Nicked Neck & Figural Decomposition (Ancient Egyptian Middle Kingdom Sculpture)


An image is a thin thing. In low or bas-relief, the painted figure extends just above the surface over which it appears to hew. Providing the appearance of depth, the passage of time disturbs the perfect look of this ancient Egyptian reliefs, now on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the soon-to-close Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom. Note in the first close-up picture the nick in the neck of the image.  In the second picture, you can see how the goddess Hathor was defaced during the Amarna period. According to the wall information, it was during the reign King Akhenaten which sought to propagate exclusive worship of the god Aten. There’s a suggestion of decomposition just below the elegance and power of the goddess. Under the image, the stone looks almost corpuscular, like raw tissue. Accidentally, the decomposition of the surface renders the figure more alive, by which I mean less flat and two dimensional. You can read more here about the image.


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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