|Wenig, Steffen. The Woman in Egyptian Art. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969.
This book describes the various roles women played in ancient Egypt. The photos of statues, paintings, and examples of daily utensils paint a surprising picture of the similarities and differences with our own culture.
Egypt was a rich and varied civilization at times strict in its structure while at other times flexible and egalitarian. This book describes the life of all the women: the wives, queens, princesses, courtesans, priestesses, and servants. We usually see Egyptian life displayed from the royal perspective, but in this we see the everyday life with examples of humorous and affectionate scenes from all classes. The rights of women in many ways equalled that of modern women, so much so, that in one example the woman appears to be dominant and in other examples subservient irrespective of social or other factors.
|I as an artist was particularly interested to see the examples of art outside the
religious and political realm. The portraits and full sculptures show that Egyptian artists were
fully capable of working in the third dimension and with foreshortening and perspective
producing this depth in two dimensions. They did not have a word for art, but the artisan who
carved the funerary statues was called, "he who causes to be alive."
Fashion and cosmetics were also displayed and showed equal importance as they do in our world. The one striking difference is that their cosmetics also had medicinal properties and so even more importance. Clothing varied with social rank with the slaves for the most part being naked, but no one was without a wig with which it is thought they sought protection from the intense sun.
We in this century sit back smugly and think that we are in possession of all the information, all the talent, and all the moral rationalizations; but with a closer look back to the past, we see that we are just finally dragging ourselves back up to our former glory. This book shows that the past is not dead and its art shows that it was never flat.