Fine Art Collector | Autumn 2018

PREHISTORY (40,000-5500 BCE)

The earliest known examples of artistic expression are small bone figures decorated with engravings, stones and shell amulets. Cave paintings were made using different- coloured minerals, by grinding them and mixing the powder with blood and animal fat our ancestors created paints. Subjects included large wild animals like bison, horses and deer, along with the tracing of human hands. As people lived in caves only occasionally, it’s doubtful that they had a solely decorative purpose. It’s possible that they had a spiritual meaning and were used in rituals to ensure successful hunting expeditions.

Located in Cantabria, North Spain, the Altamira cave complex was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985. The paintings depict animals including bison and bulls and are dated between 14,000 and 20,000 years ago.

An Ancient Greek mosaic of a panther from the House of the Masks in Delos, dated circa 100 BCE.



In Ancient Greece, wealthy people embellished walls and floors with colourful tiles and paintings. These evolved into paintings on wood that could be transported from one place to another. Mosaics often reproduced paintings by masters, while the human form – including that of classical gods such as Apollo – were replicated in marble. A Greek mosaicist invented a new type of pavement, which featured black and white marble tiles with a realistic central image. Painted vases (amphoras) were very popular, and today they comprise a large part of all surviving Greek artefacts.

Egyptians were strong believers in the afterlife, and much of their art is from their tombs. They used hierarchical proportion, whereby the size of figures indicated their relative importance. Pharaohs were depicted as much larger than animals, servants and trees. Other art included paintings, jewellery and drawings on papyrus. The decoration of private dwellings remains relatively unknown, but it is believed that palaces were elaborately decorated with relief paintings and statues.


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