The Sassy Countess is a blog about historic houses, properties, castles, estates, mansions, homes, land, and lifestyles! Focusing mostly on 18th century, other time periods are also included, such as Regency, Golden Age, Gilded Age, Victorian, American Post and Antebellum, Romantic, Jacksonian, Medieval, Renaissance, Edwardian, New Republic, etc.
The Oriental Institute Museum is a
museum of the University of Chicago. This particular museum not only
specializes in works of the Ancient Orient, it in fact houses only pieces from
this area of the world. The Orient was for most of the world’s history been
considered what is now called the Middle East. The term actually refers to any
location outside the Western World, and also the Middle East had been at one
point the known as simply the East. The Orient had been outside Christendom,
therefore it had been considered outside the West (Putintsev).
The museum has art and architecture pieces
from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Anatolia (Oriental). This is
obvious when you walk up to the entrance to the building. Above the entrance
doors there is a friezedepicting an
Egyptian with the symbol for everlasting life and holding a scroll and facing a
man that could be a Greek man holding an Egyption freeze (there is a Greek
temple behind him) (Tapp). There is a lion laying next to the Egyptian, and a
buffalo next to the Greek. There are may types of ancient Eastern men carved
behind the Egyptian, and modern Western men behind the Greek. Small Oriental
reliefs are carved in the arch above the entry doors.
After entering the
building, there are two ways to through the museum. It does not matter which
door to take, because both paths lead around, and exit, through the other door
bringing the visiter through a very small gift shop. Obviously this would be
because there is no charge to visit the museum, and they would appreciate any
type of monetary contribution. How could a visitor exit without purchasing
anything from this amazing place? The answer would be an obvious, they could
Answering the question to
why the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten
moved the old capital from Thebes to the new city of Tell el-Amarna, is a
completely different matter. Akhenaten had been considered a heretich because
he changed the worship from the old Egyptian dieties that had been worshiped
for over two thousand years. He changed to monotheism and his one true god,
Aten, the sun god. The city had been built and abandoned within just fifteen
short years after its conception. Akhenaten believed in the simplicity of the
solar system, and wanted to reflect that in his new capital (Armana).
Simplicity in form can
still be seen today in the art pieces that survive that ancient city. One such
piece is located in the Egyptian area of the Oriental Institute Museum. "Fragment
of a Painted Floor" is very simple, yet amazingly gorgeous (Plaster,
pigment. New Kingdom Dynasty 18, Reign of Akhenaten Ca 1352-1336 BC Tell
el-Amarna, Maru Aten, 22½”x 27”
Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.). The simplicity
of the piece is part of its beauty. The plaster is obvious, and the size is
remarkable at 22½ x 27”. And, the flower takes up the entirety of the tile! The
pigment is unknown, yet it appears to be watercolor (McDonald). Of course watercolor
would not have been able to withstand the time, temperature and sand. However,
this does have that appearance.
appearance of the fragment is not the typical ancient Egyptian work. There was
no carving at all, no indentions, no lines or people. Egyptian art had usually
been precise, the floor fragment is not. This looks to be more of a modern art,
or even an artwork of a child. Because Akhenaten allowed the simplicity of the
universe to show itself in the city, perhaps this gave the artists more freedom
to experiment in other, previously unknown, styles.
Freedom that had
been allowed to the artist of the floor piece still penetrates the viewer. More
than likely this would have been at the edge of a room because the fabulous
cornflowers appear to have initially been within a black square. There is a
black horizontal line above, which meets the vertical line to the left, and
possibly another line that is somewhat visible beneath the black flower box. To
the extreme left is a vertical washed blue line that meets a more vibrant
solidteal-blue toward the bottom. The
flower itself is composed of nine blue cornflower buds and green stems with
leaves. The buds appear to be the same vibrant teal as what had been used in
the bottom area of the far left line. Sizes of the buds start with the shortest
on the left and the tallest in the center of the flower pot, but to the right
of the tile. There may have been nine other buds at one time. This observation
is due to the fact that there is nine additional leaves that “grow” off the
right edge of the piece. The composition feels completely random, which is
something else that separates this work form other common Egyptian art.
author typically does not like Egyptian art, but finds herself in love with
"Fragment of a Painted Floor". This piece speaks with its vibrancy,
and with its uncommonality. The colors are not something that is usually seen
in ancient artwork, nor are they what would be assumed to be on the floor of an
ancient building. The feelings of the artist still seem to whisper the freedom
of the time. Ancient artisans would be happy to know that that their work is
appreciated 2,700 years after the day that they created it.
written for class at American Military University.
Armana Project. 2010. Web.
http://www.amarnaproject.com/. March 18, 2011.
McDonald, Helen. “Re: Info on a Few Pieces.” E-mail to
author. March 15, 2012.
Oriental Institute Museum. University of Chicago.
January 5, 2012. Web.
March 15, 2012.
Putintsev, Lilia. Personal communication with author.
January 20, 2012.
Tapp, Renee. Personal communication with author. March