As Egyptians believed in the afterlife, they tried to do everything possible in order to make it better, improve it and provide a person with everything he or she would possibly need after leaving this world. Egyptian, especially prosperous and rich ones, used to make large tombs for all the family members and put their sculptures inside. This meant that even in the other world the family would be together, have everything it had on the earth and enjoy it in the afterlife.
The social and family status, however, were also reflected in such sculptures. In any sculpture men, for example, were usually shown larger than women and children – that is men were heads and rulers of their families. Some family members had separate sertabs and sculptures.
The family theme was very popular in Egyptian arts both in cultural and practical (ritual) purposes. There is a number of art pieces which show us whole families or some of their members. In most cases these are royal families.
The statue of Ni-ka-re, His Wife and Their Daughter is one of the best examples of how Egyptian artists showed families in their works. The given sculpture also gives us an opportunity not only to learn about the family, but to observe and analyze the methods and tools sculptures used to work as well. The figure represents Ni-ka-re sitting between his wife and daughter, he is placed in the center of the composition.
Based on this we can come to the conclusion that his had not only a high social status, but was a major person within his family too. It can also be noticed that the sculptor had a good knowledge of physiology, of the human body because he has shaped even the smallest details of the bodies and made them look real, like they are alive. He has also very professionally reproduced all the muscles and shapes of the body.
The figure of Ni-ka-re’s wife is much smaller than his. Her size points out that her status within the society and the importance of her person within the family are les significant than her husband’s ones. However, it cannot be said she was of no importance either: her body is drawn by clear and distinct lines. The sculptor has paid a significant portion of attention to her figure. Hence, it can be considered she had her own power. a traditional cannon requiring the man’s fugure to be lighter and larger is applied to the statue. (Davis, 1989)
The statue of Lady Khentet-ka and Her Son (ca. 2520-2494 B.C.E.) is one more representative of the Egyptian art. It was discovered in the tomb of Khenetet-ka’s husband, Nesut-nefer. The statues of Khenetet-ka and Nesut-nefer were placed in different serdabs. The figures of the woman and her child are shown in the statue of Lady Khentet-ka and Her Son. The mother wears long fine linen clothes that were in fashion in her time. Her hair is not long. Khentet-ka’s figure is much larger than her son’s one. She sits with arms laid upon her knees in accordance with the Egyptian tradition.
The name of Khent’s sun is Rudju. His figure is very small comparing to the mother’s one and it can be definitely said that he is a small child. This is also proved by his arm’s being at his mouth and by his nakedness. The side lock of his hair is braided and his finger Rudju holds at his mouth. He is shown standing next to his mother who is sitting on a large chair.
It should also be mentioned that in each statue the dominant figure of the family is made much larger than all the other family members. It was a usual practice for Egyptian sculptors to do so in order to point out the person’s importance and preserve it for his afterlife (Strouhal, 1992).
I believe the sculpture of Ni-ka-re, His Wife and Their Daughter and the statue of Lady Khentet-ka and Her Son have much in common, but at the same time they have some certain and visible differences. Firstly, very well and clearly both sculptures express the family theme. Secondly, in every sculpture there is a child near a parent. One more thing in common is that the major member of the family sits on the chair and the size of his or her figure is bigger. All the statues present other family members sitting or standing near the major person’s legs.
It is known that sometimes children are shown as tall as their mothers. These art works, however, present children to be smaller than any of the parents.
Each of the statues, reflects family and its values in a different way. The figure of Ni-ka-re’s child, for example, is made small in order to draw attention to the man’s greatness and power, to his high status and a wide range of abilities and authorities within the society as well as within the family. At the same time the figure of Khentet-ka’s son is small because he is very little and that is what the sculptor wanted to express in the work.
The sculpture of Ni-ka-re, His Wife and Their Daughter shows the whole family. We can see a mother, a father and a daughter. And there is no father in the statue of Lady Khentet-ka and Her Son. He appears to be apart from his family. So, it is obvious that Ni-ka-re’s family has better relationships between its members and they are likely to treat each other better and communicate more that the members of Khentet-ka’s family.
Khentet-ka wears a long dress while Ni-ka-re’s wife is naked. Ni-ka-re’s daughter is definitely older than Khentet-ka’s son. The girls has a body of a woman while Rudju has a ‘sidelock of youth’.
In my opinion the sculpture of Ni-ka-re, His Wife and Their Daughter expresses the family theme better because all the family member are placed together, close to each other while in Khentet-ka’s case we see only the mother and the child. There may be several reasons for that. Firstly, it may be suggested that Khentet-ka’s husband has so high social status that his family is only a background for his career, position and power. The second idea is that woman’s status is never as high as man’s one and that’s why a woman has no place to be near a man.
As for me, I like the Ni-ka-re’s statue more not only because all the family is presented in this work, but also because in my opinion the work itself is more profound. The face lines of Ni-ka-re, his wife and daughter are clearer than those of Khentet-ka and her son. Besides, the figures of Ni-ka-re’s family seem to be more refined and perfect. The shapes and muscles of their bodies look very natural and all this creates an impression that not the statues, but live people are sitting on and near the chair.
Of course we, those who live in the twenty first century, try to preserve the memory of those we love, but we don’t do it in the way Egyptians did. For ordinary people who did not belong to a royal family they even had special figures called ‘shabtis’ to be placed in the grave and replace the person in case he would be called back to this world to perform some compulsory labor (Baines and Mï¿½lek, 1980).
We, however, do not make sculptures of people we love, and do not make fancy coffins or mummies. There are no paintings and texts inside the grave, no burial masks and no provision for a person to take to the afterlife. There are several reasons for it. Firstly, our burial ritual reflects our religious views – we do not believe in the afterlife, but think those who died go to heavens. As paradise (or hell) includes everything a person might need, there is no need for him to take something from this world. Secondly, Egyptian funeral tends to provide the body with everything needed while we care more about the soul.
Consequently, we care and think more and our spiritual connection with the person. We have many albums full of pictures of us and of people we love and live with. We also have videos to watch and remember the happiest moments. But the most important and different from Egyptian philosophy is that we collect such things in order to remember about the personality instead of the social status or importance within the society or family. Instead of great and magnificent pyramids, grand vaults with sculptures and paintings only a tomb slab reminds us once again about those who are not with us any more. So, Christianity with its emphasis on spiritual rather than material values has minimized a consumer culture regarding death. This, however, is not a bad feature of the religion. I believe it is more important to be remembered as a good person instead of having great monuments, but negative people’s opinion to join them. Good memories may last much longer than all the pictures, videos, heirlooms and sculptures devoted to some person.
That is why, I believe, it is not bad that we do not have so many memorials for those whom we love. Probably this may help to save memories about the person himself instead of diminishing the person’s importance by worrying too much about whether we have enough of his pictures or whether some memorial is good and fancy enough.