Feminine beauty

By: Louk Vreeswijk

Dec 18 2016

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Category: Africa, Egypt

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5 Pillars, 5 times Hathor, the goddess of beauty, joy and love. We are here in the temple complex on the little island of Philae in the Nile south of Aswan. The temple dates back to the Ptolemaic dynasty. 3000 Years of pharaonic rule is coming to an end, and, as we can see, Egyptian art too is past its peak.

Top of the fallen obelisk of Hatshepsut, Karnak-Luxor, Egypt 2000

Top of the fallen obelisk of Hatshepsut, Temple of Amun-Re (16th cent. BC), Karnak-Luxor, Egypt 2000

In this photo I have put the top of the fallen obelisk of Hatshepsut in the temple of Amun at Karnak straight up again. Hatshepsut, seated on the left in front of the sun god Amun-Re, was one of the rare female pharaohs. It is c. 1470 BC, during the 18th dynasty, when the arts flourished. Hatshepsut often let herself be portrayed as a man, a man with refined feminine features.

Painted fragment in the tomb of Maya and Merit (14th cent. B.C.), Saqqara, Egypt 2001

Painted fragment in the tomb of Maya and Merit (14th cent. BC), Saqqara, Egypt 2001

And here we are still at the time of the 18th dynasty but 150 years later, in the tomb of Maya and Merit. Maya was the Overseer of Treasury and of Works during the reign of Tuthankhamun, and Merit was his wife. I have used this photo before in another context (see my post The face of beauty) where I expressed my admiration for the fine look of this stunning female face.
Recently I read – and on many works of Egyptian art it can be seen – that during this period paintings of men portrayed with certain feminine characteristics were not uncommon. We are supposed to look here not at the face of a woman but of a man, maybe Maya himself! I look again intently at the face on the photo. A man?!
This mouth, these lips, this look … is this not feminine beauty to perfection? Not Maya, but Merit?

Photo of the week: Pillars portraying Hathor in the Temple of Isis (3rd cent. BC) at Philae, Egypt 2000

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