Ancient storm art
September 28, 2011 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Can you point me to any ancient art depicting a great storm?

Bonus points for hi-res images!
posted by grrarrgh00 to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Not exactly ancient, but the first thing that comest to mind is
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:15 PM on September 28, 2011

Best answer: I think you're going to have trouble finding anything that's truly ancient—I don't think there's much precedent for landscape of any kind before the Middle Ages (though that period of art history isn't my real strength, so anybody who knows otherwise do feel free to correct me).

Wikimedia Commons does have sections for storms, floods, and rain (bonus earthquakes and volcanos), but most of the works included are pretty modern.
posted by wreckingball at 6:28 PM on September 28, 2011

Best answer: Interesting question. The major issue here is that storms were generally embodied as deities in antiquity-- here's a Wikipedia list of thunder gods. The lightning bolt was a symbol of Jupiter/Zeus, but it was always represented in a very stylized way. Winds are treated in the same way, at least in the Classical Mediterranean. The Tower of the Winds in Athens is a good and very beautiful example of this sort of deification of natural phenomena.

The place I would look for storm images (and have been unsuccessfully looking over the last few minutes) is nautical scenes. I can only really talk with any authority about classical Mediterranean antiquity (so it may be different for East Asian/African/South American cultures), but storms were the biggest problem for people on the water (navies, merchants, travelers). Showing the aftermath of a storm rather than the actual event, but sort of what I'm talking about: here's a shipwreck scene from an 8th century BC Greek krater from Pithecusae.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:39 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's another shipwreck scene dating to the 8th century, from the neck of an oinochoe.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:45 PM on September 28, 2011

I was also going to post "The Great Wave off Kanagawa", but then I looked it up and found it was made around 1830 or so, and so dismissed it as "ancient". But since you picked that as a best answer, you may also be interested in this painting (from roughly the same time) of Kublai Khan's invasion fleet of Japan being destroyed by a typhoon.
posted by Flunkie at 6:47 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Same caveat as Flunkie's, but this collection of images (16th - 20th c.) is just too cool not to post.
posted by Cortes at 6:52 PM on September 28, 2011

This scene from the Column of Marcus Aurelius depicts The Rain Miracle, which provided the Romans with enough water to keep fighting the Quadi. This was more of a heavy shower than a storm, though, and the soldiers in the relief are unaffected by it, except to continue marching on. The figure of the great rain seems to be both a personification and a rainstorm composed of heavy slanting drops, an unusually specific allegory.

I wonder whether the ex-votos Greek or Roman sailors left in thanks for salvation from a storm would have depicted the storm itself, as did their later Christian counterparts. I can't find any examples, though this (and maybe
this) might suggest that the subject of the little tablets were storms. (Especially the lines from Horace in the first link, translated as "While I now, safe on shore/Will consecrate the pictured storm.")
posted by Francolin at 8:12 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

This has reminded me of one of my absolute favorite Southern Italian vases of all time: Python's depiction of the story of Alkmene. Zeus turns into a shower which is, uh, slightly golden, in order to put out the pyre of the poor lamenting Alkmene. So not really a storm, but he is many raindrops!

There are landscapes from Roman periods, but I thought they tended towards the bucolic or the idyllic seashore than anything else, with some odd bits of Nilotic scenery thrown in. Oinopaponton has the two best shipwreck depictions I know, and that Horace poem from Francolin is certainly wonderfully evocative me tabula sacer/ votiva paries indicat uvida/ suspendisse potenti/ vestimenta maris deo. This gallery of images from and perhaps these ones in particular illustrate the wonderful tendency of personification of the dangers of the sea as horrible sea monsters. This mosaic seems to show, from the brief image, either Leucothea with her husband (?) or with a shipwrecked sailor-- can't tell if the caption is descriptive; there's quite a bit of angry sea around them.

Nothing is coming to mind but I kind of suspect there are some stormy seas/shipwrecks in early-ish Christian art as well. The whole storm/giant flood tradition certainly suggests that there would be depictions, but the text is all I can find.

I'm sorry, I don't know if these are helping. Perhaps if you were to say what kind of storm, or what area you were interested in particular, it might be easier to do targeted searches?
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:59 PM on September 28, 2011

Look here
posted by oxala at 2:48 AM on September 29, 2011

Rembrandt's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee isn't ancient but it's pretty damn old - 1633.
posted by jabes at 2:39 PM on September 29, 2011

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