Published: March 9, 2004
From March 13 to September 19, the High Museum of Art will present “Glories of Ancient Egypt,” an exhibition featuring more than 200 works of art from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston that evoke the splendor of Egyptian art and funerary practices over a period of 4,200 years.
The works of art range in date from the third millennium BC to the Fourth Century AD, from the formation of the Egyptian state to the advent of Christianity in that region. During this immense time span, Egypt created some of the finest and most enduring works of art in the ancient world. This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. “Glories of Ancient Egypt” will present works of art including statuary, relief, coffins, funerary arts and objects from Egyptian daily life. The objects will be arranged chronologically to emphasize their stylistic development and, thematically, to evoke their original context in ancient Egyptian tombs or temples.
Museum Director Michael E. Shapiro said, “Our audiences will be delighted to experience objects first hand from what is one of the best collections in the United States, if not the world.”
Objects from the Old Kingdom (2575-2100 BC), the great Pyramid Age, are tomb statues and models, including an enigmatic “Reserve Head” whose meanings continue to engender debate. An exquisite pair of painted reliefs belonging to the officials Qar and Idu will be included, were excavated by Georgia Reisner for the MFA in the 1920s. Also from the Pyramid Age is an exceedingly rare dress for a woman. “Glories of Ancient Egypt” will present a comprehensive selection of funerary aterial form ancient Egypt, including coffins, cartonnage (molded layers of linen and plaster) canopic jars and amulets.
The Great International Age, also known as the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC) is considered by many as an artistic high point in ancient Egypt. The show contains an exceptional fragment of an obelisk belonging to one of the few female pharaohs, Hatshepsut, who erected it for the king of gods, Amun-Re. In addition to outstanding examples of New Kingdom statuary relief and vessels, the exhibition contains kohl pots, mirrors and jewelry that were used by everyday ancient Egyptians to beautify themselves.
The Third Intermediate Period (1070-760 BC) witnessed the culmination of the art of mummification and superbly decorated cartonnage and coffins. “Glories of Egypt” contains two complete coffin assemblages that are exqui-sitely detailed and painted with images of funerary gods and goddesses, protective symbols and scenes that relate to solar and underworld mythology. Also included are a series of small mummiform figures called shawabtis or ushebtis, meaning “answers.”
These figures, sometimes accompanied by a container, were included in burials to save the tomb owner from doing menial work in the afterlife. When the deceased’s name was “called” to work in the afterlife, these figures would stand in for the owner and his or her servants.
At the end of the Third Intermediate Period, powerful rulers from the south – the Kushites – invaded Egypt and ruled over the Nile Valley. Known as the 25th Dynasty, these kings modeled their sculpture, painting, language, literature and architecture on earlier Egyptian styles to legitimize their rule and align themselves with the great periods of the past, a practice known as “archaism.” A three-quarter life-sized statue of Senkamanisken, a Kushite ruler and an “Archaizing Relief of a Man” illustrate these concepts.
The Egyptian collection at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is the oldest in the United States and one of the most important in the world, excelling in both depth and breadth. A large percent of the collection derives from 40 years of archaeological excavations conducted by Dr George A. Reisner between 1905 and 1942 on behalf of the museum and Harvard University.
The High Museum of Art is at 1280 Peachtree Street at 16th Street. Call 404-733-HIGH or visit www.high.org for information.
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