An example of a good critique

Below is a copy of one of your classmate’s responses to the last critique.  It is a good example and should be considered the standard for an “A” from here on out.

Critique of The Battle of Issus

            The Battle of Issus floor mosaic made in 100 BCE found in Turkey represents, as evident by the title, the Battle of Issus. In this mosaic Alexander the Great and his army are on the left while the opposition (Darius and his army) is on the right. There is very prominent damage to the mosaic on the left side, almost completely obscuring Alexander’s army, but conveniently leaving enough room for Alexander’s calm and stern visage to shine through. While it is difficult to say for sure what is happening (due to the damage) it seems as though Alexander’s forces have overpowered Darius’s and we are seeing the moment before retreat (very true to Greek art canon). It’s difficult to say if Alexander’s army has been dwindled and are making a comeback or if the forces are evenly matched but the perspective simply makes it seem as though Darius outnumbers Alexander, but Darius’s military force is definitely much more prevalent in the composition. Darius seems panicked and he has already turned around and started to retreat. There is a large mass of soldiers with spears pointed upwards and to the left behind him, while soldiers on the far right of the frame have their spears pointed to the left, presumably because they have already began retreating. In front of Darius there is a man struggling to mount his horse and get away with very clear fear in his eyes. To the right of this man is another soldier on the ground attempting to shield himself from getting pummeled by horses trampling over him while looking at his reflection in the back of his own shield. Farther to the right of the frame is another man being trampled by the horses, but this man is shield-less. Above the shield-less man are horses riding to the right that have very flummoxed and terrified expressions on their faces. To the left of Darius there is a man being impaled by Alexander. The impaled man’s horse has hit the ground and has a small amount of blood under its chin. Alexander, while partially damaged, is clearly calm and in control, as evident by his calm expression and straight posture. A handful of of his soldiers can be seen behind him but a majority of it is too damaged to really tell what’s happening on his side.

The piece has quite a bit happening in it. While there is some negative space on the upper half of the mosaic everything under that is essentially horror vacui. We see a lot of soldiers scuffling and falling over each other and dying and so on and so forth. While Alexander is not the centerpiece there is plenty of implied line pointing towards his direction. The most prominent example is the eyesight of Darius and his army. While not every single soldier is looking at Alexander specifically, they are at least looking in his direction, while the subjects most near the exact center look directly at Alexander, leading your eye to him almost immediately. The spears are also used as implied line. Alexander’s spear pierces someone, leading our eye to the soldier being stabbed and all the spears on the right side are pointed towards the left half of the screen. While this isn’t exactly implied line it draws the eye back to the left, and back to the focus, that being Alexander.

The mood is fairly morbid and triumphant. The image is very harmonious with its use of browns and blacks, but the color doesn’t do much to convey mood in this particular piece. However, the color is realistic and does not stray much from reality, which helps to convey the mood. The content does more to convey mood than anything else. There is a very close attention to detail in this painting. The artist went as far as to put emotion on most of the subjects in the frame, including the horses. One could argue war is inherently dark and gritty but the point is really driven home when everyone has a look of extreme existential dread on them in the moments before they either die or narrowly escape defeat by retreating. The man staring at his own reflection in his shield directly before being trampled by a horse and carriage is also a testament to the attention to detail and morbid mood. The floor is also littered with discarded weapons and other men awaiting a massive trampling, these subtleties all amount to a dark, but triumphant mood. Since this was made for a particular audience (the winning side of this war/mosaic) seeing your enemy suffer these extreme misfortunes could bring up a very deviously satisfying feeling. The army being represented as big, intimidating and advanced, while still succumbing to Alexander, also reinforces a triumphant mood.

The piece is done in a fairly realistic albeit somewhat idealized style. While there is a nice amount of attention to the subtleties and atrocities of war we still see a glistening Alexander calmly stabbing a member of Darius’s army. This rigid emotionless representation of Alexander is clearly a stylistic choice, to show him off as a fearless leader. The opposing Army’s massive size also shows how powerful Alexander is since he has defeated them. This is clearly evident by the fact that all other figures are represented very realistically and perspective was used very well will the horse in the middle that is midway through turning around with his posterior pointing towards the viewer. The addition of the man staring at his own face in his shield is also a little stylized, seeing as how clean his shield would have to be for that and how poetically gruesome someone staring at their own face before they die is. All of this is done to show how glorious Greece and Alexander is however, so I would consider it idealized rather than simply stylized.

The function of this piece seems fairly simple. It’s decorative propaganda for Greek citizens. Since it’s an elaborate piece I doubt it was something just anyone got, but I think it was commissioned by a wealthy Greek. It represents Alexander as a strong; fearless man and represents Darius as a coward. The floor mosaic is just a nice piece of decoration that a proud Greek would have. It displays a historical event in an idealized way.

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