Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Middle Kingdom Attempt at Perspective

     A fragmentary piece from Nebhepetre Montuhotep II's Dynasty Eleven mortuary temple on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science may be an early attempt by an Egyptian artist at perspective.

     The piece, which is on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston,  shows the feet of the King and a couple of gods that he stands between. Notice how some of the feet seem to be "in front of" other feet in what seems to be an attempt at adding perspective to this carving. In the fragmentary state this relief is in the result is rather confusing to a modern viewer; it is virtually impossible to tell which feet go with which figure.

     Montuhotep reunified Egypt in about the 39th year of his reign after the political troubles of the First Intermediate Period. He built a temple at Dier el-Bahri that served as the inspiration for temples built more than 500 years later by Tuthmose III and Hatshepsut of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

     There have been three major sets of excavations at the temple, one in the 1850's, another (under Naville) in the very early 1900's and most recently in the 1960's by Dieter Arnold. Under the temple's terraces were found the burials of several of the Pharaoh's wives were found during the first two sets of excavations, while Arnold's work resulted in a complete clearance of the tombs that had been found earlier.


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