The Terracotta Warriors: Standardized or Individualized? Analytical Essay by Nicky

The Terracotta Warriors: Standardized or Individualized?
A review of Ladislav Kesner's article "Likeness of No One: (Re)Presenting the First Emperor's Army," and an article on the website Planetware, on the terracotta warriors in the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huangdi.
# 149309 | 1,688 words | 2 sources | MLA | 2011 | US
Published on Dec 05, 2011 in History (Asian) , Archaeology (Other Regions) , Asian Studies (General)

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The paper examines Ladislav Kesner's article "Likeness of No One: (Re)Presenting the First Emperor's Army," where he asserts that the figures known as the 'terracotta army,' a series of warrior figures enclosed in the structure along with the dead emperor, are not stereotyped and strictly symbolic figures as they initially appear, but they are meant to be realistic depictions of individual figures in the Chinese army of the time. The paper then looks at a 2009 article on the website Planetware that points out that they are similarly clothed and in armed formation and that leads a gazer to believe that they were not meant to represent known persons. The paper posits that the problem with Kesner's thesis is that the 2009 article shows that the majority of the figures are far more standardized than the few individuated sculptures of the Kesner article. The paper concludes that the more straightforward, anonymous Planetware article is both more persuasive and more informative than Kesner's work.

From the Paper:

"Kesner's article, although written in an art publication, reflects the New Historicism of the mid-1990s, a movement in literature and sociology that stressed the historical contextualization of works of art, and emphasized the contradictions inherent in artistic representations rather than singular and linear meanings. He writes: "it is hoped that the current elusive and unsettled issues of portraiture, resemblance, construal of identity, and other related problems of theoretical interest can be enriched somewhat by attending to the ever more complex artistic tradition, which has been literally surfacing from Chinese soil in recent decades," Kesner writes (Kesner 1995, p. 115). In contrast, the more general 2009 introductory article on Planetware states that "although the faces of the warriors show individual features, parts of the figures were probably mass-produced in large workshops" (Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huangdi: Terracotta Army, 2009). In comparing the two articles, it is interesting to note the different likenesses used by the authors to accompany an illustration of their central point: Kesner selects individual depictions of different statues, while the Planetware comment on the mass-produced nature of the terracotta army shows legions of the figures, seemingly innumerable in their similarity. Many of these figures are headless, a desecration which further underlines their sameness."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Ladislav, Kesner. "Likeness of no one: (Re) presenting the First Emperor's army." The Art Bulletin. 77. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 115-132.
  • Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huangdi. Planetware. 2009. July 2, 2009.

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