Splendor of Ancient Egypt
The Scribe Heti (2300 B.C.)
For 3,000 years Egypt stood at the forefront of human achievement, blending creativity and mysticism in a dynamic culture which was unquestionably mankind's first definable civilization. The emergence of a highly organized, schematic and structured art that abruptly coincided with a suddenly articulate and written language, provides The Splendors of Ancient Egypt (lent by the Roemer-Pelizaeus Museum of Hildesheim, Germany) with an abundantly elucidated and generously appointed exhibition in its sole West Coast venue.
Featuring over 200 rare works of art - from scarabs the size of signet rings to larger-than-life sculptural portraits and sarcophagi; cast bronze, jewellery, bas reliefs, ceramics, clay and wood models, mummified remains, manuscripts - the complex religious, socio-political, and artisan/agrarian culture of this world is graphically laid out with impressive completeness.
Next to the royal god/king/queen hierarchies with their viziers and bureaucrats, scribes and artists held very high rank in a society preoccupied with recording everything. Although the Egyptians never discovered the principles of perspective (as the Native American never discovered the wheel) their art ranged from the most stylized to the most entrancingly photographic. The belief in a transcendent after-life produced not only this civilization's colossal pyramids and monuments, it's elaborate embalming, winding and encapsulation of the notable dead, but entombed with them the necessary artifacts and accoutrements for the journey into the next world. While the dead were thus symbolically served, it is today's museums which have become so completely and fortuitously endowed.
This exhibition is worth a trip to Portland.
© Ted Lindberg