[This post is a follow-up to The Met Museum in March.]
I spent an inordinate amount of time in front of this; staring, simply standing and staring….
Dating from between 380 to 246 BC, this relief is made of quartzite. Its dimensions are given as 33 7/16 by 27 15/16 inches. Its 1947 entry into the Met’s collection was facilitated by the Joseph Pulitzer Bequest.
This finely cut relief depicts a rite in which the king hits a ball before a goddess, often Hathor. Ptolemaic texts liken the ball to the eye of fiends who are enemies of the gods. Usually the king holds a stick.
Usually the king holds a stick….It looks to me as though the goddess is holding the stick, or a staff of some sort. At any rate, this is merely one of several instances encountered by me at the Met, in which a somewhat cryptic description of a given work of art seemed to raise more questions than it answered.
Whatever its true import, “Ball-Playing Ceremony” held me in its thrall.
Here’s the rest of the quatrain whose first line appears in the title of this post:
The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Right or Left, as strikes the Player goes;
And he that toss’d Thee down into the Field,
He knows about it all — He knows — HE knows!
This is the fiftieth quatrain from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward Fitzgerald