Is MFA's Tomb 10A fine art?
A highlight of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ “Secret of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC” show is its astonishing profusion of painted wooden models from the 3,000-year-old tomb – planters, brewers, men feeding cattle, women weaving, soldiers bearing shields, an armada of 58 ships.
“It’s animated. It’s fun. It’s colorful. But you can’t exactly say it’s fine art,” MFA curator Rita Freed said of the models during a press preview in October. “Their hands are sticks.”
I take Freed’s point. The carving is rough; the goal is quantity, and the depiction of action. The models offer an idealized, wide-ranging glimpse into Egyptian life. They were meant to be magic talismans that would serve the dead in the afterlife.
But that we’re still making this distinction between “fine art” and whatever this amazing stuff is in the Museum of Fine Arts is quite interesting.
Annals of MFA science.
“Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC,” Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, Oct. 18, 2009, to May 16, 2010.
Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.