When Pyramids Were Built: Egyptian Art of the Old Kingdom

When Pyramids Were Built: Egyptian Art of the Old Kingdom

by Dorothea Arnold, Bruce White
     
 
The Old Kingdom (c. 2650-2150 B.C.E.), the first golden age of Ancient Egypt, was a period that defined the culture's artistic style for centuries to come. It was during this time that the great pyramids of Giza, the only remaining wonders of the ancient world, were built. When Greek historian Herodotus saw these monuments in the fifth century B.C.E., he was told they

Overview

The Old Kingdom (c. 2650-2150 B.C.E.), the first golden age of Ancient Egypt, was a period that defined the culture's artistic style for centuries to come. It was during this time that the great pyramids of Giza, the only remaining wonders of the ancient world, were built. When Greek historian Herodotus saw these monuments in the fifth century B.C.E., he was told they were constructed by the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. Ironically, today, 170 years after their hieroglyphics were deciphered and extensive archaeological research has been conducted, we do not know much more than Herodotus did about this magnificent era of Egyptian art. During the Old Kingdom, artists worked in an array of mediums and techniques, using wood, and precious metals to create monumental statues, reliefs, and wall paintings. Some four millennia later, these works of art maintain their power to move the viewer. "When the Pyramids Were Built: Egyptian Art of the Old Kingdom" is the catalogue that accompanies a landmark exhibition organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Reunion des Musees Nationaux in Paris, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The show brings together 115 Old Kingdom masterworks from museum collections throughout the world. Included in the exhibition, as well as this volume, are sculptures executed with such an acute observation of musculature and body movement that they brought an unprecedented realism to the rendering of men, women, children, and animals. Several depictions of family groups in particular show the sensitivity with which the Old Kingdom artists illuminated human relationships. Individual masterpieces include the monumental statue of Heminu, thought to be responsible for the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza; groups representing the Fourth Dynasty king Menkaure with a queen and various deities; and a unique alabaster statuette showing Sixth Dynasty queen Ank-nes-meryre II holding her son, the child king Pepi II, in her lap. The lively text by Dorothea Arnold offers an overview of the history, society, and art of the Old Kingdom, and an informative discussion of each of the illustrated works. All of the pieces were newly photographed for this book by Bruce White.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Written by British curator Malek (In the Shadow of the Pyramids: Egypt During the Old Kingdom), Egyptian Art is another in Phaidon's solid "Art & Ideas" series. It follows the tradition of other titles in The other three titles were published to coincide with the international traveling exhibition "Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramid," seen recently at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA). When the Pyramids Were Built is a streamlined version of the official catalog. With no index, it will not be a first choice for reference, but Arnold (the curator of the Egyptian department at MOMA) provides a well-written and very accessible text. Its readability, combined with the quality of the photographs and the modest price, makes this an excellent purchase for most public libraries. The 25 internationally respected Egyptologists who contributed to Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids provide a valuable look at recent developments in the field. In particular, the redating of many artifacts results in a very different view of the artistic trends of the period. The profuse illustrations vary in quality, but their sheer number, added to the high-level scholarship of the text and the three detailed indexes (general, sites, and owners of the artifacts), makes this an important book for all academic and most medium and large public libraries. Egyptian Treasures from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo covers a much greater time span than the other three titles. The text, written by a virtual who's who in Egyptology, is a bit uneven--as is usually the case with so many authors. However, all of the text is comprehensible, and some of it (such as the argument that Tutankhamun was not murdered) is fascinating. Unfortunately, there is no index, but the layout is chronological, giving some hope of finding specific artifacts. The real treasure of the book lies in Araldo De Luca's stunning photographs. Often, De Luca sees with his camera's eye things that few visitors would notice. The book's large trim allows for many life-size illustrations, and at all times the illustrations do justice to a phenomenal collection. Highly recommended for all academic and most public libraries.--Mary Morgan Smith, Northland P.L., Pittsburgh Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780870999086
Publisher:
Rizzoli
Publication date:
09/01/1999
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 12.10(h) x 0.80(d)

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