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Left: Henry Ossawa Tanner, photographic study for Harper’s Young People illustration, 1893; right: illustration by Henry Ossawa Tanner for Harper’s Young People 16, no 736 (December 1893), p. 81.

Menkaure flanked by Hathor (left) and nome goddess (Egyptian Museum, Cairo)

Reisner had been excavating on the Giza plateau for several years at this point; his team had already explored the elite cemetery to the west of the Great Pyramid of Khufu before turning their attention to the Menkaure complex, most particularly the barely-touched Valley Temple.


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Anna O. Marley, ed. Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit  (University of California Press: 2012).

Tanner had spent years been refining a style of his own that combined elements of American Realism and the European Old Master tradition. The Banjo Lesson has its roots in the genre paintings of African-Americans by William Sidney Mount and Thomas Eakins (above) and in Renaissance and Flemish paintings, notably Domenico Ghirlandaio’s An Old Man and His Grandson and Johannes Vermeer’s Woman with a Lute (below).


King Menkaure (Mycerinus) and queen – Smarthistory

Unusual for a pharaoh’s image, the king has no protective cobra (known as a uraeus) perched on his brow. This notable absence has led to the suggestion that both the king’s nemes and the queen’s wig were originally covered in precious metal and that the cobra would have been part of that addition.

Ecocriticism: An Essay – Literary Theory and Criticism …

The dyad was never finished—the area around the lower legs has not received a final polish, and there is no inscription. However, despite this incomplete state, the image was erected in the temple and was brightly painted—there are traces of red around the king’s ears and mouth and yellow on the queen’s face. The presence of paint atop the smooth, dark greywacke on a statue of the deceased king that was originally erected in his memorial temple courtyard brings an interesting suggestion—that the paint may have been intended to wear away through exposure and, over time, reveal the immortal, black-fleshed
“Osiris” Menkaure (for more information on the symbolic associations of Egyptian materials, see ).

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Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Banjo Lesson, 1893, oil on canvas, 49 × 35.5 inches
/ 124.5 × 90.2 cm (Hampton University Museum, Hampton, VA)

Postmodernist Art: Definition, Characteristics, History

Menkaure and his queen stride forward with their left feet—this is entirely expected for the king, as males in Egyptian sculpture almost always do so, but it is unusual for the female since they are generally depicted with feet together. They both look beyond the present and into timeless eternity, their otherworldly visage displaying no human emotion whatsoever.

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Menkaure’s queen provides the perfect female counterpart to his youthful masculine virility. Sensuously modeled with a beautifully proportioned body emphasized by a clinging garment, she articulates ideal mature feminine beauty. There is a sense of the individual in both faces. Neither Menkaure nor his queen are depicted in the purely idealized manner that was the norm for royal images. Instead, through the overlay of royal formality we see the depiction of a living person filling the role of pharaoh and the personal features of a particular individual in the representation of his queen.