Sahure Ancient Egyptian Art Essay, Research Paper
On Sunday, November 7th, I took a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The Ancient Egyptian Art exhibit that was on display amazed me. One of the most alluring pieces I saw was Sahure and a Nome God, a gneiss high-relief statue which was created between 2458 BCE and 2446 BCE. In this statue, the second Egyptian King of the Fifth Dynasty, Sahure, sits on the throne with the small god of the Coptite Nome to his side. Although the statue was quite small, only sixty-four centimeters in height and forty-six centimeters in width, it demonstrates many features akin to Egyptian Art.
Art enthusiasts can immediately notice the origin of this statue because of its rigidity, an indicator of art originating in ancient Egypt. Part of the reason for the stiffness of the statue of Sahure and the nome is because it was constructed in relief. A relief statue is still attached to a surface or background, whereas a statue that is in the round is independent and freestanding, and can be seen from every angle. Statues that are in high relief rise significantly from the surface, while statues that are in low relief rise minimally and appear to be flat. In this statue, Sahure, his throne, and the nome rise from the stone block that makes up the background and the base of the statue in high relief. This statue is a relief statue because it cannot be viewed from behind, probably because it was originally carved in to a block of stone in the wall of a temple and later removed by archaeologists.
The inflexibility of the poses of the figures in the sculpture provides another reason for the overall rigidity of the statue. In general, poses of less important people in the culture depicted by ancient Egyptian statuary are more active than those of significance. Most important people in Ancient Egyptian statuary are stiff. Sahure s position in this statue goes along with such claims: his firm pose in the statue, his perfect posture on the throne and clenched fists indicates his importance. Just so, the nome is slightly more active, as he is slightly less important, as he reaches his hand out with an ankh. The ankh, a hieroglyphic sign meaning “life” is held out by the nome. In this gesture, supposedly, nome is offering good fortune of the south of Egypt to Sahure.
Sahure looks straight ahead with perfect posture, demonstrating the assertive style of Ancient Egyptian statuary. Specifically, Sahure s clenched fists, and perfect posture suggest great fortitude. Sahure is portrayed as a robust leader of a powerful empire. Sahure glances straightforward in confidence completely ignoring the Nome to his side, as if he is clairvoyantly or divinely aware of his surroundings.
Ancient Egyptian culture often associated religion and politics that presented the rulers as semi-divine beings who communicated with gods, and the earlier dynasties even believed that the rulers were gods. Correspondingly, if a ruler did not appear to be god-like, it would be understood that the gods did not accept him, and consequently he would not be accepted as the king. Artists who attempted to create a likeness of the ruler were required to create a piece that evoked a sense of power and grandeur. Images of the king, therefore, are often much larger than life to symbolize the ruler’s superhuman powers. This godlike representation of Sahure, presents him in a dominant, intimidating position on the throne manifesting his superhuman and royal status.
The Egyptian belief in the ka, or the part of the human spirit that defined a person s individuality which would survive on earth in a physical dwelling even after their death, obliged the artist to create an abode for the ka of Sahure which exemplified his mightiness even after his death. Ancient Egyptian artists used very dense, hard stones when creating such sculptures so that the ka would have an eternal residence. Gneiss, is a very durable metamorphic rock similar to granite, and was probably one of the hardest materials that the Egyptians had encountered. Sahure and the nome are presented as in their physical prime, with bulging muscles so that they appear composed eternally in the statue even after their bodies have decayed.
The scale and position of figures in Ancient Egyptian art indicates relative importance. In the statue, Sahure is the largest figure because he is the king, and thus more important than the nome. Additionally, Sahure is also positioned slightly in front of the nome, also revealing his supremacy over the nome.