hatshepshut vs kouros

Ancient Egyptian and Greek statues have many similarities. Hatshepsut in a Devotional Attitude is an Egyptian statue from 1473-1458 BCE. It is almost 8 feet tall and almost 2.5 feet wide. It is made of granite and is a statue of Queen Hatshepsut, the wife of Tutmose III, one of the most dynamic egyptian kings of the eighteenth dynasty. The Marble Statue of a Kouros (youth) is an Archaic Greek statue from 590-680 BCE. It is a little over 6 feet tall and about 20 inches at its widest. It is the representation of a nude male figure and is made of marble. However, the artists of both the statues are unknown. Although both of these statues are human representations , neither precisely depicts what the actual human figure looks like. Both the statues were influenced by the culture in which the artist created them and by their place of origin. Hatshepsut is depicted as a male king wearing a kilt and a linen headdress and a king’s false beard, which is a purely idealized form of pharaoh for ancient egyptians. While, Kouros is more realistic in its pose and height, which resembles a typical young Greek man but still the eyes are too large for his head and he wears a feigned smile known as the “archaic smile”, which is unconvincing in appearance. The posture of both the statues is very unrealistic. They are very rigid and stiff without a sense of movement;

They are extremely frontal and formal. The figure of Hatshepsut is standing with one foot forward and both her hands open and resting on the front of the kilt. Her back and hips are attached to a raised platform and one of her legs is protruding outwards, thus not syncing with the square like shape of her hips. Her hands are both level with one another, however one should be farther in front because it is placed on her thigh. Her movement is confined because she is attached to a block. Archaic Greek Art was influenced by Ancient Egyptian Art. The Kouros is in a similar pose because one foot of the Kouros is extended forward but still more realistic because his hips align with his frontal foot extended forward. By 680-590 BCE, artists probably became more sensitive to body alignment along with posture. Kouros has his hands clenched by his sides, which is still an awkward pose but more realistic than the statue of Hatshepsut.

Although the Kouros has a more realistic body, the statue of Hatshepsut has a more realistic face. The Kouros’ head, as well as his eyes, nose, and mouth are too big for his body, whereas Hatshepsut’s face is more realistic because her features are rightly placed even though her nose is missing. Because she is idealized and conforming to strict conventions of Egyptian art, she has features that are almost too good to be true. The surface textures of the statues affect their realism. Hatshepsut in a Devotional Attitude is made of granite, which makes the statue look immovable, whereas the Kouros is more realistic because marble makes its surface texture more smooth, almost skin like. Hatshepsut’s stature probably made the artist represent her in an inaccessible manner, as seen in the use of red and black colored granite stone, which represents her unlike any common woman of her era whereas Kouros is made to seem more lifelike and closer to what a common greek man would look like. He is more approachable. They are both stylistic depictions of the human form that conform to the conventions of their respective cultures. Hatshepsut is a pharaoh whereas the Kouros is simply a young man; this is significant because it shows a shift in thinking and concerns. The Egyptians were concerned with the afterlife and properly preparing for it whereas the greeks were concerned with humanism and life on earth. The statue of Hateshepsut is in a pose adapted from earlier Egyptian statues. Her anatomy is similar to most other Egyptian statues because they used a set formula for proportions when carving the body. The Kouros resembles most other Kouros statues which are portrayed nude, freestanding and with one leg forward.

The Kouros has large eyes wide open with an archaic smile characteristic of all Kouros statues. The anatomy of the two differ in the sense that in the Hatshepsut, there is more emphasis on the overall appearance of an idol figure rather than individual muscles. In contrast, The Marble Statue of Kouros has emphasis on muscular shapes of its arms and legs. There is an effort on the part of the Greeks to make the Kouros seem real and this is evident because of their continuous practice of making nude human statues throughout the archaic and classical period. There is a huge transition from representing what is unknown or idealized (Hatshepsut) to what is known and is real (Kouros) in a span of about 500 -1000 years. The artist of the Hatshepsut was probably trying to convey a sense of power and timelessness as seen in the frontal gaze and formal posture she inherits whereas the artist of the Kouros lay more emphasis on evolution and change in depiction of an almost precise human figure. The Egyptians were more afraid to break through conventions and had an inflexible vision of their glorified rulers, in comparison with the Greeks who were breaking convention throughout their portrayal of human forms.

The Greeks were moving towards realism and the best possible depiction of what called human. Most interestingly, the statue of Hatshepsut is represented as a young man. This is because the formula for statue carving had already been established. This formula was used to portray all kinds of pharaohs be it a man or a woman, and so, none of the pharaohs truly looked like their portraits. On the other hand, the Kouroi used as grave markers also did not resemble those they stood for. Most were representations of gods and warriors. Although some aspects of each statue resembles humans, neither are true portrayals. Hatshepsut in a Devotional Attitude has appropriate features but looks very formulaic because it portrays her as the ideal king rather than an ordinary woman. The Marble Statue of a Kouros has very anatomically correct body parts but it is still unproportional. However, Kouros is more realistic of the two, being freestanding and having a more lifelike appearance.

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