Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh: She is my favorite, earliest feminist...;-)  

sexyblondetravel 62F
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5/20/2006 7:51 pm
Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh: She is my favorite, earliest feminist...;-)

Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Through: 7/9/2006

Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut was the “gutsiest cross-dresser of all time,” said Ariella Budick in Newsday. “She played for the highest stakes.” While women could be leaders in ancient Egypt, a pharaoh was male by definition. So Hatshepsut reinvented herself as a “hybrid gender, presenting a challenge to the sculptors charged with translating her flesh into stone.” Her flexible identity is the subject of a fascinating exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum. When Hatshepsut’s husband and half-brother, Thutmose II, died in 1479 B.C., she became regent for his stepson. While regents customarily stepped aside when a child came of age, Hatshepsut instead had herself crowned king and ruled alongside him as “senior co-pharaoh.” Once made, this move could never be reversed, as pharaohs were gods and could not renounce their divinity. Apparently, Thutmose III was okay with this–until 20 years after Hatshepsut’s death, when he had all images of her destroyed.

The reasons for this sudden desire to erase her memory remain mysterious, said Grace Glueck in The New York Times. Hatshepsut’s reign was among the most prosperous in Egypt’s history. Art and architecture flourished, and peace prevailed. In these ways, her rule could be compared to that of Elizabeth I of England. The first view of Hatshepsut is in the Met’s Great Hall, where a gargantuan sphinx of the gender-bending pharaoh, 11 feet long and carved of granite, looms. Pieced together from fragments excavated by Met researchers, it has a lion’s body and a “royal portrait head adorned with the striped head cloth and stylized ceremonial beard worn by kings.” The exhibit opens with another granite statue, more than 8 feet high, also reconstructed. It, too, depicts her with the traditional kingly head cloth and beard. But the most attractive and informal image is that of a seated, feminine Hatshepsut, beardless and clothed in a sleeveless sheath.

The female pharaoh was “no Nefertiti,” said Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker. She had a broad face and big features, except for a “dainty chin.” Even in this “colossal statuary she’s more pleasant-looking than anything else.” Yet her smile suggests a “confident oneness with divinity.” The nearly 300 objects on display here are much more engrossing than the usual “Treasures of So-and-So” exhibition. Among statues of Hatshepsut in varying shades of masculinity and femininity are statues of her courtier and overseer of works, Senenmut. One of the most moving depicts him tenderly holding her daughter, Princess Neferure. What was he to Hatshepsut–lover or “her Walter Raleigh?” No one knows. Both he and Neferure vanished from the records after Hatshepsut’s death.




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