Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Field Trip: King Tut at the Met Museum of Art

As the Times Square exhibit continues, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a small scale sister exhibit, the Funeral of Tutankhamen. I attended a gallery tour with Egyptologist Phyllis Saretta. She started the tour with connecting look at Amenhotep the III and his son Akhnaton (credited by some for inventing monotheism in the ancient world) who fathered Tutankhamen. Tutankhamen, a young and relatively minor ruler who died at 18, paled next to the transforming reign of his father. I knew of the monotheism and that he changed the form of art into elongated figures, but what Saretta added to this was the "realism or naturalism of his artistic contributions." That period, known as the Amarna period, showed realistically drawn pharaohs with wrinkles and fat. After Akhnaton died, the priests, threatened by the monotheism that might put them out of business, managed to sway the boy pharaoh back to polytheism before he died.
What does this have to do with Orientalish? The fact that Tutankhamen was a relatively unimportant figure except for the fact that his intact tomb made the European explorers famous and wealthy. They researched and pillaged in the manner of their era (early 20th century), which was probably better than their predecessors did. The artifacts at the Met are modest in number at this exhibit but have beautiful detail. Soon...King Tut in Times Square...before it's gone.

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