Art by definition is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power, according to the Oxford Dictionaries. To me art is your own aesthetic creation composed using any one person’s imagination. This is where the idea of an “artistic license” comes into effect. There are no guidelines or rules or codes that are bounded by art. This unique expression is why art ranges from simplistic and minimalistic ideals such as Sean Scully’s Landline which features loose bands of color brushed on canvas, to elaborate and overwhelming components such as Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. Because the typical purpose for art is for a visual or emotional pleasing, that purpose can change over time while the same themes found within can remain unchanged throughout the centuries. These distinct so called “periods” or art are subject to the culture, environment and historical impact of that given period of time in which the work was created. Two significant eras in art are the Egyptian period and the Modern Art period seen today. In this reflection, I will focus on the analytical aspects of the statue King Menkaure and Queen Khamerernebty II, from the age or Egyptian Art which lasted from 3000 BCE to 30 BCE and Henry Moore’s King and Queen, from the formidable age of Modern Art.
King Mycerinus and Queen also known as King Menkaure and Queen Khamerernebty II is one of, if not the, most influential sculptural works from the Old Kingdom of Egypt. It dates back from 2490 BCE to 2472 BCE during the height of dynastic fortunes, imperial invaders and total anarchy set upon the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. In the life-sized statue made of greywacke, the smooth dark stoned surface captures the extreme royal power of the pharaoh. The statue is placed atop of a slab of greywacke with a pillar in back that is used for support. The King and Queen seem to be gazing out into the utter eternity that will follow them in the after life. Queen Khamerernebty II stands next to the King with the same height and with one foot mid-stride, which was unusual in Egyptian art as most statues were rigid with both feet together. Her affectionate gesture to the King holding his arm was remarkable in Egyptian art, but could symbolize the presenting of the pharaoh to the Gods, which ultimately leads to the function of the work. The function of this sculpture, as it was found in Menkaure’s tomb in the pyramid attributed to him was to ensure the rebirth of King Menkaure in the afterlife. The King is pictured slightly turned to the right, while the Queen is pictured entirely frontal. This along with the fact that she is the same height and has the same stride begs the question, whether Khamerernebty II is meant to be seen as the central figure, not Menkaure?
Henry Moore is known to be one of the greatest sculptors associated with the twentieth century, whose works are exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. Moore’s King and Queen dates from 1952, while it was cast in 1957, and is attributed to royal monarchy of England. This sculpture is constructed using bronze and was composed during the time of Queen Elizabeth II coronation. The work depicts a male and female figure sitting separately on a bench, with the female seated in a firm upright position and the male more relaxed. Moore uses simplified geometric shapes to show the king and queen seated on their bench throne, in the most noble form. This abstract sculpture took an outdated monarchical representation of a king and queen and applied it using modern experimentation.
In both King Menkaure and Queen Khamerernebty II and Henry Moore’s King and Queen the overarching theme of the human body is evident as well as a mythological and genre subject matter. In King Menkaure and His Queen, the King is depicted in his youth and seamlessly defies all age restraints, which follows with the Egyptian norm of representing the pharaohs in the most athletic and muscular way. His masculinity as well as royalty is represented with the nemes headdress and the artificial beard, which can be a parallel to the mythological subject matter. . Both figures have no expression or emotion on their faces, yet they are seemingly individualized with small personal features. Queen Khamerernebty II is sensuously modeled to express, both her beauty and vitality as well her equality to the pharaoh. She seems to defy all societal and social norms of Egypt. What is different in this piece is that neither of the royal figures are not idealized, as most pharaohs and queens would have been in Old Kingdom Egypt. Menkaure and Khamerernebty II. Henry Moore was inspired by “the double statues or male and female figures from Ancient Egypt (Moore),” so it is easy to see how some of the same themes carried over across culture. Though it is highly stylized, opposite of Menkaure and his wife, Moore seamlessly combines naturalistic elements such as ordinary legs and feet. The heads, on the other hand, Moore chooses to give a more primitive and elementary style to. The kings head is mainly defined by a sharp lower jaw, with a thin nose and negative space for the cheek cavities. In the queen figure her head is rounded and bounded two protruding hornlike objects which could symbolize the figures mythological and unworldly characteristics and well as the royal kinship ones. This scene is rather normal for a king and a queen. It would not be normal in either today’s world or the ancient world that you would see a king and a queen, with no royal guard on, just sitting on a bench. This genre scene is a completely regular scene that is applied to a completely chaotic world.
This worked influenced me because it caused me think about art in a way that I never had before. While visiting the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, I came across the assumption that a lot of the works are so simple I could probably do it just as well. What I had yet to realize is that there is a deeper and more profound meaning, that what the eye can see. When I was little my family took a trip to Europe where my mom forced my brothers and I into endless museums, that I thought was the most pointless thing. I now have a greater appreciation for more classical art that I missed out on because of my refusal to accept art for what it is and it had piqued my interest to go back given the artistic prowess that I gained in Dr. Schaefer’s AP Art History class.