Saturday, May 8, 2010

Meritamen and Rosette Musings

For several weeks I've wanted to reconnect with my ancient art self. Lately I haven't had many opportunities to think about any art created before c. 1400, which makes me sad. So tonight I sat down with this book that I recently got as a present, and just perused through the first hundred pages or so. This statue of Meritamen, nicknamed White Queen (shown left, c. 1240 BC, Egyptian Museum, Cairo) caught my eye, largely because I thought it was interesting that instead of depicting a nipple, her left breast is decorated with a rosette. I tried to do some research and see if there was any precedent or symbolism for this, but I can't find anything definitive (although this site suggests that the rosette may be associated with kingship, but that doesn't make too much sense in this context for a queen, right?).

I think the flower looks too different from a lotus to make any symbolic associations (which is too bad, since the lotus is associated with creation and birth, which could tie into the nurturing function of the breast). It also would have been cool (and also added significance) if this breast-rosette was drawn in the same pattern as the Flower of Life, but unfortunately I don't much visual similarity.

Thoughts, anyone? Maybe I'm looking to deeply for answers. Perhaps the Egyptian artist just wasn't good at depicting nipples, and decided to cover up one breast with a goddess statue and depict a rosette on the other? Ha!

Meritamen was the daughter-turned-wife of Ramesses II. There is an inscription on the back pillar of this statue, but the name is missing. This sculpture wasn't determined as a depiction of Meritamen until after 1981, when a colossal statue of Meritamen was discovered at Akhmim. This colossal statue has similar inscriptions to the Egyptian Museum statue, which solidified the attribution. You'll notice, though, that the Ahkmim statue does not have similar rosettes on her breasts. Hmm...