Hatshepsut-Egypt's Female Pharaoh-Reigns Supreme at New De Young Museum

By Pasquini, Elaine | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2006 | Go to article overview

Hatshepsut-Egypt's Female Pharaoh-Reigns Supreme at New De Young Museum


Pasquini, Elaine, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


More than 3,000 years after reigning as Egypt's powerful female pharaoh, Hatshepsut still fascinates her 21st century admirers, including Consul General Abderahman Salaheldin. "Hatshepsut was a symbol of empowerment of women," the Egyptian diplomat told journalists and photographers at the Oct. 12 press preview of "Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh." The blockbuster show, featuring some 260 objects from 23 museums, is the major inaugural exhibition at San Francisco's new de Young museum, which opened to the public Oct. 15. The spectacular de Young replaces the original Golden Gate Park building, damaged in the 1989 earthquake. The new museum, consisting of three levels and a twisting nine-story tower, was built through private fund-raising led by Fine Arts Museums (FAM) Board of Trustees President Diane B. Wilsey.

The Hatshepsut exhibition, on view at the de Young until Feb. 5, was organized by FAM and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it will be on display March 28 to July 9, before moving to the show's final venue, Fort Worth's Kimbell Art Museum, from Aug. 27 to Dec. 31, 2006. FAM's Renee Dreyfus co-curated the awesome exhibition with the Metropolitan Museum's Catharine H. Roehrig, and Cathleen A. Keller of the University of California at Berkeley. The trio also produced the comprehensive exhibition catalog.

While intrigue and mystery surround Hatshepsut's reign, which began around 1473 BCB, the controversial ruler's royal credentials are impressive. She was the daughter of the powerful pharaoh Thutmose I and wife of his successor (and her half-brother) Thutmose II. After her husband's death, the widowed queen became regent to her stepson (and nephew) Thutmose III, who was too young to rule alone. Soon, however, Hatshepsut declared herself pharaoh and-while ostensibly ruling jointly with her stepson/nephew-enjoyed a successful solo reign for two decades.

A stunning painted limestone statue of Hatshepsut-one of several on displayportrays her as a maned sphinx. Its delicately refined facial features depict a queen-pharaoh of great beauty and intelligence.

The artistic creativity which thrived during Hatshepsut's reign is reflected in the exhibition's everyday objects, including cosmetic paraphernalia used during the Eighteenth Dynasty, when makeup-particularly kohl, used for lining the eyes to protect them from insects as well as for beauty-was popular among chic New Kingdom women. Eclectic items on display include a hedgehog vase, and cosmetic spoons in the shape of a resting dog and a crouching mouse. Like all of her predecessors and successors, Hatshepsut possessed a treasure trove of exquisite earrings, bracelets, necklaces and even gold flipflops and toe-protecting thimbles of gold.

The royal princess-regentqueen-pharaoh was an independent woman whose relationship with her trusted adviser and architect Senenmut stirs controversy even today. Since commoners in ancient Egypt were never buried near a royal personage, Senenmut's highly decorated burial chamber situated off to the side of Hatshepsut's stupendous memorial temple at Deir el-Bahri on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes lends credence to the speculation that the two had an intimate personal relationship. Several depictions of Senenmut are on display, including one sculpture of touching intimacy depicting the royal adviser lovingly holding Hatshepsut's daughter.

Egyptian Dinner, a Movie, and More!

Egyptian Consul General Abderahman Salaheldin and San Francisco's Fine Arts Museums Board of Trustees Civil Affairs Committee co-hosted a special reception at the de Young Museum Oct. 21. Among the 200 guests were 20 students from the University of California at Santa Cruz, classmates of the consul general's twin sons, Waleed and Khalid. …

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