Hieratic Scale

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Slide 2

In hieratic scale, the importance of people or things being represented by the size of portrayal. Size = Importance. Size doesn’t indicate age. It indicates how important the person is. The biggest person is the most likely to be of a higher class, more powerful, and richer, and the smallest person is the most likely to have the least power, money, and resources. Hieratic scale is one method of sending a message to the viewer.

Slide 3

You are probably more used to hieratic scale than you think. Often the drawings of young children use hieratic scale. In this image, we can guess that the child who drew this thinks the person with the orange shirt is the most important person and is trying to communicate that importance to us. The rest of people are clearly less important, but the person with the orange skirt is more important than the person with the green pants.

Slide 4

We saw an example of hieratic scale on the Lawcode of Hammurabi. The stele depicts Hammurabi and the god Shamash. Hammurabi and Shamash are of relatively similar size, but Shamash is bigger even though him being seated confuses the issue of who is bigger. Shamash being bigger indicates that he is more important than Hammurabi. People of the time would have expected a god to be the biggest, but the fact that Hammurabi is similar in size to Shamash means that Hammurabi is also important, almost god-like, which would justify why Hammurabi should have power as the ruler. The sizing of Hammurabi was a strategic choice that helped give power to Hammurabi and the laws written on the stele.

Slide 5

Hieratic scale is used throughout time, but the ancient Egyptians were particularly fond of hieratic scale. Without knowing anything about this image, we can already read who is most important. The dark skinned figure on the right is the biggest person. We shouldn’t assume that he is a giant. Instead, we should assume that he is the most important person in this image. The rest of the people in this image are portrayed in a rather wide range of sizes, indicating varying levels of importance, which can lead us to assume that the culture that produced this piece valued a person’s class as a result of power, wealth, or anything that would lead someone to be considered better than another person. With what we know about Egyptian culture, this reading based on hieratic scale seems accurate. Hieratic scale will be a tool you can use to read artwork throughout the rest of the semester.

Slide 1

Hieratic Scale

Slide 2

Definition Hieratic Scale – the importance of people or things being represented by the size of portrayal. Size = Importance. Most Important Least Important

Slide 3

Example of hieratic scale Image from vikingcranes.com

Slide 4

Example of hieratic scale Hammurabi Shamash

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Example of hieratic scale

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