Art History (term)

Registers
A horizontal band containing decoration, such as a relief sculpture or a fresco painting. When multiple horizontal layers are used, registers are useful in distinguishing between different visual planes and different time periods in visual narration.
Hieroglyphs
A symbol, often based on a figure, animal, or object, standing for a word, syllable, or sound. These symbols form the early Egyptian writing system, and are found on ancient Egyptian monuments as well as in Egyptian written records.
Ka
A spiritual part of the soul in Egyptian mythology, which survived after death.
Sarcophagus
A large coffin, generally of stone, and often decorated with sculpture or inscriptions. The term is derived from two Greek words meaning “flesh” and “eating.”
Canon
A law, rule, or standard.
Sunken Relief
Relief sculpture in which the figures or designs are modeled beneath the surface of the stone, within a sharp outline.
Cartouche
An ornamental figure, often on an oval shield; an oval figure containing characters that represent the names of royal or divine people.
Pectoral
An adornment worn on the chest or breast.
Cloisonné
An enameling method in which the hollows created by wires joined to a metal plate are filled with enamel to create designs.
Iconography
(1) The depicting of images in art in order to convey certain meanings.
(2) The study of the meaning of images depicted in art, whether they be inanimate objects, events, or personages.
(3) The content or subject matter of a work of art.
Krater
A Greek vessel, of assorted shapes, in which wine and water are mixed.
Calyx Krater
Bell-shaped vessel with handles near the base.
Volute Krater
A vessel with handles shaped like scrolls.
Hydria
A type of jar used by ancient Greeks to carry water. Some examples were highly decorated.
Amphora
A type of jar with two handles and a narrow neck.
Kylix
In Greek and Roman antiquity, a shallow drinking cup with horizontal handles, often set on a stem terminating in a foot.
Provenance
The place of origin of a work of art and related information.
Buon Fresco
The technique of painting on wet plaster.
Sculpture in the Round
Three-dimensional sculpture that is carved free of any attaching background or block.
Egg and Dart
A decorative molding; a series of egg-shaped figures alternating with another shape.
Meander
A decorative motif of intricate, rectilinear character applied to architecture and sculpture.
Acanthus
A stylized leaf motif, one of the primary decorative elements of classical architecture.
Palmette
An artistic motif resembling the fan-shaped leaves of a palm tree.
Guilloche
A repeating pattern made up of two ribbons spiraling around a series of central points. Often used as a decorative device in Classical vase-painting.
Polis
A city-state in the Classical Greek world.
Doric Style
The lowest order and simplest column in Grecian architecture, characterized by a heavy column with a plain saucer-shaped capital.
Ionic Style
Column surmounted by a capital with spiral coils on each side; the column shaft usually has flutes and is slender, and it has a decorative base.
Kore
Greek word for “maiden.” An Archaic Greek statue of a standing, nude youth.
Kouros
Greek word for “male youth.” An Archaic Greek statue of a standing, nude youth.
Symposium
In ancient Greek, a gathering, sometimes of intellectuals and philosophers to discuss ideas, often in an informal social setting, such as at a dinner party.
Black-Figured Technique
A style of ancient Greek pottery decoration characterized by black figures against a red background. The black-figure style preceded the red-figured style.
Red-Figured Technique
A style of ancient Greek pottery decoration characterized by red figures against a black background. This style of decoration developed toward the end on the 16th century and replaced the earlier black-figure style.
Contrapposto
Italian word for “set against.” A composition developed by the Greeks to represent movement in a figure. The parts of the body are placed asymmetrically in opposition to each other around a central axis, and careful attention is paid to the distribution of weight.
Corinthian Style
The most ornate style of architecture, characterized by a slender fluted column and an elaborate capital decorated with acanthus leaves and scrolls.
White Ground
Vase-painting technique in which artist painted a wide range of colors onto a white background. This was a favorite technique for decorating lekythoi.
Geometric Style
A phase of Greek art, characterised largely by geometric motifs in vase painting.
Orientalizing Style
The early phase of Archaic Greek art, so named because of the adoption of forms and motifs from the ancient Near East and Egypt.
Archaic
Extremely old; ancient; outdated.
Classical Age
term referring to the period of Greek history that begins with the defeat of the Persian invaders in 480 – 479 BC and ends with Alexander the Great’s accession in 336 BC or with his death in 323 BC.
Hellenistic
Relating to or characteristic of the classical Greek civilization.
Basilica
(1) In ancient Roman architecture, a large, oblong building used as a public meeting place and hall of justice. It generally includes a nave, side aisles, and one or more apses.
(2) In Christian architecture, a longitudinal church derived from the Roman basilica and having a nave, an apse, two or four side aisles or side chapels, and sometimes a narthex.
(3) Any one of the seven original churches of Rome or other churches accorded the same religious privileges.
Veristic
From the Latin verus, meaning “true.” Describes a hyperrealistic style of portraiture that emphasizes individual characteristics.
Coffers
(1) A small chest or casket. (2) A recessed, geometrically shaped panel in a ceiling. A ceiling decorated with these panels is said to be coffered.
Oculus
The Latin word for “eye.” (1) A circular opening at the top of a dome used to admit light. (2) A round window.
Mosaic
The art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials.
Menorah
A candelabrum with seven branches used in ceremonies to symbolize the seven days of Creation.
Tempera
Medium for painting in which pigments are suspended in egg yolk tempered with water or chemicals; this mixture dries quickly, reducing the possibility of changes in the finished painting.
Catacombs
The underground burial places of the early Christians, consisting of passages from niches for tombs and small chapels for commemorative services.
Lunettes
(1) A semicircular or pointed wall area, as under a vault, or above a door or window. When it is above the portal of a medieval church, it is called tympanum.
(2) A painting, relief sculpture, or window of the same shape.
Typology
The matching or pairing of pre-Christian figures, persons, and symbols with their Christian counterparts.
Prefiguration
The representation of Old Testament figures ad stories as forerunners and foreshadowers of those in the New Testament.
Greek Cross
A cross with four arms of equal length arranged at right angles.
Vellum
A superior type of parchment made from calfskin.
Continuous Narrative
Portrayal of the same figure or character at different stages in a story that is depicted in a single artistic space.
Icon
From the Greek word for “image.” A pane painting of one of more sacred personages, such as Christ, the Virgin, or a saint, particularly venerated in the Orthodox Christian church.
Iconoclastic Controversy
A movement in the Eastern Empire, headed by the emperor, that denied the holiness of religious images. During the eighth and early ninth centuries the use of such images was prohibited, but icons were restored to worship by 843.
Pantocrator
The ruler of everything, especially as an epithet for Jesus Christ; an artistic depiction of Jesus in this aspect.

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