Sunday, December 28, 2014

Papyrus Liepsner

     The latest issue of KMT magazine (vol. 25, Number 4, Winter 2014 – 2015) has a fascinating article in it about the Liepsner papyrus.

     This papyrus is one of the earliest known copies of the Book of the Dead and the author (Thomas Liepsner) discusses the art work of the papyrus’ vignettes at length and points out some interesting details. He then uses these details to argue (effectively I think) that the artist who did the paintings was attempting to use perspective in his vignettes. If this is true it would be one of the very earliest known examples of perspective used in art.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ashurnasirpal II at the Metropolitan Museum

Figure 1 - Winged Genie, Metropolitan Museum
     The carvings found in the palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud have been scattered over many museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I have shown several photos in the past of the Met's collection of winged genies, but I want to show this one again as it also is shown holding the odd plant "thing" in his right hand like the winged genie from Munich.

Figure 2 - Detail of the Winged Genie's Hand
     The iconography of this winged genie is exactly like that of the ones in Munich, with the crown decorated with bull's horns and the daggers tucked into the genie's clothes just above the waist (partially covered by the figures left arm). But what on earth is the plant he is holding? It looks like it might be some sort of onion (??). Or is it a flower with several buds that are about to bloom? In the Munich relief, it looks more like a flower.

     If any of you have any thoughts, please let me know.

Ashurnasirpal II

Figure 1 - Winged Genie with a Pine Cone
     Oddly enough, the Egyptian Museum in Munich also has a VERY small collection of Mesopotamian objects, including a glazed brick, striding lion from Babylon and several winged Genies from the palace of Ashunasirpal II at Nimrud.

     Ashurnasirpal, who reigned from 883 to 859 B. C.,  was the successor of Tumulti-Ninurta II and was in turn succeeded by Shalmaneser III.    

     Ashurnasirpal was one of the great conquerors of Assyrian history. He commemorated many of his victories with gory descriptions of mutilating the dead in any city that opposed him. He also boasted about burning the children in at least one of the cities he conquered.

Figure 2 - Another Winged Genie with a Pine Cone
     During his reign, the King moved the capital of Assyria to Nimrod and built a new palace there. The reliefs shown here are from that palace and show the winged Genies that are so often shown in Assyrian art. In figures 1 and 2 a winged genie carries a pine cone in one hand and a bucket(?) in the other. Possibly he is using the pine cone to get water from the bucket and sprinkle it as part of a purification ceremony.

Figure 3 - A Third Winged Genie from Ashurnasirpal's Palace
     In figure 3 we see a winged genie who has his right arm upraised (as a salute to the King??) and carries what might be some sort of multi-stemmed plant in his left hand. I have not been able to figure out the exact significance of this particular relief.

     In all three reliefs there are many similarities in the iconography of the figures. All three wear a helmet decorated with bull's horns. All three also have long, elaborately curled hair and the Assyrian "wrist watches" (actually some sort of bracelet) that occur so commonly on these figures. The arm and leg muscles are clearly indicated in the carvings and the feather of the wings are elaborately detailed by the sculptor(s).

Copyright (c) by John Freed

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hadrian's Villa (Finis)

Figure 1 - The Canopus at Hadrian's Villa
     As a god, Antinous had aspects of both Osiris and Thoth as well as Dionysis. The cult of the young man was established at Antinuopolis, Hermopolis, Alexandria, Bithynion and Mantinea. Over thirty cities in Greece and Asia Minor issued coins to Antinous and numerous statues of him have survived to modern times (including the statue in Munich illustrated in a previous post, as well as a similar statue of while marble that is now in the Vatican).
Figure 2 - Roman Representations of Isis and Serapis

     One portion of Hadrian’s Villa was called the Canopus (see figure 1), and was a replica of the sanctuary of the god Serapis (figure 2) in Alexandria. Hadrian had the Canopus built as a memorial to Antinous.

     The young man’s final resting place may have been found by archeologists at Hadrian’s Villa in 2002, and in 2005 new finds at the Palestra (gym) of the villa may indicate that this portion of the complex was actually a shrine to Isis or some other Egyptian god(dess).

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hadrian's Villa (Continued)

Figure 1 - Antinous (Munich)
     While in Egypt, the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, had a tragedy strike. A court favorite of his, a man name Antinous, died under mysterious circumstances (possibly he fell in the Nile and drowned). Antinous was deified after his death and worshiped throughout the Roman Empire.

     Antinous was of Greek origin, but born in what is now Turkey. Little is known of his life other than the fact that he became a favorite of Hadrian's and travelled with the Emperor throughout the Roman Empire. In Libya, Hadrian may have actually saved Antinous' life by killing a lion.

Figure 2 - Bust of Antinous (Louvre)
After his friend's death, Hadrian founded the city of Antinopolis near the place where his favorite died, and this city became the center of the worship of Osiris-Antinous. The Emperor also encouraged the worship of a god named Hermes-Antinous in the Greek parts of the empire.

Figure 3 - Another Bust of Antinous (Louvre)
     In researching this post on Antinous, I remembered that  there are two busts of this young man in the Louvre in Paris. Both of these busts (figures 2 and 3) were originally found in Hadrian's Villa, along with the statue shown here (figure 1, now in Munich). Both of the busts show Antinous wearing the Nemes headdress normally worn in Egypt only by the Pharaoh. In figure 3 you can see the young man's curly hair showing below the headdress.

Copyright (c) 2014 by John Freed

Friday, December 5, 2014

Hadrian's Villa

Figure 1 - Hadrian's Villa Near Rome
     I was able to link together my last two vacations in an unexpected way. One of the places I visited in 2013 was Hadrian's Villa, a short distance from Rome. This was where the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a retreat from the responsibilities of being emperor. One of the more scenic spots in the villa is an artificial lake that was surrounded by numerous statues (Figure 1).

     Some of these statues were either originally from Egypt (see figure 2) or were carved in a mixture of Egyptian and Roman style (figure 3).

Figure 3 - Roman Imitation of an Egyptian Sphinx
     Hadrian travelled to Egypt during his reign and seems to have enjoyed his time there, although tragedy did strike during his visit....