Defense of an artwork
You have the opportunity to choose one object from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to
add to its campus collection, and to be put on display. Since you are now more versed in the ideals
of Japanese art, you have been chosen to browse the Met’s collection and select one object that
you think would best contribute to the assortment of visual art on campus. You will write an essay
that proposes the educational value of the work of Japanese art (through visual analysis and
historical contextualization), and as one that should be on permanent display for our campus
Observation and description are both important and fundamental steps in art historical analysis—this
will constitute a good portion of your essay. Considering carefully which work would provide the
most educational introduction to the visual culture of Japan is a constructive way for you to use your
skills and new knowledge outside of standard class discussions & exams.
Also, this is your chance to look into something that is of interest to you, but that we didn’t have time
to discuss in class.
Part I: Description
As you write your observations, assume that your reader does not have access to the work/image—in
other words, describe it, pretending that your reader cannot see what you see. Focus most
attention, however, on the features that will be relevant to your later discussion. Read through the
following bullet points for guidelines to description:
? Start simple—provide general information about form (what is it and how is it organized or
arranged) and subject matter (what is going on in the work).
? Take the reader through the piece in an organized way. Avoid jumping back and forth, and
instead, determine a relatively natural way of scanning the piece through description.
? If something about your image appears particularly striking to you, you may start with that—
with what you notice first. Our eye is usually drawn to the most important or significant part of
a work, and that is often deliberate. Begin with what you see, and then fill in the rest by
answering pertinent questions below.
If you’ve never done this before, the following are some questions to help guide you through a
? What is your work? Is it a statue, object, small sculpture, handscroll, hanging scroll,
archaeological fragment, etc.?
? What materials is it made from?
? Check the dimensions as listed next to the work—convey its size: is it large or small?
? Does it appear heavy or light? Is it sturdy/solid or fragile?
? Describe the composition in general (layout or organization of the work):
o Is the layout complex or rather simple?
o If there is scene depicted, is it closely focused on an individual or is it a distance view?
o What, if anything, is cut off by the edges?
o What is your point of view?
o If there is a scene depicted, are you positioned at eye level, above or below the
o Is this something that can be used as well as viewed?
o Is a particular season evident?
? Describe the patterns, if the work is ornamented with non-representational (more abstract)
motifs or schemes.
? Is the object true to life or exaggerated? Ex.: if you are looking at a figure, is it naturalistically
rendered? If not, what, if any, features are exaggerated or out of proportion?
Part II: Contextualization
Now your task is to explain why the features you noted above are important to understanding
Japanese culture, aesthetic ideals, philosophy, and/or religion and world views. Draw upon the
visual details that you noted above as you discuss what we can learn about Japan from your chosen
work. This part is just as important as the previous part.
Here’s where you will defend your choice of work—make sure to describe what the details mean,
and in turn, why this work is the best choice for the college community.
? Go back to the textbook and discussion readings for sources. Use these for ideas and ideals.
ALWAYS cite ideas that are not your own, AND use quotes for phrases and sentences that are
not your own. Include references throughout your text when you use sources (either as in-text
citations or footnotes) and a bibliography at the end.
? Do a search in online library databases for other secondary sources that will help you to
analyze the work, and to place it within historical context.
? In your final paragraphs, summarize why the object is important to our understanding of
Japanese culture, etc., particularly on our campus.
? Suggest a place where your chosen work should be displayed, and explain why you’ve
chosen this place.
Use the image from the Met’s website (you may want to add some additional views if relevant to
your discussion). Include a caption identifying the object by what is known: artist, title, date/period,
medium, and materials.
Include this image at the end of your paper.
Note: The 3-page length of this assignment DOES NOT include the space occupied by this
image…you must provide 3 pages of PURE TEXT.
Include a bibliography of sources used at the end of your paper.