Two Sculptures: A Comparison

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In this assignment, we are asked to compare two works of art fitting within certain categories. The categories I chose for this assignment are “an image or object related to a ruler, whether king, queen, emperor, or other” and “an image that deals with old age.” We are to identify each work. In my visual analysis of the two works, I compare and contrast two sculptures from Ancient Egypt. The two works I chose for this assignment and the reason why they fit into the categories I chose are as follows:

Sculpture 1 

The title of the first stone sculpture was King Menkaura (Mycerinus) and queen, of an unknown artist. The date or time period when created or built was during the reign of Menkaura, 2490–2472 B.C in Egypt. The category chosen is royalty. This statue depicts Pharoah Menkaura and the queen.

Sculpture 2 

Granite statue of Nefu and his wife Khenmet-Setju from their Giza tomb G 7946 G and dating to the 5th Dynasty. He is the "inspector of treasury administrators and royal acquaintance", and she is "royal acquaintance and miteret". There was a second statue in the tomb, which is now in Kansas. 

Content

There are two sculptures, each with a man and a woman standing next to each other, a frontal view, each woman’s arm encircling their husband’s waist, and their opposite hand resting upon the arm of the men. All the feet placement on the statues, except for the royal acquaintance woman, were placed one in front of the other, typical for Egyptian sculptures from that era. The royal acquaintance woman’s feet were placed side by side. Both seem like a portrait. However, this is where the similarities end. The dark statue was meant to depict the pharaoh in a portrait with his wife and was most likely commissioned by the pharaoh himself. The statue of the government worker was also a portrait.

Form

The pharaoh and his wife were made from hard stone. It was smoothed and refined to depict the pharaoh and his wife in a superlative manner. The lines are very clean. They are one color. The hand of the queen rests on the upper arm of the pharaoh. They both have a headdress to show their position and social status. The queen is the same height as the pharaoh. They both wear clothes that seem to be fashioned from finer, smoother material.

When I looked at the sculpture of the government worker, it struck me how the two statues contrasted in almost every way. The sculpture of the government worker was made from soft stone. The man’s skin is colored in a darker color, characteristic of the statues of the time. The woman is of shorter stature than the man, most likely a more realistic depiction of the couple than the pharaoh and the queen. The woman encircles the man’s waist, but her other hand rests upon the forearm of the man instead of the upper arm as with the pharaoh. I believe this, along with the short stature of the woman, are symbols to show their lower-class status. Their clothing is course, as well as the surface of the statue. There is a bit of wear on the statue, as soft stone disintegrates more easily with time than hard stone. It shows its age, while the statue of the pharaoh seems ageless, almost like the gods they thought were working through the pharaohs.  

Expression

I believe the artist fulfilled the pharaoh’s wish in creating the statue. It looks austere, and the pharaoh and queen look perfect. The artist that made the statue of the slaves did a great job in conveying the fact that they are from the courser, lower class, through the use of the softer stone, and their simpler attire. I think the positioning of the men and women in relation to each other say something as well. In the royal couple’s statue, they are standing further apart than the government worker almost as if they are taking an official stance. The government worker and the acquaintance seem more casual in their stance and are closer together. 

However, I think the symbolism that is consistent across genders is the men are both standing with their fists clenched, perhaps to show power, and the women both have their hands open, perhaps to signify nurturing, or simply to show contrast to the men, or both. Also, I noticed the women’s features in both statues look very similar to their husbands, also signifying the attitude towards women in those ancient times.

I think the statue of the pharaoh and queen might have been made to keep in an official government building, as well as the government official and the royal acquaintance. In conclusion, one could think the two statues are almost identical, depicting one man and one woman in each. However, if one looks longer and deeper for the symbolism and significance of the smallest difference, we see elements of a culture, captured timelessly for countless future generations to view.