Month: October 2013

Using Prown Method to Learn Maasai Jewels

What is Prown Method?

Prown Method is a way to get to know material culture and then remake products of that culture. There are 3 main steps:

1. Description.

First take a look at the artifact. Then talk about what it looks like. For example, what material it is using, what color it is, what configuration it is, etc. No subjective assumptions or conclusions from other experience is allowed. It’s easier to start with 2 dimensional elements to 3 dimensional composition.

2. Deduction

Try to experience with the artifact. How the artifact works? Where should it be placed? How does it interact with people?  How it influence on your emotion? Come out with conclusions or even guesses.

3. Speculation

What the articraft means in the culture? Do some research on reliable learning sources. Is the assumption so far right or wrong?

So let’s start with Maasai bride’s jewels!

IMG_1578IMG_1579 IMG_1580 IMG_1581 IMG_1582 IMG_1583 IMG_1584 IMG_1585 IMG_1586 IMG_1587


They are jewels made of numerous tiny beads, several metal flakes, leather, and of course, thread. Although made by different artists, they are using the same color pallete.

Colors are used very thoughtfulIly. Sometimes artists use a big mass of a color, sometimes they make beads into small patterns. “Blocks of color are often finished off with a black and white rim of beads, a frame that is associated with a need for a break or cut (–description from SAM)”. And colors look more shiny and vivid by the medium of beads. Overall, much attention is paid to control the shape and amount of colors, just as what Greeks did in Geometric Period.



This is what they will be like on a Maasai bride. The exact number of beads may not be accurate.



The ornaments can be more complicated in real life. For example, the triangle ornament on the head can be larger and higher And I find some earings that have very different structures. The colors have meanings. Red means blood and war (that’s why the red is saturated so much). Blue means sky and sea. White means purity and milk. Green means plants. Orange is a feminine color (though men also wear it).

Here’s a Maasai wedding vedio:

The bride showed at 6’27” in the middle of the screen.



Byzantine Self-Portrait

self portrait self portrait 2

Formal Breakdown of Reference 


Composition It’s a typical symmetrical Byzantine composition. The protagonist is in the middle, surrounding with others and an ornamental frame. The complexity of figures stands out of the simplicity of background.

Texture It‘s made of mosaics. Even those “gemstones” on the frame consist of mosaics.

Lines Lines are rigid. When the artists needed a line, they pieced mosaics in a same color together into a line. So there won’t be many variations in a line. Not to mention their perspective was becoming bad at that time.

Color/Value Overall the colors are saturated, which makes the whole picture look luxurious. At the same time, there are only limited number of colors because of the using of mosaic. The light and dark change abruptly.

Roman Art

Roman art comes from Greek art. Romans duplicated many Greek art pieces, and created their own based on Greek art pieces. In that process, Romans developed many great stuff such as the busts, arches, domes, perspective in paintings, etc.

  • Temple of Fortuna Virilis, late 2nd century B.C. in Rome, Italy.


This temple looks like Greek temple so much! It has the Ionic columns! However, Romans did make some modifications to satisfy their need.

1. There’re less columns. Romans used engaged columns instead of real columns. Engaged columns actually don’t load bearing, they are just for decoration use.

2. There’s no relieves on the pediment or the frieze.

3. It’s smaller compared to most Greek temples, and slimmer.

4.It has a stair which suggests Roman temples have orientations! 5. It has 1 cella without separation.

Generally speaking, Romans took utility more serious than the aesthetic looking, so they built the temple with less cost. Numerous similar temples with Corinthian columns can be found in Italy. Personally I prefer a Greek temple than this one in PC games. Greek temple is more beautiful and easy to go in.

  • The Colosseum, 70-82 A.D. in Rome, Italy.

colosseum3 Plans on the Amphitheatre Collosseum the_colosseum_rome_italy-normal

This is a huge amphitheater to watch some bloody shows. “It stood 159 feet high, 616 feet 9 inches long, and 511 feet 11 inches wide, and could hold more than 50,000 spectators.[1]” Another new thing about Colosseum is: ARCH! Arch is an invention by Roman with using new technics such as concrete. Arch is great because it economizes bricks! Not to mention it looks nicer! The Colosseum has 4 layers of engaged columns. The first layer on the ground is consist of Doric columns, which is the most primitive and sturdy ones. Then the second layer is Ionic, the third layer is Corinthian. The Colosseum also has a nice balance between horizontal and vertical lines, it’s almost unnoticeable that the upper columns are thinner and the lower ones are thicker. Years have made it dilapidated and variegated, but it attracts me more than the original round building.

  • The Pantheon, early 2nd century in Rome, Italy.

Pantheon4 Pantheon5 Pantheon1 Pantheon2 Pantheon3 Pantheon5

This is an outstanding Roman temple. We can still fine some Greek stuff in the front gate, such as the pediment and the columns. In the back the incredible thing emerges: dome! Dome makes the temple grand, and makes people inside have a sacred feeling. There’re 2 reasons for that: 1.Dome allows a broad vacant space in the temple which makes people feel they are small. 2.In the past people used to believe that the sky is a dome–look at the hole on the top of the dome, isn’t it like a sun?

And here is a color reconstruction. The original exterior colors (white and golden yellow) look clean and devine.

  • A Roman Patrician with Busts of His Ancestors, late 1st century in Rome. Marble, lifesize.
4Hellenistic_Portrait Head from Delos 80 B.C.

Portrait Head from Delos 80 B.C.
The original piece is a whole body statue, this is only the head part of it.

Portrait of the Composer Modest Mussorgsky (1881)

Portrait of the Composer Modest Mussorgsky (1881), by Repin.

Roman statues have many differences from Greek ones. Figures wear clothes (most Greek statues are nude, only few of them wear clothes). There are busts instead of a whole body all the time. Romans liked to be depicted old since it’s the symbol of wiisdom. Not to mention the even more sophisticated skills on facial expression. Now I’ll focus on the face expression.  In Hellenistic Period, Greek artists focused on recording the face’s topography[2], while Roman artists pay more attention to express the personality of their clients. Look at the seriousness on that 3 faces. We can feel the stern Roman personality and the devotion to responsibilities, yet we can tell they have different temperament from each other. Even in recent centuries, portraitists were still aimed at express the character not the construction details of the sitter.

 Augustus of Primaporta. Roman copy in 20 A.D. from the original of 18 B.C.

IMG_1738sculpture_Augustus of Primaporta. Roman copy in 20 A.D. from original of 18 B.C.

3CLASSICAL_Doryphoros 450-440 B.C.

Doryphoros, Roman copy after an original of 450-440 B.C.


Hermes. Roman copy after an original of 320-310 B.C.

sculpture_Aulus Metellus

Aulus Metellus. Early 1st century B.C.

Shape:  Artist had taken many statues as references. Such as the body of Doryphoros, the little Cupid from Hermes, the action of Aulus Metellus. Generally speaking, Augustus has a perfect young body with an inspiring post. And his face features are made precisely which can be found in many other Augustus’ Statues. However, there is few topography detail, which differs from Hellenistic statues. Another big difference we can tell from Greek style is that he wears clothes.

Patterns: The small figures tell a story of winning a war. Artist made them together like a myth story which makes Augustus like a god.

Texture: There are texture of metal, leather, cloth on the statue, and they are very realistic. I like the combination of different texture, it’s fashionable.

[1] <Janson History of Art> P 180

[2]<Janson History of Art> P 190

Greek Art: Figures

Ancient Greek art is the origin of western art. This is the era that artists making epoch marking progress. There are 4 main periods: Geometric Period, Archaic Period, Classical Period, and Hellenistic Period. We can see clearly that artists develop their skills from being primitive into being sophisticated.

  • Geometric Period 900-600 BC

As the name declared, artists depict human bodies using very basic geometric shapes. And artists always unfold human bodies to let viewers understand their drawings. Since there isn’t much expression the artists can carry on each figure, much attention are paid to distribute the sparsity and density of the whole pattern. Most art pieces in this period are potteries and small-scale statues.

Attributed to the Anatalos painter – red-figure loutrophoros (c. 700-680 BC)

Attributed to the Anatalos painter – red-figure loutrophoros (c. 700-680 BC)

Dipylon Vase from the Dipylon cemetery, Athens. 8th century B.C.

Dipylon Vase from the Dipylon cemetery, Athens. 8th century B.C.

Dipylon Vase from the Dipylon cemetery, Athens. 8th century B.C.

Dipylon Vase from the Dipylon cemetery, Athens. 8th century B.C.

the excellent ratio of Dipylon Vase
  • Archaic Period 600-480 BC

In this period artists made a great progress. With the influence from Egypt, Greeks begun to understand the human body in a 3-dimensional way, and stopped painting figures in a piled up shape. And they started to depict women. Since women didn’t show up in pubic in ancient Greece, artists didn’t understand female body entirely, they just sculpted female body vaguely with clothes on. While male sculptures are all nude, since men didn’t wear clothes in ancient Greece. In this period artists tried to be as realistic as possible, but they still didn’t skilled enough to create vivid expression on figure’s faces, so all the figures have a mild, benign smile.

head of Rampin Horseman 620-480 B.C.

Head of Rampin Horseman 620-480 B.C. Greek statues are all whole-length portrait. This is only the head of that statue.

Hera 570-560 B.C.

Hera 570-560 B.C.

Herakles Strangling the Nemean Lion

Herakles Strangling the Nemean Lion

Kore 650 B.C. & Kouros 600B.C.

Kore 650 B.C. & Kouros 600B.C.

Peplos Kore 530B.C & Chios Kore 520 B.C.

Peplos Kore 530B.C & Chios Kore 520 B.C.

Polymedes of Argos – the twins Cleobis and Biton (c. 580 BC)

Polymedes of Argos – the twins Cleobis and Biton (c. 580 BC)

Polymedes of Argos – the twins Cleobis and Biton (c. 580 BC)

Polymedes of Argos – the twins Cleobis and Biton (c. 580 BC)

  • Classical Period 480-323 BC

Now artists are pretty familiar with human body. Clothes pleats flow related to the body, not evenly distributed on the figure. Statues are not just standing straight, they have gestures. And what’s more, artists begun to create women body delicately. In this period each statue has an ideal body that we all dream of, even old people have a strong and slick body. Artists were trying to make their clients be sacred like a god.

Myron – Discobolus (c. 450) marble
Apoxyomenos 330 B.C.

Apoxyomenos 330 B.C.

Atlas Bringing Herakles the Apples of the Hesperides

Atlas Bringing Herakles the Apples of the Hesperides

Charioteer 470 B.C.

Charioteer 470 B.C.

Doryphoros 450-440 B.C.

Doryphoros 450-440 B.C.

Knidian Aphrodite 340-330 B.C.

Knidian Aphrodite 340-330 B.C.

Riace warrior A & B, 450 B.C.

Riace warrior A & B, 450 B.C.

Discobolos, Myron (about 450 BC)

Discobolos, Myron (about 450 BC)

Describe: This is a marble statue of a nude man with a round base. He has perfect proportion, firm muscles, slick skins, and short haircut. He is holding a discus, squatting. He is looking backward. His muscles on legs and right arm are tense.

Analyse: His vessels and the tension on the muscle suggest he’s throwing the discus, and he’s staring at the discus to make sure it lands in the place he want.

Interpret: His center of gravity is not solid, which means we can’t hold this gesture steadily.  Actually his body is bent to a critical point. His toes of right foot are grabbing the ground while his whole left foot is relaxed. He has to throw the discus quickly or he’ll fall down. All these make the character look vivid.

Judge: I love this art piece. It’s full of motion which shows the passion of the artist. In this period artists were quite familiar with the structure of human body; they were not satisfied with just carving people correctly. They begun to convey emotions through their works.

  • Hellenistic Period 323-31 BC

In this period artists were sophisticated in creating human bodies. They begun search the thoughts of  ordinary people, expressing their sadness or pain.

farnese bull- 3rd century BC

farnese bull- 3rd century BC

Venus de Milo -Hellenistic

Venus de Milo, 1st century B.C.

  • Dying Gaul 230-220 BC. Roman marble copy of bronze original, life size.

4Hellenistic_Dying Gaul1

This man is lying down on the ground, bowing his head. His body is carved brilliantly fine in anatomy, and there are bunches of details. The curves on his head, wrinkles and veins on his skin, and also there is blood flowing out of injuries.
Analyze & Interpret
He looks exhausted and depressed. He maybe a soldier from a defeated army, or a villager whose village is invaded.
At Hellenistic Period, artists were not satisfied with only creating a realistic body, they also pay attention the emotions regular people have. Even emotions from a barbarian.

Greek Art: Architecture

The most valuable buildings in ancient Greece are public buildings , because domestic ancient Greek structures have usually decayed or been destroyed. They offered basic functions of everyday life, there wasn’t much aesthetic value on it. So let’s start with temples, which is the most common type of ancient Greek public architectures.


Though they’re very huge[1], ancient Greek temples have elaborate proportions. Almost every part of them are in golden ratio. Temple of Poseidon at Paestum ( built in the end of the 7th century B.C.) is a pretty typical Greek temple that is well preserved.

Temple of Poseidon_golden ratio

Temple of Poseidon

Temple of Poseidon_plan (


Ancient Greek temples vary in the structures, but they have many things in common. They are all rectangular structures without a certain orientation.They welcome passengers to praise from any direction, as they are the symbol of civilization and dense population which attracts people to live in a polis. Instead of walls, it is columns standing in the side of temples to support the roofs. Columns are awesome, because they don’t block people’s view as the walls, and they look even more beautiful under the sunshine with light and shadow on it.

Different temples have different columns, and different other components as well. There are 3 main orders of the temples: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.


Temple of Parthenon 5

the Temple of Parthenon (447-438 B.C.)

Temple of Parthenon_color reconstruction on frieze

Temple of Parthenon’s color reconstruction on frieze

Temple of Hera I (Basilica) 550 B.C.

Temple of Hera I (Basilica) 550 B.C.

Temple of Hera I (Basilica) 550 B.C. plan

Plan of Temple of Hera I (Basilica) 550 B.C.

Temple of Artemis, Corfu_reconstruction drawing from the west

the Temple of  Artemis, Corfu (600-580 B.C.)reconstruction drawing from the west (

Temple of Artemis, Corfu_west pediment 600-580 B.C.

Temple of Artemis, Corfu_west pediment 600-580 B.C.


Temple of Artemis, Ephesus 2

Temple of Artemis, Ephesus 550 B.C. (

Southwest corner, Temple of Artemis_reconstruction drawing


Temple of Artemis

Temple of Artemis

Temple of Artemis

Temple of Artemis_plan

Temple of Athena Nike (427-424 B.C.)

Temple of Athena Nike_(427-424 B.C.)


Temple of Zeus, Olympia (about 470 B.C.)

Temple of Zeus, Athens Temple of Zeus, OlympiaTemple of Zeus, Olympia plan Temple of Zeus, Olympia_Plan


Aeolian capital from Larissa 600B.C.

Aeolian capital, an “strange” type of column. Built in Larissa, 600B.C.


Behind the columns, there are smaller rooms in which priests and nobilities have meeting with God. The columns inside the rooms are the same with outer ones, just smaller in scale. There are statues inside as well. For example, there used to be a huge statue of Athena in the Temple of Parthenon, and that was the room to place oblations.

Temple of Parthenon_interior reconstruction Temple of Parthenon_plan

Sometimes Greeks built “crazy” temples with very different plans from above.

Temple of Apollo_plan

Temple of Apollo in Turkey

Temple of Apollo,Didyma,Turkey

Temple of Apollo in Turkey


how temple plans change in ancient Greece

temple_typical Greek peripteral temple plan

typical Greek peripteral temple plan


Scientists found spots of fragments on the body of the temples, which means temples were once in color!  Greeks thought it’s more realistic in color. Also, they paint patterns on the pediments, friezes, and columns.


A detail from stone carvings found on the site of the Acropolis

Temple of Parthenon_colour reconstruction

Temple of Parthenon_color reconstruction drawing


Doric pattern example

Temple of Hera at Olimpia _reconstruction drawing

Temple of Hera at Olimpia _reconstruction drawing

Temple of Hera at Olympia akroterion

Temple of Hera at Olympia_akroterion


“Acro” means up, “polis” means city. Acropolis is a cluster of ancient Greek religious architectures. It’s on the hill located in the center of Athens. Here are some reconstruction pictures of Acropolis.

acropolis_reconstruction drawing acropolis_reconstruction modelAcropolis-diagram

Erechtheion 421-406 B.C. 

Composition: It’s a temple made of marble.

Shape: We can see that from the plan: it’s a combination of several rectangles, not usual peripteral temple.  And it has several goddess statues used as columns, which is unique. Goddesses have slender necks, so artists designed thick hair for them to support heavy rocks.

Pattern/Texture: let’s regard the small patterns as points, columns as lines, and the bricks and walls as faces. You’ll find that all these elements work well balanced with density and the sparsity. And here is a pattern example from the capital of a column.

Color: As what Greeks did on other temples, Erechtheion was also once in color! Here are the color pallete.

Erechtheion 1Erechtheion 2 Erechtheion 3 Erechtheion 4 Erechtheion reconstruction 1 Erechtheion reconstruction 2erechteion_pattern


My beloved <SAILOR MOON> has taken Greek temples as references! Look at the “ionic gown” she’s wearing!

水兵月1 水兵月2order_2ionic personification

[1] The Temple of Hera at Olympia is not as huge as the others. It was built in a very early age, about the end of 7th century B.C.

Vassilis DimitriadisTemple of Hera at Olimpia