Art History
Paper instructions:

Write a paper on one of the following three comparisons of works at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Your paper should be about 1200 words long (about four pages) and should:

1. Begin with a thesis statement that recognizes some basic similarity between the two works and suggests how they are different (one is more naturalistic, one is more concerned with narrative, one is more dramatic, etc.).
2. Describe each work carefully, in such a way that someone who has never seen the work would be able to visualize it or recognize it.
3. Make a case for why one work is more dramatic or naturalistic (or whatever you’re trying to demonstrate) through the careful use of visual evidence.

Whether you choose to arrange your essay in a point by point fashion or discuss one work and then the other is up to you. In my experience it is usually better to discuss one work thoroughly, and then explain the ways in which the other is different. Be sure that in your discussion of the second work you refer back to the first; otherwise, your essay will consist of two parts that have no relation to each other.

For the locations of the works, see the museum floor plan. To get to the MFA take the “E” train on the Green Line to the MFA stop, which is the second stop after the train emerges from the tunnel. You will see the MFA on the right. Be sure to bring your Suffolk ID with your CAS sticker. This will get you into the museum for free. The museum is open Saturday through Tuesday from 10am to 4:45pm and Wednesday through Friday from 10am to 9:45pm, and on Sat. and Sun. from 10am to 4:45pm.

1. Female Lyre Player, Etruscan, c. 470 BC, painting on terracotta, inv. no. 62.362

Coffin Panel with Procession of Funerary Deities, Egyptian, Greco-Roman Period, 30 BC-AD 395, inv. no. 1989.74
2. Head from Colossal Statue of Hadrian, marble, Roman, Imperial Period, c. 130 AD (in room with coins), inv. no. 1975.292.

The Poet Homer, Late Hellenistic or Roman Imperial, 50 BC – AD 50 (after a middle Hellenistic original of the 2nd century BC), marble. Inv. no. 04.13
3. Statue of a Queen, Egyptian, 300-200 BC, stone, about 30 inches tall, inv. no. 1990.314.

Priestess Burning Incense, marble, Roman, Imperial Period, 125-130 AD, inv. no. 1970.242

A few thoughts on your MFA papers:

First of all, keep in mind that this is not a research paper. Feel free to use the information you find on the wall labels at the museum, and in your textbook, but you shouldn’t be looking through books and articles or doing Google searches. The paper should feature your own description and analysis. And you should look at the works very carefully. Not just at the front, but the sides, and if possible, the back. You should think about the CONDITION of the work, and what it might have looked like when it was originally produced. (Is it a fragment of something larger, or is it complete in itself?)

As I mentioned in the original set of instructions, you should begin with some sort of thesis that takes into consideration how the works are similar, what the fundamental differences are, and what those differences tell us about each work. For example, if you were comparing a Greek Kouros statue with an Egyptian Ka statue, you might point out that both are carved from stone and show young, idealized, muscular men who are nude or mostly nude, but that there are important visual or stylistic differences that are tied to the different functions and meanings of the two works; the cultural values that inform one statue are different from the values that inform the other.

Then you should provide a brief description of each work. Your description should allow someone who hasn’t seen the work to visualize it fairly accurately. In other words, you wouldn’t simply say that Leonardo’s Last Supper shows a bunch of men around a table. You’d identify it as a large painting on a wall, about 15 feet high and 29 feet across, that shows a long table aligned parallel to the picture plane, with 13 men placed on the opposite side of the table, with one figure in the center and six figures on each side of him. You’d say that the scene is set inside a large room with three windows or openings on the rear wall, and that the head of the central figure is framed by the central opening. And so on.

Once you briefly describe the two works, you’ll talk about their basic similarities and differences. The differences will probably be more important. Be sure to note large differences, but sometimes small differences can be very revealing. The way two different sculptors carve an ear, for example, might be a good demonstration of how much one of the two cultures values the accurate depiction of human anatomy. Think about drapery, poses, hair, fur, claws, trees, eyebrows – anything that might offer some insight into the stylistic and cultural differences between the works.

One final word about plagiarism. Please remember that the words you write must be your own. Summarizing a paragraph or two from a book, an article, a website, or even a wall label in a museum, without acknowledgement, is plagiarism, even if the words aren’t exactly the same. If you make reference to some piece of information that isn’t commonly known, you must tell the reader where that information came from with a footnote or endnote. But you really shouldn’t have this problem, because this is not a research paper. You shouldn’t be looking at any written sources other than the museum labels and your textbook. (And if for any reason you DO use other sources, be sure to cite them.)



Art History