I finally attended the Hatshepsut exhibit that was previously shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museum. Fort Worth’s Kimball Art Museum is, apparently, the exhibit’s final venue. I couldn’t use my digital camera to record any of the artifacts even without flash and one of the security guards prevented me from even using it to record the placards, some of which were very wordy and informative. So I was limited to my notebook and pencil, much to my wife’s dismay at being stuck in a crowded museum with the only nerd taking notes.
Titled Hatshepsut: from queen to pharaoh, the exhibit included many artifacts that ranged from an ashlar block of a temple, stelae and bas relief sections to ceramics and jewelry. There were also several large statues as well as false doors and the sarcophagus of Hatshepsut herself. The exhibit spanned roughly six or seven galleries, occupying the entire South Galleries wing. I attended on Thursday, January 28th at around 3pm and it was crowded. The wait to get tickets alone was about 30 minutes and it took about an hour and a half to get through the exhibit (though my wife finished much earlier). Overall, I enjoyed being able to see stelae, bas reliefs, papyri and the like up close, but I found it far too crowded. It was difficult to move about without bumping into someone else, particularly in the first gallery of the exhibit. That’s not to say, however, that the exhibit itself was “crammed” into a small space. There was, luckily, lots of floor space to move around -it was just filled with people.
Here’s a highlight of some of the artifacts on display (I’ll link to photos or info on the internet where I can):
Dish of General Djehuti, from the reign of Thutmose III. The pharaoh dedicated this solid gold dish as recognition for service as general, scribe and treasurer. The inscription on the side reads: Given in praise by the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Men-kheper-Re, to the hereditary chief, the divine father, the beloved by God, filling the heart of the king in all foreignlands and in the isles in the midst of the great sea, filling stores with lazuli, electrum, and gold, keeper of all foreign lands, keeper of the troops, praised by the good gold lord of both lands and his ka – the royal scribe Djehuti deceased.
Heart Scarab of Hatnofer, a serpentine and gold funerary offering of exquisite detail and beauty. The base is engraved with chapter 30A of The Book of the Dead, where the deceased addresses her own heart, exhorting it to not bear witness against Hatnofer’s spirit in the final judgment in the afterlife. Hatnofer’s name was inserted over an erased text, evidence that the pendent wasn’t originally intended for her. Inscribed in the serpentine on the base of this pendent are a full 12 registers of text, not an insignificant feat considering its only a few inches in diameter. This was one of my favorite two items in the exhibit. Interestingly enough, I found a couple of the smallest items, this scarab and the Magical Jar (below) among the more interesting, rather than the monumental items of block statues, false doors , bas relief, etc. Perhaps it was the intricacy of the work, knowing that the hands that created the works were skilled beyond even the abilities of modern craftsmen (photos from the Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Figured Ostracon with Gridded Sketch, an ostracon is a fragment of pottery or sometimes limestone used to write or draw on. In this case, it looks like a craftsman was using an ostracon to plan a larger image or perhaps this was his “formula,” since Egyptian art relied heavily on canonized principles when rendering the human form in two dimensions. The grid represents the formulaic location for each
feature. This allowed the craftman to produce large quantities of work since the process was standardized. There are many who would also dispute the title of “artist” to the craftsmen since they are essentially reproducing the same work in the same manner without stylistic license.
It wasn’t until the Armana period that stylistic elements of caricature and realism are introduced. This change in artistic style occurred during the reign of Akhenaton (a.k.a. Amenhotep IV), the “first monotheist” (1387-1330’s BCE). The ostracon pictured here and present in the exhibit was from the reign of Hatshepsut (1473-1458 BCE) and is ostensibly a representation of Senenmut.
Magical Jar, from the early 18th Dynasty in glazed steatite. This 3 inch tall figuring jar is in the form of Taweret (a.k.a. Ipi), a goddess who protected pregnant and nursing women. Taweret’s form is intended to be hideous so as to frighten off demons and the like and she’s part human, hippopotamus, crocodile, and lion. I wasn’t able to find an image of the actual jar, which was on loan for the exhibit by the Metropolitan Museum in NY, but the image here shows the goddess, which is what jar looked like. Its contents were likely used by a magician-priest by impressing the seal to the skin of a patient after binding a spell to the individual being treated through a recitation. This was one of my two favorite items at the exhibit (see the Heart Scarab above), in spite of the other wonderful artifacts present.
I didn’t mention many, many things that caught my eye (and my pencil): false doors, stelae, papyrii, jewelry, and so on. All the things that come to mind whenever anyone mentions Egyptian artifacts and art. Instead, I focused on a few things that seemed a bit more off-beat and interesting in the hopes that I’ve sparked an interest in Egyptian art, history, and archaeology by showing that it isn’t all sarcophagi and mummies. I also didn’t discuss the history of Hatshepsut, but if you follow the link to the Kimbell Art Museum, there is a nice synopsis. All of the artifacts I mentioned are found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston(MFA), the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, The Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the Louvre.