Monday, February 17, 2014

Egypt Reborn Tour at the Brooklyn Museum

The Canvas

My favorite type of art is ancient Egyptian art. So when I heard about the tour called Egypt Reborn when I arrived at the Brooklyn Museum, I was obviously interested. Fortunately, the tour was extremely enlightening since the tour guide was knowledgeable about the subject. At the end of the tour, I even asked if she was an Egyptologist. She stated that she was not and that the Brooklyn Museum informed her about ancient Egyptian art. Perhaps I could volunteer as a tour guide at the Brooklyn Museum some time.

Here are some things that I noticed during and after the tour:
1. The women in ancient Egyptian art mainly have yellowish skin.

Most ancient Egyptian artworks are of people who are from upper class backgrounds rather than members of the working class. Upper class women in ancient Egypt, despite having more rights than women in other cultures and societies, such as the right to divorce and own property, had to adhere to certain standards of domesticity. Since upper class women usually stayed at home, their skin tended to be lighter than the skin tone of the upper class men. Gender dynamics were especially present in the first image, Stela of Maaty and Dedwi. Dedwi, the woman on the left, is both lighter and significantly smaller than her husband, Maaty, the man on the right. The hierarchical scale in ancient Egyptian art explains Dedwi’s significantly smaller size. Ancient Egyptian art uses hierarchical scale, making more important figures larger and less important figures smaller. The Stela of Maaty and Dedwi shows that despite having a significant amount of power, women were generally, but not always, depicted as less important than men.

2. Akhenaten and Nefertiti, who defined the Amarna period, were hated. 

Sir Flinders Petrie, a British Egyptologist, during an excavation of el Amarna during the 1890s, noticed that nearly all of the statues of Akhenaten and Nefertiti were destroyed. After the Amarna period, pharaohs wished for the “heretic” king and queen to be forgotten. The Torso of Akhenaten, the image of the left, is a fragment from a destroyed statue of Akhenaten. In one of the images on the right, called Nefertiti and her Daughter, Nefertiti’s face has been marred. Nefertiti’s daughter’s face, on the other hand, has been untouched.

3. Ancient Egyptians were usually depicted as youthful, but there were a few exceptions.
The image on the left, the Relief of Akhty-hotep, depicts Akhty-hotep with a slim, yet muscular frame and youthful facial features. This was probably not because Akhty-hotep actually died at an early age, but because he wanted to be depicted as youthful in his afterlife. The Relief of Akhty-hotep was far from unique. In most ancient Egyptian art, people were portrayed as slim, strong, and most of all, young. However, this was not always the case. The image of the right, Relief of an Aged Courtier, serves as one of the exceptions. The courtier’s body has sagging muscles. His face has a double chin and does not look taut like the faces of most people in ancient Egyptian art. His most noticeable feature is the large vein in his forearm. Although the reason for a depiction of an elderly person is unknown, one possible reason could be the increased emphasis on naturalism during the Amarna period.

That’s all for now. To find out more about ancient Egyptian art and culture, check out the third floor of the Brooklyn Museum. Also, here is a fourth fun fact: The Brooklyn Museum ranks number three in ancient Egyptian art exhibits. Maybe that’s why the Brooklyn Museum is my favorite museum.

          -Jacqueline Retalis

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful experience of yours. I love this post. Egyptian art reached a high level in painting and sculpture. I love Egyptian art. If you want to know more Egypt Culture then, please check these out: Egypt Tourist Attractions.