Maxime Du Camp (1822-1894); ‘Nubie, Ibsamboul, Colosse Médial du Spéos de Phré’, (Nubia, Abu Simbel, middle colossus from the temple of Rameses II), 1850; Salt print; 21.3 x 16.7
Courtesy of the National Media Museum, West Yorkshire, England. Via their Flickr.
Scenes from Aeschylus’s Oresteia portrayed on an Apulian red-figure bell-krater. This play was first performed 458 BC.
Following his return from Tory, Agamemnon is murdered by his wife Clytemnestra, and her lover. Orestes, the son of Agamemnon seeks revenge and kills Clytemnestra. The Erinyes (also referred to as the “Furies”) pursue Orestes for revenge.
Shown is side A, where Orestes is being purified by Apollo. Visible to the left is Clytemnestra trying to awake the sleeping Erinyes.
The following section is from Peter Burian & Alan Shapiro’s The Complete Aeschylus: Volume I: The Oresteia, Oxford University Press, 2011, pages 17-18:
The ghost of Clytemnestra, who stirs the sleeping Erinyes to continue their terrifying pursuit of her murderer-son, belongs entirely to the old world of retribution. […] The punishment they promise Orestes has the balance of an accountant’s ledger:
You’ll have to pay with your own blood for hers,
you’ll feel me suck the half-caked gore out of your living flesh;
swill from your very veins the vile dregs of the drink I crave.
I’ll shrivel you up and drag you, still alive into the underworld
where you will pay in currencies of torment for the murder of your mother.
For the Erinyes, Apollo’s very sanctuary is polluted by the welcome Apollo has given to the blood-stained Orestes. Orestes, on the other hand, repeatedly emphasizes the purifications he has received there. Apollo confirms that he has purged his suppliant of the stain of guilt, and Athena accepts him as “a proper suppliant who is clean, who bears/ no danger to us”. Despite all that, the Erinyes still track him by the scent of blood […].
Artifact courtesy of & currently located at the Louvre, France. Greek, possibly from Armento, Eumenides Painter, 380–370 BC. Accession number: Cp 710. Photo taken by Bibi Saint-Pol.
I’m looking to incorporate material from a wider range of sources on the blog.
Particularly from (but not restricted to):
If you’re interested in being featured on Ancient Art you can submit your content to firstname.lastname@example.org or through the submit button on the blog; i’d love to hear from you. It would be a great opportunity to increase exposure and to showcase your collections and photography. All featured posts will of course be fully attributed, so let me know when submitting how you wish to be credited, and what links you wish to be included when doing so.
Human-headed winged bull and winged lion (lamassu). Neo-Assyrian, ca. 883–859 B.C. Nimrud (ancient Kalhu).
The so-called Standard Inscription that ran across the surface of most of the reliefs described Ashurnasirpal’s palace:
"I built thereon [a palace with] halls of cedar, cypress, juniper, boxwood, teak, terebinth, and tamarisk [?] as my royal dwelling and for the enduring leisure life of my lordship."
The inscription continues: “Beasts of the mountains and the seas, which I had fashioned out of white limestone and alabaster, I had set up in its gates. I made it [the palace] fittingly imposing.”
Such limestone beasts are the human-headed, winged bull and lion pictured here. The horned cap attests to their divinity, and the belt signifies their power. The sculptor gave these guardian figures five legs so that they appear to be standing firmly when viewed from the front but striding forward when seen from the side. These lamassu protected and supported important doorways in Assyrian palaces. (met)
Courtesy of & currently located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, via their online collections. Accession Number: 32.143.1–.2
A two headed mother goddess figurine from Kültepe, an archaeological site in Turkey. This figurine is part of a larger group of flat marble goddess figurines found in Kültepe.
Artifact courtesy & currently located at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Turkey. Photo taken by Noumenon.
A quick look at: Senwosret III, the 5th king of Egypt’s 12th Dynasty.
Who was he, and why is he so stern-looking in his artistic representations?
Pictured: Three granite statues of Senwosret III at the British Museum.
Following the decline of Egypt’s Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC), royal power was devolved to nomarchs (provincial governors), leading Egypt into the First Intermediate Period.
Egyptologists traditionally distinguish between the major periods of pharaonic history on the basis of the political state of the country. ‘Kingdoms’ -defined as times of political unity and strong, centralized government -alternate with the ‘intermediate periods’, which are in contrast characterized by the rivalries of local rulers in their claims for power. (-Stephan Seidlmayer, in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, pg. 108).
The Middle Kingdom (approx. 2055-1650 BC), however, saw the re-centralization of power and the disappearance of these nomarchs and their families. Senwosret III was an instrumental player in this, with his domestic policy focused on reorganizing the administrative system; he also greatly strengthened Egypt’s control over Nubia.
There is a significant difference between the royal statues of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. Those of the Middle Kingdom overall become larger in size, and markedly sterner-looking in expression. I side with those Egyptologists who suggest that the recent memory of the First Intermediate Period was the cause of this; following the loss of kingship to the nomarchs, the kings of the Middle Kingdom felt the need to exhort their power and authority in more obvious manners -such as through their artistic representations.
This powerfully realistic portrait of Senwosret III [the middle statue shown] was clearly intended to inspire awe in the onlooker. The authority of the Pharaoh is conveyed by the stern gaze and the downturned, almost grimacing, mouth. (-Rita Freed in Ancient Egypt, pg 218).
A good example which I usually give when comparing is this Old Kingdom statue of Khafre at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Artifacts shown courtesy & currently located at the British Museum, London. Photo taken by Stevan Hubbard.
Sculpture of Xolotl.
An important figure within the rituals surrounding the god Quetzalcoatl is Xolotl, his twin, a peculiar god in the form of a dog, identifiable by the many wrinkles on the sacred canine and the two rectangular protuberances on its head, relating it with the heavenly fire.
According to legend, to create man Quetzalcoatl traveled to the underworld to search for the bones of the ancestral generations, guarded over by Mictlantecuhtli; Quetzalcoatl had to take on the appearance of a dog to carry out this mission. And hairless, reddish dogs called xoloitzcuintli lead the dead on their journey to Mictlan.
Xolotl is the god of monstrosities and the patron of twins and animals that undergo transformations such as tadpoles that turn into frogs. Xolotl is also the planet Venus, the evening star, and is the companion and twin of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, Venus as the Morning Star, identified with Quetzalcoatl. (NMA)
Courtesy & currently located at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico. Photo taken by Travis S.