Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Best and Worst of Winifred Brunton

As an artist Winifred Brunton was a fine technician and was capable of some excellent portraiture--not necessarily of ancient Egyptians.  She did a very good job with headdresses, costume and jewelry, but could not quite bring herself to imagine all the Egyptian royals as looking oriental.  In fact, some of them appear decidedly British.  Regardless, Brunton's portraits are interesting to behold:

The best painting is of Seti I.  Since this king's mummified face is so remarkably preserved one could work well with it except that, again, Brunton imagined him more as an English gentleman with refined features instead of the eastern despot that he probably was.  Seti's lips are too thin but at least his eyes are not exactly European.  While this is a wonderful little painting of a pharaoh in his finery, I think perhaps the actual Seti I would have wished to have been that handsome with such lean cheeks!  I believe the king was handsome, but in a different way.  Compare my view with Brunton's below.  Oddly, when it came to portraying Queen Nefertiti, Winifred executed a woman who does not even remind one of the Egyptian beauty and, were it not for her unique crown, one could not recognize who she was supposed to be.  In fact, unlike the famous Berlin bust, which is an icon of haunting loveliness of a rare type, Brunton's Nefertiti, ironically, is merely pleasant and even demure.  She is singularly lacking in beauty and even appears toothless!  What the ancient sculptor captured, Winifred could not even approximate.   And, for some unknown reason, she made Nefertiti's husband, Akhenaten, look like a girl.  Are the portraits of Winifred Brunton failures?  In my opinion, it is about half yes and half no.  You decide for yourself.

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