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On my visit to The Walter’s Art Museum, situated in the Mount Vernon neighbourhood in Maryland, Baltimore, I had one of the best museum experience in my life. The Walter’s Art Museum is by far one of the most coveted museums of the United States.
The museum houses some of the most magnificent artworks from all eras. It has in its repertoire, sculptures, statues, paintings and ornamental artifacts from the ancient Greek civilization to the modern twentieth century Europe. Some of the prized objects housed in the Walter’s Art Museum are the Roman sarcophagi, Greek sculptures, medieval ornaments and some superfluous paintings of renaissance Europe. There once existed a fee for entry, however since 2006 when the museum started receiving grants from the Baltimore County and Baltimore city, the entry fee has been waived, and today visitors can get free access to the Walter’s Art Museum.
The section of the Egyptian gallery houses some of the rarest statues, ornaments and utensils from that era, which tells a rich heritage story of the ancient civilization. These statues tells stories of how the Egyptians lived, worshipped, spent their pastimes and their beliefs. These artifacts throw light on a completely new world, which once lived this planet. The splendor and the level of artisanship found during those days were stupendous. It is hard to believe that in the 1000 B.C man had developed the sense of artistry, which can give the shivers down the spine of the present day artisans.
Much of the heritage left behind by a rich legacy remains bounded within the museum walls and the rich treasure it houses is a worthwhile thing to visit and experience firsthand. The most notable of the statues of the ancient Egyptian civilization housed in the Walter’s Art Museum is the 3000 pound statue of the lion headed Goddess of the ancient Greek, Sekhmet.
The Goddess Sekhmet was the warrior deity of the Pharaohs. She has a lion’s head, as the fiercest hunter the Egyptians knew was lion and it is believed that the breath of the Goddess Sekhmet was the cause of the formation of the deserts. The statue of Sekhmet has a body of a female, a head of a lion and a circular disc on her head. She also bears a snake crown on her forehead. Sekhmet is also known as the daughter of the Sun God “Ra” and has associations with the Goddess Hathor and Bast. She bears the circular disc known as the Uraeus or the solar disc, which represents her association with royalty and kingly patronage.
With all these associations she is derived as being a divine arbitrator of the Goddess of Justice, in the judgement hall of Osiris. The Egyptians envisioned her as a fierce lioness and in art form, she is represented in red color being the color of blood. The dress she wears has a rossetta pattern over the nipples and an ancient leonine motif on her hair representing the shoulder knots of hair on the lioness.
The artwork on stone depicting Sekhmet( on the left) at the Walter’s Art Museum
Sekhmet is also considered as the savior of the Upper Egypt. Her cult domination was so large that during the time, when the first Pharaoh of the twelfth dynasty, Amenemhat 1 moved the capital to Itjtawy, it so happened that the centre for her cult was also moved. It was during the time of Amenemhat1 that the Goddess Sekhmet rose to supreme prominence as the Pharaoh was a staunch follower and believer of the fierce lion headed Goddess. She had to be pacified with rituals and ceremonies, which included festivities, spread across the whole of Egypt. A festival of intoxication used to be held in the beginning of the year as a means of satisfying the wrath of the Sekhmet and pacify her by drinking beer. This state of intoxication was meant to ease the fierceness of the Goddess, bring life and end destruction. It was often a ritual to summon the Goddess Sekhmet after a war to bring a halt to death and destruction.
It was also a ritual for giving life to the land of Egypt. The great Nile would flow red with the silt of the land during the flooding seasons and the Goddess Sekhmet was prayed to take in the excess water and save Egypt from the floods of the Nile. The statue of Sekhmet situated in the Walter’s Art Museum is made of stone and has a brown color. It is simple in structure with a typical Egyptian representation of a lion’s head over a female body. The Goddess lies still in a sitting posture and stand almost six foot tall. It is one of the major attractions of the museum. The beauty of the craftsmanship in the sculpture represents the richness of the techniques that existed in the ancient Egyptian land. There also runs a parallel myth that the Sun God Ra gave birth to Sekhmet from the solar deity, which is symbolized with the circular solar disc behind the head of the Sekhmet. The blood lust of Sekhmet was so huge that Sun Ra had to trick Sekhmet by turning the Nile, blood red. The silt rich river is symbolized with this myth. Godess Sekhmet, in the intoxication festival is offered beer with a mixture of pomegranate juice, which turns it red. The intoxication is believed to make the Goddess drunk to such extents that she takes shelter in much calmer grounds and leaves her undying lust for blood and destruction.
Every visitor to the Walter’s Art Museum’s Egyptian Gallery would experience a world so different from what we live in. It will be especially interesting for the students and the kids who would learn the ways in which an ancient civilization spent each day as we do today. There were no cars or high rises yet the essence of the Egyptian life would baffle most of them as to the richness of their culture and the advancement in technology during those times.
Overall, the ancient sculpture of Sekhmet is a timeless work of art, whose beauty can only be felt on a visit to the Walter’s Art Museum. Time has worn out the intricate carvings on the statue but it still retains its basic structure and stands tall in the beautifully structured Walter’s Museum in Baltimore. People should visit the museum to get a glimpse of the ancient Egyptian civilization that was a milestone in the shaping of the evolution of what life on earth is today. It is especially important for students to visit the museum to understand the ways and means that shaped today’s world.