Beginning with a straightforward question; What is art, or how did art begin, or when did art begin, or why did art begin, or why did art make such a significant difference, and so on?”
PALEOLITHIC & NEOLITHIC ERA
Early art finds were discovered in the Chauvet Cave in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, France, during the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. The cave paintings that adorn the walls of Chauvet Cave in France are some of the world’s oldest and most beautiful figurative sculpture. About 36,000 years ago, ancient artists developed lifelike beasts that gallop, move, and prance around cave chambers.
It was the 18th of December in 1994. The French cavers Jean-Marie Chauvet, Éliette Brunel Deschamps, and Christian Hillaire had spent the day in the Ardèche area of southern France, exploring the Pont d’Arc caves. Several handprints and a red ochre drawing of a mammoth on the wall of one chamber were illuminated by their headlamps. They realised they had stumbled upon a major archaeological find at that point.
Cave lions, mammoths, and woolly rhinoceroses are the most common animals depicted in the Chauvet Cave paintings; all of these animals once coexisted with the Aurignacians in Europe but are now extinct. Along with cave bears, bison, goats, reindeer, red deer, ibex, aurochs (an extinct wild ancestor of domesticated cattle), Megaloceros deer (also known as the Irish elk or giant deer), ox, panthers, and an owl are among the other species that were also depicted in the painting.
About 46,000 and 26,000 years ago, Aurignacians, Europe’s first anatomically modern people, lived during the Upper Paleolithic, or Old Stone Age. The first figurative sketches and carvings, the invention of a flaked stone tool called a burin for engraving, bone and antler tools, jewelry, and the oldest-known musical instruments are all defining characteristics of Aurignacian culture. Aurignacian animal and human figurines have been discovered in other parts of Europe, in regards to the Chauvet Cave paintings. Archaeologists uncovered the oldest known Venus statuette, dated from 40,000 to 35,000 years ago, and some of the oldest known bone flutes from the same time period in the Hohle Fels cave in southwestern Germany.
While the most widely accepted explanation is that Venus figurines were carved as fertility symbols or religious artefacts, several other hypothesis have been proposed to explain the widespread use of these carvings. It’s likely that these female figures acted as fertility symbols because the characteristics that are exaggerated and emphasised in most of the carvings (large breasts, ample curves, protruding stomachs) are associated with fertile and pregnant women. They’ve been speculated to be dolls or portraits. Other researchers claim they may be ideal beauty standards or a type of Paleolithic pornography. Given the wide range of time and geographic space over which these figurines were created, it’s likely that they had many meanings and functions.
In fact, there is insufficient evidence to decide which, if any, of these theories is correct. Their true significance, like that of most Upper Paleolithic cultural artefacts, can never be identified.
ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA: The Cradle of Civilization
In the Paleolithic period, humans first arrived in Mesopotamia. People in the area lived in small settlements with circular houses by 14,000 B.C.
Following the domestication of animals and the growth of agriculture, most notably irrigation techniques that took advantage of the proximity of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, these houses established farming communities 5,000 years later. The dominant Ubaid culture, which had absorbed the Halaf culture before it, was responsible for agricultural development.
The first of these cities, Uruk, was founded around 3200 B.C. It was a mud brick metropolis with public art, massive columns, and temples, founded on the riches brought by trade and conquest. It had a population of about 50,000 people at its height. Sumerians invented the earliest type of written writing, cuneiform, which they used to keep meticulous clerical records.
Despite the fact that many different civilizations arose in Mesopotamia and organized cities, states, and empires, historians research these cultures together because they lived close to each other and shared many similarities. The Sumerians (3000–2000 B.C.E. ), Akkadians (2350–2218 B.C.E. ), Babylonians (1894–1595 B.C.E. ), Assyrians (1380–612 B.C.E. ), and Persians (550–330 B.C.E.) were the major civilizations.
Fashion brought with it a certain level of social prestige. Richly embroidered silks, tassels, feathers, fringing, and gold jewels would have been worn by the elite. Flowers were a common motif in both fashion and art, and the Sumerians drew inspiration from them. The earliest Sumerian men wore a simple loincloth that left little to the imagination. Women wrapped a shawl around their bodies. The shawls were embellished with a plain pattern border or all-over pattern.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MODERN ART AND FASHION
Art and design are intertwined with diverse and changing trends and strategies in today’s civilization, and each individual’s individuality has been shown by new or old inspirations. Fashion has deep roots in self-expression, a way of displaying one’s identity through body adornment and clothes to the rest of the world. Art, like music, has a way of communicating the artist’s feelings to the audience through the colours used and the feeling that the artwork creates.
Dressing in animal skin and fur, which were normally made into wrap-around skirts and shawls, was highly fashionable in Paleolithic fashion. The use of leather and fur which is still very common in high fashion today, is the current reflection of the Paleolithic period. Previously reserved for coats and boots, the leather fashion has recently exploded, different fashion brands and designers are using the lightweight medium to make anything from T-shirts to dress coat, offering a chic and edgy feel.
Here are few looks inspired by leather and fur that are similar of Paleolithic fashion. These fashion designers have different influences on their collections, so I only want to share my own view of how ancient fashion has influenced contemporary and changing fashion.
Some of Upper Paleolithic and Late Stone Age cave paintings were also featured during the 2018 resort collection of Christian Dior which was the Cave of Lascuax, France. Creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri discovered that Monsieur Christian Dior was fascinated by the prehistoric paintings.
Here are some of the looks of the Dior Resort 2018 collection, courtesy of Christian Dior and Vogue.com:
These are also a good inspiration for the Mesopotamia fashion, during this era men and women are adorn richly embroidered silks, tassels, feathers, fringing, and gold jewels which would have been worn by the elite. What you are about see on the gallery is an example of women’s clothing reflecting the elements, but I’m giving you an idea what it looks like in a depicted contemporary and changing fashion.
Overview: Dolce and Gabanna ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2019 is inspired by DNA, and ready-to-wear Spring Summer 2020 inspired by Sicilian jungle, courtesy of Dolce and Gabbanna and Vogue.com
These photos are based on my inspiration, my own view of how ancient fashion has influenced contemporary and changing fashion, it has nothing to do with the designer’s own inspiration and I don’t want to harm their brand, for me this is only for educational purposes and I hope we could have an expressive and open mind to this. Thank you.
Bibliography and Image Courtesy
UNESCO – Decorated Cave of Pont d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, Ardèche
Smithsonian Magazine – Finally, the Beauty of France’s Chauvet Cave Makes its Grand Public Debut
World History Encyclopedia – Chauvet Cave
Mental Floss – 13 Facts about Chauvet Cave Paintings
Smithsonian Magazine – The Cave art Debate, The discovery of a 40,000-year old figurine reignites debate among archaeologists about the origins—and true purpose—of art
World History – Venus Figurine
Britannica – Paleolithic Period
National Geographic – Bone Flute is oldest Instrument, study says
History – Mesopotamia
World History Encyclopedia – Mesopotamia
Dolce and Gabbanna