Saturday, December 10, 2005

the newly-opened de Young Museum

The re-opened de Young Museum in San Francisco is currently hosting a special exhibition on the reign of Hatshepsut, a female ruler of Egypt from 1479-1458 BCE, one of the glorious eras of ancient Egypt.

The exhibition was impressive; I had time to visit today. Not only did it contain the usual objects of an exhibit on a ruler’s reign–such as royal images, busts, sculptures of courtiers, royal jewelry, relics of inscriptions, and the like.

But the exhibit also had everyday objects that people of ancient Egypt would have used: like a hand mirror, a board game, a small box with various compartments that a woman might use to keep special items, a make-up kit, and even a comb. They even had the sarcophagus itself of Hatshepsut.

And the exhibition really emphasized the point that her reign marked an important point in Egypt’s ancient history: a woman reigning as king who brought about such a flowering of artistic and architectural achievements.

After her reign, her successor attempted to erase her memory by disfiguring her name from monuments and destroying her images. One such image was apparently smashed into pieces after her reign. Centuries later the pieces were retrieved and brought back together.

And the restored image was marvelous and beautiful and it was brought to this exhibit. It shows Hatshepsut, with the headress of the king of Egypt, seated on a throne, but with the physical features of a woman. That was never seen before in Egypt before her reign, which explains why her successor took pains to destroy this remarkable image.

If you're coming to the Bay Area pretty soon, make sure to stop by.

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