The Royal Women of Amarna

I’m planning to use these blogs to chat about books I have sourced,  and which are now offered for sale. Perhaps also to write a little about the trips I take to find interesting books for my customers.

But I’m going to start off by telling you about a wonderful book you can’t buy from my site – because I sold it this morning!

It’s an amazing and beautiful book from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, published in conjunction with the exhibition Queen Nefertiti and the Royal Women: Images of Beauty from Ancient Egypt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1996.

Now I had heard of Nefertiti, but before leafing through this lovely publication I would have been hard pressed to tell you anything about that period of ancient Egyptian history. I bought the book from a shop in Stroud, a small town in Gloucestershire known to the rest of the county as a bit of a “brown rice and yoghurt” community, a hippy throwback where at the organic market on Saturdays everybody seems to be dressed colourfully and be pushing a kid in buggy or pulling a dog on a lead.

The cover of the book was enough to entrance me enough to buy it,. Have you ever seen such ethereal beauty in a thousands of years-old sculpture?

Royal Women of Armarna cover

One of the reasons I like books so much is because I get to appreciate the design of publications such as this The front cover alone has much to be admired: the graduated grey background, then the choice of a dignified and classy font for the main title, and the change from white lettering to black for the colour of the Met’s credit at the bottom. The effective lighting of the sculpture is hard for a non-specialist to achieve, but of course it is second nature to staff at a major museum such as the Met.

Inside, the book tells me that the sculpture was made from brown quartzite at a workshop in Amarna, and is of a princess. It was on loan to the New York museum from the Agyptisches Museum in Berlin.

When I list a book such as this beauty, now on the way to its new home in Florence by the way, I enjoy flicking through it and reading the blurb helpfully provided by the publisher on the inside flap of the cover. In that way I can “sell” the book in my listings on the three platforms from which I use. I generally start with the condition of the book, whether it is hardback or paperback, note its publisher, date of publication, list its size, number of pages, illustrations and so on so that people who don’t already know the book get an idea of what they are buying.

The publisher’s blurb goes on to say that the book “surveys the depiction of the female form during Egypt’s Amarna period (circa 1353-1336 BC). During the reign of Amenhotep IV, also known as Akhenaten, Egyptian art saw a brief flowering of expressive, intimate images. This period is especially interesting because many well-preserved pieces exist, including portraits of Queen Nefertiti and her six daughters. The book traces the evolution of the elegant image of Nefertiti during the reign of Akhenaten, as well as representations of her children, which are remarkable for their sensuous and youthful eroticism. Other depictions of royal women from the court at Amarna include a delicately carved bust of a princess that shows a close affinity to works of art from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Many of the pieces came from the workshop of Tuthmose, sculptor to the king and one of the few artists of Ancient Egypt whose name is known”.

Akhenaten is also the subject of an wonderful opera by Philip Glass, which my wife and I saw in a live broadcast a few years ago from that other Met, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, just across Central Park from the museum of similar name.

Image from book Royal Women of Armarna

I like to think of my hobby/business, rooting out interesting books to sell on via the internet as, to quote Thomas Rawlinson (died 1725), as being temporary foster parents to orphaned books.

This lost child, abandoned to its fate in Stroud will, I imagine, now be much loved in its new home in Italy.