Monday, October 28, 2013

Musée du Louvre (Egyptian Antiquities)

In my eternal quest to conquer the Louvre, our third visit was dedicated to the Department of Egyptian Antiquitites.  The Louvre contains the world's second largest collection of Egyptian artifacts - first being the Cairo Museum - with over 50,000 pieces dating from the late prehistoric era (4,000 BC) to the Byzantine period (4th century AD).  Writing a thesis on the history of Egypt is probably the only way to truly appreciate this mass of artwork, but simply being surrounded by these ancient objects is an experience on its own.  And unfortunately, no amount of pictures can capture the full scope of this collection, so you'll just have to see it in person.  But until then, here is small glimpse into the unique history of Egyptian civilization.

The Book of the Dead!! (parts of it)

Speaking of the Book of the Dead, I put my limited Egyptian mythology knowledge to use and tried to find depictions of Osiris as we walked around.  Osiris was considered to be both the King of the Dead, and King of the Living, since the Egyptians believed true life was in the afterlife.  He was typically shown having green skin, being wrapped like a mummy, and wearing a hat with two ostrich feathers on each side.

From the little education I had on Egyptian art history, I went into the Louvre with a few objects picked out that I really wanted to see.

First, The Seated Scribe.  I mainly love this statue because it is an individualistic piece, which was very uncommon for Egyptian art.  His body is not idealized, his face is human-like and recognizable, and he is shown doing the work that defined him in society.  But ironically, with so many distinguishing qualities, nobody actually knows who this man was, or even the time period in which he lived.

Next, the Apis Bull.  This bull was a sacred animal in Egyptian society and thought to be the earthly manifestation of the god Ptah.  This statue was once covered in black and white paint, of which only a few marks can be seen left behind.  The Apis Bull also became one of several Egyptians gods adopted by the Greeks under the rule of Alexander the Great.

And finally, Amenophis IV, also known as Akhenaten.  Akhenaten was the first Pharaoh to drastically change Egyptian ideology and iconography, and considered by some historians to be "the first individual in history."  While Pharaohs in the past were depicted as powerful, masculine, athletic figures with stylized facial features, Akhenaten demanded a more naturalistic and rather unflattering canon for royal artwork.  This artistic movement known as the Amarna period is distinguished by alien-like faces, slouching posture, and round, misshapen bodies.  He is also the father of basically the most famous Pharaoh ever - Tutankhamen.

Now I just need to see these other pieces from the Amarna period and I'll be all set:
Akhenaten and His Family, 18th Dynasty, at the Neues Museum, Berlin - image via
Bust of Nefertiti, 18th Dynasty, at the Neues Museum, Berlin - image via

Monday, October 21, 2013

Paris Sketches - Sculptures et Abeilles

Lately I've been obsessing over the plethora of sculptures in Paris.  If there's not a giant galloping horse or winged angel statue on the street (which is actually very common), there's at least some intricate carving on the walls around you.  I really love the intimate atmosphere you feel from being surrounded by sculptures.  Even though Paris is a busy city, you just feel the need to sit and think about who made everything and why they made it.  Plus, everything looks like a king lived there back in the day.  But maybe I just feel that way because I haven't seen Versailles yet.

During the times I do get to sit or take pictures, I've been trying to sketch as many sculptures as I can.  I'm hoping to have a notebook full of them by the time I get back to the States!

{reference pictures}
Northern European sculpture from the Louvre (left) and Rodin's Les Benedictions (right)
the "Donnie Darko" sculpture at the Museum national d'Histoire naturelle
Rodin's Spirit of War (left) and Rodin's Danaid (right)
sculpture of Artemis in Jardin du Luxembourg

Finally, this was a little thank you card I drew for our previous land lady.  She works in the museum with David in the Entomology Department on honey bees and hornets (the bees are surprisingly nice here).  Her apartment was filled with tiny bee and insect trinkets, so I thought she would appreciate a bee sketch.  It's been almost a week since we moved out, and when David gave her back our key today she said she thought it was a photo when we first gave it to her!  She didn't realize until a couple days later that I drew it, which might be the nicest compliment anyone's ever given me.  Or she just might need better glasses.  I'm going with the compliment!