Many forms of Portable Art
October 7, 2020
Art exists in many forms, shapes and sizes. Oftentimes, it even depends on one’s own definition of what art is. With so many things that can be considered a form of art there are those that are really recognized worldwide. One of these is what we call portable art. From the term portable, it refers to objects carved during the Upper Paleolithic period (40,000-20,000 years ago) of prehistory that can be moved, in contrast to cave art.
Examples of cave art are those of paintings at Lascaux and Altamira. One carved, they remain there forever. Portable art, on the other hand, can be carried from one place to another. Examples are the famous Venus figurines.
The oldest portable art can be located in Russia and central and western Europe and includes carvings of animals such as bears, lions, and mammoth, as well as remarkable human figures. One remarkable figurine is one with a lion’s head from Hohlensteinstadel, Germany.
This type of art is made from stone, bone, or antler, and they take a wide variety of forms. They can be in small, three dimensional objects, carved animal bone tools, and two dimensional relief carvings.
A tool that was very useful and effective hunting device was the spear thrower which was developed way before the bow. Carved and decorated examples of these tools have been found. Accurate use of the techniques of working in these materials were gradually discovered. It is visible on equipment and personal ornaments, such as pins and pendants where they use simple incision and dot decoration.
Images of women during the time period between 30,000 and 20,000 BC is most eminent. These images are generally characterized by stomachs, buttocks, large breasts, thighs and exaggerated pudenda. These figures depict the different stages of a woman’s life: pubescence, early stages of pregnancy, childbirth, and the obesity of later life.
Most of these carvings have no faces although they often show individual touches in their hairstyles and jewelry. One rare figurine is the lovely portrait head on the Brassempouy “Venus” in France. These more detailed female sculptures are what archaeologists refer to as the “Venuses”.
They are mostly found outside France, especially across Russia, and some particularly fine examples are even in Germany and Italy. Today, portable art is more known for its more naturalistic representations of animals on items of everyday equipment and personal ornaments.
The Venus is a statuette of a plump female figure that is 11.1 cm in length. It is also called as the “Woman of Willendorf”. This is due to the fact that it was discovered at a paleolithic site near Willendorf, a village in Lower Austria near the city of Krems by archaeologist Josef Szombathy in 1908. It is made from a limestone that is not found in the area and tinted with red ochre. The discovery and naming of the Venus started the exploration of several similar statuettes and other forms of art. So now, they are collectively referred to as Venus figurines.