Friday, 8 March 2013

 Art, it would seem, is born like a foal that can walk straight away. (John Berger)

This is the oldest known portrait of a woman, carved from ivory at least 27,000 years ago. She has a dimpled chin, although you can't see it properly here, and a drooping, palsied eyelid.
The Ice Age exhibition at the British Museum is quite small but the experience is intense.
This was the moment when the human brain developed to create art of great delicacy.
But it also feels like a memento mori. This was a living woman.
There were sculptures of pregnant women, one clasping a barely swelling belly in the early months of pregnancy - and possibly sculptures like this were made by women, for women.
It would have taken at least 36 hours to make a miniature ivory horse that is even older, and you wonder about the person who held it in their hands 36,000 years ago.
Some of the figures would have been suspended in space so their shadows danced on the walls of a firelit cave. I came away feeling that  life is very short, not even a blink in history.
 

6 comments:

Noelle the dreamer said...

Mary, one of your best posts! All the best to you,

mary said...

Thank you Noelle, how kind of you to say so.

Lucille said...

I'm seeing this on Tuesday with a friend. Your post is a great appetiser.

mary said...

I'm sure you'll enjoy it, Lucille. You need to go round quite slowly. I hadn't realised that it's quite a small exhibition - but you have to take your time and look at everything quite closely.

Toffeeapple said...

Those images certainly make one pause, don't they?

I recall seeing some similar female forms when I was staying in Malta, they were very tactile.

mary said...

I think it's the animal carvings I like best, Toffeeapple - so full of life.