The theme of this exhibition is How different emperors/leaders of different communities displayed their own power and influence, or the power and influence of their religion/beliefs through sculpture. Emperors, leaders, kings and queens as well as religious leaders has since the beginning of day been portraying their own power through different means.

Leaders and emperors have been using sculpture for many different things throughout the ages. In ancient Rome, the emperors made sculptures of themselves so their people would be able to recognize them throughout their empire. The sculptures were idealized, so the emperors would look almost god like, but also like themselves so the people would be able to recognize them. Sculptures were also made to mark their territories, for decoration in temples and displays of religion.

In ancient Greece, the emperors did not only have statues made of themselves, but they would also have gigantic architectural statements to their power. They also made architectural landmarks for gods, for example the Parthenon, which is a temple to the god Athena the goddess of Athens.

In Egypt, Pharaoh’s build temples for themselves, filling them with statues and art representing their own power and the power of god. The Pharaoh Hatshepsut built a gigantic temple against a wall of mountains, creating an instant authority when standing in front of it. She also filled the temple with both sculptures and statues of herself and of gods.

In Asia, where Buddhism was a wide religion, they made huge sculptures of buddha, representing his power. The picturing of buddha in Buddhism is very common, whether it is through painting, sculpture or statues.

In India, they made statues of gods from their religion, representing the power and influence of their gods. Hinduism has many million god they worship to, and it’s very common to make statues and sculptures of them.

The point of this exhibition is to show you some examples where leaders showed their power and influence or the power and influence of their religion through sculpture. These examples are picked from different places in the world, and from different time periods.

Online Exhibition

Title: The Colossus of Constantine

Date: c. 312-15

Place of origin: (Palazzo dei Conservatori, Musei Capitolini, Rome)

Materials: Body – wood and mud brick, covered in gilded bronze (hypothezized), rest is marble. Dimensions: 40 feet high

The Colossus of Constantine we think was a statue that used to be almost 40 foot high. The statue in it entirety was not found, yet we do have the head, the right and left knee, the left shin, the right and left foot, the right arm including the elbow and the right hand. Constantine was the last pagan roman emperor, and he was also the one that pushed Christianity into the roman empire. Former emperors made sculptures of themselves look recognizable yet idealized. Making the sculptures idealized made them seem more divine or godlike. Being in a transition into Christianity, many wonders if the style of abstraction of the human body used in this statue might have something to do with moving towards a symbolic way of representing emperors. Yet, I think it is important to note that this sculpture is 40 feet tall, and I do believe that has something to do with displaying his power as an emperor. Also, the prominent placement of the sculpture in the basilica might also be a display of power.


Title: Colossal Buddha, cave 20

Place of origin:Yungang, Shanxi.

Date: c. 460-93 CE, Northern Wei dynasty.

Dimensions: 55 feet tall.

Materials: Carved from solid rock.

The Yungang caves are some of the earlies findings of Buddhist art in china. The Yungang caves consists of about 20 big cave temples, which some are used mainly to portray big sculptures of buddha that is up to 55 feet tall. The Yungang caves also has many smaller niches. The first five caves that were made was put into motion by the head of the Buddhist church; a monk named Tanyao. It was the first action of pleasing a god that the Northern Wei ruled, because of the persecution of Buddhism only years before. The five colossal Buddha´s were symbolically representing the first five emperors of the Bei Wei, which represented the political and economic standpoint they had on Buddhism. Again, I would like to point out the sheer size of this sculpture. Making a sculpture this size says something about the importance of it, and the power the person it´s supposed to represent has. The magnitude of this buddha also shows the importance of the religion. Sculptures and ceramic figures of buddha is very common in Buddhism, and also shows to the importance of the God.


Title: Terracotta Army

Place of origin: Shaanxi, China

Date: 210–209 BCE

Materials: Terracotta clay

Current location: Shaanxi, China

Dimensions: vary in height (183-195 cm – 6ft-6ft 5in)

The terracotta army was found in the 1970´s. The army is over 2000 years old. In China 3000 years ago, they believed in the afterlife and many important people would do a human sacrifice when they died to be able to take their servants with them to the afterlife. After a while, that tradition was replaced with a new one where they build figures to represent servants instead of doing human sacrifice. On this site, 8000 clay terracotta soldiers were found. They belonged to Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China. Qin Shi Huangdi came to power when he was 13 years old. He was the one that united the 7 kingdoms of china, making the him the first real emperor. He was the emperor for 36 years, where he put in place measuring systems, one written language and the beginning of the great wall.  He began this work of the terracotta army almost right away in his first year as emperor. The humongous number of soldiers he had made to bring to the afterlife shows an amazing amount of power and authority. Experts believe it took 720,000 people to make all the soldiers and everything else that was in the necropolis, and still it was not finished before his death.


Title: Hatshepsut with offering jars, c.

Place of origin: Egypt.

1473-1458 BCE

Material used: Granite.

Height 260cm/102in.

Currently located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

This is a granite sculpture picturing the Egyptian Pharaoh Hatshepsut. She was a female pharaoh who are usually male, yet she took the role as king. Women in the royal family usually had a lot of authority in Egypt, but only as wife of the king or mother of the king, reigning until they grew old enough govern. Hatshepsut took the role as king and created a mythology around her kingship. She was the king for more than 20 years. The mortuary temple speaks to the power she had, and this particular sculpture was made to the Mortuary temple. She also had many other sculptures of her around the temple, both sitting and standing but also as a sphinx. She adopted the form of sculpture that represented kingship for 2 millennia to show herself as king. The headcloth is the symbol of the king, as well as the beard.  Her body is represented in a masculine way, where her breasts are made smaller, and her shoulders made wider. This statue shows Hatshepsut on her knees kneeling to a god making offerings.


Place of origin: Elephanta caves, outside Mumbai, India.

Title: Triniti Sadashiva Statue

Materials: Carved reliefs, stone

Dimensions: 20 feet high

Current location: Elephanta caves, outside Mumbai, India.

The Elphanta caves are almost a whole city of caves carved from stone. The city of caves is filled with carvings and sculptures include one of Sadashiva which is one of the Hindu sculptures. There are both Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and reliefs. When the Portuguese came to the island in ____ they used the sculptures are target practice and ruined a lot of them. The Trimurti Sadashiva statue is considered the most important statue in the caves. It is pictured with 3 faces, one in the center and two in profile on the sides. Experts say that the statue is representing Panchamukha Shivaimage. The statue is almost 20 feet high. The face in profile on the right shows him as a young person, representing life and creativity. The “main” face is representing the feminine side of Shiva, a calm and meditative state. The left face also shows a young mustachioed mad man who represent Shiva the destroyer. This piece of art is not about the power and influence of one emperor, rather it is a statement to the power and influence of the Hindu religion and the Hindu Gods.