AP Art History : Analyzing African sculpture

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Art History

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Analyzing African Sculpture

In the African sculptural tradition, what is the purpose of scarification?

Possible Answers:

A means to tell stories

As a religious symbol

Mimics the African tribes' system of identification

Purely decorative in nature

Correct answer:

Mimics the African tribes' system of identification

Explanation:

Scarification refers to the process of scarring the skin in patterns by cutting it with a knife. After the cut heals, a raised image is created, and these images are painted. In African sculpture, scarification appears on figures to imitate the system used to differentiate between different tribes.

Example Question #2 : Sculpture Beyond European Artistic Traditions

Aesthetically speaking, what characteristics most consistently attribute themselves to the majority of the body of work comprising the ancient Egyptian figure?

Possible Answers:

Monolithic monument construction depicting the pharaoh's divine figure

Rigidity of pose and contradictory perspectives on the human figure

Desert aesthetics and representations of the lower classes

Contrapossto figures sculpted in the naturalist style

Correct answer:

Rigidity of pose and contradictory perspectives on the human figure

Explanation:

Rigidity of pose and contradictory perspectives on the human figure are consistent features of most Egyptian, and ancient, figure representation throughout all Egyptian Kingdoms and Dynasties. Contrapossto figures, while present, are likely the result of the influence of foreign artisans and conquerors. Desert aesthetics were matched by depictions of the oasis created by the Holy Nile, and representations of the lower classes were secondary to that of ruling classes. Monolithic constructions, though often the most famous of Egyptian art, namely the pyramids, cannot be said to characterize the totality of Egyptian art, which represents centuries of diverse arrays of styles, mediums, and materials. This question helps students to differentiate between what is a common trope across a civilization's art history versus what pop culture associates with it, or with periods within it. Most importantly, the question focuses specifically on the Egyptian figure. Though the Great Pyramids and Egyptian art are synonymous, the student must focus on what specifically is being asked by the question.

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