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Metropolitan Museum of Art

Statue of Yuny, painted limestone (33.2.1), Metropolitan Museum, first floor, Egyptian Gallery.

The first sculpture to examine is known as the Statue of Yuny or Kneeling Statue of Yuny. It represents a sample of Egyptian art produced in times of Seti I. According to the information provided by the museum, the sculpture was probably created between 1294–1279 B.C. in the period of New Kingdoms. The geographical location of the finding refers to the area of Middle Egypt, namely the city of Asyut. It was found in the tomb of Amenhotpe, who was a chief physician and Yuny’s father. It is produced of the limestone and was originally painted. The sculpture is 129 cm height, 54.9 cm wide, and 90.5 cm depth. It represents the image of Yuny, royal scribe of Ramses II holding a shrine with the figure of Osiris. The time and climatic conditions had a negative influence on the outlook of the sculpture. The most considerable damage is noticed in the area of Yuny’s face: the nose is missing and the area around eyes is destructed. According to the journal of Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Yuny’s eyebrows and the rims of his eyes were made of metal but were gouged out by an ancient thief, who may have broken the nose”. Destruction had also touched the tips of Yuny’s fingers, as well as the structure that frames Osiris. The head of Osiris is also deformed. The pedestal of the sculpture decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions is partially damaged, as well.

Yuny is depicted standing on his knees and holding a shrine in front. He is sculptured as a man with strong physical features having large head and round face, round cheeks, and moderately thick lips. The front part of his body is hidden behind the shrine so the main accent is made on the most clearly visible parts, namely hands and legs. The depicted clothes indicate that he was probably originating from higher class of Egyptian society. Yuny is wearing “long, billowing linen garments; a heavy, curled wig; and papyrus sandals”. His belonging to the wealthy part of the society is stressed by the presence of jewelry. Yuny has a massive bracelet on the right hand, while his neck is decorated with hanging amulet and a necklace. Osiris is depicted in much smaller size standing inside the shrine. His arms are crossed and he is holding two scepters. The image of woman standing behind the Yuny’s back is also present, as if she is supporting him.

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The best view point of the sculpture opens when it is examined in ¾ point of view. To my mind, the primary focus of the sculptor was the Yuny himself, namely his face. It is the most eye-catching part of the sculpture that immediately dragged my attention. The secondary role is given to the figure of Osiris. The sculpture composed from the limestone underwent the procedure of painting. It is obvious that the sculptor paid great attention to the minor elements. The greatest attention deserves the shrine itself. It is heavily covered with the accurately carved symbols.

I consider the Statute of Yuna to be the mark of greatness of ancient medicine and people who possessed a gift to heal other. It might be also treated as the sculpture honoring the deity of Osiris as he is depicted in the center. However, I believe that the presence of the divine figure only strengthens the importance of Yuny as the representative of medical profession. It serves as the landmark of the divine nature of the medicine and glorifies the skills of ancient healers, who possessed the half-divine power to return good health.

Statue of Virgin and Child in Majesty (16.32.194), wood and polychromy. Metropolitan Museum of Art, first floor, Tapestry Hall.

The second examined sculpture is called Statue of Virgin and Child in Majesty. It is also known as a Throne of Wisdom. It belongs to the French cultural heritage found on the territory of the church in Auvergne Province. The sculpture depicts the figure of Saint Mary with the Christ Child sitting on her laps. It was made of walnut with the application of lead approximately between 1175–1200 C.E. The overall dimensions of the sculpture are 79.5 x 31.7 x 29.2 cm. Some of the sculpture elements were not preserved till these days. The most significant destructive processes are noticed in the figure of Jesus. His figure lacks hands and practically the whole left arm. The whole sculpture has many cracks and other traces of wood damage.

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The sculpture represents two images of the major personalities in Christianity, namely Virgin Mary and Jesus. The female figure is depicted sitting on a chair. She is dressed in the classical mantle and her head is covered with a scarf. Virgin’s body remains hidden under the clothes, however, the repeated lines shape her posture. It is obvious that some body parts are disproportioned. For example, the size of her head and hands exaggerates normal proportions. The massiveness of hands is explained by the fact that in medieval times they were treated as a sort of arrows pointing out the most important elements. Virgin Mary’s hands are holding her baby and probably refer to him as the rigorous figure in the sculpture. Christ Child is depicted straightly sitting in mother’s laps. Since his hands are missing we can only suggest that he would probably show the sign of blessing and holding the Holy Writings. Particular attention should be paid to the face features of both figures. The faces are symmetrical and are deprived of any emotions. Such technique of depiction manifests the serene nature of the saint family and inspires people to leave the earthly fuss and worrying and peacefully accept the God’s will.

The central point of the sculpture is represented by the Christ. Both figures are sitting straight, while Virgin’s arms seem to frame the figure of God’s son. There is also some distance between her and Jesus. Hence, the image of Virgin Mary probably functions as a throne for her son. The main view point is the frontal perspective as it opens the clearest view of both figures. Moreover, it enables the viewers to look into the eyes of the saints and feel the higher presence.

The sculpture has peculiar surface. The wood was originally painted and still preserves the scanty remains of paint. The clothes of both figures are performed in a relief texture by means of circular lines. It softens the strictness in symmetrical organization of the whole sculpture in general and in ideally proportioned facial features in particular. Such drapery adds decorative grace and outlines the hidden body parts.

The sculpture had a significant role in the procedures of worshiping the major personalities in Christianity. Christ Child symbolizes the source and embodiment of wisdom that is shared with Christians through the sacred writings. Virgin Mary functions primarily as a “throne”, which means that she symbolizes the source of support and reliance. The current way of representation of her image sustains the traditional role of the defender of all humanity. However, the whole sculpture might possess additional meaning apart from the spiritual and aesthetic ones. “Mary is both sculpture and vessel, and her body has two cavities—one behind her shoulder, the other at her chest— which suggest the work was a container for holy relics” (MetMuseum). It is a significant sample of medieval art.

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