Saturday, August 5, 2017

Senwosret III

     The sculptures shown in the previous post are not the only examples of royal art from the Middle Kingdom that show the pharaoh as careworn. The example here is now in the Metropolitan Museum. It is carved from quartzite and is highly expressive despite its damaged state.

     Senwosret III is here shown with heavy-lidded eyes and a downturned, almost sad looking mouth. The eye brows are heavy and creased just above the nose.

     There is a great deal of speculation as to why the Middle Kingdom kings were shown with such expressive faces. In both the Old and New Kingdoms, the Pharaoh is almost always shown as eternally youthful and with an expression of serene confidence, but not so in the Middle Kingdom. Did the Pharaohs of the Middle kingdom remember the hard times of the First Intermediate Period and foresee to oncoming difficulties of the Second Intermediate Period? Or are modern scholars reading way to much into this art style? It is hard to say, but it does create lively conversations among art historians.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Odd First Intermediate Period Stela

     The First Intermediate Period was a period of political instability. The artwork of the period is best called "provincial" as the well off nobles did not have access to the best sculptors and, for the most part, the artwork from this time shows it.

     This particular stela was carved for a man named Maaty and his wife Dedwi. The carvings are sunk fairly deep into the stone and then filled with paint or a paste of some sort. The inscription above Maaty and Dedwi contains the standard offering formula that reads from right to left and starts, "A gift given by the King and by Anubis, who is upon his hill..."
     A cynic would say that all First Intermediate Period stelae are odd, but this one has a quirk I have never seen before. Look on the right side of the third line of the text. The line starts with the signs "f nb nefer". Look carefully at the nefer sign (figure 2). The center of the bottom portion of the symbol is "hollow". This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only time this sign is carved in this way. What is the significance of this? It is hard to tell to be honest.