AP Art History : Sculpture Beyond European Artistic Traditions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Art History

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : African Sculpture

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

Possible Answers:

As a religious symbol

Mimics the African tribes' system of identification

A means to tell stories

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 #1 : Analyzing African Sculpture

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

Possible Answers:

Rigidity of pose and contradictory perspectives on the human figure

Contrapossto figures sculpted in the naturalist style

Desert aesthetics and representations of the lower classes

Monolithic monument construction depicting the pharaoh's divine figure

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.

Example Question #1 : Sculpture Beyond European Artistic Traditions

Which of the following is generally true about African sculpture?

Possible Answers:

Depictions of human beings and animals were banned for religious reasons

Historically, the most prized skill has been the exact recreation of human features without flattery

Realist depictions are rare, with the head in particular being oversized

Statues were typically larger than life size to emphasize the subject's grandeur

Correct answer:

Realist depictions are rare, with the head in particular being oversized

Explanation:

Most African sculpture fits a tribal religious background, often depicting subjects that embody ancestors, spirits, or gods. Carved out of wood and stone, the statues were generally small enough to be relatively portable. These statues were usually human figures, but somewhat distorted in certain body parts, especially in the head and sexual characteristics.

Example Question #1 : Answering Other Questions About African Sculpture

In Yoruba art, the most important body part portrayed in statuary is the __________.

Possible Answers:

arm

head

heart

hand

Correct answer:

head

Explanation:

The Yoruba culture of Southern Africa is one of the key artistic hubs of the region, and produces remarkable works in sculpture, jewelry, and masks. One chief feature is the usual focus on the head, which the Yoruba traditionally believe is the home of the entirety of the person. This belief is best reflected in Yoruba busts, which do not even feature necks or shoulders, only the head itself.

Example Question #1 : African Sculpture

Traditional African masks typically portray all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

spirits of the earth

ancestors

the actors under the masks

local animals

Correct answer:

the actors under the masks

Explanation:

African masks are one of the chief examples of sub-Saharan artwork and are traditionally used in various African religious ceremonies. These ceremonies reflect traditional religious beliefs, which are usually based on spirit animism and ancestor worship; therefore, it is thought that the masks often allow the actors to take on something more powerful than themselves, including animals, ancestors, and various kinds of spirits.

Example Question #1 : African Sculpture

All of the following statements are true, in general, of the masquerade arts in Africa except _____________.

Possible Answers:

most African masks serve, among many other purposes, to crystallize varieties of human behavior-- caricatured, ordinary, amusing, bizarre, serious, etc

a mask, combined with held objects, music, and dance gestures, invokes a specific named spirit character who is enacted a part of strongly ritualized dramas

especially before the advent of colonial rule, African masking societies boasted extensive regulatory and judicial powers

African masks rarely had any governmental purpose and served only as decorative objects, interesting as visual art pieces

for many groups in West and Central Africa, masking plays an active role in the socialization process, especially for men, who control most masking on the continent

Correct answer:

African masks rarely had any governmental purpose and served only as decorative objects, interesting as visual art pieces

Explanation:

African masquerade arts have been crucially important, particularly before the advent of colonialism. They function to serve many of the societies' governmental methods, and they serve to express cultural, dramatic, and artistic purposes. 

Example Question #1 : Answering Other Questions About African Sculpture

Polytheism is a basic consistency in Egyptian art and architecture. What Egyptian pharaoh changed the official state religion to a monotheistic one, spawning a 17 year anomaly of art dedicated to Aten, the sole deity in ancient Egypt?

Possible Answers:

Tutankhamun

Amenhotep/Akhenaton

Memisabu

Khnumnakht

Correct answer:

Amenhotep/Akhenaton

Explanation:

During his 17 year reign, Amenhotep IV forbade the worship of any god with the exception of Aten, the power light embodied by the sun disk. This brief period represents a radical departure from what typically comprised Egyptian religion, which was a consistent cornerstone of ancient Egyptian art. An example of this is "Akhenaton Presenting a Duck to Aten."

Example Question #1 : Sculpture Of The Americas

The Olmec were the first major civilization of Mesoamerica and the Pre-Columbian era, flourishing from about 1500 BCE to 400 BCE. 

The Olmec are perhaps most famous for which unique style of sculpture, made from volcanic rock?

Possible Answers:

Small statuettes

Colossal heads

They were not sculptors.

Sacrificial altars

Bowls and plates

Correct answer:

Colossal heads

Explanation:

Very little is left from the Olmec civilization, and historians know very little about them as a whole, aside from pieces of evidence that point to certain advancements or characteristics such as being the first civilization in the Western Hemisphere to develop a writing system. The Olmec are recognized for their giant sculptures of heads made from volcanic rock, called the Olmec Heads. These heads have different characteristics and have been found all around the region where the Olmec lived. It can only be speculated how they moved such huge pieces of volcanic rock. Although the Olmec made other types of sculptures, relatively few of them have been found.

Example Question #1 : Understanding Terminology That Describes Sculpture Of The Americas

Large, elongated stone slabs covered in intricate carvings are typical of the Classic Period of Mesoamerican art. These sculptures, popularized by the Ancient Mayans, are known as __________.

Possible Answers:

zoomorphs

altars

lintels

stelas

stucco

Correct answer:

stelas

Explanation:

Large, elongated Mayan stone slabs covered in intricate carvings are known as "stelas." They often depicted the ruler of the city they were located in, sometimes disguised as a god. Very few have been preserved.

Example Question #2 : Understanding Terminology That Describes Sculpture Of The Americas

__________ are large Mayan sculptures that consist of one large stone carved into the shape of animals or living creatures and covered in intricate relief sculpture.

Possible Answers:

Stucco

None of the other answers is correct.

Zoomorphs

Stelas

Lintels

Correct answer:

Zoomorphs

Explanation:

Zoomorphs are large stones carved to resemble animals by the Mayans. They were often covered in relief sculptures. Zoomorphs may have been used as altars.

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