Gold in Art

Gold in Art
Gold as a highly coveted precious metal has been used in art from ancient Egypt to present day. This color, as found in nature, has been used by artists of multiple disciplines. I will explain.

The Egyptian civilization (4,000-3,500 BC) believed gold came from the sun god Ra, and belonged to the pharaohs who were their god's representative on earth.

We are most familiar with King Tut's solid gold mask and gold collar inlaid with colored glass, found on the boy king's chest, forever preserved as gold doesn't fade or rust over time.

The Greek civilization and culture (from 1600 BCE) had plenty of silver, but a scarcity of gold, considered exotic and divine. Greek mythology gave us the story of King Midas, who was rewarded with a golden touch. However, what may sound like a windfall, he, unfortunately turned his own daughter to gold.

From 260 BC is Aesop's Fables and the quote "Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true."

The Roman empire was fascinated with gold as adornment and coinage. Venice, home to skilled goldsmiths, was the most powerful European city at the time. When the Romans conquered Greece, they limited the gold supplies.

After the fall of the Roman empire, the Dark Ages (7th century) began, a time when trade and economies declined, as well as the use of gold. At this time in history, gold was pressed into thin sheets.

During the "Golden Age" of the Lydian kingdom (635 BC), the world's first gold coin was produced in a refinery.

Gold has been said to drive wars, conquests, slavery, building and destroying empires.

Gold's chemical symbol is AU for the word "aurora" which means "shining dawn". It is from the Old English word "gelo" which means "yellow".

The sun was a major deity by the Inca Empire (1200-1533 AD) in pre-Columbian America, having 'connections' to the spiritual world. The nobility were the only ones fortunate to own gold, often in the images of their gods.

During the Italian Renaissance gilded tin on panel was used by Giotto in his biblical scene, "The Pentecost" (1306). It can be seen at the National Gallery, London.

Built during the Byzantine Empire is the glorious Hagia Sophia (built in 537 AD) decorated by some of the finest artists and craftsmen in the world. The dome is lined with twelve (12) tons of gold!

The religious mosaics were criticized and thus torn down. The gold was removed and given to the emperors. "To the victor belong the spoils."

During the 7th- 11th century the sub-Saharan economies had an abundance of gold, thereby trading with the Mediterranean countries who possessed salt and desired gold. Which commodity is more important for survival?

In "Songs of Innocence and of Experience" Volume 2, an illuminated book of poems and plates by William Blake, he applied "shell gold" (gold leaf ground to powder) to song titles, haloes, foliage, text, and the edge of some plates.

Related Articles
Editor's Picks Articles
Top Ten Articles
Previous Features
Site Map

Content copyright © 2023 by Camille Gizzarelli. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Camille Gizzarelli. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Camille Gizzarelli for details.