5 Works of Art You Should Know More About from Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “Apes**t” Music Video

BY LILLIAN JONES

Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s new music video “Apeshit,” which was filmed at the Louvre Museum in Paris, debuted on the 16th of June.

The power couple, who had visited the museum reportedly four times in the past, were given private access to the museum's galleries in May to film the video. "Apeshit" shines a light on some of the most remarkable works of art at the museum, as well as on a form of culture that is often overlooked in today's society. Here are 5 works of art you should know more about from Beyoncé and Jay-Z's latest music video:

1. Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503, oil on canvas

 PHOTO: Lillian Jones / BLENDED

PHOTO: Lillian Jones / BLENDED

The Mona Lisa (ca. 1503) by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is one of the few exceptions to the cultural indifference that historical art has experienced in contemporary society, as it is considered the most recognized artwork of all time. The subject of the painting may have been Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, the 24-year-old wife of the well-known Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo. In his creation of the celebrated work of art, Leonardo deviated from traditional portraiture of the Early Renaissance by utilizing a few different methods. He portrayed the female subject as not wearing any jewelry, including her probable wedding ring, removing a conventional expression of femininity. He chose to represent the subject with only the top half of her figure -- generating a triangular form, which allowed the figure to be larger, prompting a more intimate relationship with the viewer. 

Lastly, Leonardo combined the warm smile with bold, perhaps coquettish eyes, that stare straight out at the observer. This gave the facial expression complexity, thus, an enchanting personality emerged from the portrait. The Mona Lisa revolutionized the creation of portraiture and possibly altered the way women were viewed in art and society.

2. The Winged Victory of Samothrace, 190 BCE, marble

 PHOTO: Lillian Jones / BLENDED

PHOTO: Lillian Jones / BLENDED

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, created by an unknown sculptor around 190 BCE, represents Nike, the Goddess of Victory. The massive monument, standing over 8 feet tall, was found by Charles Champoiseau on the island of Samothrace in 1863. In the statue, Nike has just stepped onto the bow of a Greek warship, with her extended wings still fluttering, and the wind blowing her clothing against her powerful body. Originally, her right arm, which is now missing, was raised in the air to crown a naval victor.

Nike probably did not have her own religious following in Greece, however, her identity evolved over time and differed depending upon the region. In Rome, Nike was known by the name Victoria and was worshiped from the beginning of Rome's existence. She was ultimately regarded as the protecting goddess of the Roman Senate. This is evident in the placement of a statue of Victoria in the the Roman Senate building called the Curia Julia, by the Roman Emperor Augustus (63 BCE-14 CE). This statue commemorated Augustus' triumph over Mark Anthony in 31 BCE, revealing Augustus' own admiration for the Goddess of Victory.

3. Jacques-Louis David, The Oath of the Horatii, 1784, oil on canvas

 PHOTO: Lillian Jones / BLENDED

PHOTO: Lillian Jones / BLENDED

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), a French Neoclassical painter, considered to be the foremost painter of late eighteenth-century France, painted The Oath of the Horatii in 1874. The work was inspired by the tragedy Horace, a play written by the established French playwright Pierre Corneille (1606-1684), which was based on ancient Roman texts. The painting is set in seventh-century BCE, a time when Rome and its rival, Alba, agreed to resolve a border conflict and avoid a war by holding a fight to the death between the three sons of Horace (the Horatii), who were competing for Rome and the three Curatii, who were competing for Alba. The scene depicts the three sons of Horace raising their arms to their father, who is holding their swords.

Even though the drama Horace inspired this painting, the scene was not taken directly from the play or any historical texts, indicating this scene was created by David. The painting was commissioned by the French monarchy to serve as political propaganda, in order to push the message of patriotism and sacrifice to the overall population. Eventually, the painting ironically became an emblem of the 1789 French Revolution, and expressed the spirit of the leaders of the new French Republic, which was established in 1792.

4. Jacques-Louis David, The Intervention of the Sabine Women, 1796-1799, oil on canvas

 PHOTO: Lillian Jones / BLENDED

PHOTO: Lillian Jones / BLENDED

According to ancient Roman mythology, once Rome was established, the founder and King, Romulus, and his fellow men, realized they needed to find wives outside of their territory, as Rome lacked female citizens. After marriage negotiations between Rome and the Sabines failed, the Romans abducted the Sabine women. This incident was portrayed by the artist Nicolas Poussin, in the painting The Abduction of the Sabine Women painted around 1633-34. In 1796, David began painting The Intervention of the Sabine Women, depicting an event occurring three years after the abduction, in which the Sabine men attacked Rome in retribution. Hersilia and the Sabine women, who were currently married to the Romans yet originally married to the Sabines and/or related to the them by blood, intervened and ended the battle. The painting depicts the moment Hersilia, holding her two children leaps between her father Titus Tatius, King of the Sabines, who is on the left and her husband Romulus, King of Rome, who is on the right.

After jumping in between them and placing her children on the ground, she takes control of the interaction, as both men hesitate to attack each other. Hersilla's commanding stance, consisting of extended arms and lunging legs, not only overpowers the confrontation between her father and her husband, as she succeeds in stopping the violence between the two kings, but also overpowers the entire painting, since she is the brightest and most physically active figure. Hersilia and her fellow women became the true heroines of this story, since they intervened in the battle, stopped further death, and created peace by uniting the two societies on the values of love and family.

5. Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa, 1818-1819, oil on canvas

 PHOTO: Lillian Jones / BLENDED

PHOTO: Lillian Jones / BLENDED

The Raft of the Medusa (ca. 1818-19) was painted by Théodore Géricault (1791-1824), a French Romantic Painter of the early nineteenth century. The artwork depicts the shipwreck of the Medusa in 1816, a tragedy in which the captain, an inadequate aristocrat appointed by Louis XVIII claimed all 6 lifeboats for himself and his men, leaving 152 people stranded on a raft at sea. By the time they were rescued thirteen days later, the number of survivors had fallen to 15 people. In the painting, sick and dead bodies lay across the raft, while the very few who are awake are focusing on the ship that appeared in the distance. Gericault decided to portray a moment of the survivor's conflicting emotions on the raft, since they appear to be feeling both the fear of not being seen by the distant ship and the hope that they will soon be rescued. He went against a tradition of history painting to portray a king or an emperor as the hero, and recognized Jean Charles, an African soldier as the hero of this artwork.

Charles, who displayed extraordinary strength from enduring physical and psychological torture during the wreck, is identifiably the tallest figure, since he is standing up and is vigorously waving the flag at the barely visible ship. This painting not only represents a historically oppressed member of French society, but also due to Géricault's choice of positioning Charles at the top of the painting and giving the portrayal of Charles the potential to save his fellow soldiers, the artist perhaps symbolically alluded that the burden of achieving freedom is often contingent on the most oppressed people in a society. This painting sheds light on a horrifying and corrupt event in history, astonished the public for its emotionally charged depiction, and immortalized the otherwise disregarded life of the heroic soldier Jean Charles, who passed away five days after being rescued.

Lead Image Credit: Lillian Jones / BLENDED


References:

Britannica Academic, s.v. "Nike,".
Britannica Academic, s.v. "Battle of Actium,".
Kleiner, Fred S., and Christin J. Mamiya. Gardner's Art through the Ages. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.          
Stokstad, Marilyn, and Michael Watt Cothren. Art history. Boston: Pearson Education, 2014.