Mysteries of the Female Figure, Part 2 Ancient World II

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This large mosaic is entitled “Amazonmachie”, which in French means massacre of the Amazons, (the same suffix is used to describe bull fighting). The violence of this piece caught my attention.

The story of the Amazons is quite sad, strong, independent women, ultimately subdued by men. The details and colors of this piece made it all the more memorable. (Turkey, 400 ce)

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I wanted to include as many different mediums as I could also, just to show the diversity of the female figure in different Art forms. Here is a bas-relief, showing a Greek hero, Heracles welcoming the personifications of Charity, Hospitality and Generosity. The details of the women’s attire caught my attention with this piece. Sadly, empty studs in the stone showed tantalizing signs of more elaborate ornamentations (jewelry and embellishments) that we can only guess at today. (Island of Thasos, 480 bce)

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Here we have another glimpse at  funerary steles. This time in the Egyptian culture. What struck me here was the way both figures, man and wife, are placed on the same level as equals, gently embracing for eternity. There is no superiority of one over the other, regardless of what the situation was in life, in death, they are equals. This was a surprisingly reoccurring theme.

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Scribe Ounsou and his wife, Imenhetep, 1450 bce

Ancient Rome

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The beauty of this sculpture struck me. It’s a two tone marble and bronze statue of Artemis, the Huntress. I loved how they incorporated the marbling of the stone into the folds of her clothes and the striking black and white contrasting materials.

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This marble sculpture of one of Apollo’s muses is a Roman copy of a Greek piece, created in the second century c.e. However, in the 18th century, a fanciful restoration, added the comedy mask and caused an ongoing commotion about the true subject matter of this piece.

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Here is another roman re-creation of an original Greek statue, reconstructed from fragments. The Romans took the pose and features of this character but adapted her to suit their needs, placing her in a different tale of mythology altogether. In Greece, she was Diane, and in Rome, she became Atalante, one of Ovid’s metamorphoses. But her dynamic posture caught my eyes, she seems ready to come to life at any second and run right past us.

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200 c.e. restored in the 18th century.

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This was the most impressive marble statue I saw in the Louvre. The presentation and location are the perfect backdrop for this monumental 10 foot tall statue of Athena (Pallas of Velletri). Her face is stern and her features almost masculine, shown as a figure of strength and victory. This is a Roman reconstruction from the 2nd century. The original Greek statue was a ten foot bronze of the goddess, this piece was apparently recreated from plaster molds of the Greek original, a piece that was never found.

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Facing the Pallas Athena, is a long hall, filled with statues and busts of the goddess Athena/Minerva, showing her in different poses and dress.

DSCN1599You guessed it, more funerary steles. I was rather surprised to find one more example of this reoccurring theme in Roman culture. It was a surprise to see the similarities in each of these Mediterranean civilizations. Once more, we have the couple, man and wife, side by side, seated as equals, together, facing the afterlife. I think it is an important reminder of the position of the woman in the family structure, not as inferior, but as a partner.  And it would seem that each culture added their own touch to this idea.

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Stele of Zabdibol and Haggai, Syria 240 c.e.

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Mysteries of the Female Figure, Part 1 Ancient World I

During my Paris vacation, I had a lot of fun simply absorbing the atmosphere and being surrounded by art and beautiful things to look at. I wasn’t quite sure how to approach this topic. Women have been a major theme and inspiration in every aspect of art and creation since the dawn of human kind. This topic is rather vast and I didn’t want to do something bland or impersonal. So I decided to go on a “Treasure Hunt” of sorts through the city and different museums to simply record the different women I would encounter, photographing the ones that struck me or spoke to me. And this is how I hope this project will be read, as simply an exploration, a walk through the figures that captured my attention. Enjoy!
(I tried to be as thorough as possible, but some pictures are blurry and some dates are missing, but I still wanted to include the image nevertheless because of its beauty or uniqueness.)

The Ancient World

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This ancient sculpture was apparently the stereotype of the female form, made  around 6000 bce, this was one of the oldest I found.  She has a generous, curvy figure  sign of abundance and is comfortably seated with her legs crossed.

Etruscan/Cyclades figures

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This figures date back to 2,700 bce from the Island of Keros. We saw similar things in our book, the stylized, recognizable but impersonal figures of these women. They all have the same poses. The museum also mentioned finding very slight paint residue on the Marble faces of these anonymous women.

The Mediterranean Basin in Ancient Times

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This funerary stele was moving to me. I saw a lot of funerary art during my couple trips to the Louvre, and it should be a topic on it’s own. These grave markers are a snapshot of past lives, and I found it touching to find this couple, husband and wife, carved in stone side by side for eternity, or at least, as long as the stone would last. Testament to this ancient love. (130-140 C.E. Lebanon)

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These figures were magical talismans, promoting protection or healing. They fascinated me since they represented Egyptian, Greek and Semitic deities but in outrageous, caricatural and crude forms. These little figures were meant to attract the anger of supernatural forces being mocked, in order to distract them from plighting the owners instead.DSCN1271

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These intricate female heads caught my eye. They were meant to be bodiless, representing a Greek ritual of sacrificing locks of hair. Little wonder since each and every one has an elaborate and carefully fashioned hair style. Most of these were found in burials, and are assumed to represent the sacrifice of loved ones to insure the safety of the passing soul. They are an appeal and a prayer to female, mother-like deities such as Isis and Aphrodite. (Found in Egypt and dating back to the 2-3rd century c.e.)

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This third century bronze embodies a culture much different from ours, where female goddesses were praised, worshiped and depended upon. Here we have a statue, blending the features of Isis and Aphrodite, showing a Mother figure with gentle curves, open arms and a soft smile. The Isis-Aphrodite cult was quite important in the ancient world and spread from Africa to England, all the way up the Middle East, showing a passion and love for the female aspect of the divine.

Ancient Egypt at the LOUVRE, Final Part

Music

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Scene of a ground breaking ceremony accompanied by a group of musicians. Drawn on a Papyrus scroll found in an Egyptian tomb.

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Tambourines and musical rattles.

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Double flute. (was woven together with string at the mouth piece, but that part deteriorated too badly.)

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Set of beautiful and surprisingly tall harps. Used for accompanying singing and dancing as well as religious ceremonies and private listening sessions in the home.

 

Games and Toys

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Some ancient games were also displayed, such as the Semet sets shown here with the original pawns.

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Some of the pawns used for the Semet game.

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Ancient dice sets, very recognizable, as they are still used today. These could have been used to play a game called 58 holes. In the background you can see a very old ball.

 

 

 

It was delightful to spend some time wondering through these carefully preserved items. It made the Ancient Egyptian people more approachable, and real. Seeing that they were simple people with some of the same concerns as us, food, drink, beauty and pleasure, just makes them seem more alive today. Their art was very distinct and permeated every aspect of their lives, something that some in our modern days have forgotten. Hopefully their legacy will still be preserved for generations to come.

 

Ancient Egypt at the LOUVRE, Part 6

Beauty and Cosmetics

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Beautifully ornate ancient hand mirrors. Unfortunately they have lost their reflective properties. (mostly bronze surfaces)

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The museum had a few sets of jewelery and ornaments. They were set up in such a way that you could almost imagine them being worn.

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Here are some of my favorite pieces. These were elaborately carved spoons. Made of wood, ivory and sandstone. The spoons were stunningly beautiful. The details and decorations were positively stunning. This display was definitely one of my favorite.

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These spoons could have been used for the preparation of black Kohl The Egyptian eye make up. It wasn’t simply a cosmetic fancy, but also helped reduce the desert sun’s glare. Once again it is unsure whether or not these items were actually used, or simply funerary gifts.

Ancient Egypt in the Louvre, Part 5

Furniture and Household Items

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Actual pieces of furniture, put aside for the After-life, so they weren’t actually used but they give us a wonderful glimpse of Egyptian life.

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Here are more of those baskets that impressed me. Used for containers, cheaper and lighter than clay. And still here after thousands of years.

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Here are different models of Egyptian neck/head supports. The ancient people didn’t use pillows but slept on their back with the wooden support holding up their head. Even though I can’t imagine this being in the least bit comfortable. There must have been a practical reason for this.

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Here are a few decorated wooden chests, some were used to hold toiletries or herbal remedies and spices.

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Once again these are beautifully decorated. There were very few plain objects anywhere on display. Everything was decorated. It might be because these where mostly objects found in burials, and therefore more ceremonial than used objects, but I’d like to think that this exhibit shows us a snapshot of the daily life of these people, who wished to surround themselves with beautiful objects during their lives as well as after-lives.

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Delicate glass flask and jars filled this display case. They showed the glass techniques we read about in the book and was quite thrilling to see in real life. It’s bright and colorful and carefully detailed. Shame my photo came out blurry

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Here were some tableware items made of mud and clay. These were simpler and a lot less elaborate than some of the other items. But they were also considerably older. I wished they’d had more explanations on the display, but this was only a temporary addition, because the museum was worried about basement flooding. How sad would it be, that something like this surviving nearly 5000, should be destroyed in a modern day basement flood?

 

 

Ancient Egypt in the LOUVRE, Part 4

Linen and fabrics

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Some of the most impressive pieces were the fabrics, and woven baskets. It was mind blowing to be admiring these fabrics that survived over 3,000 years.

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This pleated linen suit was found in an ancient grave and is of the typical Egyptian style. It was a sign of some wealth, and was apparently worn by a woman.

Ancient Egypt in the LOUVRE, Part 3

What Egyptians Ate

DSCN1432This display shows some of the typical fruits, grains and seeds the Egyptians cultivated and used daily. There are quite a few nuts, barley and flax.

Tepemankh’s Banquet Menu

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I saw this fascinating bas-releif describing the menu for an actual banquet held by the noble man, Tepemankh. It was such a memorable feast that it was engraved onto the wall of his tomb Unfortunately a lot of the names are local delicacies, pastries and cakes that have no modern equivalent. So we will never know half of the wonderful foods on this elaborate menu.

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Producing the Food

DSCN1433Beer was an essential staple in the Egyptian diet. Some scientists speculate that drinking beer daily might have helped prevent disease in the ancient land. The beer making process requires all water to be boiled. Making it safer for general consumption that regular pond or well water. Here we have a clay sculpture of the beer making process.

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Bread was another major staple in most of the ancient Mediterranean world. And still is, to this day. On the left here we have a bas relief depicting two men making bread. One is preparing the dough in a big mixing bowl and the other is watching the bread baking in molds, ready to remove it from the ovens.

Agriculture

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Here we can see the kinds of tools ancient Egyptians used to plow their fields.

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We can see a clay and wood model of the techniques they used. This also shows that the Egyptians had domesticated animals as well.

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Here is another example of the domestication of animals. On this painted wall fragment we can see a heard of Ibex like goats, and their herders, probably leading them to the slaughter actually.

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On this bas-releif we can see a succession of workers carrying the the fruits of the harvest, palms and fruits, as well as some fowl, geese or ducks of some kind.

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Here is a bas-releif of a group of women harvesting either reeds, the main component of papyrus or cotton to later be woven into linen. Not all Egyptian crops were food based.

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On this fragment of painted wall we can see how the men harvested wheat. Also on the bottom register, they are replanting and plowing the field once more. I’m not entirely sure just what is happening in the top register. There’s a cow, and men carrying some kind of reed cages. It’s a bit of a mystery.

Hunting

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Hunting also contributed to the Egyptian menu. On the left we can see a wall painting with three registers, on the top a cow is being butchered, on bottom two we can see a cortege of Egyptians carrying all kinds of different foods, grains fish and fowl birds.

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Just like the photo here, representing a ceremonial parade of women carrying food from the harvests and hunts to the temples. They are carrying fowl and grain.

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We can see ancient quivers and arrows. It’s not visible on the photo but the metal quiver is engraved with a hunting scene of an Egyptian on a chariot letting arrows loose on some kind of gazelle or antelope. The wooden shafts of the arrows actually survived as well. I love how the Egyptians decorated their everyday items. They had a developed sense and love for the aesthetic.

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Here are some daggers and axes. Some or the more elaborate ones were probably reserved for ceremonial uses but we can imagine very similar tools being used during hunting excursions.