AKA in millennial terms: Trust no man. Fear every bitch.
The title quote is what Amenemhat I, the first ruler of the Twelfth Dynasty, said from the grave about being murdered in his sleep. Try and figure that one out. If you missed the Pharaoh: King of Ancient Egypt exhibition that hit the Cleveland Museum of Art between March 13 and June 12, you done fucked up. Tickets were just $15, and with a membership to CMA, the first ticket was free and the next was 50% off. They make it so easy and cheap to get out of the house and learn something. Keep in mind that the actual art museum is still free to attend, too.
“More than 90 percent of the 157 objects on view in the current “Pharaoh” show” came from the British Museum in London. The rest were from Cleveland’s own collection. I didn’t know at the time, but I soon learned from my friend that within the last ten years, Egypt has been trying to crack down on art that was obtained illegally and/or given out as gifts, and as a result working to get a lot of these relics shipped back to Egypt. I wasn’t able to find anything to support this claim, but she also said tighter regulations would mean that certain objects found in the exhibit we went to would not be allowed to leave the country as soon as they return to Britain. Either way, when you visit an exhibit like this, you really never know if you’ll be able to see anything like this again.
These objects were so beautiful and so perplexing. Combined with the fact that everything in the exhibit was thousands and thousands of years old and from an ancient civilization that we know so little about… it was really hard to wrap my mind around what we were actually seeing. So I did what any typical white girl would, and took pictures (for Instagram primarily, and also for later reflection).
[Shabti of Pharaoh Seti I. Dynasty 19, reign of Seti I, c. 1294–1279 BC. Tomb of Seti I, Valley of the Kings, Thebes, Egypt. Blue faience; 22.8 x 9.6 x 9.6 cm. British Museum, EA 22818. © Trustees of the British Museum, London.] — I just liked the color of this dude.
[Three kneeling figures in poses of jubilation, c. 715–332 BC. Late Period. Egypt. Bronze; h. 24.5–30.5 cm. British Museum, EA 11498, EA 11496, EA 11497. © Trustees of the British Museum, London.] — Yes, this is their jubilant pose
[Figure of a squatting baboon, c. 1391-1353 BC, carved during the reign of Amenhotep III in red quartzite.] Fun Fact: this little guy, who so strikingly resembles my cat, Charles Barkley, also visited CMA in an exhibit in 1991-1992.
According to this Beginner’s Guide to Egyptian Art, all of these images, whether statues or relief, were designed to benefit a divine or deceased recipient. They were not meant for public viewing: just to honor or connect with another realm. This may explain why we have such little understanding of the meaning behind most of it, we were never intended to see it in the first place. Even my favorite little baboon is meant to represent a divinity whose identity still has not yet been revealed by scholars. For something we know so little about, their artwork was meticulous and mesmerizing. What these people were capable of 3,000 years ago still baffles me today.
Be sure to check out the upcoming exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art… I promise you will not regret learning a little.