Painting from the Ajanta Caves: A Visual Analysis
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ARTH 111 Danielle Hernandez Visual Analysis
Cave painting from the Ajanta Caves Maharashtra, India c. 462-477AD
A group of four or five major diagonals form to: Highlight the largest figure Establish a focal point Divide the major sections of the painting
The figure in the first section can be considered the focal point of this painting because it is the largest figure, it has been portrayed with the most detail, and, due to the cross-sections created by the horizontals, it is most likely the first thing your eyes are drawn to. This also causes the balance of the whole painting to shift towards the left. The figure is both idealized and individualized. Other figures- whether male or femalegenerally have the same face but this one is different. It is also painted with brighter and lighter colors than the rest of the painting.
The second section would be the next to draw your attention. It is darker but the details and high quantity of figures depicted keep it from fading into the background. The woman depicted on the right of the painting would be the third section that your eyes are drawn to. The woman is the second largest figure and, although not portrayed with the idealism and individualism of the first figure, it still bears nearly the same amount of realism and detail in adornments/clothes. The remaining sections, although they contain depictions of people, plants, etc., have less involvement. This coupled with the darkness in color allow them to fade into the background.
Therefore, the combination of the diagonals as well as the darkness and lightness in coloring successfully: Highlights the largest figure Establishes a focal point Divides it into major sections Differentiates between foreground and background
The contour is made up mainly of two different elements: serpentine curves and small angles. A combination of both creates two different groupings throughout the painting. S-curves in the background in the lower left corner and the upper right corner (in yellow) as well as small angles in the upper middle and right of the painting (in blue) group together the background and the foreground to create continuity and balance. In the forefront, s-curves appear in the bodies of humans, animals (the geese in the second section), and the detail on the clothing of the woman in the third section.
The painting consists mostly of crowded, varied, composition. Each individual element (the people portrayed, etc.) lack a lot of open composition (but are still not completely closed composition). Regardless, when all of these elements come together, the aesthetic distance is lowered since the crowded composition keeps your eyes moving and creates an illusion of movement.
Other elements which lower this works aesthetic distance would be the excellent use chiaroscuro to create a 3 dimensional effect, the use of contrapposto in the people, the amount of detail in the headdresses and other dcor, and the contrast between the background and the focal subjects (i.e. the largest person in the first section is brightest, followed by people in the second and third sections, and finally people who are hardly visible like those in the bottom left corner). To increase the aesthetic distance more, the artist could have expressed more emotion in facial expressions, could have had apparent and clear activities going on, and could have used more foreshortening. Although there is size and placement variation, distance is not being portrayed. It is not clear if the figures that are smaller are so because they are further back, lower in status, being used to better balance the painting, or if it was simply an aesthetic fallacy (perhaps they needed to fill in a space). The painting seems to be a collage of various elements rather than one consistent scene. Also, the paintings aesthetic distance is heightened because of a lack of color. The paintings color was probably much more vivid when it was first painted but has faded immensely over time. The colors which are visible- mostly reds, browns, and yellows- are all very similar in tone and are evenly used throughout the painting to create uniformity and consistence. Color is also important in shading and establishment of a contrast between what is background, foreground, and who is important or less important (i.e. the angular platforms in the background are all reddish, most of the people are brown, and the largest person is more yellow).