King Narmer)
Art might have been used as "political propaganda," or as a way for the king to display their wealth and reinforce their power and authority over their kingdom. (Ex. Audience Hall of Darius and Xerxes).
And that's it! Be sure to give yourself a pat on the back for getting through the second unit of the course. Next, we'll be going to Europe to see how these ancient civilizations have impacted the artistic culture and history of the continent; and how Europe will influence the works of the Americas. But for now, Happy Studying 🎉!