Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Light Circus: Art of Nevada Neon Signs Tour Blueprint

The Light Circus: Art of Nevada Neon Signs Tour Blueprint 
October 13, 2012 – February 10, 2013

Since 1996 Reno native Will Durham has saved, collected and restored many of the neon signs he grew up admiring that might have otherwise been destroyed. In the process, he helped save the iconic Reno history that is connected to them. With many significant pieces of his collection included in the exhibition, a collaboration of preservation and passion will certainly highlight nostalgic and optimistic memories for Reno visitors and residents alike.

Main Text Panel
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages—the Light Circus is about to begin! From flashing incandescent bulbs to candy-colored neon tubes, brilliant light takes center stage in The Light Circus: Art of Nevada Neon Signs. This exhibition of vintage neon signs celebrates a bygone era when flickering neon and chaser lights graced many of Nevada’s most iconic restaurants, casinos, hotels, and business establishments. Many of the signs included in this rare collection have not been seen publicly since they illuminated street-side locales decades ago. For well over a decade, Reno collector Will Durham has worked to build this stunning collection of vintage neon signs. For the past year, Durham and the Nevada Museum of Art spent countless hours restoring the light fixtures, controls, and electrical wiring of these signs, along with their painted and porcelain surfaces. For Durham, who acquired his first sign in 1996, collecting them has been a labor of love. In many cases, he has gone to great lengths to save signs that would have otherwise been discarded. Salvaging this collection took years of persistence, but Durham recognized that saving the work was crucial to preserving Nevada’s history—and that sharing them with the public was even more important. The Museum is proud to be a part of this important historic preservation project and pleased to present them to you.

Lead sponsorship provided by The Bretzlaff Foundation Major sponsorship provided by Earl and Wanda Casazza, IGT, E. L. Cord Foundation and George and Irene Drews Supporting sponsorship provided by E. L. Wiegand Foundation Additional support provided by City of Reno Arts and Culture Commission, Charlotte and Dick McConnell and the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency

Wall Labels 
Mapes Hotel
Reno, Nevada
No other Reno hotel casino has enjoyed such a storied past as the Mapes. When its Art Deco-styled façade was completed in 1947, it was the tallest building in Nevada. With twelve stories, three hundred rooms, forty suites, seven retail shops, a casino, and an elegant penthouse nightclub known as the Sky Room, it embodied the best of sophisticated entertainment and architectural grace. The Mapes Family spared no expense in its construction, and at the time it was compared to the luxurious Plaza Hotel in New York and the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Headliners at the Sky Room included Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Liberace, the Marx Brothers, Mae West, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Mickey Rooney. For several months in 1960 the Mapes hosted the cast and crew of the popular film The Misfits, including Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, Eli Wallach and Montgomery Clift. An economic downturn and increased competition from other hotels and casinos eventually led to the closure of the Mapes on December 17, 1982. The property passed through many owners, until the City of Reno proposed the building for commercial and residential use. No plans were implemented, and despite community protests and lawsuits, the Reno City Council voted in 1999 to demolish the building. On January 30, 2000 the iconic building was imploded. The National Trust for Historic Preservation had placed the building on their list of Most Endangered Sites—and it was the first building on that list to ever be destroyed.

The Nevada Club
Reno, Nevada
These letters once graced the façade of the historic Nevada Club on Virginia Street. In 1946, Lincoln Fitzgerald and his associates, seeking refuge from legal prosecution in Detroit, moved to Reno and became partners with Harry and Ed Robbins in "Robbins Nevada Club,” which the brothers had opened in 1941. The men from Detroit had a notorious past—they had been associated with that city’s organized crime scene and operated the Chesterfield Club Gambling House until 1946, when the government began a crackdown on illegal gambling operations. The Nevada Club became a popular gambling operation in Reno, thanks in great part to the large number of slot machines and the longtime customer favorite: the “single-zero” Monte Carlo-style roulette wheel. In 1949, Fitzgerald was extradited to Michigan, where he was found guilty of illegal gambling practices and forced to pay heavy fines. In 1956, Fitzgerald purchased the Nevada Club outright and became the sole owner. The following year he was shot by an unknown assailant in his driveway at 123 Mark Twain Avenue in Reno. Although he never fully regained his health, he and his wife Meta moved from their home into an apartment with a bulletproof door on the Nevada Club property. From 1956 until 1983, the couple ran the daily operations of The Nevada Club and later the Nevada Lodge and Fitzgerald's Hotel and Casino. Fitzgerald died in 1981, and Meta sold the properties to Lincoln Management. The Nevada Club closed in 1997.

Van Ness Auto
Redwood City, California
One of the few signs in the exhibition that is not originally from Nevada, this jovial gentleman once welcomed customers to an auto parts store in Redwood City, California, just south of San Francisco. The establishment was most likely given its name to associate it with San Francisco’s famous Van Ness Auto Row. Will Durham likes to point out, “Like a lot of Nevadans, Van Ness was not born here. After years in the auto industry in Northern California, I encouraged him to move to Reno. For the last ten years he has served as the ringmaster of the Light Circus.”

Deux Gros Nez 
Reno, Nevada
One of Reno’s most legendary business establishments, Deux Gros Nez (which translates to “Two Big Noses”) is considered by many to be the first real coffee house in Reno. Founded by Tim Healion and John Jesse in 1985, it earned its reputation as a great meeting spot and the only place to find a frappe or latte for nearly twenty years. Although “the Deux” closed in 2007, its spirit lives on through the annual international bike race known as the Tour de Nez.

The Gambler, El Rancho Motel
Wells, Nevada
 Will Durham retrieved this sign from the El Rancho Hotel, located about an hour east of Elko, just off of Interstate 80. He explains, “In 2008, the building was damaged beyond repair in a serious earthquake. I was able to preserve this sign before the new owner did a major remodel on the façade. When I drove through Wells later, I saw a massive crack in the building where this sign once hung.”

The Swimmer, Zephyr Motel 
Reno, Nevada
The sign that started it all, this was the first acquisition Will Durham made for his collection in 1996. He now has more than 43 signs in his collection—only a portion is on view in this exhibition. “We backed a truck up and stood on the camper shell to take the sign down,” Durham explains. “The first thing I learned about neon signs is that they are framed in steel and are very heavy. We came close to breaking our backs and dropping the sign in the process of taking it down.”

Holiday Hotel-Casino
Reno, Nevada
The Holiday Hotel-Casino first opened in Reno at the corner of Mill and Lake Streets in December of 1956. Its eight-story tower overlooked the Truckee River and had fifty slot machines. In 1999, the Holiday property was sold at a public auction, re-built and re-opened as the Siena. This sign almost didn’t make it into Will Durham’s collection. He recalls, “I had arranged to preserve the Holiday signs in advance, but apparently the demolition crew didn’t get the word. I happened to drive by as all the signage was being ripped down by the claw of a backhoe. I was able to save this last remaining sign.”

Buffalo Bar
Sparks, Nevada
A popular watering hole in downtown Sparks for many years, the Buffalo Bar finally closed its doors on Victorian Avenue in 2001. After two years of discussion and negotiation with the owner of the bar, Will Durham finally received word of the date that the bar would close. “The manager informed me that he planned to blow up the sign as part of the grand opening for the new club,” Durham recalls. “Nothing says, we welcome your business like flying shrapnel and mercury! It’s a good thing that reason prevailed.” 

Stinker’s Truck Stop Bar
Los Angeles, California
Although based on a historical advertising character, this is the only contemporary sign in the exhibition. It was commissioned by Bobby Green, the owner of the short-lived Truck Stop Bar in Los Angeles as a tribute to the longtime gasoline and service stations known as Stinker Cut-Rate Gas Company. The company was based in Idaho and the skunk character was nicknamed Fearless Farris, after one of the original company owners Farris Lind. Stinker Stores continue to operate today under different ownership. This particular sign never hung alongside a highway. Rather, it was displayed over the Truck Stop Bar decorated with trucker kitsch and taxidermied skunks that occasionally released puffs of steam from beneath their tails.

Bucky, The Nevada Club 
Reno, Nevada
This sign, featuring Bucky, the Nevada Club cowboy, stands as a tribute to longtime commercial artist and illustrator Lew Hymers (1892-1953). For many years, Reno-born Hymers was known for his illustrated caricatures of the region’s movers and shakers, which appeared regularly in the “Seen About Town” column of the Nevada State Journal and later the Reno Gazette Journal. During his prolific career as a commercial artist, he produced logos, signs, advertisements, and cartoons for the Reno Rodeo, The Bank Club, Reno Brewing Company, and The Sportsman—just to name a few. His distinctive style was widely and easily recognized, and eventually became known nationally when he published a resource book for commercial artists, Stock Cuts: A Catalog from the Cartoon Shop of Lewis Hymers.

Parker’s Western Wear
Reno, Nevada
One of Reno’s legendary western clothing stores, Parker’s Western Wear, first opened in the early 1920s on Center Street. George Parker started the business and was later joined by his younger brother Harry Parker, after he completed his service in World War II. In 1971, the brothers moved the business to the Barengo Building on Sierra Street, where it remained until it closed in 1999. For decades, Parker’s catered to working cowboys, politicians, dude ranch visitors, Hollywood stars, and anyone else in need of a good Stetson hat, cowboy boots and a pair of Levi’s. Levi’s 501 jeans started at $3.00 a pair, or were discounted to $2.50 if you brought in that little red pocket tab! John Wayne shopped at Parker’s while he was filming The Shootist in the mid-1970s, as well as actors who were in Reno to film The Misfits in 1960. Locals will remember the creaking hardwood floors, the smell of leather and wool, and always a friendly greeting extended to anyone who walked through the door.

El Cholo Café 
Las Vegas, Nevada
 This sign for El Cholo Café, an early Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas in the 1950s, brings to light important issues related to Nevada’s cultural demographics and how perceptions and stereotypes of cultural communities can be shaped by commercial advertising. Historically, the word “cholo” was used in the United States along the Mexican-American border as a term referring to working class people of Mexican or Mexican-American descent. In this case, the term “el cholo,” coupled with the pejorative image of the “sleeping Mexican” makes the sign highly charged and potentially controversial. Despite its long history as a denigrating term, the word cholo was turned on its head and used as a symbol of pride in the context of cultural movements of the 1960s. An entire chain of restaurants in Southern California embraced the term as the name for their restaurants beginning in the 1920s.

Harolds Club
Reno, Nevada
Harold and Raymond Smith started Harolds Club in 1935 with a $500 loan from their father Harold “Pappy” Smith. The Smith family took great pride in their establishment and the club grew steadily over the years. By 1967, Harolds Club was the largest gambling business in Reno—and the first casino to advertise non-gaming attractions. Harolds Club displayed a huge collection of firearms and memorabilia related to the American West, and featured Western-themed rooms such as the Roaring Camp Room, the Covered Wagon Room, and the Silver Dollar Saloon. It was the first casino in Reno to hire women as dealers. These letters will be familiar to many locals as those that framed the bottom of the historic seventy-feet-long Harolds Club mural honoring the “Pioneers of the Old West.” For fifty years, the mural was one of the most prominent features on Virginia Street. Even after the Smiths sold the club in 1970, and up until Harolds Club closed in 1995, the mural remained in place. Four years later the mural was dismantled and eventually moved to the west side of the Reno Livestock Events Center, where it is still on view today.

Sahara Hotel and Casino 
Las Vegas, Nevada
 These letters from the exterior of the Sahara Hotel and Casino were icons on the old Las Vegas Strip for many years. The Moroccan-themed Sahara Hotel was a favorite of the Rat Pack—Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop—who helped to put Las Vegas on the map as entertainment capital of the world in the 1960s. Headliners to perform in the Sahara’s splashy showrooms included Tina Turner, Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, and Louis Prima. Scenes for Viva Las Vegas (1964) featuring Elvis were filmed at the Sahara. The Sahara Hotel and Casino closed in 2011.

Las Quatro Reinas
Tijuana, Mexico
Will Durham would like to extend his thanks to the following people for their donations, assistance, and support in the preparation of this exhibition. The Cashell Family, Meg Glaser, Griff Durham, Kathleen Durham, Historic Reno Preservation Society, Tim Healion, SBE Entertainment, Pavich and Associates and Danielle Malley, and Shannon Giolito

Neon History

  • Theory behind neon sign technology dates back to 1675 when French astronomer, Jean Picard, observed a faint glow in a mercury barometer tube that had been shaken. The barometric light occurred because of static electricity, which was not understood at the time. 
  • In 1855 the geissler tube (named after Heinrick Geissler, a German physicist and glassblower) was invented. After electric generators were invented, inventors began conducting experiments with them, electrical power and various gases. When the geissler tube was placed under low pressure and electrical voltage was applied, the gas would glow. 
  • Process of sending electrical charge into a sealed glass tube filled with inert gas to create illumination was developed by inventor Nikola Tesla (1856-1943). It is said that he had a tube that went around his lab and used the glow for light instead of incandescent lights. 
  • Basis system that is still in use today was developed and patented by George Claude in Paris in 1910. 
  • Inspired by the bright neon lights of Paris while vacationing there in 1923, Earl C. Anthony of Los Angeles brought home a neon light for his showroom. 
  • The first known neon sign to be hung in Nevada was in the window of the People’s Market in Elko. A picture of the market is dated 1928. A short time after this the first neon light lit-up Las Vegas. Tube Benders (term used by craftsmen) 
  • The process, which appears to be simple, takes years to master. 
  • Starts with a straight piece of glass tubing over a gas flame until the glass starts to “give” and is ready to form. 
  • To shape the heated glass tube, a cork is put in one end and a rubber hose is attached to the other end. The glass blower then gently blows air periodically to keep the tube’s diameter a constant size, while bending the tube to the desired shape. 
  • Using patterns that are drawn on paper to scale and in reverse, the letters and drawings are fabricated. 
  • Each letter is formed individually and then welded together using a hand torch that fuses the molten glass to one another. 
Tour Framework, Feature Gallery South 

  • Explain to visitors that neon was originally developed in Paris and was then introduced to the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century; ultimately becoming a part of both our historical fabric and mainstream identity today. 
  • Ask what some of the contributing factors might be to neon’s popularity in the U.S. 
  • Invite comments around specific uses of neon across the country throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. 
  • Invite visitors to share memories they have of the businesses that the signs once adorned. 
  • Explain the decline in neon’s popularity in the 1960s and 70s, leading to the disposal of many signs. 
  • Ask guests to consider some of the social issues that were prominent of that era and if there is a possible connection. 
  • Invite further exploration of the signs in the exhibition while considering what they represent and if there is valid rationale behind their reputation as signs of social demise. 
  • Ask guests to consider the popularity and extensive use of neon signs in Nevada and what characteristics of both the state and neon make them a likely combination. 
  • Explain that in 1675 Jean Picard observed a faint glow in a mercury barometer tube that had been shaken. The glow being the first known neon reaction observed and being similar to today’s neon technology. 
  • Ask how it is possible this could have happened before the age of electricity. 
  • Invite guests to share thoughts on what early observers of neon light must have thought, not knowing what was creating such a glow. 
  • Explain to visitors that even though the signs are appealing artistically, their ultimate use was for advertising the business they adorned. 
  • Ask what messages the signs are portraying and what prospective customer they may be attempting to appeal to. 
  • Invite guests to consider how the creative advertising strategy of past eras differs from that of today. 
  • Explain the extensive growth in advertising from the late 19th century and into the early 20th century from a “goods on hand” approach to a more persuasive advertising of branded goods. The shift fueled by increased consumer spending and credit availability for large purchases and leisure-time activities. 
  • Ask if the popularity of neon signs could possibly be linked to this shift in advertising. 
  • Invite comments on why neon was a popular candidate for signage and advertising.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Did You Know :: Anne Lindberg: Modal Lines

Did You Know :: Anne Lindberg: Modal Lines 
March 24-July 15, 2012
Adapted from an interview with Sally Deskins, Janurary 12, 2012 

Anne Lindberg grew up in Iowa City, IA where her father taught at the University of Iowa. She lived in Australia twice before she was twelve years old, and in Denmark when she was about seven years old. Lindberg grew up around artists. Her mother is an artist, her grandmother was an artist, her brother is a photographer, her sister-in-law is a poet, one of her Danish ancestors (who lived in Lindberg, Sweden) was an architect, and her husband is a lighting designer. So, Anne first encountered art with her immediate family. She recalls lovely memories of lively meals around the dinner table with her family, and a myriad of invited artists, cooks, weavers, historians, dancers, antique collectors and scientists. Anne’s father is a geologist and economic geographer, so her voice as an artist is greatly informed by art, literature and science. Anne recalls many vivid memories from her childhood of encounters with creative people. She made puppets starting at the age of 4 with a magical woman named Monica, and used to cut colorful paper shapes for hours with her aunt Wendy. Lindberg participated in a circus exhibition in a museum as a result of a family friend named Byron, and remembers listening to Byron tell about traveling with one-ring circuses in small towns of Iowa. She recalls learning to skate a perfect figure 8 on ice with an entomologist named Barbara – these people and so many others in her family showed her something of the compelling and mysterious life of a creative person. Anne started college thinking she would study anthropology or history, but after a few internships and jobs in museums realized that she wanted to make things.

Neurologists have determined that the old brain holds the seat of our most primal understandings of the world. Goodwill, security, fear, anxiety, self-protection, gravity, sexuality, and compulsive behaviors generate from this lower cerebral core. My sculpture and drawings inhabit a non-verbal place resonant with such primal human conditions. Systemic and non-representational, these works are subtle, rhythmic, abstract, and immersive. I find beauty and disturbance through shifts in tool, layering and material to create passages of tone, density, speed, path and frequency within a system. In recent room-sized installations like drawn pink at Bemis [Contemporary Art Center], I have discovered an optical and spatial phenomenon that excites me as the work spans the outer reaches of our peripheral vision. The work references physiological systems – such as heartbeat, respiration, neural paths, equilibrium - and psychological states. I’ve come to understand my work as a kind of self-portraiture. Within the quiet reserve and formal abstraction is a strong impulse to speak from a deep place within myself about that is private, vulnerable, fragile, and perceptive to the human condition. My work is a mirror of how I experience the world, and as I negotiate physicality, optics and ideas through drawing languages, my voice withholds, blurs, teases and veils. I frequently return to subtle distinctions between drawing as noun and verb as a long held focus in my studio practice. This blurred distinction drives my fascination with an expanded definition of drawing languages and the resurgence of drawing in contemporary art. My collective body of work is an iteration of this language.

Ask visitors their immediate responses to Anne Lindberg’s Modal Lines.
Ask visitors why they react in the ways that they have described. What about Anne’s work elicits their response(s)? Can they identify some specific characteristic or another about the work that they respond to? 
Explain that among Anne Lindberg’s interests is the purity and simplicity of drawing. Her interest is in what can be accomplished with just one tool—drawing. She uses the repetition of lines, drawn or strung, to create space—by illusion and perception, but also by the repetition of lines of string to create space.
Ask visitors what is a line? :: A form that has length and width, but the width is tiny in comparison to its length that we perceive line as having only one dimension.
Ask visitors how the repetition of one kind of gesture—a line—changes their perception of a piece like Andante Green.
Explain that geometry defines a line as an infinite number of points. How does that definition affect the understanding of Lindberg’s drawings?
Explain that one art definition of a line is a moving dot—a useful definition because it recognizes the dynamic quality of lines, like those in Lindberg’s installation. A line is created by movement. Because our eyes must move to follow a line.
Explain that a line is a minimal sort of statement by an artist, made quickly with a minimum of effort, but seemingly able to convey all sorts of thoughts, feelings, moods, and ideas.
Ask visitors what adjectives can be used to describe lines like in Lindberg’s work. Nervous? Tense? Angry? Happy? Free? Quiet? Excited? Calm? Graceful? Ask visitors about a line like:
How do we know what this line is? How does such a line compare to lines like Anne Lindberg’s?
Explain that line is capable of creating shape. We immediately recognize a drawing of an apple as a picture of an apple. However, it lacks the color and texture of an apple, and is not the size of an apple. In comparison, Anne Lindberg’s lines create different kinds of more abstract forms. How?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Coffin of the Lady of the House, Weretwahset, Reinscribed for Bensuipet..., Ca. 1292-1190, B.C.E.

A typical coffin set would have included a coffin lid and a separate mummy board. In the original coffin set for Weretwahset the lid and board were combined. Generally, the lid would have been decorated to present the body of the deceased to the god Osiris, but in this example Weretwahse wears a dress that she would have worn in life. About two hundred years after Weretwahset died, this coffin was reused by someone named Bensuipet. Bensuipet added the mask and body cover, and erased Weretwahse’s name from the coffin in order to add her own.

Edward Bleiberg on the Oldest Work in To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum

Female Figure
From Ma'mariya. Predynastic Period, Naqada IIa (circa 3500-3400 B.C.). Terracotta, painted.

Zahi Hawass on King Tut: The Boy King's Treasures (New Kingdom)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Docent Note: Egyptian Cosmetics and Hygiene, To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum

by Joan Elder

Egyptian Cosmetics
Cosmetics, discovered in tombs and on the bodies of both men and women, have been found dating back to 4,000 B.C. They served ornamental as well as spiritual and medicinal purposes.

Implements: Combs, hairpins, mirrors, makeup boxes/pots/bowls, tubes for kohl, applicators, etc.

Ingredients: Most cosmetics were mixed in fats, oils (especially from nuts), bees wax and similar compounds. The minerals used were from a variety of colored earth, stones and ores. Costly lapis lazuli and malachite were imported. Some ingredients were questionable, such as fly dung. Oils were used, with or without added ingredients, to protect the skin and to treat skin diseases.

The rich employed "face painters" to apply their makeup. They did not like dark skin, which was natural to them, and often used white foundation. There were special anti-aging creams, oil based with various infusions from plant materials. Most Egyptians didn't live much past their 40's, but their skin tended to wrinkle from the sun.

Eyes: The most widely used eye makeup was kohl, a compound of galena, a grey lead sulfide ore, combined with soot, burnt almonds and other ingredients. Black eye liner protected from glare. Also used was a green makeup madefrom imported malachite. Unadorned eyes were considered vulnerable to the evil eye. The adorned eye was also believed sacred to the gods.
Lips/Cheeks: Lips were colored blue-black or red. Red ochre for rouge.
Feet, hands and nails: Evidence of henna, a plant-derived dye used today on hair and skin, was discovered in tombs in about 1500 B.C. It was used to tint the nails and also to adorn the feet of royalty with various designs.

Egyptian Hygiene [Source: Herodotus, a Greek historian who lived in the fifth century B.C.]

Bathing: The rich bathed often; we don't really know too much about the poorer classes, but there were canals and, of course, the Nile, where one might bathe. One had to watch for crocodiles. Those who did bathe used natron for soap or a paste of ash or clay mixed with oils. A papyrus from 1500 B.C. tell of mixing vegetable oils with alkaline salts to cure and/or prevent skin diseases.

Most people walked barefoot and floors of homes were compacted dirt. Many homes had foot baths and some of the rich actually had bathtubs. Wash basins were commonplace. There would often be a jug of salt solutions nearby for cleansing as well as sand for scouring. Herodotus claimed that most people washed upon arising as well as before and after meals. Lice were a problem and the entire body was often shaved. Oils were also used to kill body lice. Physician's recipes for deodorants have been found. One recommends mixing incense, myrrh, lettuce and fruit of the n(?) plant and rubbing it all over the body.

Herodotus also tells us that the white linen garments commonly worn were carefully washed and bleached in the sun.

Incense and Perfumes
The Egyptians loved pleasant smells which they associated with the gods. Perfumes were a large export item. They were oil based and scented with roots, spices such as cinnamon, flowers and bitter almond. Balls of perfumed wax were sometimes worn on women's heads and allowed to melt in the heat. Incense was widely used, mostly frankincense, myrrh and fragrant woods.

Tour Framework: To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum Tour Framework

Sarcophagus Lids for Pa-di-Djehuti and Pa-di-Inpu, ca. 305-30 B.C.E.
These two large stone sarcophagus lids were made for a wealthy royal scribe and priest named Pa-di-Inpu and his son Pa-di-Djehuti. They are examples of the expensive tomb equipment we expect for all Egyptians. Yet only a limited group of people could afford burial in such elaborate stone coffins. Members of less-wealthy families made coffins from low-quality wood or even terracotta.

Pa-di-Djehuti: the Limestone sarcophagus lid of a man with wig and false beard has three vertical registers of hieroglyphs running down the front of the piece. The translation of these is as follows: “Royal scribe, accountant of all things, scribe of Anubis of Hiffonon. Thatpe-her (?) son of the royal scribe of the books of the temple of Hiffonon Pedi-Anubis, born of a priestess of Uazit of Hiffonon Set-ari-ban”.

Sarcophagus Lid for Pa-di-Inpu: a limestone sarcophagus lid of a man with a wig and beard. Three vertical registers of hieroglyphs run down the lower front. The translation is “Royal scribe, accountant of all things, priest of Hathor of Hebenis (the XVIth Nome of Upper Egypt), scribe of Anubis of Hiffonon (XVIIIth Nome of Upper Egypt), Pedi-Anubis, son of the Royal scribe, Pedi-Anubis born of a priestess of Uazit of Hiffonon Thet.”

Pyramidion of a Woman, ca. 1185-718 B.C.E.
Reliefs on four sides of this small pyramid from a woman’s tomb depict basic aspects of Egyptian belief. The deceased worships Osiris in the niche and Re on the back, the two major gods connected to the afterlife. On the right side, a human-headed bird representing the ba-soul, which travels outside the tomb, perches on a djed-pillar, a symbol of rebirth. The deceased is followed by two demigods. On the left side, the gods Horus and Thoth perform part of the funeral purification ritual on the deceased’s mummy.

Anthropoid Coffin of the Servant of the Great Place, Teti, ca. 1339-1307 B.C.E.
Egyptians after the New Kingdom desired coffins representing them as Osiris. This coffin was made for Teti, a “Servant of the Great Place.” This title was used by artisans who painted tombs in the Valley of the Kings and lived in Deir el-Medina. As a middle-class artisan, Teti paid nearly a year’s salary for a coffin of this quality. He was able to use five different paint colors to decorate his wooden coffin, including blue, yellow, red, black, and white. The yellow background paint with red streaks is used to imitate the gilded coffins of the wealthy.

Seated Statue of the Superintendent of the Granary Irukaptah, 2425-2350 B.C.E.
This statue functioned as a place for Irukaptah—also known as Kenu, a fifth dynasty dignitary—to receive offerings from this world to convey to the next world. The Egyptians believed that the ka-soul could inhabit a statue like this. Scenes of offering carved on the sides of this chair show men offering fowl, linen, and food in containers. On the back, two women offer objects in a chest and perhaps bread. These scenes substitute for or augment scenes of offerings that were carved on the walls of the tomb. Irukaptah was titled “Master Butcher of the Great House King’s Wab Priest.” His tomb near Saqqara is known widely as the “Butcher’s Tomb.”

Triad of Isis, the Child Horus, and Nepthys, 305-30 B.C.E.
After Osiris went to the afterlife, Isis raised her son Horus with the help of her sister Nephthys. Isis hid her son from his jealous uncle Seth, who had killed Osiris and taken the throne of Egypt from him. Amulets like this were placed on the lower torso of the mummy and protected the deceased as Isis and Nephthys protected Horus.

Statue of Horus as a Child, 664-332 B.C.E.
Horus grew up to challenge his uncle Seth, who had taken the throne from Osiris. A human child who wore this amulet received the protection that Isis had given to the child Horus. Such amulets continued to be worn after death.

Mummiform Figure of Osiris, 664-332 B.C.E.
The inscription identifies this figure as Osiris. He wears the crown of ostrich feathers, a sun-disk, and the ram’s horns that identify him as a king. Yet he is also in the form of a mummy with the curled beard worn by the dead. The figure stands on a hollow base in which a papyrus with a spell written on it was stored.

Relief with Netherworld Deities, ca. 1332 – 1250 B.C.E.
This relief carving is from the tomb of Yepu, an high official of ancient Egypt. The carving illustrates Spell 145 from The Book of the Dead when the deceased approaches the guardian deities of the fourth and sixth gates of the netherworld. The words inscribed on the carving were to be recited upon reaching the gates. A wealthy individual in ancient Egypt would have made sure to incorporate spells into many different forms so that he or she would remember all of them upon reaching the netherworld. In addition to this relief carving, which would have been affixed to his tomb’s wall, Yepu also likely had a papyrus version of The Book of the Dead.

Sheet from an Amduat: What is in the Netherworld, 945-712 B.C.E.
The Amduat—also known as The Book of the Dead—included spells that a deceased person would need to know and recite to speed his or her journey into the afterlife. This copy was made for a high-ranking priest of the god Amun. Most remaining examples of The Book of the Dead are only partially intact. This sheet contains Spell 15, which includes writing that gives the genealogy of the deceased and the name of the god Re-Har-akhty-Atum.

Gaming Board Inscribed for Amenhotep III, 1390-1353 B.C.E.
This board and gaming pieces were used to play a game the ancient Egyptians called senet—which loosely translates to “passing.” The game was played by two people, each of whom used seven game pieces to advance, jump over their opponent’s pieces, and eventually remove their pieces from the board. The first player to remove all of their game pieces won rebirth into the afterlife. Game boards such as this were used for over three thousand years in Egypt and were often included in tombs.

Block Statue of Padimahes
This statue of Padimahes would have been placed in a temple after his death. It is believed that his forward gaze was directed towards a temple procession. Padimahes’s ba-soul—the part of the human soul that remains with the body of the deceased after death, but which can travel in the mortal world and the afterlife—would have been able to share in the offerings made to the god in the temple, but would have then returned to the tomb.

Block Statue of Nesthoth, 305-30 B.C.E.
Nesthoth was named to honor the god Thoth. The baboon wearing the moon-disk, carved on his lower legs, is a symbol of Thoth.

Elaborately Painted Shroud of Neferhotep, Son of Herrotiou
This shroud for the mummy of Neferhotep was likely made during a time of Roman rule in Egypt, and thus it has Roman stylistic influences. The shroud bears a Roman-style portrait, similar to the panel portrait found on Demetrios’s mummy seen nearby in this gallery. Neferhotep’s mummy would have been less expensive, however, because the portrait was painted directly on the shroud instead of on a wooden panel, and because it was made with tempera paint instead of encaustic paints. When this shroud was excavated by French Egyptologist Bernard Bruyère in 1948, parts of it were missing. The darkened parts of the ultraviolet photograph reproduced here show areas of restoration undertaken around 1970.

Image of Ba-bird on a Footpiece from a Coffin, ca. 945-712 B.C.E.
The human-headed bird represents the ba-soul, part of the Egyptian soul that could leave the tomb and travel both in this world and in the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians recited spells to ensure that the ba returned to the mummy from its various journeys to maintain the proper burial.

Statuette of a Standing Hippopotamus, ca. 1938 -1539, B.C.E.
In ancient Egypt, Seth was disliked because he killed his brother, king Osiris, and then claimed the throne. Seth became known as the god of chaos and was often represented by the symbol of a hippopotamus. In an Egyptian tomb, negative forces were controlled by including a statue of a hippopotamus with broken legs. The lotus flowers on the sides of the hippopotamus signify how the animal might have appeared as if it were standing in the Nile River among natural vegetation.

Mummy of a Dog, Mummified Dog
Sometimes very wealthy ancient Egyptians chose to mummify their pets. Most often, however, such animal mummies were offerings to the gods. The animals mummified represented a god or goddess, such as the cat belonging to the goddess Bastet or the ibis belonging to the god Thoth. Some animal mummies contained a papyrus with a request to the god written on it.

The Mummy of Demtri[o]s, 95 – 100, C.E.
With Roman stylistic influences, this mummy of a wealthy Greek person known as Demetrios was likely made during a time when the Romans ruled Egypt. Made with expensive imported materials, it reveals the wealth of the deceased. A linen shroud is wrapped on top of this mummy’s bandages and painted with red pigment imported from Spain. The face of Demetrios is depicted in Roman-style on a wooden panel using pigments and encaustic. Artists also used gold leaf to incorporate divine Egyptian symbols, the name of the deceased, and his age (59 years) at the time of death. Researchers recently used a medical imaging method known as a CT scan to x-ray this mummy, revealing that Demetrios suffered from gallstones during his lifetime.

Headrest with Two Images of the God Bes
Headrests like this were used to support the heads of living persons while sleeping, but they are also found supporting heads of the deceased inside coffins. This headrest was likely made for a tomb because an offering prayer is inscribed on the supporting column. The prayer on the headrest also could have been added after the death of its owner.

Canopic Jars (Jackal, Hawk, Human, Baboon)
Canopic jars were used by ancient Egyptians to store mummified internal organs. Each organ was kept in a separate jar and preserved for the afterlife. Such jars first appeared in the royal tomb of Hetepheres, the mother of Khufu and builder of the Great Pyramid. The canopic jars seen here, however, were typical of those used by the middle-class. These more affordable jars were “dummies,” whose vessels were never hollowed out to actually hold organs, yet were sill included in the tomb of the deceased.

Panel from the Coffin of a Woman
This coffin is decorated with hieroglyphic texts invoking both national gods and the local gods of Asyut. A stand with five jars of oil, a bed with seven linen bags of materials for mummification, a mirror, and a pair ofsandals are all depicted on the coffin’s side, magically ensuring their presence in the tomb and with the deceased forever.

Standing Figure of Bes
Bes was the deity who protected women in childbirth and children during life and in the tomb. The god Bes had the face and tail of a lion, the legs of a dwarf, and a feathered headdress. Just as he protected the act of birth in the living world, he also aided rebirth into the next world. Bes amulets were made from many different materials, but the most prized were gold.

Statuette of Sennefer,ca. 1938-1837 B.C.E; Statuette of a Striding Man, ca. 2288-2170, B.C.E.
Carved from a softer, and therefore lower-grade limestone, these sculptures reveals less detail than some of those carved of harder limestone, diorite, or granite nearby. Though nearly all ancient Egyptian statues were painted, the paint on these statuettes hides the lower-grade stone used.

Coffin of the Lady of the House, Weretwahset, Reinscribed…
A typical coffin set would have included a coffin lid and a separate mummy board. In the original coffin set for Weretwahset the lid and board were combined. Generally, the lid would have been decorated to present the body of the deceased to the god Osiris, but in this example Weretwahse wears a dress that she would have worn in life. About two hundred years after Weretwahset died, this coffin was reused by someone named Bensuipet. Bensuipet added the mask and body cover, and erased Weretwahse’s name from the coffin in order to add her own.

Mummy Caronnage of a Woman, ca. 1st century C.E.
Head and Chest from a Sarcophagus, 4th century C.E.
These mummy covers convey the extremes between wealth and poverty in Roman Egypt. The professionally crafted, gilded, and inlaid mummy cartonnage was for a woman whose life and death were spent in luxury. In contrast, the hand-modeled and simply painted terracotta mask was probably fashioned by the woman it represented or a family member of the deceased. While both covers protected each mummy adequately, the different materials demonstrate how different social classes prepared the necessary objects for the next world.

Seated Statuette of Si-Hathor, ca. 1818-1630 B.C.E.
This statuette combines the seated image of the deceased with the base where the inscription would normally be carved (as in Seated Statuette of Sekhemka shown nearby). Here, the artist carved the offering prayer directly onto Si-Hathor’s garment, a solution that saved on the amount of stone to be purchased.

The Meaning of Amulets
Amulets were small objects worn by the living or attached to a mummy after death as a means of protection. Depending on what one could afford, amulets were made from either gold, precious stones, or simple ceramic faience.

The following kinds of amulets are in this exhibition:

Ba Amulets
These amulets were placed on the chest of the mummy. They ensured the return of the ba-soul, which could travel from the tomb to the world of the living and to the afterlife. Though the mummy was the ba’s home, The Book of the Dead suggests that Egyptians feared the ba might not always return. They believed that ba amulets could substitute for the true ba. These types of amulets were made from precious gemstones such as lapis lazuli, as well as less-expensive materials such as faience and glass.

Bes Amulets
These amulets were worn suspended from a chain around the neck. Bes was the deity who protected women in childbirth and children during life and in the tomb. The god Bes had the face and tail of a lion, the legs of a dwarf, and a feathered headdress. Just as he protected the act of birth in the living world, he also aided rebirth into the next world. Bes amulets were made from many different materials, but the most prized were gold.

Wadjet or Eye Amulets
Ancient Egyptians believed the moon to be the eye of the god Horus, represented symbolically by the wadjet-eye commonly depicted on amulets. Just as the moon waxes and wanes, the eye of Horus can be injured and healed. The wadjet-eye is probably the most common amulet, and was made from almost all materials.

Djed Amulets
The Book of the Dead refers to the djed as the backbone of the god Osiris, which allows him to rise up in the afterlife. The djed symbol may have originally come from the form of a tree trunk that was elevated during Osiris’s ceremony of resurrection. The hieroglyph on a djed translates to “enduring.”

Hollow Cylindrical Amulets
Amulets like this were suspended from a cord and worn around the neck. They contained a piece of papyrus with a written spell that offered protection to women and children. They are known only from the Middle and New Kingdoms and belonged to royalty and high-ranking members of society.

Heart Scarabs
Heart scarabs were placed over a mummy’s heart in the tomb. They were a specialized type of amulet shaped like a dung beetle. These beetles were known for pushing small pellets of dung, which reminded ancient Egyptians of how the sun god Re travelled across the sky. Heart scarabs were inscribed with a spell from The Book of the Dead imploring the heart not to testify against the deceased at the judgment of the dead.

Nefertum Amulets
Nefertum was the son of the great gods of Memphis, Ptah and Sekhmet. These three gods formed an alternative divine family parallel to Osiris, Isis, and Horus. Like the amulets of Horus, those of Nefertum were worn to protect young people in this life and the next.

Tyt Amulets
The Book of the Dead instructed ancient Egyptians to place a red jasper tyt amulet on the neck of the mummy. Shaped like the goddess Isis’ belt, the amulet guaranteed that she would protect the mummy.

Ancient Egyptians worked with gold and semiprecious stones mined in the deserts east of the Nile River in a place they called Nubia—present-day Sudan. Nub was the ancient Egyptian word for gold.
Ancient Egyptians made many objects using faience—a non-clay ceramic material made from crushed quartz and sand. Although many faience objects were reproduced in large quantities, sometimes extremely high quality pieces (such as this one) were made.

Figure of Pataikos, ca. 664-30 B.C.E.
In this amulet, the dwarf god Pataikos strangles snakes while standing on two crocodiles. A scarab rests on his head. Pataikos is flanked by Isis and Nephthys—the wife and sister of Osiris. This amulet would have been worn on a cord around the neck to protect the deceased from snakes and crocodiles in the afterlife. The name Pataikos refers to a protective god (or perhaps a whole group of related gods) in the form of a dwarf. Representations of Pataikos appear on amulets worn around the neck. The god is usually depicted with a bald head on which a scarab can be seen. Sometimes he has a falcon's head. He is often standing on crocodiles and holding other dangerous animals such as snakes in his hands. As far as attributes and function are concerned, he may be compared to the god Horus as depicted on magical stelae from the Late Period. Pataikos appears frequently from the New Kingdom on, but similar figures from the Old Kingdom may perhaps already be depictions of the god. The name Pataikos was introduced by the Greek writer Herodotus. He relates that in the temple of Memphis there was a statue of the god Ptah in the form of a dwarf, an image so remarkable that it provoked the mockery of the Persian king Cambyses. Herodotus compared the statue with a protective statuette in the shape of a dwarf that he knew from Phoenicia. He also records that Pataikos was regarded as the son of Ptah. We do indeed have representations of Pataikos from the Late Period whose texts identify him as Ptah or Ptah-Sokar. We also find Pataikos depicted together with Sakhmet or Nefertem, two gods who formed the triad of Memphis along with Ptah.

Shabties were magical figures that people took with them in their tombs that would do work when they arrived in the next world. Shabties were made from stone, wood, faience, and (rarely) metal, depending on the tomb owner’s priorities. Amunemhet had a small number of very fine shabties, including the painted stone example shown here and a wooden example seen nearby.

Outer Sarcophagus of the Royal Prince, Count of Thebes, Pa-seba-khai-en-ipet, ca. 1075-945 B.C.E.
Ancient Egyptian elites eventually stopped building elaborate tombs and instead painted their coffins with scenes normally reserved for tomb walls. This outer coffin for the Royal Prince shows multiple scenes of the gods worshiped by the deceased. The coffin presents the deceased as Osiris and illustrates the many gods he will encounter in the afterlife. This coffin has been damaged but left unrepaired in order to show how it was made. Beneath the damaged paint, small pieces of wood were pinned together with wooden pegs. Artists then plastered and painted the surface to make it appear smooth.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Docent Note: A Very Very Brief Egyptian Timeline, To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum

by Kathleen Durham

Egypt is a gift of the Nile.”
 – Herodotus, 450 BCE

Egypt is a desert country with only a tiny percentage of habitable land. The Nile River, beginning in the highlands of Central Africa, flows north for over 4,000 miles to the Mediterranean Sea. Its yearly flooding determined the patterns of the lives of the ancient Egyptians. The floodwaters receded between November and March, leaving rich silt ideal for planting. Around 7,000 years ago settlements rose up along the banks of the Nile. Eventually canals and terraces were built to use the water more effectively. The ancient Egyptians felt that the river was a gift of the gods, but since they made no distinction between river and god, they used the word Hapy (Hapi) to mean the river, the flood and the God of the Nile. They grew crops, especially wheat and barley, and raised livestock. Eventually Egypt divided into two parts. The South was known as Upper Egypt, and the Northern Delta of the Nile, where it meets the Mediterranean Sea, was called Lower Egypt. In what is now known as the Early Dynastic Period (3000-2675 BCE) the first Pharaoh, Narmer, (or Menes) unified Upper and Lower Egypt.

EARLY DYNASTIC PERIOD (3000-2675 BCE) Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. First Pharaoh Narmer. Brick tombs. Capital Memphis.

OLD KINGDOM (2675-2170 BCE) Pyramid Age, Giza, Sphinx, Saqqara, Cheops. Toward end of period Nile failed to flood for several years. Just one of the factors leading to dissolution of central government.

FIRST INTERMEDIATE PERIOD (2170-2008 BCE) Central government dissolved. Last days of royal house in Memphis, rivals in Herakleopolis and Thebes.

MIDDLE KINGDOM (2008-1630 BCE) Central government renewed in 11th Dynasty, Mentuhotep II, capital Thebes.

SECOND INTERMEDIATE PERIOD (1650-1550 BCE) Foreigners (Hyksos) dominant in Lower Egypt (Delta), local princes in Thebes.

NEW KINGDOM (1550-1075 BCE) Egypt expands into Syria, Euphrates. Amun is national god. Temples at Luxor, Karnak, rock tombs in Valley of the Kings. Under Amenhotep II and III kingdom and culture at its peak. Amenhotep IV changed religion to worship god Aten, changed own name to Akhenaten, built capital at Tel-el Amarna, married to Nefertiti. On Akhenaten’s death, Tutankhamun restored old gods. In 19th and 20th Dynasties there were 11 Pharaohs named Ramesses. Ramesses II built great temples Abu Simbel, Karnak.

THIRD INTERMEDIATE PERIOD (1075-656 BCE) Foreign rulers from Libya, Nubia.

LATE PERIOD (664-332 BCE) Foreign rule by Persians, Libyans, Ethiopians, alternated with Egyptian rule.

PTOLEMAIC PERIOD (332-30 BCE) Alexander the Greek conquers Egypt, establishes great center of learning at Alexandria. On his death his general, Ptolemy, takes over. Dynasty continues until Cleopatra’s death in 30 BCE.

ROMAN PERIOD (30 BCE-395 CE) Egypt is a Roman Province


ARABIC_MUSLIM (642- to present) Byzantines expelled, Egypt was a province of caliphate

Docent Note: A Glossary of Terms, To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum

by Kathleen Durham

AMDUAT A New Kingdom funerary text which names the friends and allies to be found in each of the twelve hours of the night. It translates as “That which is in the Underworld”, and serves as a guide for the soul.

AMULET A small sculptured object which can be worn as a charm, but more importantly, is bound into the wrappings of a mummy. The ankh, wadjet-eye, tyt, Bes, scarab are some of the amulets which are placed on the mummy to heal and protect.

ANTHROPOID COFFIN A coffin shaped like a human being with an idealized portrait of the deceased with wig or headdress. Often richly decorated with scenes of the afterlife and the gods. The coffin would be placed in one or more protective sarcophagi.

BALDACHIN A canopy placed over a sacred or honorific place, such as a throne or altar

BOOK OF THE DEAD Compilations of various spells, prayers and incantations to help the soul of the deceased navigate past dangers in the netherworld. Originally they were chiseled onto walls of royal tombs, but eventually they were made available to well-off people in the form of papyri. These scrolls were often rolled up and placed between the legs of the mummy.

CALCITE A crystalline form of limestone used in sculpture.

CANOPIC JARS Four jars, often of calcite, used to store internal organs removed from the deceased in the mummification process. The jar with a jackal head stopper stored the stomach, a baboon stored the lungs, a falcon the intestines, and a human the liver. They were often called the Four Sons of Horus.

CARTONNAGE Linen soaked in plaster, modeled and painted to create mummy masks.

CHERT A compact rock consisting of a microcrystalline quartz.

CROOK AND FLAIL Osiris and the Pharaohs are generally shown with a shepherd’s crook to show that he is shepherd of his people, and a flail, a hinged tool used for harvesting grains, to signify Pharaoh’s role as provider for his people.

DESCRIPTION DE L’EGYPTE A 20-volume work developed by a corps of artists, technicians, geographers and architects brought by Napoleon in 1798. Still used today as reference and especially for those monuments and artifacts which have been destroyed.

DJED COLUMN A column with a wide base and four horizontal bands at the top. It is said to represent the backbone of Osiris. It stands for stability and strength. Often painted on the inside of coffins where body would lie. As an amulet it is placed on the throat of the deceased. Also associated with the creator god Ptah, ‘the Noble Djed’.

DUAT The Egyptian Land of the Dead. Regarded as similar to Egypt in climate and nature. Duat is located under the earth. At night the Duat is illuminated by the Sun God Re as he travels through.

ENCAUSTIC A painting technique using pigments mixed with hot wax as a medium. Popular in Egypt, Greece and Rome. (See mummy Demetrios)

ENNEAD A Greek word for a group of nine gods—Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Nephthys, Isis, Seth.

FAIENCE A glazed ceramic technique that produces a smooth, lustrous, impenetrable texture. A fairly inexpensive way to produce quantities of beads or shabtys.

FALSE DOOR A stone imitation of a real door which only the deceased could use. They alone could ‘walk through’ the false door to receive the offerings left for them. As time went on, it was possible that priests and family could forget to leave offerings. For this reason the doors were often carved with depictions of food offerings.

FUNERAL PROCESS A series of rituals including, processions, incantations, dances, animal sacrifice. The process begins with the delivery of the corpse to the Hall of Embalming and ends with the final ceremony in the tomb. The body was carried on a boat in a canal or on land on a sledge, accompanied by professional mourners and priests. The coffin was shaded with a baldachin. After the seventy day mummification process, the funeral procession visited ritual stations on the way to the tomb. At the tomb the ritual Opening of the Mouth was performed (see Peseh-Kef below), the canopic jars and furniture were brought in, the tomb was sealed and offerings were left for the deceased.

HEART The heart was the only major organ which was left in the body during the mummification process. The brain was taken out and thrown away, and the major organs were stored in canopic jars. It was believed that the heart had knowledge and emotion. In the afterlife the heart was weighed against a feather to determine the fate of the deceased. Inscriptions were written on scarab amulets placed on the body, asking that the heart not testify against the deceased!

KOHL Finely ground antimony sulfate, a black powder used as eyeliner for men and women. Some say it was to avoid glare of the sun or to ward off infection.

MASTABA A flat-topped one-story structure with sloping sides over an underground tomb.

NATRON A natural salt that occurs in a dried lake bed in the delta, today called Wadi Natrun. Primarily sodium chloride, but about 17% sodium bicarbonate. It absorbs the body fluids in the mummification process, resulting after around 40 days in a stable shell no longer affected by decay.

OFFERING TABLE Food and drink and other offerings were placed on tables or stands for the deceased by priests and/or family. Even a sacred mummified bull would have an offering table!

PARTS OF THE BODY A living body is known as a khat, a dead body is a sah. The parts of the person aside from the body itself are: the ka: a spirit double, born when the person is formed on the potter’s wheel. The ba, was in the form of a human-headed bird which could travel in and out of the tomb and could consume offerings. The person’s shadow and his name combined with the ba and the ka to make a perfect spirit, known as the akh, for the life in the next world.

PESEH-KEF A ritual implement used in a crucial step of the funerary process, the Opening of the Mouth. When the coffin arrives at the tomb, it is held upright while an officiating priest, usually in an Anubis jackal mask, touches the tool to the mouth and other parts of the body to ‘reanimate’ it in the afterlife.

PHARAOH In New Kingdom Thutmose III was first to refer to himself as ‘Pharaoh’, a term that means ‘great house’.

PYRAMIDION A pyramid-shaped block set as the finishing element on an obelisk or a column, or as an independent tomb sculpture.

SARCOPHAGUS The outer rectangular or oval stone container in which a coffin and mummy were placed. Less expensive sarcophagi could be of wood, terra cotta or wicker.

SCARAB Named for a beetle which pushes around a ball of dung containing its eggs. When the eggs hatched, the Egyptians thought it was spontaneous generation, and likened it to the appearance of the sun at sunrise. Also known as Khapri (Khepri).

SENET A very popular board game with thirty squares and pawns in various shapes. The rules are unknown, but it is believed that the goal was to reach the end of the board and the Kingdom of Osiris.

SHABTY (also Ushabty) A mummiform statuette placed in tombs to perform work on behalf of deceased in the afterlife. Often there were thousands in a wealthy tomb. An ideal was to have 365 shabtiess, plus 36 more to serve as overseers. A less wealthy person could have 40 shabties, 30 to do the work and 10 to supervise.

SISTRUM An ancient Egyptian percussion instrument with a loop of metal set in a handle, fitted with loose crossbars which make noise when shaken.

STEATITE Soapstone, a form of compressed talc. Often used as a base for faience.

STELA A stone slab placed vertically, a monument. Generally incised with inscriptions and reliefs. Used originally in First Dynasty, to individualize a tomb with the name of the deceased.

TEKENU A bundle carried on a funerary sledge or barque, resembling a wrapped body. Sometimes it is covered with an animal skin, sometimes wrapped in linen and bound with red cord. It may represent a fetus being reborn in next world.

TERRA COTTA A medium made from clay fired over low heat and sometimes left unglazed.

TYT Often translated as welfare, eternal life, resurrection. Associated most with Isis. It resembles a knot used to secure garments of the gods. As early as Third Dynasty it appears with ankh and djed column. Also known as Blood of Isis, used as a funerary amulet of red stone or glass.

WADJET EYE In the shape of a human eye with falcon markings. It represents the eye of the god Horus which was torn out by the god Seth and was restored by Thoth (or Isis). It is used in amulets to represent healing. In the mummification process it is placed in the mummy wrappings over the site of the incision, to heal it. It is often painted on coffins as a protection, but also so the deceased can see out.

Docent Note: A Partial List of Egyptian Gods, To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum

By Kathleen Durham

Note: Listed here are only gods who are mentioned in the exhibition catalog. There were hundreds of gods in ancient Egypt, some local, some universal. There were various creation myths, and sometimes gods changed forms and/or merged with other gods. But there was a remarkable consistency over all those centuries, so that we see the same gods depicted in funerary art from the beginning through to Roman times. Since many of the gods developed from animals, many are shown as animals, or with animal heads. Anubis, the jackal-headed god of funerary matters, is thought to have taken that form because jackals were always seen around burial sites. The hippo is seen as a benign female god as Taweret, and as a god of Chaos in the person of Seth.

AMMIT – Devourer of hearts judged to be wicked in underworld—can take form of crocodile, hippo and/or leopard.
AMUN -- The hidden God, at one point considered King of Gods—sometimes merges with Re, becomes very powerful. Represents air. Temple at Thebes.
ANUBIS -- Jackal-headed god of mummification, and of judgment in underworld. Said to have helped Isis reassemble and bind together the parts of Osiris’ body.
APOPHIS -- Terrible creature who menaces Re on his trip through the underworld. Can take form of dragon, snake, cat.
ATEN -- During reign of Akhtenaten he was made King of Gods, the only god. Generally represented by a sun disc with rays ending in hands. When Tutankhamen became King, he restored the old gods.
ATUM -- Primeval creator god. Arose from the waters of Chaos and created the first gods, Shu and Tefnut. Merges with Re at sunset, representing the setting sun. Known then as ‘He who is Completed’.
BES -- Dwarf god, one of several variations, perhaps associated with Pataikos. Sometimes has lion’s ear and tail. Is always ugly, in order to frighten spirits which threaten homes. Protector of households, childbirth. Very popular amulet.
GEB -- Earth God, always pictured lying down, as the Earth, with his sister-wife Nut arched over him as the sky. Egyptians believed earthquakes were his laughter.
HAPY (HAPI) -- God of Nile. He is the river, the flood and the god. Represented as a man with a little pot belly and plants on his head.
HATHOR -- Goddess of love, fertility, joy, music. Shown as a cow, or woman with cow’s ears and horns, with a sun disk. Known as ‘Mistress of the West’, welcoming the dead into the next life.
HORUS -- Falcon-headed god of the sky and sun. Son of Isis and Osiris. Horus means ‘He who is from above’. Became king after defeating uncle Seth. Throughout Egyptian history is the protector of kings. It was thought that each Pharaoh was the living Horus.
ISIS -- Wife of Osiris, mother of Horus. Goddess of healing, magic, marriage, motherhood. Her crown is usually a throne to show she was mother to a king. Often shown with Horus on her lap (because her lap is the first throne he sat on). She is sometimes shown with wings.
KEBEHSENEUF -- Funerary god, associated with falcons and canopic jars. His is used for storing intestines. A son of Horus.
KHAPRI (KHEPRI) -- Scarab beetle, or man with beetle head, rising sun. This is the name Re takes when he re-appears from the underworld at sunrise. It means ‘he who is coming into being. Connected with scarab because that beetle pushed around a ball of dung filled with its eggs, like sun coming up.
KHNUM -- Ram or ram-headed man. One of the creator gods. He molded people on a pottery wheel.
MAAT -- Goddess of truth and justice. She is present at judging of souls in the underworld. Single feather headdress. Heart is weighed with her feather.
MONT (MONTU) -- God of war, valor. Falcon head, sun disk and double plumes. Associated with cult of Buchis (bull which was venerated, mummified).
NEFERTEM -- God in form of a man with lotus headdress. He is personification of lotus which keeps sun god Re alive with its fragrance.
NEITH -- Goddess of hunting and war. Shown as a woman with red crown.
NEPHTHYS -- Daughter of Geb and Nut, sister of Osiris and Isis, sister-wife to Seth. Headdress has her name in hieroglyphics. Sometimes shown with wings.
NUT -- Goddess of Sky, mother of Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys. Shown as a naked woman arched over the reclining body of her brother-husband Geb (Earth).
OSIRIS -- King of Netherworld, God of Re-birth. Son of Geb and Nut, husband-brother to Isis. Father of Horus. Was king of Egypt until killed by brother Seth. After his body was put back together by Isis he became king of the netherworld. Shown as a mummy with green face, atef crown (a combination of the hedjet, the white crown of Upper Egypt, with ostrich plumes). Carries crook, flail.
PATAIKOS -- A dwarf protector of household, similar to Bes. Has scarab on head, he strangles snakes, stands on crocodiles. Often seen with Isis and Nephthys.
PTAH -- Creator god, Memphis. Father of Pataikos.
RE (RA) -- Sun god. Creator god. Hawk head with sun disk. Has seventy-five names. Binds together the darkness and light with his 24 hour journey through the sky and the underworld. Merges at times with Atum, Amun and Horus.
SETH -- God of Chaos. Son of Geb and Nut. Brother of Osiris and Isis, brother-husband to Nephthys. Sometimes shown as a hippo, but more often as a ‘Seth animal’, an undetermined animal with a long snout. Was King, defeated by Horus, now defends Re in the underworld.
SHU -- God of Air, father of Osiris, Isis, Nephthys and Seth.
SOBEK -- Crocodile or Crocodile-headed man. River god.
TAWERET -- Hippo goddess. Patron of household and childbirth.
TEFNUT -- Goddess of Moisture, mother of Geb and Nut. Cobra or lion head.
THOTH -- Ibis-headed (sometimes baboon), holding a writing palette. Scribe of Gods. Recorder of judgment in netherworld, also connected to the Moon. Egyptians thought that he gave them the gift of hieroglyphic writing. He restored Horus’ eye after Seth tore it out.

To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum Introduction and Text Panels

Two of the main ancient Egyptian cultural beliefs that have endured for thousands of years are a belief in the afterlife, and the view that death was an enemy that could be vanquished. To Live Forever features objects that illustrate a range of strategies the ancient Egyptians developed to defeat death, including mummification and various rituals performed in the tomb. The exhibition contains funeral equipment used by the rich, the middle class, and the poor, and also reveals what the Egyptians believed they would find in the next world. The economics of the funeral are examined, including how the poor tried to imitate the costly appearance of the grave goods of the rich in order to ensure a better place in the afterlife.

Specially-designed interpretation for this exhibition acknowledges the recent political revolution in Egypt and includes speculative conjecture from best-selling science fiction author Bruce Sterling, accompanied by an 80-foot panoramic mural depicting a possible future Egypt. In much the same way that the antiquities on display offer only traces of historical evidence helping us to understand Egypt’s past, Sterling’s contribution and the accompanying mural illustrates one of many possible outcomes for the future of this dynamic and rapidly-changing country.

The exhibition fills the third floor feature gallery, and is organized broadly around the themes of Beliefs about the Afterlife: Osiris and Re; Preparing a Mummy; Furnishing a Tomb on a Budget; and The Funeral Ceremony (see associated text panels below).

Text Panels: Main Text
This exhibition explores ancient Egyptian beliefs about life, death, and the afterlife. Featuring mummies, statuary, sarcophagi, coffins, gold jewelry, and elegantly-crafted vessels, it includes fine examples of Egyptian artistic and cultural heritage. Taken together, the objects and artifacts illustrate funerary beliefs and customs practiced by ancient Egyptians—from various social classes—for nearly four thousand years.

Regardless of socioeconomic class, ancient Egyptians believed in life after death. Many practical considerations had to be accounted for when preparing a body for burial and the afterlife. What if one did not have access to elaborate materials or valuable gold? What if only simple stone or inexpensive wood were available? This exhibition sheds light on the disparity between ancient Egyptian social classes and reveals how different groups of people employed creative methods to defeat death and, ultimately, to live forever.

Specially designed interpretation for this exhibition acknowledges the recent sociopolitical revolution in Egypt and the surrounding desert region. It includes speculative commentary from best-selling science fiction author and futurist Bruce Sterling, accompanied by an 80-foot panoramic mural sketching how an Egypt of tomorrow might look. In the same way that the antiquities on display offer only traces of historical evidence that help us to understand and imagine Egypt’s distant past, Sterling’s contribution and the accompanying mural suggest that there are many possibilities for the future of this dynamic and rapidly-changing culture and region.

Beliefs about the Afterlife: Osiris and Re
Ancient Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife are based on the story of Osiris, who along with his wife Isis, were Egypt’s first beloved rulers. Legend holds that Osiris had a jealous brother named Seth, who trapped his brother Osiris in a coffin designed precisely to the dimensions of his body. Seth and his accomplices threw the box into the Nile River and drowned Osiris, leaving Seth to claim the throne. Isis retrieved her husband’s body, however, and magically revived him—just long enough to conceive a child named Horus. Isis built temples for Osiris where she placed offerings that he could retrieve in the afterlife—establishing the precursor of the tomb. Osiris became king of the afterlife, while Isis raised their son Horus, who eventually defeated his uncle Seth and became king of Egypt. The tale of Osiris and Isis became a touchstone for all ancient Egyptians, who wanted to vanquish death by achieving rebirth in the afterlife—just like Osiris.
The sun god Re was one of the most important gods in the ancient Egyptian belief system. In the daytime world of the living, ancient Egyptians believed that Re traveled in a boat through the sky—from east to west at sunset. Re entered the afterlife upon reaching the western sky, and then traveled eastward through the underworld at night. While Re traveled through the underworld he was continually attacked by the dragon-like demon Apophis. Only during the fifth hour of his journey through the underworld was Re safe in the realm of Osiris. After twelve hours in the underworld, Re was reborn on the eastern horizon of the mortal world. Many of the decorations found in royal tombs and depicted on papyrus reveal that ancient Egyptians hoped to travel with Re in his boat after their own mortal passing.

Preparing a Mummy
To ensure eternal life, ancient Egyptians believed that the body had to be preserved. Three different mummification processes were available depending on the budget of the deceased person. These methods were described by the Greek historian Herodotus, who visited Egypt in the fifth century B.C.E.

The most expensive preservation option involved surgical removal of the brain and internal organs. The deceased was then embalmed using natron, a naturally occurring salt that dehydrated the body in about seventy days. Priests then poured an expensive combination of imported and domestic resins into the body, which ensured that it would remain waterproof and resistant to damage from microorganisms and insects. The body was then wrapped in linen and placed in a coffin in preparation for the funeral service.

A less expensive method for mummification utilized an injection of cedar resin into the body that liquefied the internal organs, which were then drained from the corpse. The body was embalmed with natron and wrapped in linen. Finally, the least costly method for preparing a body involved basic cleansing of the internal organs by the embalmers. The organs were left inside the body. Herodotus gives no further details regarding this least-expensive method.

Furnishing a Tomb on a Budget
Furnishing a tomb was the biggest expense an ancient Egyptian would incur during his or her lifetime. A coffin alone might cost an entire year’s salary. For individuals of a certain socioeconomic status tombs were sometimes built as small, freestanding buildings or excavated into the side of a mountain. If only limited funds were available, graves were dug into the desert sand. Depending on one’s socioeconomic status, there were four strategies for furnishing a tomb on a budget: they could substitute, imitate, combine, or reuse materials.

In many instances, individuals with limited resources substituted inexpensive materials for precious ones typically used by wealthier classes. In place of gold or rare stones, they might use faience, a non-clay ceramic material made from sand. Alternatively, terracotta might take the place of stone. Sometimes colored paints were used to emulate expensive decorations found on more elaborate objects. For instance, a terracotta jar might be painted to imitate a more costly granite vessel, or a terracotta mummy mask could be painted yellow to imitate gold.

A traditional coffin set usually consisted of a lid and a mummy board that could be quite expensive. The board, situated inside the coffin, was a life-sized figure of the deceased dressed in everyday clothing placed atop the actual mummy. It was easy enough, however, to combine the traditional mummy board decoration with the lid to save money. Another cost-saving approach was introduced toward the end of the New Kingdom in 1070 B.C.E., when the government began allowing tomb objects to be recycled. Reusing objects involved removing the name of the previous owner and inscribing the object for a new user. Coffins, statues, and shabties (funeral figurines) could all be reused.

The Funeral Ceremony
While much is known about the funeral ceremonies of wealthy ancient Egyptians, scholars depend on physical evidence and objects found in graves to reconstruct the rituals of most citizens. What scholars do know is that it ancient Egyptians—regardless of their class status—desired to make the journey to the afterlife and to live there for eternity.

The ancient Egyptian funeral consisted of a series of rituals based on the tale of Osiris, the legendary king who died and was then reborn into the afterlife. Typical funeral customs included dance, music, animal sacrifice, recitation, and ritualized mourning along a route that led from the embalming house to the tomb. Tombs helped the deceased person to achieve rebirth in the afterlife. In addition to the mummified remains of the dead, tombs contained objects that were intended to be used in the next life. Men were often buried with weapons, while women were accompanied by mirrors, cosmetic containers, and grooming accessories. Coffins, statues, shabties (funeral figurines), and vessels for food and drink were also placed in the tomb for use in the next world.

During the funeral service, living persons would make offerings of food, clothing, or other necessities to be consumed or used in the afterlife. Such offerings were sometimes depicted in images on the walls of tombs. The final funeral ritual performed at the tomb was the “opening of the mouth.” This procedure symbolically activated the mummy, allowing it to see, hear, and enjoy the offerings made by the priests during the funeral ritual before it was finally positioned in the tomb.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How to Cuddle with an Elephant Seal

Docent Kate Fotopolous found this video in a search related to the Joan Myers Wondrous Cold exhibition. An entertaining look at some of the residents of the globe's arctic regions. Thanks, Kate!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Did You Know? :: Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Flash in Naples," 1983

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an artist from Brooklyn, New York. He was born December 22, 1960; he died August 12, 1988, after a short but meteoric career during which his work was popularized and made famous in part by his associations with Andy Warhol, Al Diaz, Julian Schnabel and the musical performer Madonna.

As a child, Basquiat showed an affinity and skill for drawing, and was encouraged to create art by his mother, who was Puerto Rican by descent, and his father, who is of Haitian descent. As a result, Basquiat was fluent in Spanish, French and English from an early age.

In late 1977, while a student at City-As-School high school in Brooklyn, Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz started spray-painting graffiti art on buildings in lower Manhattan, adding the signature of "SAMO". The graphics were messages such as "Plush safe he think.. SAMO" and "SAMO as an escape clause". In December 1978, the Village Voice published an article about the writings. The SAMO project ended with the epitaph "SAMO IS DEAD" written on the walls of SoHo buildings.

Basquiat dropped out of high school in September 1978, at the beginning of his senior year. He decided to leave his home and began living with friends, earning money by selling T-shirts and postcards on Manhattan's streets, and working in the Unique Clothing Warehouse on Broadway. By 1979, Basquiat had appeared on Glenn O'Brien's live public-access cable show TV Party. In the late 1970s, Basquiat formed a band called Gray with Vincent Gallo, Shannon Dawson, Michael Holman, Nick Taylor, Wayne Clifford. Gray performed at nightclubs such as Max's Kansas City, CBGB, Hurrahs, and the Mudd Club. Basquiat starred in an underground film Downtown 81 which featured some of Gray's recordings on its soundtrack. He also appeared in Blondie's video "Rapture" as a club disc jockey.

In June 1980, Basquiat participated in The Times Square Show, a multi-artist exhibition, sponsored by Collaborative Projects Incorporated (Colab) and Fashion Moda. In 1981, Rene Ricard published "The Radiant Child" in Artforum magazine, which brought Basquiat to the attention of the wider art world.

In late 1981 he joined the Annina Nosei gallery in SoHo. By 1982, Basquiat was showing regularly, and alongside Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi, became part of what was called the Neo-expressionist movement. He was represented in Los Angeles by the Larry Gagosian gallery, and in Europe by Bruno Bischofberger. He started dating then-aspiring performer Madonna in autumn 1982. That same year, Basquiat met Andy Warhol, with whom he collaborated in 1984-1986. He was also briefly involved with artist David Bowes. Basquiat worked on his paintings in Armani suits and often appeared in public in these same paint-splattered $1000 suits.

By the mid 1980s, he had left Annina Nosei gallery, and was showing in the famous Mary Boone gallery in SoHo. On February 10, 1985, Basquiat appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in a feature entitled "New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist". He was a phenomenally successful artist in this period, but increasing drug use began to interfere with his personal relationships. After Andy Warhol's death in 1987, Basquiat became increasingly isolated, and his drug use and depression increased. After attempting to quit heroin use during a trip to Hawaii, Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in his New York studio on August 12, 1988, at the age of 27.

Selected Bibliography
Deitch J, Cortez D, and O’Brien, Glen. Jean-Michel Basquiat: 1981: the Studio of the Street, Charta, 2007.

Fretz, Eric. Jean-Michel Basquiat: A Biography. Greenwood Press, 2010.

Hoban, Phoebe. Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art (2nd ed.), Penguin Books, 2004.

Marshall, Richard. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Abrams / Whit
ney Museum of American Art. (Catalog for 1992 Whitney retrospective, out of print).

Marshall, Richard. Jean-Michel Basquiat: In World Only. Cheim & Read, 2005.

Marenzi, Luca. Jean-Michel Basquiat. Charta, 1999.

Mayer, Marc, Hoffman Fred, et al. Basquiat, Merrell Publishers / Brooklyn Museum, 2005.

McCluskey, Danny. "Jean-Michel Basquiat: Art Capitalism Mascot or Radiant Child?” Cameron, 2009.

Tate, Greg. Flyboy in the Buttermilk. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

Thompson, Margot. American Graffiti, Parkstone Press, 2009

Looking at Flash in Naples

  • Ask guests what they see in the mixed media piece Flash in Naples.
  • Ask guests if they know who the Flash character was. Ask guests what they think about comic book art.
  • Explain that the Flash is a name shared by several fictional comic book superheroes from the DC Comics universe. Created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Harry Lampert, the original Flash first appeared in Flash Comics #1 (January 1940). Nicknamed the Scarlet Speedster, all incarnations of the Flash possess "super-speed", including the ability to run and move extremely fast, use superhuman reflexes and seemingly violate certain laws of physics.
  • Explain that Basquiat was fascinated by symbols, Roman mythology, comics, and numerous other narrative references.
  • Writer, curator and gallerist Fred Hoffman called Basquiat’s work “a rich compendium of figurative imagery and references” with “an array of specific textual references to Greek mythology, Roman history, African tribal culture, systems of monetary exchange, and natural commodities, as well as states of health and wellbeing.”
  • Explain that the neo-expressionist movement in contemporary art was influenced by Pop Art of the 1960s, and formed in reaction to the late 1970s fascination with conceptual and minimalist art.

Did You Know? :: Pablo Picasso, "Musical Instruments and Fruit Bowl on a Pedestal," 1913

Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso, known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso, was born October 25, 1881; he died April 8, 1973.

Pablo Picasso, Musical Instruments and Fruit Bowl on a Pedestal, Fall 1913. Oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 32 inches. Private Collection. © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Picasso was baptized Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Crispiniano de la Santísima Trinidad, a series of names honoring various saints and relatives. Added to these were Ruiz and Picasso, for his father and mother, respectively, as per Spanish law. Born in the city of Málaga in the Andalusian region of Spain, he was the first child of Don José Ruiz y Blasco (1838–1913) and María Picasso y López. Picasso’s family was middle-class; his father was also a painter who specialized in naturalistic depictions of birds and other game. For most of his life Ruiz was a professor of art at the School of Crafts and a curator of a local museum. Ruiz’s ancestors were minor aristocrats.

The Blue Period (1901–1904) consists of somber paintings rendered in shades of blue and blue-green, only occasionally warmed by other colors. This period’s starting point is uncertain; it may have begun in Spain in the spring of 1901, or in Paris in the second half of the year. Many paintings of gaunt mothers with children date from this period. In his austere use of color and sometimes doleful subject matter—prostitutes and beggars are frequent subjects—Picasso was influenced by a trip through Spain and by the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas.

The Rose Period (1904–1906) is characterized by a more cheery style with orange and pink colors, and featuring many circus people, acrobats and harlequins known in France as saltimbanques. The harlequin, a comedic character usually depicted in checkered patterned clothing, became a personal symbol for Picasso. Picasso met Fernande Olivier, a model for sculptors and artists, in Paris in 1904, and many of these paintings are influenced by his warm relationship with her, in addition to his increased exposure to French painting. The generally upbeat and optimistic mood of paintings in this period is reminiscent of the 1899–1901 period (i.e. just prior to the Blue Period) and 1904 can be considered a transition year between the two periods.


  • Arguably the seminal art movement of the twentieth century, cubism enjoyed only about 12-14 years of prominence before the events of World War I and its aftermath helped to extinguish the avant-garde spirit that brought Cubism into being.

  • Works in several different cubist styles (see below) are marked by visual abstraction, obfuscation, temporal disorientation, avant-gardist rejections of past values, and the breakdown of class and art hierarchies such as “fine” and “folk” art.

  • It is hard to overstate the extent to which Cubism developed in a period of rapid change and impending war, shaped by a coalition of artists committed to an idealistic conception of society opposed to war.

  • Cubism is generally broken into two categories, Analytic Cubism and Synthetic Cubism (see below). However, the two were not distinct movements so much as an evolution of the experimentation of the avant-garde style.

  • 1907-1909 was a period of intense interest in all things “primitive,” especially children’s art, and art from the so-called “primitive cultures” of Africa, Oceania, and indigenous cultures, to which the Primitivist Modernists attributed an authenticity of vision and spontaneity of expression that they felt had been eroded from the contemporary styles of their art forms.

  • Between 1909-1912 Cubism was widely explored, and the avant-garde experimenters revolted against nineteenth-century academic techniques of perpectival illusionism and the related assumption that a painting must represent a single moment in time and be seen from a fixed point in space (or, for that matter, depict a single position in space). The works of this period experiment with multiple viewpoints, distortions of form, ambiguous spatial relations in part in response to new theories about space and time being developed concurrently.

  • 1907-1914 Cubism has a kind of cultural-political motivation in its subversion of nineteenth-century academic art styles, as well as the development of a kind of French artistic nationalism following the success of cubism.

  • 1912-1914 is the period during which Cubism explodes conceptions of art beyond painting, and reaches into fields of design, architecture, and beyond, through the advent of collage and assemblage sculpture. Collage represented another rejection of academic tradition (oil on canvas) and assemblage problematized traditional sculpture by exploding the dichotomy between “high” and “vernacular” art through the use of everyday materials.

Analytic Cubism (1909–1912) is a style of painting Picasso developed along with Georges Braque using monochrome brownish and neutral colors. Both artists took apart objects and “analyzed” them in terms of their shapes. Picasso and Braque’s paintings at this time have many similarities. Synthetic cubism (1912–1919) was a further development of the genre, in which cut paper fragments—often wallpaper or portions of newspaper pages—were pasted into compositions, marking the first use of collage in fine art.

Analytic Cubism is one of the two major branches of the artistic movement of Cubism, and was developed between 1908 and 1912. In contrast to Synthetic Cubism, Analytic cubists "analyzed" natural forms and reduced the forms into basic geometric parts on the two-dimensional picture plane. Color was almost non-existent except for the use of a monochromatic scheme that often included grey, blue and ochre. Instead of an emphasis on color, Analytic cubists focused on forms like the cylinder, sphere and the cone to represent the natural world.

During this movement, the works produced by Picasso and Braque shared stylistic similarities. Both Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque moved toward abstraction, leaving only enough signs of the real world to supply a tension between the reality outside the painting and the complicated meditations on visual language within the frame.

In Paris in 1907 a major museum retrospective exhibition of the work of Paul Cézanne opened shortly after his death. The exhibition was enormously influential in establishing Cézanne as an important painter whose ideas were particularly resonant among young artists in Paris. Both Picasso and Braque found the inspiration for Cubism from Paul Cézanne, who said to observe and learn to see and treat nature as if it were composed of basic shapes like cubes, spheres, cylinders, and cones. Some believe that the roots of cubism are to be found in the two distinct tendencies of Cézanne's later work: firstly to break the painted surface into small multifaceted areas of paint, thereby emphasizing the plural viewpoint given by binocular vision; and secondly, his interest in the simplification of natural forms into cylinders, spheres, and cones. However, the cubists explored this concept further than Cézanne; they represented all the surfaces of depicted objects in a single picture plane, as if the objects had had all their faces visible at the same time. This new kind of depiction revolutionized the way in which objects could be visualized in painting and art.

Synthetic Cubism was the second main movement within Cubism that was developed by Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris and others between 1912 and 1919. Synthetic cubism is characterized by the introduction of different textures, surfaces, collage elements, papier collé and a large variety of merged subject matter. It was the beginning of collage materials being introduced as an important ingredient of fine art work.

Considered the first work of this new style was Pablo Picasso's "Still Life with Chair-caning" (1911–1912), which includes oil cloth that was printed to look like chair-caning pasted onto an oval canvas, with text; and rope framing the whole picture. At the upper left are the letters "JOU", which appear in many cubist paintings and refers to the news-paper titled "Le Journal.” Newspaper clippings, sheet music, and like items were also included in the collages. Whereas Analytic Cubism was an analysis of the subjects (pulling them apart into planes), Synthetic Cubism is more of a pushing of several objects together. Less pure than Analytic Cubism, Synthetic Cubism has fewer planar shifts (or schematism), and less shading, creating flatter space.