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The Portrayal of Powerful Egyptian Women Through Visual Art

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Cultures +5 Age Levels Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old), Post-Secondary, Adults

I come from a family of very strong and independent women, and I was raised in a feminist household and was taught that there is power in femininity. When I began at UMASS online, I immediately chose Gender Studies as one of my concentrations as I am fascinated with woman’s evolution through time. While we are only just now on the brink of true equality, there are some examples from specific cultures in history that show the power of women. I chose to look closely at Egypt from its earliest cultures through the New Kingdom. My hope is that this collection will exemplify the power that was evident in a woman in this time period. My main sources of study were Arts and Culture: An Introduction to the Humanities, and the Smithsonian Lab.

Visual art can be an influential force. I feel that it is a direct and tangible example of how the artist sees it’s subject (person, place, object, thought or idea), and that perception is molded by culture, values, lessons, and history. Reactions to visual art can spark debate, deeper thought, an emotional response, or even desire to learn more about the culture or time period it was created. I hope what I have put together here will spark one of those things in my viewers. I really hope that it will put our view of women into perspective. We have evolved so much since this time in our thoughts of equality, worth, capability, representation and I hope to show that in following collections with examples from different cultures and time periods.

In Arts and Culture: An Introduction to the Humanities there is a section in Chapter 1 about Queen Hatshepsut and how she was viewed as a powerful and important ruling figure in a male dominated world. I think this is important to note as we don’t read very much about women figureheads during this time. She was respected, trusted, and listened to. She was valued by her people which is exemplified in her tomb. It is described in the text as, “constructed of repeated elements- colonnaded terraces with columnar porticoes…halls, and private chambers. The three terraces are connected by ramps to the cliff…These chambers are chapels to the god Amen; to the cow-headed goddess Hathor, who protects the dead; and to the queen herself…sculpture was used lavishly; there were perhaps two hundred statues in Hatshepsut’s funerary temple” (Benton 27). It bears noting the love and respect for one woman in 1458 B.C.E. Women were also praised in the form of goddesses, ruling over things such as truth, justice, order, hunt, etc.

What I have put together in this collection represents the significance of women at this point in history.    

Benton, Janetta Rebold, and Robert DiYanni. Arts and Culture: an Introduction to the Humanities. Pearson, 2014.

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Cast Of The Willendorf Venus

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.

How to Achieve Flawless Beauty

Smithsonian Channel

Inner Coffin & Lid Of Tentkhonsu

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.

Statuette, Isis and infant Horus

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery