Mollie Capener:ART of ancient egypt

In this exhibition we explore the art of Ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians were extremely advanced and created masterpieces that have withstood the test of time. Beginning with the early settlers in 3500 BC the dynasty had a long and magnificent reign spanning all the way until the reign of the Romans in 100AD. There were several rulers and many different trials and tribulations for Egypt. These time periods are split into five dynasty periods. The Early Dynasty began in 3100 AD and spanned into the Old Kingdom Dynasty around 2700 BC. From about 2200-2100 BC there was no dynasty but in 2055 Mentuhotep II gained control of entire country beginning the Middle Kingdom Dynasty. There was a second lapse of the dynasty when the Hyksos rulers took control of the delta region. However, in 1550 BC Ahmose threw the Hyksos out of Egypt and unified the country again creating the New Kingdom period. The unification lasted until around 1100 BC until the kingdom split once more, Upper Egypt from Lower Egypt. This remained the same until about 728BC when the Nubian King Piy conquered Egypt. This was known as the Late Period. In 332BC Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. Then in 305BC Ptolemy I became King beginning the final period known as the Ptolemaic period. This period ended with the iconic death of Cleopatra and the rise of Roman rule. Thankfully this is a culture with a great love for artfully preserving their history and we are able to see the passing of history in their vast collections given as tribute from and for the many rulers. In this small collection I hope to touch on a few of their great contributions.

One of the cultural traditions that people quickly relate with the Egyptians is their viewpoint on death as well as their idolization of their rulers. There were many rituals included with the death of a ruler and the Egyptians left no detail undone when it came to these beliefs. This theme of this gallery is based on these widely studied concepts. In this gallery you will see the Mastaba Tomb of Perneb (ca. 2381-2323 B.C.), The relief sculpture of Matjetji and his son Sabu-Ptah (2375-2321 B.C.), the Canonic chest of Pharaoh Sobekemsaf I (1628 B.C.), and the Funeral bed of Herty, with lion feet (100-300A.D.) All by unknown artists leaving the importance on the actual subject captured rather than the artist themselves. All of the pieces, with the exception of the relief sculpture, embody both the culture of death and the idolization of rulers. The relief sculpture focuses entirely on the superiority of their rulers and the qualities they were believed to embody. Along with each picture there will be a brief explanation of the cultural importance of the piece and the relation to the theme. Some of the pieces were chosen above others because of their rarity while others where chosen to show the diversity of the Egyptian art. When looking through these pieces it is difficult not to be intrigued by their beliefs and superstitions. And, in some instances, the superstition transcends time, as you will see in the Book of death piece. I hope you enjoy my gallery. 

This artwork is by an unknown artist and is called the Mastaba Tomb of Pernab, ca. 2381-2323 B.C.;h4822mm limestone,[aint. This piece is called the Mastaba Tomb of Pernab ca. 2381-2323 B.C. It is by an unknown artist and was done in limestone. Its approximate size is H4822mm. It was built for Pernab who was a courtier. The tomb was located in Saqqara for two millennia. It was actually built purposely against the tomb of Shepsesre for structural stability and to provide enough space for an inner courtyard. Leaning against the other building made the structure much stronger. Allowing for more stability and space was extremely important in an area that was a very crowded burial ground. Egyptians were very careful in their preparation for tombs. The tombs were built to act as actual functioning houses. The actual body was kept beneath the house in the underground tomb. The ground level had four rooms prepared where visitors could practice rituals for the dead and also for the dead to live in. It was roughly the sixe of a one story home and was square or rectangular in shape per tradition. The Egyptians believed very strongly in the after life and wanted to provide everything that the deceased may need to live. The walls were generally lined with carvings of rituals the visitors would perform for the dead. This particular tomb use to have two obelisks that were built with the desire to provoke the sun god Re. Re was considered the ultimate source of life. It was believed that if they could please the gods the gods would bless them with renewed life. In fact, built in to the chambers of the tomb was an offering chamber where loved ones could come and offer gifts to the gods in order to gain favor for their loved one. While this tomb is extremely well preserved Pernab’s actual body and shaft are not preserved with it.
Artist unknown, Tomb of Metjetji, located in Saqqara, 2375-2321 B.C., w 67xh82.3cm, carved and painted The piece is the Relief Sculpture of Metjeti and his son Sabu-Ptah. It was located in Saqqara ca.2375-2321 B.C. It’s size is w67xh82.3cm. It is both carved and painted. This piece could have possibly come from the mastaba tomb of Metjetji. However, the reason I chose it for this gallery is because of the technique used as well as the idolization of rulers displayed in this piece. The technique used is called sunk relief. Carving directly into the stone using a chisel and a hammer or similar tool creates depth. It is carved smoothly and carefully into the stone and then painted with red, yellow, and black. The large figure being commemorated is King Metjetji. He is shown nearly the full height of the tablet along with a great scepter. The size of Metjetji and his scepter symbolize his great importance among men. He was considered larger than life and would have been revered as a god himself. He is shown wearing a wig of nobility as well as holding papyrus. These are also symbols of his importance and superiority to other men. The artist took great care to display the King as honored and worshipped. The details in Metjetji’s hair and clothing are meticulous. The smaller figure shown is his son Sabu-Ptah. Sabu-Ptah is shown much smaller in relation to again emphasize Metjetji’s superiority. However, Sabu-Ptah is holding onto his father’s scepter which indicates that he would one day follow in his father’s foot steps as leader should he follow his father’s guidance. The inscription above Sabu-Ptah reads, "son whom he loves, Sabu-ptah." To the right of the figures there is a long inscription listing the many great attributes of Metjetji. Among many other accolades it states, “an honoured one whom his mother blessed.” It is clear that he was revered above other men and it is a wonder that the art was so structurally sound that we are able to enjoy it thousands of years later.
Canonic chest of Pharaoh Sobekemsaf IUnknown artist, Egypt, 1628 BC, w35xh48xd43 cm, wood. This piece was one I was particularly excited about. It is the Canopic chest of Pharaoh Sobekemsaf I and was done in 1628 B.C. It’s dimensions are w35xh48xd43 cm. It was done in wood. Canopic chests were a huge part of burial traditions in ancient Egypt. It was believed that there were particular parts of the body that could not make the journey through to the afterlife and these parts were carefully preserved in artfully crafted chests such as this canopic chest.There are two lids. One is the outer lid and it was convex in order to symbolize the firmament. The actual lid was flat and pulled upwards. It would have generally had symbols for each jar painted onto it. When Sobekemsaf died his entrails were removed and placed into these canopic jars along with embalming fluid in order to keep them preserved. The jars would have contained his lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines. These were believed to be necessary in the afterlife but too delicate to make the journey. The heart would have been left intact, as it was believed to house the soul. Sobekemsaf would have needed it in order for Maat to weigh his heart and decide his path to the afterlife. The outer part of the chest is painted with Anubis. Anubis was the god believed to help guide people to their rightful path in the afterlife. Anubis would have taken Sobekemsaf to Maat for weighing and then guided him to wherever Maat decided. He also would have guarded the King’s entrails until Sobekemsaf made it to the afterlife. A tremendous amount of care was taken to help the King into their perceived afterlife. Painting the symbols of the gods on the canopic chests and jars would have been to show respect for the gods in exchange for their help to the afterlife.
Artist unknown, The Book of the Dead of Kenna, 1325-1275 B.C., 36x1770 cm, 17.7 meters in length, Thebe, Egypt, papyrus. This piece inspires a great deal of superstition and has even inspired movies and thrilling books with it’s intriguing story. It is called The Book of the Dead of Kenna ca. 1325-1275 B.C. The artist is again unknown and it measures 17.7 meters in length. It was found in Thebe, Egypt and is made of papyrus. It is the longest manuscript of the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden. It was found in remarkably good condition despite losing some parts due to being covered in some type of oil or embalming fluid due to the manuscript lying over a body ceremoniously. Aside from it’s great length another remarkable thing about this piece is it’s use of color. Traditionally spells had been done in red or black as a rule. However, in this piece certain spells are found executed in colour. In this piece we see three gods of Egypt. The god Anubis has led the Pharoah and his wife to Maat. (Traditionally, the queen went to death with her King and was embalmed and preserved along side of him so that they could go to the afterlife together.) Once they arrive at Maat she weighs their hearts to see the deeds of their souls. The baboon figure in this piece is the god of the art of writing, Thot. He records Maat’s ruling of favour in this piece and Anubis leads them to a heaven-like place. The superstition surrounding this piece may come from the way in which it was acquired for the museum. Caspat Reuvens acquired this piece at auction in Southeby’s in London in 1835. It was the last piece he would have bring the museum because on his way home he died of a stroke with the book of the dead in his luggage.
Artist Unknown, Funerary bed of Herty with Lion feet, 100-300 A.D., Thebes, Egypt. W102xh67 cm, multicoloured painted wood. This piece is a rare find. Its called the Funerary bed of Herty with Lion feet ca. 100-300 A.D. It was found in Thebes, Egypt. It’s dimensions are w102xh67 cm. It is multicolored painted wood. Although not all the pieces are still in tact it is a rare find in that it is extremely well preserved. It was prepared for Herty and his wife Tshenentere. The bed is adorned with carvings commemorating their life as well as carvings of gods for purposes of renewal. There are also subtle differences in this piece as compared to other lion’s feet beds. In this piece the lions’ tales twist around the feet of the bed. Traditionally the tale would stand erect directly behind the bed. It could have been as simple as a different interpretation by the artist or as suggestive as a sign of peace. On the backboard of the bed you can see the erect Ureal. It was a tradition of the time period and was related to the transitioning from one life to the next. I chose this piece because I think there is a common misconception that bodies were mummified and place in coffins much like a vampire. When in fact they were preserved and treated as if they were in fact still alive. These beds would have been made comfortable and sturdy for the afterlife. They wanted Herty and his wife to be comfortable in their new life to come. It was believed that they needed their body in the afterlife so no expense would have been spared to keep the body safe. While the funeral bed wouldn’t have looked exactly like the beds they used on a daily basis it would have very much had the same features. As you see in this piece it would be easy to mistake this for a common headboard because of it’s shape. It’s not until you see the carvings that you are able to determine the use of the bed. It is yet another symbol of the strong belief the Egyptians held in the afterlife. The fact that it also was made for Herty’s wife shows again just how seriously the Queen had to be to follow her husband in life because she was required to also follow him into death. Resource: Full text of "An Egyptian funerary bed of the Roman period in the Royal Ontario Museum" (n.d.). Retrieved May 07, 2016, from
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