A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt at Brooklyn Museum

“The ancient Egyptians believed that to make rebirth possible for a deceased woman, she briefly had to turn into a man. In A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt, the Brooklyn Museum presents new research—inspired in part by feminist scholarship—to tell this remarkable story of gender transformation in the ancient world. The exhibition showcases 25 works from the Museum’s celebrated Egyptian collection to explore the differences between male and female access to the afterlife. The exhibition is part of A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum, a yearlong project celebrating a decade of feminist thinking at the Brooklyn Museum.” — Brooklyn Museum

This exhibition was sparked by fresh research, published by scholars Professor Kathlyn M. Cooney (University of California Los Angeles), Dr. Heather McCarthy (New York University), Professor Gay Robins (Emory University), and Professor Ann Macy Roth (New York University). “This research has led to a better understanding of the logic behind this unexpected gender transformation by discovering that women were intentionally represented with red skin and with masculine pronouns. Previously, these representations were regarded as mere mistakes,” said Edward Bleiberg, Curator of Egyptian Art. “Feminism has changed the questions we ask of ancient history as well as the answers we offer. This is a striking example of how feminism has provided a basis for new scholarship that reinterprets an ancient puzzle.”

Amarna King, circa 1352-1336 B.C.E. Limestone, paint, gold leaf, 8 ? x 1 ? in. (21.3 x 4.8 cm). Gift of the Egypt Exploration Society, 29.34. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

Amarna King, circa 1352-1336 B.C.E. Limestone, paint, gold leaf, 8 ⅜  x 1 ⅞ in. (21.3 x 4.8 cm). Gift of the Egypt Exploration Society, 29.34. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

Mummy Mask of Bensuipet, Deir el-Medina, Egypt, circa 1292–1190 B.C.E. Cartonnage, 7 ¼ x 14 ¼ x 24 ⅜ in. (18.4 x 36.2 x 62 cm). Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.47Ec. (Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum)

Mummy Mask of Bensuipet, Deir el-Medina, Egypt, circa 1292–1190 B.C.E. Cartonnage, 7 ¼ x 14 ¼ x 24 ⅜ in. (18.4 x 36.2 x 62 cm). Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.47Ec. (Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum)

Mirror with Handle in Form of Umbel with Two Ibex Heads, circa 1539-1292 B.C.E. Bronze, Other (handle): 4 ¼ x 3 ½ x ¾ in. (10.7 x 9 x 2 cm). Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 75.168a-b. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum)

Mirror with Handle in Form of Umbel with Two Ibex Heads, circa 1539-1292 B.C.E. Bronze, Other (handle): 4 ¼ x 3 ½ x ¾ in. (10.7 x 9 x 2 cm). Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 75.168a-b. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum)

Shawabti of the Lady of the House Sati, circa 1390-1352 B.C.E. Faience, Height 9 ? in. (25 cm). Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.124E. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

Shawabti of the Lady of the House Sati, circa 1390-1352 B.C.E. Faience, Height 9 ⅞ in. (25 cm). Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.124E. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

Statuette of a Woman, circa 1390-1353 B.C.E. Wood, 10 ⅛ x 2 ¾ x 1 ⅞ in. (25.6 x 7 x 4.8 cm). Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 54.29. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum)

Statuette of a Woman, circa 1390-1353 B.C.E. Wood, 10 ⅛ x 2 ¾ x 1 ⅞ in. (25.6 x 7 x 4.8 cm). Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 54.29. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum)

Coffin of the Lady of the House, Weretwahset, Reinscribed for Bensuipet Containing Face Mask and Openwork Body Covering, circa 1292-1190 B.C.E. Wood, painted (fragments a, b); Cartonnage, wood (fragment c; cartonnage (fragment d) , 37.47Ea-b Box with Lid in place: 25 ⅜ x 19 ¾ x 76 ⅛ in. (64.5 x 50 x 193.5 cm). Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.47Ea-d. (Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum)

Coffin of the Lady of the House, Weretwahset, Reinscribed for Bensuipet Containing Face Mask and Openwork Body Covering, circa 1292-1190 B.C.E. Wood, painted (fragments a, b); Cartonnage, wood (fragment c; cartonnage (fragment d) , 37.47Ea-b Box with Lid in place: 25 ⅜ x 19 ¾ x 76 ⅛ in. (64.5 x 50 x 193.5 cm). Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.47Ea-d. (Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum)

A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt is organized by Edward Bleiberg, Curator of Egyptian Art, Brooklyn Museum.

Images courtesy Brooklyn Museum.