QUEEN TIYE, Ghurab, Egypt, 18th Dynasty

The miniature head of Queen Tiye, mother of Akhenaton, is a moving portrait of old age. Although not of royal birth, Tiye was the daughter of a high ranking official and became the chief wife of Amenhotep III. Tiye appears as an older woman with lines and furrows, consistent with the new relaxation of artistic rules in the Amarna age. Her portrait is carved of dark yew wood, possibly to match her complexion. The sculptor inlaid her heavy-lidded slanting eyes with alabaster and ebony, and painted the lips red.

Statuette of the God Ptah. Late Period. Bronze, with gold inlays. Height
19cm. Inscription containing prayer and names. Acquired in 1926. Ex coll:

State Hermitage Museum, St.Petersburg
From the book: Egyptian Antiquities in the Hermitage // Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad 1974 * click the image for large scan



A sunken relief stele provides a rare look at this royal family. Undulating curves have replaced rigid lines, and the figures possess the prominent bellies that characterize figures of the Amarna period. The pharaoh, his wife, and their three daughters bask in the life-giving rays of Aton, the sun disk. The mood is informal and anecdotal. Akhenaton lifts one of his daughters in order to kiss her. Another daughter sits on Nefirtiti’s lap and gestures toward her father, while the youngest daughter reaches out to touch a pendant on her mother’s crown. This kind of intimate portrayal of the pharaoh and his family is unprecedented in Egyptian art. Matching the political and religious revolution under Akhenaton was an equally radical upheaval in art.

Stele of Ipy, scribe for the Pharaoh. End of XVIIIth dynasty (Tutankhamun). Memphis. Limestone, 95x71cm. Low relief. Incised inscription containing offering formula, titles, names.
State Hermitage Museum, St.Petersburg.

From the book: Egyptian Antiquities in the Hermitage // Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad 1974 * click the image for large scan


My final piece for the GUTS show at Light Grey Art Lab this weekend!  Surprise: it involves mummies and hieroglyphs.

Even if you can’t make the opening out in Minneapolis, you can still peruse the show and pick up prints over at the LGAL shop!  Go check it out – the artists in this show are mind bogglingly amazing.

I haven’t spell checked my hieroglyphs since I was first writing them out but here’s hoping they hold up,


LAST JUDGEMENT OF HUNEFER, Thebes, Egypt, 19th Dynasty

The so-called Book of the Dead, a collection of spells and prayers, records the ritual of the cult of Osiris. Illustrated papyrus scrolls containing these texts were essential items accompanying well-to-do persons into the afterlife. One surviving scroll represents the final judgement of the deceased, from the tomb of Hunefer, the royal scribe and steward of Seti I, the father of Ramses II. At the left of the section reproduced here, Anubis, the jackal-headed god of embalming, leads Hunefer into the hall of judgement. The god then adjusts the scales to weigh the dead man’s heart against the feather of the goddess Maat, protectress of truth and right. A hybrid crocodile-hippopotamus-lion monster, Ammit, devourer of the sinful, awaits the decision of the scales. If the weighing had been unfavorable to the deceased, the monster would have eaten his heart. The ibis-heads god Thoth records the proceedings. Above the gods of the Egyptian pantheon sit in a row as witnesses, while Hunefer kneels in adoration before them. Having been justified by the scales, Hunefer is brought by Osiris’s son, the falcon-headed Horus, into the presence of the green-faced Osiris and his sisters Isis and Nephthys to receive the award of eternal life.

In Hunefer’s scroll, the figures all have the formality of stance, shape, and attitude of traditional Egyptian art. Abstract figures and Hieroglyphs alike are aligned rigidly, and the flexible, curvilinear style suggestive of movement that characterized the art of Amarna and Tutankhamen has disappeared. 

A shroud with Hathor-Cow
Linen fabric with a painted design. late XVth century BC. 44x26.8cm
Inscription containing prayer to Goddess Hathor, and name.
State Hermitage Museum, St.Petersburg

From the book: Egyptian Antiquities in the Hermitage // Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad 1974 * click the image for large scan


The Ancient Egyptian City of Cats

In Ancient Egypt the cat was more than just a domesticated feline pet, it was a holy animal which represented the goddess Bastet.  By the New Kingdom of Egypt, cat worship became common place among Egyptians, and there was even a special “Cult of the Cat” dedicated to Bastet and the veneration of kitties.  In the 9th Century BC the Egyptian Pharaoh Shoshenq I made the City of Bubastis the capital of his empire, and dedicated the city to the worship of Bastet and of cats.  At the center of the city was a temple dedicated to Bastet, described as one of the most attractive temples in all of Egypt.  However it was not the temple itself that caught the eye.  After the time Egypt had become a part of the Hellenic (Greek) world Cult of the Cat continued to flourish in Egypt.  In 450 BC the Greek traveler and historian Herodotus visited Bubastis and the temple.  What he saw was shocking.  Thousands upon thousands of cats, all of which were venerated as sacred animals and cared for by priests. To control the cat population (in an age before spaying, neutering, or Bob Barker) periodic culling of the cat heard through ritual sacrifices conducted by the priests.  The mummified cats were then sold to pilgrims as relics.  Herodotus goes on further to report that the annual Festival of Bastet was held in the city every year, drawing as many as 700,000 people from all around Egypt, who would spend the time drinking, partying, and having sex, all because of the cats.  

While many may scoff at the idea of thousands of sacred cats occupying a holy temple, there is real evidence to back such a claim.  In the late 19th century a tomb containing the mummies of 80,000 cats was discovered near the Temple of Bastet in modern day Beni Hasan.  Peashooter is amazed by the thought of so many cats, but wonders how badly that temple must have smelled.

Two fingers amulet, Egyptian, no date. Obsidian. 5.6 x 2 cm.

These amulets were often made of obsidian, basalt, or steatite. The black colour was associated with the underworld. Hard stones were selected for durability, as they were meant to retain their power for eternity.

Amulets were personal adornments worn by the living and placed on mummy wrappings to provide protection and aid on the journey from death to the afterlife. The color, shape, and other qualities of the materials were believed to endow the amulet and its wearer with special powers and protections. … It is possible that this type was intended to “seal” the wound, preventing harmful forces from entering the body. Source: British Museum