You’ve probably noticed that a lot of ancient Egyptian statues have
broken noses. Now, for the first time, an exhibition is explaining why.
And it’s probably not for the reason you think.
“The most common question we get at the Brooklyn Museum about the
Egyptian collection of art is ‘Why are the noses broken?’” Bleiberg told
artnet News. “It seemed like it would be a good idea to actually figure
out what the answer is.”
With sculptures this old, it seems natural that there would be some
wear and tear, or that noses might shatter when pieces inevitably fall
over at some point over the millennia. But 2-D relief works often show
the same type of damage to the face, suggesting a deliberate pattern.
As it turns out, Christians and even some pharaohs actually had a
habit of vandalizing artwork due to an entrenched culture of iconoclasm.
The deliberate destruction of artworks was a way of counteracting the
cultural and political power of the image—a world view that resonates
across the centuries, as seen in the destruction wrought by ISIS in recent years at ancient historical sites in the Middle East.