Of course one of the very best things about any museum collection is the display of assembled diversity. Almost every exhibit reminds us that the ancient world was really not the way we see it reflected in movies – that is, centrally designed with one basic style of design ideas everywhere – there was huge variation in materials, aesthetics and technique, even for items with the same purpose, and in the same general time-frame (the Pompeii exhibit was especially good for showing this, because it was so precisely frozen in time, rather than accumulated over time, in-place).
The other really wonderful thing of course, is the way we see wider connections and similarities that might not ever be visible without so much culture presented in close proximity.
That most particular calm
It doesn’t even take an entire town to create a great diversity of artefact – one person can do it all on their own if they find a fertile enough obsession to keep driving and refreshing the work. My friend Bob, who sculpted, taught, jammed, threw fantastical parties and even spiritually-powered an annual art festival for decades, was obsessed with the features of the meditating Buddha. He worked on variation studies in sculpture again and again, and indeed, anywhere you looked in his eccentric and wonderful (often non-parallel) house, you would see a whole range of those peace-inspiring features calmly facing back at you.
He also saw the essential root forms echoed in the sculpture of other cultures – just as many key root-myths from Egypt wound up being incorporated into the Judaeo-Christian system of tradition. Anthologized for extra richness – one of the very first ways that we humans began to accumulate and build great culture.
This Egyptian face made me think of Bob’s work instantly, for being so completely abstracted from the whole rest of the form, and so wonderfully well considered and composed. He would have loved it – and probably gone home and made a few of his own (or perhaps a few hundred, over a period of many years – artists can be a little bit funny that way).
Miss the guy a ton – but it’s a funny thing with our artist friends who depart – their reverberations keep coming back at us, from other work – sometimes ancient stuff from continents away, like this. Suggests to me that when you tap-into the real creative current, you really are connecting yourself to the timeless/immortal.
It’s a bit early yet, to claim that it all adds up to objective “progress” (esp. in terms of fate-tempting) but it really cannot be said that no one has been sincerely trying. And that current of effort, curiosity, skill and beauty goes way back – much to our fortune and our credit – as an entire species! (hint: thank an artist today)