Sunday, July 5, 2009

"She Walks in Beauty: The Feminine Ideal in Ancient Egypt"

A brief gallery talk at the Brooklyn Museum gave a brief overview of the role of women in various dynasties and time periods. The museum is famous for its Egyptian collection, known for the quality of works on view rather than quantity. The collection is smaller than the Met, but I did see many pieces that were stunning in detail and the pieces seemed to have a more sensuality in nature. The erotic musicians and the sculpture of Osiris returning to inseminate Isis are like nothing I've seen at the Met, the British Museum, or the Egyptian Museum.

The bird goddess, pictured left, is worth the trip to the museum. Her face appears to have the shape of a beak, an ibis perhaps, associated with wisdom and writing, or perhaps a bird that represents sexuality, which appeared on an unrelated scuplture. There is no mystery to the rest of her physicality, powerful hips and butt, defined breasts, her hands making the same beaked gesture of her face. Everything suggests fertility. She may be dancing......

According to the guide, ancient Egyptian women and men valued beauty, investing time and money in make up, wigs, and jewelry. Women kept their last names and were in charge of their own dowries, even if the union ended in divorce, which was practiced. Many of the sculptures of couples are side by side and similarly sized. Other times, a woman had her arm wrapped around her husband's leg and was about calf high. Sculptures of a voluptuous Isis and Hathor abound, often in a nursing role--icons for protection and abundance. The gestures of the bird goddess, the offering hand position, and the acrobats contain glimmering antecedents of hand gestures dancers use today. I would have like to know about the walking in beauty referred to in the title. Many statues have a left foot forward, a mystery my previous guide at the Met said was still unsolved.

Photograph info:
Female Figurine (“Bird Lady”). Egypt, from Ma’mariya. Predynastic Period, Naqada II, circa 3650–3300 B.C.E. Terracotta. Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 07.447.505

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer (Thalia)July 19, 2009 at 4:54 PM

    Thanks! I'll check it out....


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