Dawn of Egyptian Art. Edited by Diana Craig Patch. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. Pp. xii + 275, illus. $60. [Distributed by Yale University Press]
This book is the catalog of an exhibition of Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egyptian art held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art April 10 to August 5, 2012. The organizer of the exhibition and principal author of the catalog was Associate Curator Diana Craig Patch, with additional essays by Emilia Cortes, Marianne Eaton-Krauss, Renee Friedman, Catherine H. Roehrig, Ann Macy Roth, Ann Serotta. and David P. Silverman. An annotated list of the 183 objects in the exhibition was compiled by Susan J. Allen, Associate Research Curator. Almost one-third of the objects are from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. In addition to those in the exhibition the numerous illustrations include comparison material and excavation photographs.
In her introduction Patch provides considerable pertinent information as background to the exhibition, including a short history of the archaeology of early Egypt with an account of the problems faced by early excavators and the difficulty that they had in recognizing that the artifacts they found were from stages of prehistory and not remains of intrusive cultures from outside the Nile valley. The introductory material is continued with a consideration of the geography of the Nile valley and the delta, and the problems caused by the destruction of settlements and cemeteries by geographical factors, the annual inundation, and by the encroachment of cultivation on archaeological sites. Brief histories of the Predynastic and the Early Dynastic Periods are given with some suggestion of the techniques and problems of dating.
It is important to observe that Patch states that it is not her intention to provide a survey of the early culture(s) of Egypt but rather to "examine and reflect" on the early artistic expressions and their connections and contributions to later pharaonic art forms. In her essay "From Land to Landscape," the imagery (or iconography) of Predynastic objects is examined to show how they illustrate the influence of the natural surroundings of the river and the desert, with the omnipresent flora and fauna, on the forms and decoration of pottery and stone objects. The color illustrations of the examples discussed are excellent representations of Predynastic art of high quality. Patch also contributed chapters on the human figure in...