Beauty is More Than Skin Deep: Depictions of Aging Women in Ancient Egyptian Art

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Beauty is More Than Skin Deep: Depictions of Aging Women in Ancient Egyptian Art In Ancient Egypt, women are typically shown as youthful and beautiful while more mature, older women are very rarely depicted. For men of the time, ageing is shown in art more frequently because it was a positive aspect of manhood. For ancient Egyptians, art wasn’t just made for pleasure or beauty; it was a very practical and necessary part of the day-to-day lives of the Egyptians. In art, Egyptian belief was that people needed to be depicted at their peak of energy and beauty in order to remain that way forever when they cross over into the afterlife. In most ancient Egyptian art, male ageing is represented more frequently than women since it was considered a positive image for men. Egyptian art seldom depicted older women or women growing older: "neither pregnancy nor the spreading waistline that many women must have had after years of bearing children is part of the image." However, there are examples that feature elements of ageing that are linked to elite and non-elite women alike. These demonstrations of older women are possibly an attempt to outwardly show on women the authority and honor in the same way the image of male ageing is represented. Though it is rarely depicted, we can use art to trace the portrayal of older women and women growing older in Egypt, from the Third Dynasty down to the end of the New Kingdom. As women age, their bodies change in various ways such as the development of wrinkles and white hair. However, Egyptian art did not necessarily combine these features in a consistent, fixed order when they show women as they grew older. This may reflect the reality of the ageing process: people do not always age in the sa... ... middle of paper ... .... Pharaohs of the sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts in association with Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown and Co., 1999. Lesko, Barbara, "Queen Khamerernebty II and Her Sculpture," in Ancient Egyptian and Mediterranean Studies, (Providence, Rhode Island, 1998), 158. Moussa, Ahmed M., and Hartwig Altenmller, The Tomb of Nefer and Ka-Hay (Mainz, 1971), pg. 33. Robins, Gay. Women in ancient Egypt. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993. 180. Robins, Gay. While the Woman Looks On: Gender inequality in the New Kingdom. KMT 1/3 (1990), 21. Roth, Ann Macy, "Father Earth, Mother Sky: Ancient Egyptian Beliefs about Conception and Fertility,"194-96 Toivari-Viitala, J. Women at Deir el-Medina. A Study of the Status and Roles of the Female Inhabitants in the Workmen's Community during the Ramesside Period. Leiden, 2001.

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