Monday, April 23, 2012

Exhibition: The Dawn of Egyptian Art  (Dan Bischoff)

The bull’s head is tiny, napped from a flint core 5,650 years ago, but its horns make a beautifully sweet curve to point at one another with uncanny precision, like two curved knives. It’s astounding that it has survived so long intact, but it’s also pretty marvelous that anyone was able to chip it, with another stone, so exactly.

The bull’s head goes back more than halfway to the beginning of civilization, closer to the folks painting aurochs on cave walls than to, say, Michelangelo. And you don’t see many art exhibitions that go that far back — in fact, the “Dawn of Egyptian Art” at the Metropolitan Museum is one of the few shows in New York that ever has.

And yet even that long ago, art is already art, transforming everyday objects into symbols and artificially creating beauty. One of the most common decorated objects in this show are the flat greywacke stones used to mix cosmetics in every era.

Most of the 190 objects here are small, made of hard stone like flint or greywacke, or from ceramic, ivory or wood.

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