Art Question

Learning Goal: I’m working on a art writing question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.

Your blind uncle is back in town. You did such an excellent job describing a work of art that he’s returned for more. But this time he’s interested in learning something else—namely about representations of and attitudes toward death and the afterlife. You see, he’s beginning to think about his mortality and is seeking insight on how past cultures have conceived of and represented this idea. Compare two sculptures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art from distinct cultures (i.e., Egyptian, Greek/Roman, Early Christian, Byzantine, etc.), offering a descriptive and thematic analysis of representations of the culture’s “take” on death.

Choose two works from the list below; they must be from different cultures. Concisely and clearly describe the formal properties of the sculptures—i.e., what is represented, what medium is used, how the forms are modeled, etc. Note of any key similarities and differences. What function did the works serve? For what (likely) settings were they originally intended? For what (likely) patron? Based on their stylistic, functional, and thematic characteristics, how do they reflect the attitudes toward death of their respective cultures? In a concluding paragraph, suggest which of the two works would offer your uncle more insight and/or comfort as funerary monument? Why?

Group 1: Egyptian
Statue of Demedji and Hennutsen, ca.2465-26 BCE, limestone (51.37)
Statue of an Offering Bearer, ca.1985 BCE, gessoed and painted wood (20.3.7)
Yuny and His Wife, Renenutet, ca.1290-1270 BCE, Asyut limestone (15.2.1)

Group 2: Greek and Roman
Terracotta Krater, Greek, attributed to the Hirschfeld Workshop, ca.750–735 BCE, (14.130.14)
Marble Grave Stele of a Little Girl, Greek, ca.450-440 BCE, marble (27.45)
Grave Stele of a Young Woman, Greek, ca.400-390 BCE, Attic marble (36.11.1)
Marble Grave Stele with a Family Group, ca.360 BCE, Greek, Attic marble (11.100.2)
Sarcophagus Lid with Reclining Couple, Roman, Severan, ca.220 CE, marble (1993.11.1)

Group 3: Early Christian, Byzantine or Medieval
Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Lives of Saint Peter and Christ, early 300s, marble (1991.366)
The Fieschi Morgan Staurotheke, early 9th century, gilded silver, gold, etc. (17.190.715a, b)
A Knight of the d’Aluye Family, after 1248 (by 1267), limestone (25.120.201)
Tomb Effigy Bust of Marie de France, ca.1381, marble with lead inlays, by Jean de Liege (41.100.132)


  • Double spaced; 4-6 pages in length; with normal margins and font size (i.e., 12-point)
  • Include title, culture, artist’s name (if known) and approx. date of work at beginning of the essay
  • All ideas or quotations borrowed from outside sources must be properly footnoted or cited
  • All sources used over the course of research must be listed in a separate bibliography

A useful resource for your research is the MMA’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, which you can access at:

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