The “Compare and Contrast” essay is a popular method for discussing works of art. You will be asked to write an essay using this format on each exam. Compare and Contrast essay questions are intended to stimulate you to explore the differences between the period styles of the two works of art compared, and /or the individual styles of the two artists who created them. You may also explore not only the stylistic differences between the two works but discuss the effect that these stylistic differences had on the subject matter, theme or symbolism of the works. “Compare,” should tell you to look for similarities while “Contrast” should suggest looking for differences. In any compare and contrast analysis you ought to begin with the basics such as identifying the work of art (artist, title, period/style) and giving a description of the work and its special features. The following is a list of issues to consider in your analysis:

  • Culture/artist: Who produced it?
  • Period/style: When and where was it produced?
  • Function: What was its purpose?
  • Physical context: How was it used? How does it relate to its environment? Where was it located?
  • Medium/material: What is it made of?
  • Scale: What size is it?
  • Subject matter: Who or what is the subject? Doesn’t apply to architecture
  • Sacred or secular: Is it religious or non-religious in function and/or subject?
  • Artistic conventions: What reoccurring techniques, devices or motifs are used?
  • Abstraction/realism: How are the figures and forms rendered?
  • Cultural context: What was going on historically, socially, politically, religiously during the period in which it was produced?
  • Symbolism/themes: Why was it produced? What symbolic meaning or message does it convey to the viewer?

Be sure to employ specific art history terms from your vocabulary list in your essay comparison. This will help demonstrate your knowledge of the works and the subject of art history. Check your response: What is the main point of the comparison? Why did your instructor choose these two particular works to compare? How do they epitomize the culture and period that produced them? Use complete sentences and paragraphs including a brief introduction and wrap your essay up with a conclusion that reminds your reader of the main point.


Write a minimum four- to five-page essay comparing and contrasting two works of art from two different styles covered in this course between the Pre Historic through the Early Italian Renaissance periods. One of your selected works of art must be from AFTER the midterm (Modules 8-14). You must cover the following points in your comparison:

Introduction and Thesis

  • Introduce the artwork titles, period styles and artists names
  • Briefly state what you believe is significant about these artworks
  • In other words, tell your reader what works of art you will be discussing and why you think they are important

Stylistic analysis

  • Correctly identify artwork titles, period styles, and artists’ names
  • Compare the artworks by discussing key stylistic characteristics associated with artists and period styles
  • Apply art-history vocabulary correctly and use it to support your stylistic analysis
  • In other words, what makes these works stylistically significant?

Cultural analysis

  • Compare the artworks by discussing key cultural issues associated with artists and periods
  • Discuss how the cultural context of each period influenced the artistic development of the period style (make connections between cultural context and style)
  • In other words, what makes these works culturally significant?

Conclusion and Thematic Connection

  • Analyze the ways art can affect and/or reflect cultural, political and social issues
  • Draw conclusions about the artist/society which produced the artwork from the comparison
  • In other words, what “thematic connection” can you make between the two works of art that helps you better understand them or the culture they represent?

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