This course examines the role of the visual arts and architecture in the representation of political power and ideology. Images can bear very potent meaning. This meaning is sometimes buried in complex symbolism and conveyed through attributes and emblems, while seemingly insignificant gestures, postures, and motifs can denote sophisticated state, dynastic, and ideological associations. Apart from addressing a variety of themes pertaining to legitimacy of rulership, notions of sacred kingship and references to mythical archetypes that shaped the image of the ruler over centuries, imagery was used also to convey and promote fundamental values of the prevailing ideology, social order, and myths that shaped the cultural outlook of an age. Thus eighteenth-century ideals of progress, industrialization, and democracy were accompanied by admiration of the classical world and a desire to achieve those moral values that were believed to have existed in antiquity. Consequently, ornate Baroque facades gave way to Greco-Roman temple fronts while grand history themes replaced fanciful Baroque allegories. After the Napoleonic wars the search for identity shifted to national history and glorification of the Middle Ages initiating a surge of Gothic-style buildings while images of knights replaced the heroic nudes of the classicist revival. This romantic medievalism was followed by yet another myth. Rekindling the age-old quest for Paradise early twentieth century political ideology competed with religion in promising a society that would offer prosperity and social justice, generating images of a utopian classless society of content workers and peasants. As much as imagery can reflect the cultural outlook of an age and reveal its significant postulates architecture remains the most explicit manifestation of political power. Through symbolic language, direct or indirect associations and references to celebrated buildings of the past or to sacred or highly revered sites, architecture is imbued with complex meaning that conveys messages of continuity, power, and sanctity or commemorates deceased rulers and ensures legitimacy to their successors.

For further information on the course see the Syllabus, Requirements and Readings.

 
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