Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Beyond Babylon and Time

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is now featuring “Beyond Babylon”, a special exhibit that explores the artistic and cultural traditions of the Near East during the second millennium B.C. With approximately 350 objects on display, “Beyond Babylon” explored the art created in the circle of network among affluent kings and merchants. What attracted my attention the most besides the shiny gold artifacts were small objects that belonged to royalty and alluded to divine presences/gods. Evidently, there was a story behind each object.
The “Falcon Pectoral” reveals the beautiful nature of the art of Byblos. The symbolic elements somewhat refer to those symbols that might have been associated with Egyptian pharaohs. The overall shape of the golden object is in the form of a celestial falcon that spreads its wings around the king, creating an accessory for royalty. What interests me is the concept that amidst troubles, there is a divine falcon that will protect the king. In life, we often find ourselves in the arms of or under the wings of someone when we need comfort and protection.

The “Magical Wand” may sound like a cheesy attempt to sell the wand that Daniel Radcliffe used in Harry Potter. However, made of hippopotamus ivory in Egypt, this wand incorporates detailed artwork of mythical creatures and deities such as Taweret and Bes. The inscription reads “protection by night and protection by day” to refer to the journey that the sun god makes. Divine kings protect him while he is traveling over the sky by day and through the underworld by night. When placed in a tomb, this wand was also believed to help the deceased adult to be resurrected at sunrise. Not only was the wand used to protect the sun god, it was also believed to protect sleeping infants.

Although we cannot travel through time to experience the artwork and beauty of the era In Babylon, the Met brought the past to the present instead. Through these artifacts, we are able to understand the trade, manufacture, and beliefs of society in Byblos.