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Cows Throughout Culture:
Transcript of Cows Throughout Culture:
Cows in Religion and Culture
Labor and Agriculture
Cows as a Commodity
Cows in Pop Culture
From Hathor to Old Bessie
Kamadhenu (Hindu, ap.1891)
Commissioned by K. Thamboosamy Pillai, (1850-1902)
Batu Caves, Malaysia
Ten Ox-Herding Bowls (Chinese, 12th Century)
Appointed as one of Malaysia’s first British residents, Thamboosamy Pillai is highly acknowledged as the leader of the Indian community in Malaysia. Pillai helped to construct three very important sites during his lifetime including The Victorian Institution, The Sri Mahamariamman Temple, and The Batu Caves Temple Complex. The Sri Mahamariamman Temple is currently known as the oldest functioning Hindu temple in Malaysia, made public in the late 1920s. Pillai is said to have found the Batu Caves in a vel, or spear, shape and thus decided it would be the perfect spot for a Hindu Temple Complex.
The Batu Caves are around 400 years old and were once used as shelters for travelling tribes of various peoples. The caves were originally excavated in order to further plant growth for farmers however they only truly came to fame when the limestone deposits were found and recorded by colonial authorities in 1878. Just north of Kuala Lumpur, it instantly became a well known hotspot. The name Batu Caves comes from Sungai Batu, or Batu River, the river that flows past the hill where the caves lie. The name of the Caves was also adopted by a nearby village after years of attention due to the nearby limestone deposits.
Since the discovery of the Batu caves, the area has become a major tourist site and one of the most popular Hindu sites outside of Asia.Still in use today, the complex is used as the focal point of the Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. Within this complex are various works of art made for religious study and contemplation. Each work of art is made from the limestone found in the hill where the caves are. Each sculpture or drawing depicts a god, goddess, animal, or practitioner of the religion.
In one part of the Batu caves stands a large sculpture of the goddess Kamadhenu. This sculpture depicts the goddess as a cow with the face and breasts of a woman. Kamadhenu is meant to remind visitors why the cow is sacred and that those of the Hindu religion should not kill or eat any sacred cows.
The ancient Cow deity, Kamadhenu, shows us how some of the Hindu relations to cows are justified. She is a religious icon that is still worshipped today and will be for many more years.
The Ten Ox-Herding bowls, shown here, are very important pieces of Buddhist art. When positioned all together the group of bowls make up an enso or buddhist circle of life, death, rebirth, and nirvana. The enso comes up in various buddhist texts and is usually seen in ink paintings from the Asian continent. As shown on the right of this piece, an enso is usually done with a quick stroke of a brush. The ink is then unpredictable and mysterious like the bowls showing the story of a boy searching for a bull. Like the enso, the search for the bull in the ox herding bowls is forever repeating in a circle of rebirth, until a break
can be found as it is for the older man. This break is also known as finding enlightenment.
Images, such as those depicted on the ten ox-herding bowls, usually refer back to a form of Buddhism known as Dhyana Buddhism. Dhyana buddhism is knowing the awareness of oneself, it is a meditative practice. Although this “meditative” form of buddhism is known as Dhyana Buddhism in Sanskrit, it is known as Zen Buddhism in Japanese and Chan Buddhism in Chinese. This means to show how Buddhism has traveled around the world and merged with various different cultures and still can connect back to it’s basic principles on a remarkable level. In this particular case, however, we will refer to the piece as part of Chan Buddhism, based off of the region in which it originates from.
The Ten Ox-Herding Bowls show a short tale of a boy searching for a wild Ox. Contrary to how it may seem to the untrained eye the piece begins with, The Search for the Bull, a boy looking at what appears to be a waterfall as he holds something within his hands, possibly a map. The boy is searching for something, the bull, in which represents something that he has lost or something that he hopes will make him whole. The boy carries on and tries to tame the bull but then faces the bull and finds the wild side of himself within it, his mind. After realizing this from much time with the bull the boy finds himself alone and comes to a peaceful realization. Letting the bull go allows the boy to see the entirety of the world and become enlightened. As the boy becomes older he sees another young boy and tells him of a wild bull in nature and the cycle repeats itself.
In this piece, the bull takes on the role as a religious teacher to the people and shows how wild people are inside. The tale of this wild bull in the forest is to enlighten buddhist followers and teach them the valuable lesson of achieving enlightenment by understanding the mind and casting away their own inner follies. The major role the bull plays in this piece goes to show just how important cows are in various religions.
Votive Cow Plaque (Dynasty 18, Egyptian ca. 1479-1458 B.C.)
L. 3.6cm; H. 3.8cm
Votive figures are seen throughout many cultures as a way to give offerings, or thanks to the Gods and Goddesses that the culture worships. This is an Ancient Egyptian votive figure in the shape of a cow. This could very well be in relation to the Ancient Egyptian Goddess Hathor, who is often depicted in Ancient Egyptian art as a cow. Hathor symbolizes fertility and motherhood, as well as joy, love and beauty. She was a very important figure in the religious culture of Ancient Egypt. With this information we can assume this votive figure was perhaps an offering to Hathor as a way for someone to be blessed with the attributes that Hathor portrays.
Hathor is one of the most complex deities in the Ancient Egyptian pantheon. She is represented always as a beautiful being, sometimes as a woman, or sometimes a cow. However, when she needed to be dominant she would turn into a serpent or lioness. For this votive figure it is dedicated to be the cow version of Hathor. Although it is badly disfigured from wear over the years the distinctive qualities of the cow shape is still present. Although Hathor is seen as the fertility goddess and a beautiful deity, she also has the potential to destroy all of mankind. This attribute made her quite the formidable goddess among all other Ancient Egyptian deities.
Through the numerous aspects that Hathor possesses there were a multitude of offerings made to her. Among some of them were string beads, small amulets, pottery and flowers. Often times there were miniature cows on pottery, and this votive figure could very well be from a bigger piece. It is uncertain whether or not these offerings were votive due to the lack of information made available.
Hathor is also a benevolent goddess, and this quality is associated with the image of a cow. This comparison is personified by using the legend of Hathor nursing Horus while she hid him from his murderous uncle Seth. Because of this cow offerings, or votive offerings, occur in the form of pottery or faience models.
Through the offering of votive figures, one would assume that their prayers to the god or goddess would be answered and that would be enough to persuade the deity to bless them. This is the religious take on cows, which fits in nicely to the Cows Throughout Culture Exhibition. Cows as a religious form can be seen through many cultures around the world, but in ancient Egyptian culture, cows were seen as “god-like” due to being associated with the Goddess Hathor. Due to this association ancient peoples would make votive offerings in the shapes of cows, depending on the quality of the material would result in how well one would be bless by the deity. This form of offering can be seen in ancient Roman and Greek cultures as well.
Head of a Cow Goddess [Hathor]
(Dynasty 18, Egyptian. ca. 1390-1352)
Thebesbv, Upper Egypt
H. 53.6cm, W. 28cm; D. 33cm
The Head of a Cow Goddess depicts the Egyptian Goddess Hathor. She represents joy, feminine love, motherhood, music, dance, sky, and fertility thus making her a multi-layered deity. Hathor has been depicted in tombs and she greets souls in the afterlife. Egyptian royalty and the common people both worshiped her. Hathor can take on many forms, for example the cow, a lioness, a falcon, a cobra, a hippopotamus, pregnant women, and much more. Here, she is shown as a cow; her most common depiction. Hathor is known as the divine sky-cow. One can see that she is bearings horns with a sun disk in the center. Many times, when Hathor is represented in human form she is also wearing the horns with the sun disk; it is another key identification. Another identification is that she also has hair. This hair is a representation of her femininity. A function of a bust like this was for prayer; most likely a fertility prayer. Hathor was a very powerful Goddess in the public’s eye because she gave the gift of life to mothers.
Hathor can be represented as the Eye of Ra. Ra acts as the Sun God and the God of the Gods. The Eye of Ra acts as the feminine and the violent part of him. It can also be its own entity being represented by a Goddess, particularly Hathor. It acts as a mother, sibling, and daughter to Ra. The role of Hathor is to give birth to him every morning on the eastern horizon and to conceive every night. She will carry Ra in the horns on her head. That is why one will usually see her with the sun disk between her horns; the sun disk is the main symbol of Ra. She also will protect the rule if there is any threat. Hathor will transform into a more threatening animal like a lioness or a cobra to establish her danger and her authority. The story of the Destruction of Mankind, which is also represented in the Book of the Heavenly Cow, is when Ra uses the Eye to destroy humans for rebelling against him. Hathor will transform into the lioness or the Goddess Sekhmet to slaughter mankind. This is an extremely aggressive transformation going from cow to lioness. The destructiveness of her wrath will be hard to stop. Ra decided that he does not want to kill off all of mankind so in order to stop Hathor’s path of destruction he must trick her. He will dye all of the beer red so that she will think that it is blood. Once she is intoxicated, Hathor returns to Ra without harming any people she originally intended to kill. Her inebriated state, she eventually transforms back into her harmless state as a cow. When the Eye of Ra is away from Ra, he becomes weak and venerable which is another reason why he got her drunk so he can have his power back.
Hathor had many shines and temples dedicated to her. Throughout text and images, we are able to find evidence that she took on many forms. She had various roles and was worshiped for many different things that were all important to the Egyptians. Her role as a religious icon was very prominent in Ancient Egypt.
Kamadhenu or Surahbi is a Hindu Goddess. She is known as the mother of all cows or the cow of plenty. Cows are sacred to the Hindu people and they are seen as the earthly embodiment of Kamadhenu. Oftentimes, like in this painting, she is depicted as part human and part cow. In the Hindu religion the cow is a symbol of abundance. In sacred Hindu text Kamadhenu is the daughter of Ritual- Skill (Daksa) and the seer vision (Kas`yapa.) She is also the mother of Bhrngi, the Wander. Kamadahenu is one of the minor Hindu goddesses so there is not much written about her. One of the most important stories that are written about her is the story of her birth. The story goes that she came out of the ocean during the great churning of the ocean by the gods and demons. Hindus also believe that all of the gods reside inside of Kamadhenu. Her four legs are the Vedas, which are Hindu holy scripts. Her horns are the triune gods: Brahma is the tip, Vishnu is the middle, and Shiva is the base. Her eyes are the sun and moons gods and her shoulders are the fire god and wind god. Finally her legs are the Himalayan Mountains. Hinduism is one of the most widely practiced religions is the world but most Westerners do not know much about it. It is a polytheistic religion, so it is unlike the Judeo-Christian religions many Westerners practice. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in only one God. Polytheistic religions like Hinduism, and many Native American religions worship many gods. The way these religions depict their gods are also different. Jews and Christians depict God, Jesus Christ, and his Apostles as men. It is common for the deities in polytheistic religions to be drawn or painted as part human and part human. Kamadahenu is part human and part cow while her son Bhrngi is part human and part bull. A couple of the main principles of the Hindu religion are Karma, Dharma, and reincarnation. Karma, which translates to work or deed, is the belief that if you do good deeds, good things will happen to you; but if you do bad deeds, bad things will happen to you. Dhrama is a set of behaviors that people are supposed to live by; such as obeying the law, and taking part in rituals that are part of your religion. Reincarnation is the belief that after you die your soul enters another body. In Buddhism the ultimate goal is to reach Nirvana. Buddhists believe that if you live the way you are supposed to your soul will stop being reincarnated and you will be at eternal rest.
Kamadhenu, The Wish-Granting Cow
(Indian, ca. 1825-1855)
Opaque watercolor and metallic pigments on paper
12.7cm x 12.7cm
Cows Lying Down
Beaford Arts (Devon, UK)
15.0" x 10.0",
Ravilious’s photograph catches a moment that is rather rare: cows lying down. Many old wives’ tales purport that if cows are lying down, that means that rain is on its way. The Farmer’s Almanac seems to refute this idea, stating that there are many reasons why cows may lie down, such as the fact that most of the time, they are merely chewing their own cud or attempting to remedy an upset stomach. Furthermore, farmers purport that cows lie down much more regularly than people think and that it is not a sign of impeding weather. Yet, despite the seeming lack of scientific evidence that cows can predict the rain, the idea still holds up.
In this photograph, all the cows are lying down and looking in opposite directions. The landscape is almost picturesque; all appears still and calm, perhaps signaling the calm before a storm. Indeed, this simple image seems to symbolize the opposing opinions on whether or not cows can, in fact, sense rain. Cows are thus seen as having a sixth sense, which makes them appear as highly intelligent and intuitive creatures. Although most farmers seem to oppose the idea of cows being able to sense rain, they still depend on cows for several functions. Not only are cows a commodity—they are also, in their own way, members of the farming community. Cows may be used for milk and meat, but they are not mindless, insignificant creatures. Moreover, farmers are well-aware of how vital cows are to their business. Without cows, the farming community would be very different. Arguably, cows are one of the most significant animals of the farming community, as they play a pivotal role in our own diets.
Ravilious was born in Eastbourne, England to a father who was a self-proclaimed “war artist.” Ravilious studied art at St. Martin’s School of Art in London, and he later taught painting and drawing in the city. In the 1970’s, Ravilious taught himself how to become a landscape photographer, and he worked with the Beaford Archive to conduct a photographic record of rural life in England, France, Italy, Germany, and Ireland. Ravilious’s black-and-white photographs became iconic, and his project with Beaford Archive allowed his work to be exhibited in various European nations.
Ravilious’s photograph captures cows in their element: being one with nature. Cows are portrayed as being calm, friendly animals, as they are all grouped together and seem to be enjoying their time of relaxation. There is an unstated bond among the five cows as the all stare into various directions, apparently oblivious to Ravilious’s presence. Thus, this seemingly simple, black-and-white photograph has several layers of meaning, and it demonstrates just how many roles cows play within their farming communities. We may never know for sure whether or not cows can actually sense incoming rain, but farmers and consumers alike still depend on cows for their products and vital role in agriculture. More likely than not, cows will continue to be perceived as being able to sense rain, and their lying down will still alert people to bring in their lawn furniture and place their galoshes next to the front door.
This is the Boy Riding Cow (plate 11 Blatter groestentheilsLandschaftlichenInhalts). The German engraving is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.The work of art is dated to be 1795-1796. For Germany wasn’t a unified country until 1871. During the time of its creation Germany was made up of different territories, the two dominant provinces were Austria and Prussia. Although politically separate, all of the provinces were unified by the use of a common language namely German. The Artist, Carl Wilhelm Kolbe the Elder, started his artistic career in later in his life.
He enrolled in the Academy of Berlin in 1793 just two years before making this illustration. He spent most of his career as a painter and engraver but “Kolbe is best known for his etchings featuring idyllic landscapes.” As one can see in this image, through the attention to the grass and the one shrub that is very well illustrated, showing his attention to every detail and technically skillful, and his attention to detail on the cow is magnificent it has a feeling that one is right there with the farm boy that it is a photograph. This was an illustration that was done only a few years after starting at the Academy of Berlin, and think really shows a great display of his talents the detail of the cow is magnificent you can see the cows fur in great depth. The boy in the image
is a peasant farmer, can tell by the clothing that he is wearing. Peasant farmers at this time did not have much and wore the same clothes every day and can tell this by how raggedy his clothes are, and how old they look. The boy sitting on the cow because he has had a hard day working on the farm and just wants to get a little rest before he calls it a day. He probably grew up with this cow since he was a little boy and is quite close to the cow.Germany is also were the cow bell was invented, which is a very influential tool that people use in America, the cow bell had a strong international impact. The image catches the heart of the German society that was based heavily on agriculture, and catches the essence of the teenage boy who spends every day of his life working on the farm from sunrise to sun down. The stick he has is carrying his jug of water that he needs to keep hydrated during the long hours of working on the farm in the hot summers.
The Boy Riding Cow, 1795-1796
Carl Wilhelm Kolbe the Elder
Philadelphia Museum of Art
3 7/8" x 4 13/16"
Wooden Model of a Man Ploughing with Oxen
Egypt/ British Museum, London
20.3 cm x 43.2 cm x 17.7,
This object dates between 2040-1750 B.C. and is made entirely out of wood. The object was remarkably well preserved. The object shows two cattle pulling a plow that is handled by a man. Many models similar to this one have been found not only in Egypt but also Roman Britain. This particular object was found in a tomb. Models were normally placed in the tombs of the wealthy and they depicted various stages of food production. The idea of placing models inside tomb was common in the Middle Kingdom (Wooden model of a man ploughing with oxen 2014)
The first stage of food production was ploughing which is shown in this object. Plowing was an essential aspect of farming life. Plowing took place in Egypt after the waters had receded. This left a fertile area over the flood plain which was perfect for planting crops for the next harvest. Similar to farming today, harvesting takes place during a specific time of year thus the seeds need to be planted on time in order to get the harvest in and ensure a successful crop yield. By using cattle, the task of getting the field ready for seeding was made simpler because they made ploughing easier and more land could be cultivated (Wooden model of a man ploughing with oxen 2014).
It was easy to loosen the soil for planting. The fertile soil was usually soft after the water receded and the job could be completed with two cattle and a plow to create rows for the seeds. There are depictions of plowing in various tombs and papyrus that detailed the plowing process. Sometimes the crop was planted in a way that while they were being used for plowing, the cattle would trample the seeds into the soil. This was important for crop production because if the seeds were left uncovered or on top of the soil, they could be washed away by rain or blown away by a gust of wind (Wooden model of a man ploughing with oxen 2014).
The main crops in Ancient Egypt were wheat and barley. These plants were staples in many farming society diets and are often the main factor in determining whether a population was a farming or hunter and gatherer settlement. The wheat and barley were used to make bread and beer. Another crop was flax which served as daily survival items. Flax was used to make rope, linen, and matting. Besides providing food, cattle helped ensure that Ancient Egyptians during this time had the potential to make domestic items for survival (Wooden model of a man ploughing with oxen 2014).
In later Ancient Egyptian societies, cattle were a main food source. However, during the Middle Kingdom, cattle were more important for their labor. It has been suspected that cattle were occasionally used for their meat but that was probably only the case when the cattle were too old to successfully pull plows over many fields. Cattle were also expensive to own. It is possible that only the wealthier people had a stable diet of beef because they could afford to buy more cattle if need be (Wooden model of a man ploughing with oxen 2014).
The models were normally placed in graves and tombs to ensure the deceased has a bountiful afterlife and is sustained for all of eternity. However, there are also signs that beef was used as a food offering during burial practices. There have been models that represent the slaughter of cattle found in tombs as well. That is another stage of the food production that these models represented. Slaughtering rituals have been found on wall paintings as well which reinforces the importance of cattle and meat for the afterlife (Wooden model of a man ploughing with oxen 2014).
This object conveys the labor and agricultural importance of cattle in Ancient Egyptian society. Anytime an object is placed in a grave there is significance for the society and the deceased person. These are objects that have been deemed necessary for the afterlife. Cattle provide essential survival needs. They gave their labor to produce better agriculture for the Ancient Egyptians.
Horatio Ross was born in 1801 to rich Scottish parentage who owned a substantial amount of land. When he was a young man he embarked on a military career for a brief four years before returning home to continue his passion for field sports. He played cricket, croquet and was an award winning yachtsman. In the mid-1840s Ross took up photography even though it was just starting out. He became widely known and his work was sought after by collectors. This photograph of a cow and a calf is a but a small portion of his work but portrays a story, there is something more behind this photograph and makes viewers think about what and why these two animals won.
From county fairs to state fairs cow are prized possessions. Farmers put extra effort into making their cows look decent in order to win contests for best in show or other areas of these contests. This picture, by Horatio Ross, puts history into these contests and eternalizes them in order for people to understand just how prized these cows were and are still. This picture is important to the Cows Throughout Culture exhibition because it gives a different meaning to cows. Yes, cow are eaten, milked, and slaughtered, but are also breed to be award winning. So the cow and calf may have won, but there’s something more here to understand. They are prized because they were treated differently, they were manicured and loved in order to be put on display for a contest. This images shows that cows can be prized, and sought after animals and not just used for the enjoyment of family meals. The way these animals are treated is almost religious-like in some aspects, and because of this the people viewing this image see the cow as not just another meat product, but as something cherished.
Prize Cow and Calf, ca.1859
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Salted paper print
15.6 cm x 19.7 cm
Peasants with Cattle fording a Stream, 1662
Adriaen van de Velde
National Gallery, London
oil on canvas
32.4 x 37.8 cm
This painting is another landscape that shows how cows were used for labor. This scene probably took place somewhere is Northern Europe. In the 17th Century Europe was out of the Middle Ages but most of the population was still poor farmers. The majority of people had to work the land because of the poor technology they had available to them. Inventions that would later come out of the agricultural revolution, such as the steel plow, increased the productivity of farmers. In 17th century Europe almost everyone had to work the land to make sure that the village or town had enough to eat. Cows would very important because they could be used for labor and they could be sold as beef at market. Farmers who couldn’t afford horses most likely used cows instead. There were multiple types of laborer during this time. There were peasants, who were usually free and there were serfs who were tied to the land. Not all peasants were farmers. There would be artisans in the village such as a blacksmith, and a cobbler. Even farmers took on other jobs throughout the year. Men would hunt and fish and women might do sewing jobs for a merchant. Even the youngest family members would help out. It was common for very young children to help their parents out in the field. This was also a reason why the majority of people were not educated. For the children of poor farmers the only other jobs available to them would be to join the clergy, or to become an apprentice and learn a trade. The three social classes in Europe at this revolved around agriculture. The highest social class was the nobility. The second highest were the clergy. The lowest social class was the peasants and artisans. Over the next couple centuries as more people continued to leave agriculture a new social class formed, known as the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie was the middle class which included lawyers, accountants, and teachers. The agricultural revolution would change the social and political landscape of Europe. By 1900 most of Europe’s population was no longer peasants. The Church had lost some of the power it had during the Middle Ages and some of the royal houses of Europe had been over thrown by revolutions.
Driving Home the Cow, 1881
Edward Mitchell Bannister
Smithsonian American Art Museum
oil on canvas
32 1/4" x 50 1/8"
This painting is a landscape from the 19th Century. It depicts a farmer and cattle on a farm. It shows how cows were used for labor. The cows would be milked early in the morning and they would be herded to the field for the day. The scene in this painting is taking place at the end of the day when the farmer is bringing the cows down from the field. Cows would also be used to pull carts or ploughs. This painting shows what daily life for many Americans was like during this time period. This painting was done around the time the Industrial Revolution began in the United States. In the 1880s a large percentage of Americans still lived in rural areas and worked the land. Around the turn of the century many people moved into cities and worked in factories. There was also a large influx of European and Asian immigrants at this time. Many of these immigrants who may have been farmers in their home countries moved into crowded American cities, mostly on the East coast if they were European and on the West coast if they were Asian, and took factory jobs. These cities were polluted and people lost their connection to nature. This painting could possibly depict what the American dream looked like during this time. Just like a house in the suburbs with two cars in the driveway was the American right after the end of World War II, Americans during the 19th century dreamed of owning land and working the land. It is quite possible that the American dream could have been a topic of interest to Edward Bannister. He was a black Canadian- American who lived in New England during the 19th century. He was born in 1828 and died in 1901. He lived through some of the most difficult times in American history, especially for African Americans. At the time of his birth slavery was still very wide spread in the South. As a young man he saw the Southern states secede and the Union break apart. In 1863 all slaves were emancipated but African Americans were still discriminated against. Bannister had very few opportunities when he arrived in Boston back in 1850 because of the Fugitive Slave Act, which even prohibited people of color from visiting museums. Bannister would later join the abolitionist movement. Despite the challenges he faced Bannister was a very accomplished artist. One of his paintings entitled Under the Oaks was entered into the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. His painting won the bronze medal which was the highest honor the Centennial jury awarded to oil paintings. In 1881 when Bannister painted this landscape the era of Reconstruction had recently ended. Even though he lived in the North, Bannister probably dreamed of a better life for his people. Edward M. Bannister’s work became popular again in the 1970’s during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1978 Rhode Island College dedicated their art gallery in Bannister’s name.
Peter Paul Rubens
chalk and ink wash
11" x 13.6"
Peter Paul Rubens’s study of an ox exemplifies the strength, earnestness, and virility for which the animal is known. Rubens renders the ox in extreme detail using various colors of chalks and wash, each bulge of muscle and tendon on the withers, shoulder, and flank catches the eye. Viewers can easily perceive the abundant strength of the ox and its ability to work.
The ox itself has been vital to agricultural labor, transportation, and other forms of work since as early as 4000 BCE. Its strength and size made it an ideal and necessary addition to many farmers and laborers’ farmsteads, as it helped humans pull plows, till land, drag objects much too heavy for people, and thresh grain. Oxen have even been used to help turn and power machines which irrigate or grind. Oxen are considered superior to other draught animals such as horses, in some respects, as oxen are generally less excitable than horses, they can pull heavier loads for longer periods of time, and they are easily managed in pairs with the use of a yoke, which is suited specifically to its anatomy and allows for full power of the ox’s entire body.
Rubens’s ox, although still clearly able-bodied, appears to be weathered from hard work. This weariness is evident in the concavity of the ox’s hips and the look of resignation in its eyes. The physical and perhaps internal weariness reflects the difficulty of the work the ox does as well as the effort and energy it exerts when completing the tasks. This clearly defines how important the ox is to labor, and that the two are closely related. In that respect, humans and oxen are closely intertwined.
Ploughing in the Nivernais, 1849
oil on canvas
French, Musée D’Orsay
1.34 m X 2.6 m.
Cows are often associated with hard, physical labor; indeed, they are often used in many an agricultural setting, whether it be by providing milk or pulling a plow. In Rosa Bonheur’s (1822-1899) 1849 painting,Ploughing in the Nivernais, we see several cows pulling a plow through the fields. The time is autumn and the cows are breaking the surface of the soil for the first ploughing, or “dressing,” which gives the painting its alternate title The First Dressing. Bonheur had her start early on in art; she was exceptionally talented from a young age, but her father, a drawing master at a girls school, discouraged her from working as an artist and instead placed her in the dress-making trade. Later on, Bonheur was able to convince her father to allow her to paint and draw freely.
Bonheur went on to exhibit her works in the Salon and sell her paintings for large sums, most notably, Horse Fair (1853), which was purchased by Cornelius Vanderbilt for $53,000 dollars. Ploughing in the Nivernais was also met with favorable reviews by the public and critics when it was shown in the Salon. The government originally commissioned the piece in 1848 for the Musée de Lyon, but eventually decided to keep the work in Paris so that the city’s public could continue viewing it. Bonheur continued to be a well-respected artist and her paintings consistently showed and sold well throughout her career.
Bonheur had a fascination with animals which is prevalent throughout her entire body of work. Her paintings depict animals as majestic creatures, full of life and vigor. Their physical strength is also often highlighted;Ploughing in the Nivernais is an excellent example of this stylistic and subject preference
In Ploughing in the Nivernais, the cows are the main heroes of the painting; they take center stage, dwarfing the farmers with their hulking, muscular bodies. Animal, as well as the vast landscape and sky itself, is supreme in this artistic drama. The triumph of the natural world would have been a relevant artistic theme at the time Bonheur was painting. The Western world was industrializing and the city was rising up to take precedence over country living. Bonheur’s painting stands as a testament to the high status of nature, that indeed, it still is all powerful and can still do great things, even without heavily powered machinery.
At first glance, the painting casts the situation in a Romantic light. Painted in Luxembourg, like many of her other paintings, the setting is rural and idealic with the sun shining and the colors of the wilderness surrounding the field being lush and vibrant. The cows, that of the Charlois-Nivernais variety, are also idealized; they are not dirty or mucky like actual farm animals would be. Indeed, their coats gleam a creamy white and gold, highlighting them even further against the dark earth.
Yet, despite all the idealism of the setting, Bonheur chose to show the viewer the strain on the cows’ faces and in their bodies. One cow even froths at the mouth from exhaustion and its eyes are wide from the exertion of pulling the plow. Bonheur lets us see the strife of rural living, yet still manages to render the cows as noble, important figures. In her painting, she validates their physical sacrifice and also validates the importance of country living and agricultural practices. In this respect, cows are portrayed as a spokesman of their profession, not just a worker within a system. They highlight the importance of agricultural living at a time when people were moving away from the farmlands to seek better, more lucrative, opportunities in the cities. Bonheur’s painting serves as a cry for the past, a nostalgic look at a time and a way of life that was swiftly passing into obscurity.
Cave Paintings (ap. 9000 - 3000 BCE)
Laas Geel, Somalia
Originally located in the northwestern Somaliland, Somalia, the Laas Geel cave paintings are between 9,000-3,000 BCE. Laas Geel series of 10 caves extending thirty-seven miles from Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, to the port city of Berba In Somali, “Laas Geel” translates to “where the camels once watered.” The caves show a plethora of decorated long-horn cattle as well as other wild animals. The herders are possibly the creators of the cave paintings. Research done by the Naples Eastern University stipulates that the style of drawing is done in a very distinct Ethiopian-Arabian style. The cows within the scene are shown wearing decorative robes around their neck in a variety of colors. Ranging in a plethora of reds and whites, the cows are scattered about the walls with artistic renditions of humans depicted amongst them. Some of the humans appear to be hunters, while others have raises arms perhaps in a worshipping fashion. The depiction of cows fall into three categories: simple red figures, small white figures, and cows elaborately decorated on the neck. These paintings not only show the reverence towards the cattle, but the pastoral nature of its artists.
The human figures are shown with some type of feather headdress, while others have their hands open and outstretched as if in prayer, with the remaining figures shown with a bow and arrow. The human figures in the crown of feathers are typically shown underneath the cow, looking up at the bovine in a fashion of worship. The cows within the scene are all shown in profile with tapering legs, distinguishable udders and wearing a plastron, or breastplate. The cows are adorned with a wide range of decorations. Some cows wear brightly colored robes, while others are shown in pendants, or with painted horns. Other cows may have decorated backs, possibly shown wearing jewels or a type of precious metal.
These depictions of cows are some of the earliest images showing the religious importance of cattle. By examining these images, the viewer reconnects with an ancient Ethiopian civilization and discovers the multitude of uses a cow could have. From observing these images and studying them in detail, it is clear there are different ways groups of people used cows. The Laas Geel cave paintings show that cows could be a form of sustenance as well as a form of worship. It is interesting to note that from looking at these paintings the nomadic people of Ancient Somaliland are not against killing the cow for food, even though they worship the cow at the same time. This can be seen in contrast with Hinduism where the cow is a sacred animal and must never be killed.
The cave paintings of Laas Geel indicate the reverence of cows. Within the United States of America, cows are typically seen as a form of food, not as one of worship or veneration. These cave paintings show the different ways in which a cow can be viewed around the world. As old as 9000 BCE, these caves showed adoration towards cows even before Hinduism which had its origins around 2000 BCE. These two separate religions, Hinduism and the nomadic religion of Ancient Somaliland, also formed in two separate geographical areas. That clearly indicates that cows played a much larger role within a society than seen within the United States of America as simply a food source. By studying the cave paintings of Laas Geel, there is a greater international understanding of cows. The viewer can hope to understand a greater perspective on the importance of cows as not just a source of food, but as a religious figure worthy of veneration.
Sacred Cow (December 14, 2012)
Created by the Creative Exhibits Class of Spring 2015
The highly partisan debate over the fate of Social Security is well-known by modern Americans. Increasingly, Social Security and other such governmental programs have become topics of controversy, and the two parties are both aware of the political suicide that is involved with publicly speaking out against these programs. This 2012 political cartoon from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette epitomizes the seemingly impossible situation by treating Social Security as a defenseless cow and the Democrats (donkey) and Republicans (elephant) as aggressors. The idiocy of both parties is clearly illustrated in the cartoon, as the Democrats refuse to touch “the sacred cow” while the Republicans are overly-eager to beat it down. Rogers created his cartoon at a time when Americans were particularly disillusioned: after the presidential election of 2012. The current standstill in Washington also comes through in Rogers’s cartoon, as both parties want entirely different things and refuse to compromise on the issue of governmental welfare programs. The fact that the cow was chosen as the symbol for Social Security is highly fascinating, as Social Security has commonly been referred to as one of “the sacred cows” of American politics (meaning that although the program poses many issues, it cannot be taken away due to its significance to America). Thus, in this cartoon, the cow is treated as a cornerstone of American politics, which shows just how important cows are to America’s political culture. Rob Rogers is the award-winning editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has been working as an editorial cartoonist in Pittsburgh for over thirty years, and his cartoons are known to both “vex” and “entertain.” Most of his cartoons revolve around American politics, often wishing to incite a reaction or response from his audience. Rogers’s work with cartoons is not merely limited to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, however; Rogers has also curated several national exhibitions on cartooning. The fight over Social Security affects all Americans, and Rogers’s cartoon seems to hint at its ultimate futility. Rogers does not portray either party as having the “sacred cow’s” best interests at heart, as one refuses to reform it and the other wants nothing more than to utterly destroy it. Social Security’s fate is left to the squabbling politicians: perhaps a nod to “the slaughterhouse” that politics in Washington has become. To Rogers, politics is not clean or beneficial; instead, it is violent and nonsensical. The cow is being treated as a piñata, even though cows are not traditionally used as the animal for a piñata. Hence, the whole situation—from the bitter feud to the use of a cow as a piñata—becomes entirely hopeless and static. Rogers’s choice of the cow as a symbol of Social Security, then, takes on multiple meanings. Firstly, the cow is a defenseless—and arguably innocent—creature who cannot stand up to the Democrats or Republicans. Secondly—and most importantly—the cow is a victim who, in many respects, symbolizes how messy and convoluted the debate over Social Security has become. Perhaps Americans—such as Rogers—are able to see themselves in the “sacred cow”: as nothing more than victims of Washington’s politicians. The cow’s plight thus speaks to all Americans, regardless of race, religion, political affiliation or location.
“Hey Diddle Diddle” is a nursery rhyme that is known by most children. The simplicity of the rhyme evokes a sense of nostalgia and familiarity. Hunt’s painting brings the nursery rhyme to life and wonderfully portrays its playful, child-like spirit. The characters are not realistic or exact replicas of their actual animals. Instead, Hunt consciously chose to illustrate the animals as a child most likely would: cartoonish and imperfect. The innocent atmosphere of the painting is further brought out by the disproportionate sizes of the animals as compared to the farm house. The cow, cat, dog, dish and spoon are the main attractions of Hunt’s painting, and the house merely serves as a backdrop. In the nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle,” the cow is the creature who “jumps over the moon” and is cast as the one seeking to achieve the impossible. The nursery rhyme has been around for many years: since before the surface of the moon had been walked by man. Thus, early on, the cow became a symbol of adventure into the unknown, and her journey across the moon instilled a sense of hope in generations of children. The nursery rhyme—and, by extension, Hunt’s painting—portrays the cow as a fantastic, mythical creature who is able to explore outer space. Sherry Holder Hunt has been an artist for over twenty-five years. She has described herself as being self-taught, as she never officially took any art courses. She enjoys working with watercolors and acrylics, as well as digital art forms. Her subject field is as broad as the mediums she uses: from children’s stories to wildlife art, Hunt is sure to have a style for every type of art connoisseur.2 Humankind has had a fascination with the unknown since the beginning of time, and the fact that the cow became the symbol of exploration demonstrates how powerful the cow can be. While the cat, dog, spoon and dish are all acting playfully, the cow comes across as the most mature aspect of the nursery rhyme, as she is not content with earthly matters and wishes to explore the world beyond. Hunt’s painting brings out the wisdom of the cow; the cow looks down upon the others, perhaps wondering why they, too, do not wish to see what exists off the ground. Notably, the cow is the centerpiece of the painting, and the viewer’s eyes are immediately drawn to her, as she stands out against the backdrop of the stars. There is no doubt that the cow is the central aspect of the painting, perhaps illustrating Hunt’s belief that the cow is the main focus of the nursery rhyme, itself. Hunt is not the only one who depicts the cow as being an extremely prominent figure; other nursery rhymes, fairy tales and children’s stories also cast the cow as being a main, usually intelligent figure. Indeed, cows are a familiar animal, and nearly everyone can recognize them at first glance. In the cow, people can easily see themselves; they, too, can reach for their dreams and achieve the impossible.
Nursery Rhyme: Cow Jumped over the Moon (2008)
55.8cm x 38.3
Yellow Cow (1911)
140cm x 189cm
In the early 19th century, as a reaction to the socio-political climate of the time, artists began to look back into nature to translate the unrest and search for truth. Artist Franz Marc was founder of the Blue Rider Group, or the Der Blaue Rider, which aimed to reveal the spiritual truth hidden within the World, in the context of a chaotic time.Marc’s subjects often depicted animals, and he used his subject matter as a philosophical vessel charged with symbolism. Every compositional choice that Marc made was rooted in deep meaning, especially the expressive colours which he formed a system of color theory behind. Marc devoted himself almost explicitly with the subject matter of animal, the artist believed that animals possessed a certain godliness that was lost to man, and that even in we tried, our human condition would prevent us from seeing the World from the eyes of an animal. He also acknowledges man’s shortcomings and incompetence in expressing the essence of nature, given that we are skewed from our human conformity to societal constructs. The frolicking cow of Yellow Cow, is depicted as the female principle, and there is potential to believe that Marc depicted the mountain scape backdrop as a dominating male influence. This is believed based off of his color theory, and gender attributes to certain hues.The Yellow Cow, therefore is more than merely a representation of a cow. In Franz Marc’s Aphorisms, he explains the thoughtfulness behind his paintings and the deep spiritual connection that each animal embodies- transcending the boundaries beyond the insignificant, limited perspective of man. “I am trying to heighten my feeling for the organic rhythm in all things, trying to establish a pantheistic contact with the tremor and flow of blood in nature, in animals, in the air… Only today can art be metaphysical, and it will continue to be so. Art will free itself from the needs and desires of men. We will no longer paint a forest or a horse as we please or as they seem to us, but as they really are. Is there any more mysterious idea for an artist than the conception of how nature is mirrored in the eyes of an animal? How does a horse see the world, or an eagle, or a doe, or a dog?”
Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue (American, 1931)
Oil on Canvas
101.3cm x 91.1cm
Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cow Skull: Red, White, and Blue brings a well-known and recognized image to a new a light when observed through the lens of oil painting. Usually associated with the desert and its colors (browns, sandy yellows, the tans and grays of rocky terrain), the cow skull is instead rendered in the foreground of bold and unnatural red, white, and blue. O’Keeffe has taken the object out of its original context, the desert, where it would normally be found, and has transposed it onto an abstract, indefinite plane of colors not normally associate with this particular object. On the topic of this work, O’Keeffe wrote of her own process:
As I was working I thought of the city men I had been seeing in the East. They talked so
often of writing the Great American Novel— the Great American Play— the Great American Poetry.
People wanted to “do” the American scene. I had gone back and forth across the country several times by then, and some of the current ideas about the American scene struck me as pretty ridiculous. To them, the American scene was a dilapidated house with a broken-down buckboard out front and a horse that looked like a skeleton. I knew America was very rich, very lush. Well, I started painting my skulls around this time… I had lived in the cattle country—Amarillo was the crossroads of cattle shipping, and you could see the cattle coming in across the range for days at a time. For goodness’ sake, I thought, the people who talk about the American scene don’t know anything about it. So, in a way, that cow’s skull was my joke on the American scene, and it gave me pleasure to make it in red, white, and blue.
— from Full Bloom: The Art and Life of
Georgia O’Keeffe, page 332
La V... (ap. 1870 - 1871)
29.5cm x 22.5cm
This satirical print depicts the French Empress Eugénie, wife of the Emperor Louis Napoleon. The Empress’ head has been superimposed onto a cow’s body, and she is shown passing gas on her husband and almost trampling her son, the Prince Impérial Napoleon. The figure riding her back is a French statesman named Émile Ollivier who held significant influence
in the Imperial household. Another identifier of the Empress is the branded ‘E’ on the cow’s side topped with a crown (La V...Espagnole 2015). The Empress was Spanish born and married into the French court with her union to Napoleon III. As with many foreign born royals, the Empress was disliked in the French court. She met Louis Napoleon when he was still the president of the Second Republic, and they were wed in January 1853. Her marriage to Napoleon was opposed in many quarters because political
officials did not believe she had a high enough social standing.
Eugénie was the last Empress of France. After a crushing defeat in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, Napoleon was unable to retain his subjects’ support. The war had been a disaster for France. The French lost territory and political support forcing the family into exile in England. The loss in the Franco-Prussian War resonated in France and eventually carried into the First World War. The print represents the Empress as being in control of the Imperial household. She was strong-willed and often had the last say in decisions. Napoleon III sought his wife’s advice on important questions, and she often acted as Regent when her husband was absent. The print also references the supposed affair between the Empress and Ollivier. This was represented in the split laurel leaves Napoleon is wearing in the print. The split signifies a break in marital vows and a split in the royal marriage. However, Napoleon III had countless affairs throughout the marriage, but that was not referenced in the print (La V...Espagnole 2015).
Ollivier was a French politician and was the prime minister of France when the Second Republic fell. He initially was opposed to Napoleon III, however he was influential in pushing the Emperor toward more liberal reforms. Unfortunately, the disaster of the Franco-Prussian War unseated Ollivier and he resigned, along with other members of his cabinet. The French public credited Ollivier with the loss in the war and he was disliked by the people, however he was not forced into exile (Houston 1965, 125). His unpopularity coupled with the Empresses’ was possibly the reason the French used them as scapegoats behind the reason for the Franco-Prussian War.
While the print is satirical, there is an underlying insult directed at the Empress. The print not only is symbolizing the control the Empress had over her family and French affairs but it also references her suspected adultery. Since the Empress was Spanish, cow in Spanish is vacha or vaca. Besides meaning cow, it also translates into loose woman. This idea was reinforced with the figure of Ollivier riding on the Empress’ back (La V...Espagnole 2015). The print is satirical, meaning that the caricaturist, Alfred Le Petit, wanted to express his views on the Empress and her role in political matters. He used the image of the cow, to exaggerate her persona as a controlling woman as well as how she was unwelcome in the French court.
The print is propaganda in nature. It conveyed a message about the Empress and the Imperial family that was cast in a negative light. While it is more satirical, the purpose of the print was to discredit the foreign Empress during a time when there was political and social unrest in France. The French were in the midst of having another revolution which would eventually end the Second Republic along with the Imperial family.
The print discredited the Empress as a practical decision maker. She disrespects her husband even though he gave her political influence. In a sense, the print is blaming the Empress for her role in entering the Franco-Prussian War which precipitated the end of the Second Republic.
Zulu Dance Shield. (Igqoka) date unknown
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
cowhide exterior, leather straps, wooden stick
The Zulu tribe of South Africa take the cattle to be a sacred animal. They used cattle for food, herding, brideprice (Lobola), and their military maneuvers resembled cattle. The cow serves also as a symbol for male fertility and strength. The Zulu, like many African tribes, have very distinctive shields. The shields used by all tribes in South Africa were made exclusively of the hide of a cow, reinforced by leather straps, and a wooden stick for a grip. There were many different shields, each serving a different purpose. The most obvious being for warfare, the Isihlangu was originally a shield very similar to the shield on display called the Umbumbuluzo. It was later changed by the King Shakazulu to cover the whole torso. It is also used during the Zulu stick fighting game where two players try to strike their opponent based on points. Another shield that would be made by a young woman in a courting ceremony. The better the shield (Ihubelo), the better at winning the boys heart. The shield on display was used during dances during a wedding ceremony. The dancers will form a line in front of the drummers and take turns showing off their dancing prowess.
The Rape of Europa, 1560-62
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
oil on canvas
70" x 81"
The Rape of Europa by Titian illustrates the story of the abduction of Europa by Zeus. Europa is seen on the back of the animal, her arms raised above her head and her head thrown back in protest, a common position of helplessness and distress in Baroque painting. This distress is mirrored in the atmosphere of the scene, as well. The skies are orange and gray, appearing foreboding and tumultuous. The waters are choppy and turbulent, paralleling the excitement of the bull fleeing and the fight put up by Europa. In the background, Europa’s family and helpers rush to the scene of her kidnapping; too late and having no way to save her. On the bull’s head is a laurel crown: a symbol of victory as well as a clue to viewers that this white bull is no normal bull. According to Greek myth, Zeus had become enamored of Europa and wished to make her his wife and the queen of Crete. He transformed himself into a tame white bull and blended in with Europa’s father’s herd. One day, Europa spotted the white bull while gathering flowers and approached it. She caressed his flanks, and eventually got onto his back. At this moment, Zeus began ran away with her on his back, running into the sea toward the island of Crete. Zeus then transformed back into his god form, and Europa was made Queen of Crete. Bulls, especially in Greek and Minoan society, were viewed with great importance and reverence. Zeus could have transformed into any creature he pleased, but he chose the bull because he knew Europa would fall into his trap. He knew she could not resist a white bull.
Butcher's Stall with the Flight into Egypt, 1551
Gustavianum, Uppsala Museum
oil on wood panel
123 cm x 167 cm
This painting at first appears to be a genre painting depicting the everyday scene of a butcher’s stall with meats for sale as the foods dominate the space. The butchered cow’s head and other food items, however, are meant to demonstrate the gluttony of consumption of excessive rich foods, such as red meat and cheeses. Working in Antwerp during a time when the Netherlands was controlled by King Philip II of Spain, Pieter Aertsen’s work was heavily influenced by Catholic beliefs. The Spanish king, a leader of Catholicism in Europe, sought to defend his religion against the religious reformations of the time. . Less than 100 years before this painting was created, Martin Luther had begun the break from Catholicism and since then it only picked up steam, especially when King Henry VIII declared England’s break with Rome in 1533. The Netherlands was located very close to the heart of these religious reformations, in Northern Europe where Protestantism had begun, and thus Spain’s control of it was essential to King Philip’s goal of preventing the spread of Protestantism. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, slaughtered animals were used by theologians to symbolize the death of a believer, often someone who turned to Protestantism from Catholicism. These slaughtered animals echo the persecution of non-believers, common for both Catholic and Protestant believers. In the background of the painting a slaughtered pig can be seen, a motif that would later be used by artists such as Rembrandt, who used oxen. Aertsen is known today as a pioneer of still lifes. Much of his work is based on religion. The foods in the foreground are heaping and meant to almost overwhelm the viewer as the painting is nearly lifesize. The still life of foods seems to cover the religious figures in the background. Looking closely, on the left the Virgin Mary can be seen giving alms to the faithful waiting outside the church on her way to Egypt, and on the right of the painting the prodigal son is passing the time in a tavern, yet another comparison of the value of faithfulness and Christian values. “Spiritual foods”, like pretzels and wine, are in the corner of the shop (to the right, top corner of the painting) beside the meats, illustrating how one can find salvation from their sins in the spiritual beliefs of the Church. Meats, like beef, were staples of the diet of nobility during this time period, so only well off individuals could dine on the meats shown in Aertsen’s painting. During the season of Lent, meats were limited or sworn off all together and only spiritual foods would be consumed. The wine also has spiritual importance in Christianity as it symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ when Christians take communion. Further emphasizing the gluttony of consuming the meats sold at the butcher’s stall, a simple two fish, a common symbol of Christianity, are on a plate just above the cow’s head. There are biblical stories of Jesus and his disciples fishing and these two fish could be a reference to the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 followers with just two fish, calling upon the viewer to realize that they could be just as satisfied with two fish rather than the other foods displayed. Imagery such as this, that promoted the Catholic beliefs in redemption through belief in Jesus Christ, was important in supporting King Philip’s ideals as they showed people what was expected of them. The intense colors of the painting convey an urgency and add drama to the painting’s scene, the red of the meat and building in contrast to the fainter whites and pale blues of the scene in the background, requiring the viewer to stop and look at all the details of the work. This painting was displayed to educate viewers with these scenes.
Aertsen was a Northern Mannerist and the first artist to paint “inverted still lifes”. These still lifes are works where the narrative elements of a piece are depicted in the background while the still life elements are depicted prominently in the foreground. “Butcher’s Stall with the Flight into Egypt” is Aertsen’s masterpiece in this genre. Northern Mannerists also typically regulated the subject matter of their paintings to minor positions, hence the obscurity of the religious details included in the work.
Bowl with Cattle Representations, 1900-1650 B.C.E.
Addendan Cemetery T, Grave 230, Nubian Museum Aswan, Egypt
This bowl was discovered in a grave in Addendan, Egypt. It dates to between 1900-1650 B.C. This period was considered to be during the middle of Ancient Egyptian society. Normally, any object found in a grave held significant value. The object was important enough for the deceased to be buried with it and for it to be carried with them into the afterlife (Bowl with Cattle Representations 2010).
This bowl has three distinct tiers, however only the top two can be clearly seen while the tier closest to the base has faded over time. The depictions on the bowl are of cows both with horns and without horns. The top tier includes both large and small images of cattle while the middle tier has just large cows. There was special emphasis on the exterior design of the bowl becauseof the considerable time and skill put into the cattle images (Bowl with Cattle Representations 2010).
The background of the bowl is made of vertical incisions. Similar vertical incisions have been found on many rock carvings from the Neolithic Age. The incisions are lighter in color than the cattle and create a setting of the open field. They look like a type of grass or another type of wildlife plant. There appears to be a symbolic relationship between cattle and wildlife that was important for Ancient Egyptians in this area because the images of cattle were added to the bowl. Plants and animals were very important resources for Ancient Egyptians and the bowl is honoring that importance in everyday life (Bowl with Cattle Representations 2010).
Before the domestication of plants and animals, societies were comprised of hunters and gatherers. Eventually, hunting and gathering turned into shepherding after the domestication of the horse. With the horse, people had an advantage over the wild animals, and they were able to herd them to specific areas. People lived according to seasonal camps thus cattle and plants became very important to survival in this new shepherding lifestyle (Bowl with Cattle Representations 2010).
The Terracotta Rhyton from Ancient Greece currently located in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It comes from Attic region of Greece and was the most commonly known for the city of Athens, also known as the birth place of democracy. Created during the Classical period of Greek civilization.During that time the cow played a larger role than anyone would think. They were important not only in agriculture, but for their links to religious values and in the myths of the Greek Gods. This was created during significant date, during this year Athens went to war with its rival city-state Sparta. The war is known to historians as the First Peloponnesian War. The conflict was caused by overly aggressive Spartans attempting to bully the Argos to which the Athens objected. The first battle called the Battle of Oenoeoccurred in 460 BC. In it the Athenians had the advantage. The reason that the cow has such a pivotal role in the Ancient Greek society dates to the earliest years of Greek culture. In a review written by Gary D Farney of the book The Cattle of the Sun: Cows and Culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks written by Jeremy McInerney, talks about the importance of the cow in Greek society. First and foremost he states that “long after they had lost their economic and practical place in Greek household in the Classical and later periods, they continued to have an important one in the Greek psyche and religion” .This vase was made during this period when the cities became more populated, and there was less space for cattle farms, but cows still had quite a significant role in the culture. This is a decoration cup, but it was still used for drinking. If one looks at the detail of the cow’s head, the face is as nearly replies of a live cow’s head. The coloring is beautiful; the work of the horns/antlers is near perfection it’s truly magnificent. In Greece the farmers practiced pastoralism which makes the farmer who has raised these cattle and nurtured them, to also be their butcher a true definition of build and destroy. This strategy proved to leave the farmers with a guilty conscience. The solution was that “the animal’s consent was gained by a trick at a sacrifice (dropping a handful of grain on its nose so it would nod), and this eased the act of “betrayal for the herder” . On the cup one can see a figure who looks to be a herder talking to a woman. It appears as if they maybe getting ready for the sacrifice. This piece of art is great example of how the cow had such a significant role in the building of one of the most successful civilizations to have ever existed. The cow in Greece was not only helpful in the act of agriculture, but played a bigger role when it came to religious uses when the cow was sacrificed to the gods.
Netsuke of Boy on Cow, 19th century
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
This is an Ivory Netsuke made in Japan during the nineteenth century. This piece is currently located at The Metropolitan Museum of Art which is located in New York City. A netsuke is a small sculpture that comes from Japan. Little-known to the people in the West, the cow was subject to great reverence in Japanese culture. Just as in the Indian culture, the Japanese did not kill cows either. The most devote practices of Buddhism, the Japanese did not kill any mammal, and it was considered a sin. During the nineteenth century there was a lot of change in Japan. For the past two hundred years Japan had been closed to the rest of the world after the Samurai kicked out the Jesuits, whom they thought were killing their culture by converting a large number of the southern Japanese to Christianity the recent converts started eating meat, at a time when such actions were banned. “In 1853 American, Matthew Perry, threatened to bombard the Japanese capital if they did not open up to American trade, thus Japan opened itself to foreign influences and, as in China; westerners residing in Japan were not subject to Japanese law.” After this happened the Samurai were sent abroad to learn western technology, and later were abolished as a social class. The Samurai were throughout Japanese history one of the most important social classes they were the ones who defended the Japanese people and helped to keep order under the control of the Shogun who was Buddhist. The importance of the cow in Japanese culture started in the mid 500’s A.D. when Buddhism left India and started to spread to the Far East. “April 675 A.D. the Japanese Emperor Tenmu banned the consumption of all meat from four legged animals including cows, horses, dogs, and monkeys, as well as domestic birds such as chickens and roosters.” The Emperors who followed proceeded to keep the same rules for the people of Japan,for eating a mammal was looked upon as an act of sin in the eyes of Buddha. “to the Japanese the cow was the most sacred animal.” Cows were used as tools for agriculture by farmers and were looked upon as a part of the family, that why in this sculpture the child is riding the cow because it can be interpreted as a part of his family in a manner similar to how families have pets today. One can see how the cow is depicted in a way that reminds one of a horse being ridden by a cowboy. This boy does the same with his cow; he has a rope around the cows head to keep control just as a American cowboy would. Only the aristocratic people in Japanese culture had milk but they would have it forms like Daigowhich is like a butter and raku, that is “in an age before refrigeration is enabled the transport and preservation of milk protein.” This was sold in markets and could be added to tea or just eaten plain. When the cows weren’t getting milked, they would roam around the sacred grounds of the Shoguns home in freedom. Being the most praised animal in Japanese culture, it would be a sin to treat them any other way.
Young Herdsman with Cow, 1655-1660
oil on canvas
44 1/8" x 52 1/8",
Currently on view in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Baptized on October 20th, 1620, Alexander Cuyp was born into a family of painters during the baroque period. His father was also a painter, a portraitist, while his uncle and grandfather were stained glass designers.Cuyp inherited much land from his parents and was said to be a very important figure in Dordrecht at the time, often referred to as the Dutch equivalent to Claude Lorrain.
Trained as a landscape painter, Cuyp learned his creative trade from his father and a certain man named Jan Van Goyen. Cuyp created many paintings, however his output slowed as he married the widow, Cornelia Boschman, taking in her children and having with her the only child of his own, a daughter.
Alexander Cuyp’s portraits are known for how they elicit poetic feelings to a viewer, such as with this painting. The portrait Young Herdsman with cow has a sort of serene grace to it as it shows the herdsman and his cattle relaxing in a field. Behind the calm setting are indications of Dutch culture, shown by the subjects. The cattle laze around as they wait to be told which way to go. These cattle are an important part of the life the dutch herdsmen, serving as a necessary commodity in the life of a herdsman. For the dutch, cows were a source of food and labor. Thus cows helped support Dutch livelihood. The herdsman in this painting is going at his own leisurely pace in taking good care of his cows. It is uncertain what he is speaking to the other man about, however. It may be they are having a friendly conversation, acquiring directions from the other, or even haggling on the price of a cow (possibly the black one as it is seen as the only one standing). The posing of the figures seems to give the cows more importance than the distant herdsman. This connection of cows in nature connects the viewer and herdsman to the earth and how the cow as a commodity seems to bring humans together with the rest of the beauty in this world.
Lady Gaga Meat Dress, 2010
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Raw Flank Steak
Named by Time Magazine as the top fashion statement of 2010, Lady Gaga’s meat dress serves as a testament to cattle as clothing in an innovative and controversial way. Made entirely of raw flank meat, designer Franc Fernandez created a gown of dead cow flesh. Since the dress is made of flank steak, eventually the dress will begin to decay thus creating an entirely new dress than Lady Gaga wore originally. There is some question as to whether Lady Gaga pioneered this new way to wear cows, but she brought the conversation to the forefront of the United States of America as well as to the forefront of international conversations.
Lady Gaga wore her meat gown to accept her award for Best Music Video at the MTV Music Video Awards, Lady Gaga’s dress sparked controversy amongst animal rights groups. According to Gaga, the dress was a commentary on the United States “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy. The “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy was the official stance of the United States government on closeted and openly gay and lesbian military members. It prevented discrimination against closeted homosexuals while systematically barring openly homosexual individuals from enlisting. In an interview Lady Gaga stated that if “we don’t stand up for what we believe in, pretty soon we’ll have just as much right as the meat on our bones.” As a pop star, Lady Gaga used her influence to raise awareness on the discrimination faced by the gay community by the United States Military.
In response, many animal rights groups condemned the dress regardless of its political meaning saying that “tortured animal flesh is still tortured animal flesh.” Groups like The Vegetarian Society and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals criticized her dress as an offensive use of dead cow flesh. Others took the dress to establish a dialogue on society’s attitude towards meat meaning that many people don’t want their beef to look like beef at all. They simply want their meat in neat, plastic containers sold at the local supermarket. Regardless of the intended meaning, Lady Gaga’s dress opened the door for conversation on anti-feminism, animal rights, ideas on decay, and the use of cattle within today’s society.
As illustrated by Lady Gaga’s meat dress, cows have transcended their status as simply a means of food. The meat dress worn by Lady Gaga serves as an example of the use of cattle as a commodity as well as serves as a commentary on the use of cow meat within the United States of America. While Lady Gaga did raise awareness on the harsh discrimination of gay military members and those wanting to enlist, she also managed to encourage a dialogue about animal rights and the use of meat within the United States.
Saddle, Eastern Tibetan or Chinese for the Tibetan market
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Iron, gold, silver, wood, leather and textile
27.3 cm X 57.2 cm X 29.8 cm
Cows are not typically associated with warfare. If we were to think of animals playing a role in war, one would probably first think of horses, mules or even camels and elephants. We would also consider an animal’s job in warfare to be a source of food or a vehicle on which to transport people and supplies. But cows have their place at the front lines as well. Leather, the highly prized textile that comes from a cow’s hide, is often used in battle gear around the world, as is demonstrated by this Tibetan saddle, or sga in the Tibetan language.
Even though various chemicals or processes may vary by country, the general act of making leather has remained the same over centuries. Vegetable tanning and tree bark tanning have been methods to preserve all sorts of animal hides for centuries.The creation of leather began as a process to preserve animal hide and protect it from growing bacteria and decomposing. It is through this process that animal skins are able to be used as a commodity in the commercial market. The process of making leather begins with stripping the animal hide of all its hair. The skin is then tanned in a mixture of chemicals or natural components. After the tanning, the skin is then considered to be leather.
Scholars debate whether this particular saddle was originally made in China or merely influenced by Chinese saddles. It appeared in Tibet, yet when a restorer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art discovered Chinese characters while cleaning the piece, the provenance of the saddle was questioned. The Chinese origin of the characters was later verified by museum experts. Scholars believe that the marks may have been put there during the first stages of the saddle’s production, in order to alert the metal workers how to appropriately decorate the saddle according to its intended owner’s rank. The underside of the saddle is also marked with a Tibetan number 12, bringing further mystery to its origin.
The leather itself is plain and does not have any decorative tooling, but the amount of elaborate metal work, done in silver, gold and iron, allude to an illustrious ownership. In truth, similar saddles were ridden by the Fifth Dalai Lama in the seventeenth century and this particular saddle is reported to have been ridden, despite its age, by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in the 1930s.
The saddle’s illustrious provenance addresses an important purpose of battle gear, that it served not only as an implement of battle practices, but also demonstrated political power and wealth. The amount of gold and silver and the complexity of the metal work on the saddle would have only been afforded by the upper classes and important national officials. It makes sense then that such a meticulous level of attention was put into this saddle, since it had to be fit for the Dalai Lama to ride.
On the other hand, if this saddle had been used in a military context, one can imagine that the costly silver and gold dragons would have told an opposing army that the person who sat atop it, and the country they represented, was wealthy enough to afford it, and so then must also be able to afford a large army and an abundance of resources. No doubt, it would have intimidated the most worthy of opponents.
The Leather plays a part in this power play as well. The material is regarded in many cultures as a luxury good and it would have been a status symbol to own a leather commodity that wasn’t used for every day, practical purposes, like animal harnesses for farming. Therefore, through this saddle, we are able to link cows not only to military power and might, but also to wealth and status. It is interesting to make mention of the irony of the association between cows and luxury items since cows are often regarded amongst the homeliest of creatures.
Indian (Deccan), painted cloth (Pichwai) Depicting the Celebration of the Festival of Cows, late 18th-early 19th century
Painted and printed gold and silver leaf,opaque watercolor on indigo-dyed cotton
97 5/8" x 103 1/8"
In India, the cow is a very sacred animal because they are a symbol of life and wealth. The Pichwai Depicting the Celebration of the Festival of Cows is showing the eye drawing patterns of cows all over the cloth. Images like this one were hung up behind shrines. Around the end of the eighteenth century, the use of gold and silver were typically used to create these scared images. It represented wealth of the commissioner. The subject of this cloth painting is very particular since it isn’t used much, which can tell us that was an important event. It represents the Festival of Cows, which happens in late autumn.
The Festival of Cows is about Krishna moving forward in rank from caretaker of calves to cowherd. Krishna is the supreme deity in Hindu religion. He was also the protector for the cows. The story of Krishna is a complicated and long one. The birth of Krishna only happened with the help of Vishnu, the preserver of the universe. He saved his family from torment by King Kamsa. Kamsa imprisoned Krishna’s, soon to be mother Devaki, because the prophocey said that her eighth child would kill him. When Krishna is born, Vishnu saves him from Kamsa. Kamsa would send demons to kill the infant but he defeated all of them. Eventually, Krishna does kill his uncle and restores order.
Usually a divine entity is depicted as powerful kings and not as common people. Krishna is a cowherd. Although he is a simple God, he is very popular. Many tried to dismiss him because he was a cowherd but he had so many endearing qualities that made it hard for people not to celebrate his life. Krishna was wise, strong, beautiful, and courageous. People of the Hindu culture refer to his a Gopala, which means on “who tends to the cows”.
Pichwai is a large, cloth that has intricate paintings on them of Krishna’s life. They can even be printed on with handblocks, woven, and embroidered with images of Krishna. The making of Pichwai was a very sacred practice that had to be supervised by master painters. They were to honor him and were to be put up behind his shrines. This type of art is very ancient and is passed down for generations. The purpose of them is to help people who are illiterate understand the stories of Krishna. Many times, they would use the Pichwai as an offering to Krishna. These sacred cloth paintings are traditionally painted with natural material like lapis and indigo. It wasn’t until later that these painters use gold and silver on these Pichwai. Usually wealthy patrons got gold and/or silver on their Pichwai because they could afford it. The piece above was probably commissioned from a wealthy family since it has gold and silver on it.
Pichwais are valuable religiously and materially because of their content and what they are made out of. They are useful for religious purposes like prayer. Also, they can show off how much money you have depending on what material is used. Pichwais are bought and sold to people of faith. Even today, tourists love to buy them when they visit India. The context of each Pichwai is usually repeated because there are favorite stories. In this case, the Pichwai shown here depicts a story that isn’t as popular. Just because it isn’t as popular as the rest, it holds great significance to the culture.
The Skinny Cow brand of ice cream was created by Nestle Dreyer’s Ice Cream Company in 1994. The brand focuses on low calorie and less-fattening options for ice cream. Since its inception, the company has expanded its product line and now offers cold coffee drinks as well as candies and other sweet confections.
The brand itself is geared towards women, particularly women who likely want to lose weight or maintain an already slender figure. The mascot for the brand is a svelt cow, with womanly curves. She is often shown reclining against an ice cream sandwich or with her legs and hooves raised exuberantly in the air. Sometimes, she is depicted with a flexible measuring tape around her middle, emphasizing her skinny waist.
The feminine, and at times nearly sexualized, poses of the Skinny Cow create a certain, albeit odd, fantasy for the customer. By making the company’s mascot a “Skinny” cow, they are inviting their customers to consider what a cow normally stands for when it is associated with people. The association between a cow’s body and a human’s body occurs when a person is being called “fat” or obese. By creating a sexualized interpretation of a cow, Nestle invites their customer to think that this cow was once fat, but because she abstained from regular, fattening ice creams and instead ate the Skinny Cow ice cream, she became thin, which creates the idea that the consumer could then become thin as well. By implementing this strong, contrasting message, the company has created a brand that uses an animal that is typically viewed as slovenly and obese, thereby making their customers want to be the opposite of that fat cow.
But the branding for women does not stop at their mascot; the brand’s website features typically feminine colors such as hot pink and teal blue with feminine, swirling script. When website pictures depict humans and not just the Skinny cow, the humans are always women. The verbiage used to describe Skinny Cow products also plays along with their sexualized mascot; the brand uses words such as “irresistible” and “luscious” to describe their products.
But a great contradiction exists within the Skinny Cow brand. The brand has created Club Skinny, a points and reward system in which customers can redeem product purchases for points and then win certain prizes based on their point earnings. When a new point level is met, the Club Skinny member is moved through point levels starting with “Rookie” and advancing through “Trendsetter,” “Starlet,” “VIP,” “Headliner” and “Super Star.” These labels almost serve to create an artificial hierarchy within an “exclusive” club. By using this marketing incentive, the brand is trying to promote a false sense of status by making women feel special by eating more of their products.
The idea of Club Skinny is also almost counterintuitive to weight loss, since it advocates the ability to “indulge” more frequently in their treats since they are low-calorie and low-fat options. The mission statement of the Skinny Cow brand even advocates the idea that because every product has lower calories than the alternative brand, customers can even have second helpings. The Skinny Club encourages women to buy and thus consume more of their products so that they may play a part in Club Skinny, even though eating more of their products, however less fattening they may be, will eventually lead to weight gain. Some of the prizes for Club Skinny members are even coupons for more Skinny Cow products, thus fueling consumption even further.
Admittedly, this is a smart marketing incentive for women to want to buy more Skinny cow products, but it does give an air of duplicity to the company itself; even though they promote the idea of weight loss, Skinny Cow is, at the end of the day, a dessert brand that has to keep their customers eating their products.
Skinny Cow Logo (1994)
I and the Village (1911)
Oil on Canvas
191.7cm x 151.1cm
Mother and Child [Divided] (1993)
Glass, Painted stainless steel,
Damien Hirst controversially used two real cows to represent trying to maintain relationship while falling apart. The mother cow and calve are separated and both cut in half but it doesn’t destroy their ultimate bond of mother and child even when dead. When he discussed his work, he stated, “My cows cut up in formaldehyde have more personality than any cow walking about in fields”. It seems that Hirst is bored with the animal when speaking about them. His lack of empathy towards the animal is totally different than it was back in ancient times. People worshipped the cow because they were seen as goddesses. They were divine beings and now decades late Hirst sees cows in a different perspective, which has to do with the culture he lives in today. He understands that the industry cows are in is tragic but he still shows no emotion toward them because he deals with them in a brutal, unemotional way.
Hirst is also coming from a medical perspective with the idea that we learn more about the living when they are dead. Though, there is a difference between actual medical art and art inspired by medical ideas and Hirst is representing medical ideas, not actual knowledge. He expresses that he knows medical knowledge because he has basic knowledge of formaldehyde. Hirst also has no consideration for the animal he took from the wild, which is why many people are out raged with his art.
Damien Hirst got his start in the 1990s where he shocked the world with his controversial artwork. He is apart of the Young British Artists group based in U.K. This taboo art gets a lot of people talking, not just museum professionals and other artists, but wildlife conservators/experts and common people. Despite his radical ideas, art collects still pay a pretty penny for his pieces. Hirst is known to be one of the wealthiest artists alive today. His sculpture-like pieces will continue to shock new viewers everyday
Professor K. Arthur
There is not an easy way to understand Chagall, he uses imagery from his own memories in his paintings, making them vague and scattered. Chagall was born in Russia, which shows in his paintings quite beautifully when he applies the colors. There is never a set order in his paintings, objects in people are never where you expect them to be nor where you want them to be. Chagall is not concerned with whether or not people understand his paintings, he is mainly concerned with the rhythm and dynamics that can be seen with the naked eye. Like all his other work I and the Village is a passionate visual piece, allowing the animal to be the loving romantic “couple.” This brings a rich fantasy to this painting, allowing the viewer to delve into Chagall’s mind and feel what he does towards the cow.
I and the Village was inspired by cubism. It takes on the broken planes and cubic qualities that cubists brought out in their paintings. This painting, however, has a deeper quality. For Chagall this evoked a memory of his native Hasidic village where peasants and animals lived side by side. In the painting we can see there is a clear line from the peasant to the cow’s eyes, locking them together symbolically. A symbolic tree of life is held in the peasant’s fingers as if feeding it to the animal in a rewarding fashion. There is an enchanting nature to this painting, there are the memories painted on the cow’s face, bring forth its own conscious thoughts of being milked by the peasant.
Since this painting is a memory from his village, it can probably be said that the cows in that village were prized possessions, and had other uses. But for this painting, you do not interpret it, there is no symbolic message behind, it is all just color, and form. The viewer must look at it, not throw it because that defeats the purpose of the painting.
For the Cows Throughout Culture exhibition this painting is particularly important to the psychological chapter of the show. There is apolitical aspect to it; it shows the peasantry side of Russia during Chagall’s time period. It shows the country side in the middle-ground, with a church very prominently placed as the highest building among all of the others. The church could possibly be the political entity that embodies the painting, which is why nothing strange has been done to it. But the church is not important enough as the cow and the peasant’s relationship to each other. Their eyes are locked in a gaze that will last for eternity, their white pupils a repeating symbol in the painting. The cow is remembering being milked, the peasants is remembering the cow and the village and Chagall in remembering the entire scene that is depicted from his homeland. It is a repeating cycle.
The Bullfight (1864)
Oil on Canvas
47.9cm x 108.9cm
From Edouard Manet’s original Incident in a the Bullring, submitted to the Salon of 1864, This is a segment of the original composition, which has been re-worked by the artist to what we have before us today, titled The Bullfight. Regarding provenance, this is one of artist Manet’s most interesting works given it’s history and impact on his artistic career.
Edouard Manet was a mid- 19th century painter who was the pivotal figure within the transition from realism to impressionism. Realist work was focused on its subject matter and its emotional and social significance. Manet’s radical painterly style, marked by looser brushstrokes, was embodied by the later impressionists. In the Bullfight, we see Manet’s hand and perspective through the heavily outlined gestures of paint, and through the subject matter.
The Bullfight represents a long-standing Spanish tradition of Bullfighting, but the moment captured by Manet is not one that is idealized or romanticized. The perspective is unique in that the wall of the bullring takes up the majority of the composition, placing the perspective of the viewer within the ring. There are three figures dressed in traditional toreador costume, and they are engaging with the bull in traditional Spanish Bullfight. The painting is a realist approach to the bullfight, for we see the bull, which is actually painted at a relatively small scale, but the height of the wall, and proximity of man to danger we associate from the limited space that Manet conveys with the encroaching wall. Also, the central figure is important. Our eye is drawn to him because the orthogonal lines of the composition, and also the fact that he is very center within the painting. We can hardly see his expression because his face is twisted away in a side glance, only seeing the shadow of a hooded eye under the brim of his hat. His body is groping the wall in full extension, in movement that leaves much to the viewer’s interpretation. He is clearly gazing at the bull and viewer, whom are superimposed, and his body language conveys fear- perhaps the vainglory of man cowering before the power of nature.
The bull represents a physical manifestation of the inner thoughts and anxieties of man. Based off of the realist approach, the bull is neither victim nor aggressor- he simply exists within the ring, and the compositional choice by the artist to only include a limited perspective of part of the bull’s outline, leaves a lot of visual information missing for the viewer’s imagination. This only heightens the notion that the actual bull itself is not so very much what is threatening, but rather the idea of danger and the empty space of the ring, consumed with the fear of the toreadors.
Bullfighting is a traditional spectacle of Spanish, Portuguese and Southern France’s culture. By definition it is a blood sport, but involves rich cultural patrimony and tradition, where trained toreadors and matadors perform a dance- like procession involving a Bull, and when a Matador is involved man and beast struggle until the Bull has met his demise.
The Greek were well known for their architecture, history, and their pottery. The pottery served two purposes: a practical usage such as water containers or food containers, and being a medium for art. The art depicting mythology and history alike, showing just how important their religion was to those who could afford to have art made. The Hydria on display illustrates the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The King Minos prayed to Poseidon for a white bull as as symbol of his support, and was to sacrifice the bull for the god’s favour. Instead Minos kept the bull for it’s beauty. Poseidon was furious at the insult, so he made Minos’ wife Pasiphae fall in love with bull and mate with it. The offspring had the body of a man but with the head and temper of a bull. King Minos ordered the construction of a Labyrinth to house the beast. To avenge his son’s death at Athens, Minos ordered 14 men, women, and children to be offered as sacrifice. Theseus offered to kill the Minotaur and return home with white sails. With the aid of King Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, Theseus successfully navigated the Labyrinth and killed the Minotaur. Theseus, however, forgot to change his sails to white, and upon arriving he found his father had killed himself in his despair. The bull is often used as a symbol of masculinity, and with that comes the violent side of man. The Minotaur myth is a lesson that being so filled with anger leads to not only your downfall, but the downfall of others.
Hydria: Thesus and the Minotaur (550 - 530 B.C.E)
44cm x 43cm
Herding Cattle (1350 B.C.E.)
58.5cm x 10.5cm x 54cm
The Ancient Egyptian culture was one of the longest existing societies in human history. Lasting for almost 3000 years before the Roman Empire began to alter and dilute the culture of the Nile river valley. The Egyptians were blessed with the Nile river and it’s predictable flooding, allowing for agriculture to flourish on a schedule rather than leaving a harvest to chance. They had an ability and luxury to adapt other forms of agriculture from their northern neighbors in Mesopotamia, while other river valley civilizations needed to specialize their harvesting techniques. They also had to adapt to the beasts of burden that would help with agriculture and provide as a food stuff. The cow was first domesticated in what is today northern Israel and Lebanon, and they eventually found their way into Egypt. The piece on display shows a pack of wild cattle approaching a group of humans in prayer. The panel beneath shows the humans beginning to subdue and break the cattle. Cattle were used in different aspects in Egyptian agriculture, mainly to perform back breaking labour such as carrying plows to till the soil. They were also prolific at carrying tools and supplies if work needed to be done away from home.
Culture: Greek, Attic
Title: Terracotta rhyton (vase for libations or drinking)
Date of Creation: 460 B.C
Medium: Terracotta; red-figure
Size: H. 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm)
Current Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
This painting is a satirical representation of different contemporary European political figures in the sixteenth century: (from left to right) Francis, Duke of Anjou, King Philip II of Spain, William of Orange (also known as William the Silent), and Queen Elizabeth I of England are shown. The man on the ground milking the cow is an unidentified gentleman, apparently meant to symbolize the bounty of the Netherlands that was being fought for. The situation depicted is a reference to the political atmosphere of the time that would lead to the famous clash of the English naval forces and Spanish Armada two years after it was painted in 1588. The cow represents the Dutch provinces, which King Philip II of Spain tries to ride in vain, drawing blood from the cow with his spurs, while Queen Elizabeth I of England feeds the cow, shown in a virginal white gown with a younger face than she would have actually had at the time, and William of Orange holds it steady by the horns as the Duke of Anjou, King Henry III of France’s brother, at the cow’s back end, is defecated on. The Duke of Anjou seems confused about what end of the cow he should be paying attention to.
The Duke of Anjou had visited Queen Elizabeth I in 1581 in an attempt to negotiate a marriage to the queen and secure an Anglo-Dutch military alliance. At the time that the duke’s suit began, he was twenty-four years old and Queen Elizabeth was forty-six years old, but they grew close and Queen Elizabeth was fond of him, perhaps knowing he would be her last suitor. She referred to the Duke of Anjou as her “frog” as he had given her a frog-shaped earring and there are many accounts of flirtations between the pair. Queen Elizabeth, however, had already made up her mind to never marry and used the duke for England’s benefit. A treaty between the nations would benefit both of them, but the English people were opposed to the match, England was a Protestant country while France was Catholic, so a marriage had the potential to cause conflicts between the religions. Mid-1581, Queen Elizabeth sent an official to France to negotiate an Anglo-French treaty. The negotiations ended when the French refused to agree to a treaty without a marriage. Citing her advisors, who opposed a marriage because of the potential for French influences, Queen Elizabeth sent the Duke of Anjou away, officially deciding against the marriage and therefore not creating an alliance between their countries.
Upon leaving England, the Duke of Anjou went on to the Netherlands, where he was greeted joyously, but the Dutch and Flemish were unhappy with his presence and the titles he was ceremoniously given, seeing the Catholic French as enemies to their Protestant beliefs. The duke sought to gain control of the Netherlands and made a plan, his “Joyous Entry”, into Antwerp, with his French forces, hoping to trick the citizens into letting him into the city. This failed attempt is known as the “French Fury” as it failed when the duke’s army was massacred by the city’s waiting militia.
In 1555, King Philip II of Spain was given control of the Netherlands when Charles V abdicated the throne. Since the spread of Protestantism in Northern Europe had taken over most of the country, the citizens were upset with their Catholic ruler. Philip II sent Italian and Spanish armies to control the angry citizens in 1567, also taxing the people heavily to pay for his forces. Queen Elizabeth wanted to support her fellow Protestants in the Netherlands, but was wary of the Spanish forces near England. During the 1570s, Queen Elizabeth sent small sums of money to the Dutch rebels. In 1579, the Netherlands split in two under the pressure of the Spanish forces, now unpaid as Spain had gone broke. The Spanish maintained control of the southern provinces, which became the Union of Arras, while William the Silent led the northern provinces, creating the Union of Utrecht. To keep the Spanish from reclaiming the north, Queen Elizabeth sent forces in 1584 to aid William the Silent’s campaign. The English army had little success on land, but they triumphed on sea against the Spanish, becoming the world’s greatest navy with their famous defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. William the Silent’s break from the Spanish Netherlands was successful and he became the founder of the monarchy of the Netherlands when he was named Prince of Orange. Philip II declared him an outlaw in 1580 for his leadership of the rebellion and William was assassinated in 1584 by the Spanish.
The cow is central to the painting. A common creature that the Queen of England influences and has control over while the animal disrespects the other European rulers, it drawing upon the image of how stubborn a cow can be and mocks the Spanish and French for not understanding how to make the animal work for them, something any simple farmer could do. Cows, among other animals, are frequently used in political satire because of how common they are and therefore many people can understand the reference.
Painted in the Netherlands at a Flemish art school in 1586, the artist shows their observations of the political tensions in Europe. The painter clearly saw the Northern provinces and English forces as having the upper hand at the time and supported Queen Elizabeth’s aid to William of Orange, the references in the piece would be easily recognizable by the intended audience of Dutch and Flemish people. Both Philip II and William gaze at Elizabeth, who looks calmly at the viewer, as though assured of England’s future success. The Duke of Anjou looks at the viewer as well, apparently not noticing the other figures with him. This painting is in a common style of the time with each figure painted about the same size, with their positions the focus of the painting.
Queen Elizabeth 1 feeds the Dutch Cow (1586)
Oil on Panel
39.5cm x 49.5cm
Unlike previous uses of the cow as a form of sustenance, worship and commodity, the cow in this political cartoon has none of the dignity of its previous bovine brethren. Shown is a fat, heavy and overweight cow. The drooping eyes indicate laziness, and grass in mouth adds to this idea of an over-eating lazy cow. The cow is labeled “sacred cow” as well as “military budget” indicating that the cow is representative of the United States’ large military budget. The background shows some landscape as well as the United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
The “sacred cow” has two separate but connected meanings. According to Webster’s dictionary, the sacred cow refers to “an idea, custom, or institution held, especially unreasonably to be above criticism.” The “sacred cow” also alludes to the tradition within Hinduism that the cow is a sacred animal that represents the life and sustenance of life. The artist, Bill Day, wants to mock the idea that this fat, overweight “sacred cow” (military budget) is above everything else and is sacred. The United States has one of the largest budgets with the 2014 military budget being over $550 billion dollars. This sacred cow does not represent life, but represents the attitude felt by Bill Day towards the massive military budget. As the world’s largest military budget, Day feels as if the spending is excessive. The girth of the cow and all its rolls indicate that this cow is not a healthy cow; it is fat and overweight.
Calling this fat cow the “sacred cow” mocks the idea of reverence towards cows by Hindus. Day’s shows the budget as sacred, going off the dictionary definition, means that there are some within the United States that believe the military is above everything else. There is juxtaposition between a Hindu sacred cow and Bill Day’s sacred cow. Military and war are ways that lives are ended and lost. War is not representative of rebirth or life, like the Hindu “sacred cow.” The cow here is not one of a truly sacred nature; it is fat, greedy and lazy. The cow is likened to the fat, greedy nature of the United States military budget and its overspending. While the cow in the cartoon is one to be laughed and mocked, the cow as an image is important in understanding the political culture.
Military Sacred Cow (2014)
Bill Day - The Cagle Post
The purpose of the Creative Exhibits class is to help students hone skills associated with mounting a museum exhibit.
The class has been divided into four groups to mimic the various museum departments associated with building an exhibit. We aspire to create a finished product that is publication-worthy that will serve as an asset on our future resumes.
We arrived at our exhibition, Cows throughout Culture: From Hathor to Old Bessie, through a group discussion. In the beginning we were interested with the idea of animals in art and eventually we narrowed our focus to a single animal: the cow through inspiration from the Yager Museum’s collection.
We have divided the exhibition into four distinct sections: religion; cows as commodities; labor and agricultural uses; and their role in political satire and popular culture.
In Western Society today we view cows as a food source. However, cows have been a sacred symbol throughout different cultures around the world: from Hathor, the symbol of fertility and motherhood in Ancient Egypt to its symbol of wealth and pride in Massai culture today.
From ancient days to the present, cows have been the source of food for a large part of the population. Cows provide a plethora of products ranging from consumables to shampoo to make up.
Cows have multiple roles on farms: they provide milk and beef which the farmer sells at market as well as being used to pull wagons and ploughs.
From the leather and hides used to clothe us, furnish our homes and vehicles, and protect us in battle, to the vellum used for manuscripts and bindings, the cow has been an integral part of advancing cultures around the world.
The ubiquity of cows has linked them to everything from strength and hard work to obesity and laziness. Using these understandings, cows can symbolize bloated, lazy individuals in satire as well as the dedicated, undervalued working class in social movements.
These distinct sections will be interconnected by the use of first-person documents such as poems, quotes, and religious texts.
The exhibition will be created as a PowerPoint presentation and will be promoted via social media to an audience of our peers. Our aim is to bring awareness to the various often unacknowledged roles that cows have played throughout human culture.