Formal Analysis Paper
4-6 Pages, double spaced, 12 point font.
Visit the Getty Villa and select TWO objects from the Ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman collections. You may select any two objects. You might select a Greek object and a Roman object, two Roman objects, two Greek objects, etc. But both objects must be ancient objects.
You will write a COMPARATIVE analysis of the formal aspects of both works. The point of this exercise is to describe the formal properties of the work in detail. You will not be researching the works you have chosen. Try to minimize discussions of narrative or historical circumstances of production. Indeed, try to stay away from these issues altogether. Instead, you will demonstrate a sustained visual engagement with two objects.
Your main task is to describe the salient formal features of both works. You will describe things such as: colors; materials; size; arrangement of figures (if there are figures represented); spatial organization. (You might consult the introduction of your textbook, which discusses formal analysis). Make sure to describe how the most important formal aspects of each works relate to the organizing visual logic of the entire work. Try to stay away from interpretation, and focus instead on concrete description. Three questions to ask yourself are: what are the most striking visual qualities of each work?; by what means are these effects achieved; and what are the main formal similarities and differences between both works.
Here is a good structure for your paper. You do NOT need to follow this outline, but it will give you a sense of how an analysis might be structured.
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1. Intro paragraph: Brief description of each work and STRONG THESIS.
2. A paragraph describing just the first work, in general terms.
3. A paragraph describing just the second work, in general terms.
4. 3-5 paragraphs COMPARING various aspects of both works.
a. Make sure that the topic sentence of each paragraph relates to the thesis.
b. The topic sentence should introduce a SPECIFIC formal aspect of both works.
c. The topic sentence must be supported with description. Description is your “evidence” to support what you said in your topic sentence, which is a single and specific aspect of your broader thesis statement.
What we are looking for:
In addition to good writing (clear organization, lack of typos, etc.), here is what we are looking for in your paper.
1. A clearly defined thesis.
2. Thoughtful organization that is related to the thesis. (Topic sentences for each paragraph that relate to the thesis and description of both works to support the topic sentences.)
3. Comparative analysis of both works.
4. That you do not rely too heavily on the wall label. You may bring in some information from the wall label in your introduction (for example, This is a statue of Hercules, which we know because of these attributes), but please cite your information. And focus more on looking at the works of art than on telling us background information.
5. That you don’t overlook important formal aspects of either work.
6. That the analysis does not rely on narrative or iconography too much, that you stick to formal description.
7. Explanation of the parts of the work to the overall composition.
8. Evidence of a sustained visual engagement with the work.