The two sculptures that I chose to compare and contrast were the Cycladic Woman Figure and the Menkaure and Khamerernebty sculpture. Though each is from a distinctly different culture and historical time period, each depicts the female form in a unique and positive light, utilizing characteristic artistic details from the time period in which it was created to highlight the beauty of the female figure and her role in society. The Cycladic Woman Figure was sculpted from marble around 2600 and stands just over 24 inches high.
At this height it is less than realistic life size, yet the statue embodies many feminine characteristics that seem to bring it to life. The lines of the statue are straight and the figure has a straight posture and rigidly folded arms. Horizontal lines are used to indicate the bends of her knees, while diagonal lines are used to outline her pubic area. In contrast, curved lines emphasize the rounded sides of her head and the most emphasized part of her physique, the curve of her hips. More subtle curves outline her breasts and abdomen.
Her hips stand out from her otherwise straight posture, giving her wider dimension in this area. Her breasts and abdomen, in contrast, smoothly integrate with her straight figure and are more subtle representations of her femininity. This subtlety provides a pleasant balance to her straight posture. The color and texture are both smooth, with the marble being smoothed carefully to create a smooth composition from head to toes. The texture helps to create a balance between the straight lines at the top of her head, her arms and her feet and the curves of her chin, breasts and thighs.
The visual rhythm of the statue is very vertical, and the eye is drawn up and down. Her legs are only very slightly parted, allowing for some light to come through. There is little shadow to the figure because her curves and arms are so subtly formed against the rest of her figure. All use of positive and negative space is done within the rigid posture of the figure and lends itself to an organic, human shape. Menkaure and Khamerernebty, sculpted around 2540 BC, stands over four feet tall, making it twice as large as the Cycladic Woman Figure.
It depicts Egyptian king Menkaure and his queen, Khamerernebty. In both figures in the sculpture, similar smooth textures contrasting with sharp lines and straight postures mirror those of the previous statue. The pose of each figure is slightly different. Menkaure is seen in a more authoritative pose, one typical for figures of kings. His foot is forward, indicating authority, and his arms are straight at his sides with his hands clenched. Definition in his arm and chest muscles along with his prominent jaw line give him a sense of maturity and power while also giving depth to the overall sculpture.
His physique lends itself to creating light and shadow in the sculpture and there is a sense of depth achieved in his foot being placed forward and his beard extending from his face. Next to Menkaure stands his queen, Khamerernebty. There is evident repetition in their facial features, as well as in the angular shapes of their feet. Her posture is as stiff as his, but her legs are together and straight. There is also repetition in detail and texture between his headdress and her hair, with both extending to the same length on each of their shoulders.
There is movement and rhythm incorporated into the statue by her arm holding on to his in a gesture that is both feminine and strong. The lines of her arm are straight, but the softness of her hand both on his arm and around his side suggests love. Her breasts and pubic area are defined with soft, rounded lines. This emphasizes her femininity and serves to balance his rigid authority. The curves of her pubic area and breasts also create shadow in the statue. This shadow along with the shadow created by Menkaure’s extended foot take the eye away from the negative space created between the two figures.
Both statues represent an important cultural relationship between the sculptor and the subjects. The Cycladic Woman Figure represented a reverence for the female form and an understanding of the importance of the role of the female in society. Woman’s ability to reproduce and create new life is praised in the softness of her abdomen and breasts. In contrast, the figure of Khamerernebty suggests not fertility, but female power. She is posed alongside her king, holding on to him, and several prominent details place her at the same height and stature as him, indicating her role in the kingdom.
She is seen as a powerful and influential figure. Her curves suggest strength rather than fertility and her main role is that of ruler. Both figures represent the female form and concepts of femininity and strength that were important aspects of their culture. In each, the sculptor represented the essence of female beauty that was most important to that culture at the time, and created examples of two of the many aspects of women that make them strong, beautiful creatures that are vital to any civilization.