Ancient faiths have a mystery about them that has fascinated the West since Renaissance times. Yet describing them with even the broadest approximation, let alone understanding the emotions that they stirred in the worshippers, seems beyond our grasp.
The exhibition "Gift for the Gods: Image from Egyptian Temples," which recently closed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and reopens at the Fondation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny, Switzerland, on March 17, spawned a book that includes the latest attempt at deciphering the message of Ancient Egypt.
The radiant beauty that emanates from the faces of many of the bronze figures illuminated by some ineffable certainty is likely to take its source in deeply held creeds with a trend toward mysticism. But when it comes to circumscribing its tenets beyond the names of deities and formal rituals, our helplessness is blatant.
Martha Hill, the Metropolitan Museum curator who edited the book, prefaces her opening chapter, "Art and Influence in Temple Images," with a quote taken from a restoration inscription of Tutankhamun: "As for the gods and goddesses who are in this land, their hearts are joyful; the lords of shrines are rejoicing, the shores are shouting praise, and exultation pervades the [entire] land now that good [plans] have come to pass."
See the above page for the full story, which also has an 8-photographs slide show.