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DAY 1: Friday, October 20, 2017

SESSION 1
9:30–11:15 am

Opening Performance
Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Welcome and Introductory Remarks
Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director, Brooklyn Museum
Tom Healy, writer and Guest Curator, Brooklyn Museum

“If There’s a Heaven, I Can’t Find a Stairway”: Can Art Create a Way Forward?
Cultural critic Touré in conversation with rap artist Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter of The Roots. They discuss creative responsibilities, artistic imagination, and staying inspired as artists, thinkers, and global citizens.

Keynote
Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator from New York, in conversation with Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director, Brooklyn Museum, on the awesome impact of one person, one change, or one story.

When Does Practice Become the Real Thing?: A Talk on Community Benefits
Roberta Uno, Director, Arts in a Changing America, gives a talk on best practices and effective strategies for creating inclusive and dynamic cultural communities. How do we shift institutional priorities, build equitable relationships, and encourage accountability?

Creative Resistance: The Role of the Artist
Paola Mendoza, filmmaker and Artistic Director, Women’s March on Washington, speaks on how artists can help drive change through cultural creation, connecting people through their common humanity.

SESSION 2
11:30 am–1:25 pm

Across the Line: Changing Culture with Virtual Reality
Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Experience Officer, Planned Parenthood, in conversation with Lindsey Taylor Wood, Founder and President, The Helm. This conversation explores how Planned Parenthood uses art and such new media as virtual reality to tell stories, expand their reach, and inspire change. Through these creative strategies they focus not only on policy victories but on changing the culture of shame and stigma around women’s sexual and reproductive health.

Can Politicians Think Like Artists?
A conversation among artists Hank Willis Thomas and Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and Neera Tanden, President, Center for American Progress, moderated by Tom Healy. They unpack what artists and policy-makers may be able to learn from each other as creative dissenters and boundary-pushers.

Everyday Creativity: Making Change in Communities
A conversation among Kemi Ilesanmi, Executive Director, The Laundromat Project; Ebony Noelle Golden, Founder and CEO, Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative; and Sade Lythcott, CEO, National Black Theatre, moderated by Adjoa Jones de Almeida, Director of Education, Brooklyn Museum. Three community arts leaders get together to discuss the complexities and transformative power of their local practices and initiatives in New York City, amplifying the link between creativity, imagination, and neighborhood well-being.

Amplifier: Hear Our Voice
Cleo Barnett, artist, curator, and Program Director, Amplifier, gives a brief talk on making art specifically for movement-building and harnessing the power of positive propaganda for elevating voices, including working with the Women’s March on Washington.

How to Build a Movement
Linda Sarsour and Bob Bland, national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, reflect on the massive global success of the January 21, 2017, protest and the ongoing effort to sustain momentum for intersectional women’s rights. Moderated by Carmen Hermo, Assistant Curator, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum.

BREAK FOR LUNCH
1:25–2:30 pm

SESSION 3
2:30–4:20 pm

Planting Seeds for Communities of Change
Alvin Starks, Senior Program Officer, Open Society Foundations, in conversation with Anjali Kumar, Chief People Officer and General Counsel, Cheddar Inc., and William Floyd, Head of External Affairs, Google New York and California; moderated by Rashida Bumbray, Senior Program Manager of Arts Exchange, Open Society Foundations. Members of philanthropic foundations and the corporate and start-up sectors discuss how the arts can help institutions create a culture of engagement that supports social justice and helps communities thrive.

Faith and Social Change in Brooklyn
Rabbi Rachel Timoner, Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, and Reverend Eric Thomas, Interim Pastor, Siloam Presbyterian Church in Bed-Stuy, discuss spiritual life in Brooklyn with Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO, Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, with particular attention to belonging, allyship, safety, and self-expression.

Our Bodies Ourselves: Advocacy through Feminist Filmmakers
Pamela Berger and Jane Pincus, founders of the trailblazing women's health organization Our Bodies Ourselves, unite with Julie Childers, OBOS Executive Director, and Ayesha Chatterjee, OBOS Global Project team, to present their work—remarkable for its longevity—and an intergenerational discussion of feminist activism, including a screening of vintage films from the Global Women’s Health Movement.

Black Lives Matter: The Future of a Movement
CNN political commentator Sally Kohn interviews Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, on systemic racism, the movement, rage, and hope.

SESSION 4
4:35–6:15 pm

Making Brooklyn Well: Designing Healthy Communities for Everyone
Richard Cook, co-founder of COOKFOX architecture firm, and Brenda Rosen, President and CEO, Breaking Ground, discuss the intersection of design and community wellness. They unpack strategies for supporting mental and physical health through connections to nature in the built environment, and the efficacy of good design to create safety and security for Brooklyn’s most vulnerable citizens.

Open Access: A Creative Practice
Canadian social practice artist Carmen Papalia presents on the empathic possibilities of his work, which has been described as an “open-sourcing of his own access . . . making visible the opportunities for learning and knowing through the non-visual senses.”

Indigenous Art and Organizing: A Conversation on Policy, Practice, and Representation
Jodi Gillette, former advisor to President Obama; Kevin Gover, Director, National Museum of the American Indian; and artist Jeffrey Gibson discuss the ethics of representing and supporting indigenous art, history, and culture. They share lessons learned and strategies for ensuring inclusion, growth, and exchange among institutions, artistic communities, and governments. Moderated by Catherine Morris, Sackler Senior Curator, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum.

The Fight for Opportunity: Immigration Now
Tania Bruguera, artist and inaugural Artist-in-Residence of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, joins Murad Awawdeh, Vice President of Advocacy, New York Immigration Coalition, and artist Felipe Baeza for a discussion of political challenges facing New York’s immigrant communities and the creative possibilities of Arte Útil, or “useful art.”

SESSION 5
6:30–8:15 pm

The Value of Storytelling in Education with performances from SLUT: The Play and Now That We're Men
Teacher, writer, and director Katie Cappiello and Beau Willimon, playwright and creator of House of Cards, explore the fusion of theater arts and activism in education and the active benefits of the theater as a space to encourage challenging conversations on topics like gender norms and sexual assault.

I Can’t Breathe: A Reflection
Artist and performer Shaun Leonardo presents a performative reflection and meditation on self-preservation, aggression, and the fight to survive in over-policed communities of color. Conducted in memory of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Jamar Clark, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Ramarley Graham, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin… and countless others.

Who Says Who We Are? The Ethics of Representation
Claudia Rankine, poet, essayist, and founder of The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII); artist Sam Durant; Coco Fusco, artist, writer, and professor; and Antwaun Sargent, writer and art critic, approach a topic of recent museological and political urgency, tackling the ethics of representation, the current state of racial and identity politics in the art world, and the repercussions of visual culture.

Closing Remarks
Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director, Brooklyn Museum

Concluding Performance
The Resistance Revival Chorus

Reception, Rubin Pavilion, 1st Floor
 

Day 2: Saturday, October 21, 2017

11:15 am–12:45 pm Mirror/Echo/Tilt, Robert E. Blum Gallery, 1st Floor
MELANIE CREAN
A performative workshop led by Melanie Crean and developed by Shaun Leonardo, Melanie Crean, and Sable Elyse Smith focused on questioning and shifting the American concept of criminality. Attendees engage in short physical storytelling exercises to explore how ideas of criminality are represented in popular media as well as everyday social exchange.

11:15 am–12:45 pm ArtChangeUS Presents: Grounding from Knowing, Luce Center for American Art, 5th Floor
EMILY JOHNSON
How can we imagine change without understanding our present and past relationship to place and land? This workshop focuses on where we are—Lenapehoking—the Lenape homeland. It is not a history lesson, but rather an exploration of how to build relationships with land and place so that we are better able to extend care and enliven true change.

11:15 am–12:45 pm Creative Resistance, Beaux-Arts Court, 3rd Floor
PAOLA MENDOZA and SARAH SOPHIE FLICKER
Join Paola Mendoza, Artistic Director, Women’s March on Washington, and Sarah Sophie Flicker, cultural organizer and activist, for an intimate roundtable about the role of artists in resisting injustice. They discuss lessons learned from the Women's March and how they use art to combat oppression and marginalization. Brainstorming sessions, break-out groups, and sharing of ideas to follow.

11:30 am–12:15 pm We Shouldn’t Have Policies That We are Afraid to Talk About, Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
LAURIE JO REYNOLDS
Artist and activist Laurie Jo Reynolds presents a dynamic talk that considers state responses to sexual abuse and violence, examining unintended consequences of public registration, notification laws, and related restrictions. Q&A with audience members follows.

11:30 am­–12:30 pm; 12:30–1:30 pm; 2–3 pm Amplify Your Voice: Silkscreening Protest Art, Rubin Pavilion, 1st Floor
AMPLIFIER
Amplifier, the organization that flooded the streets with images of hope during the Inauguration and Women’s March, offers a screenprinting workshop and discusses how images can be used to fuel movements. Participants get to screen-print their own protest poster.

11:30 am–1 pm Film Retrospective of the Global Women’s Health Movement, Sackler Center, Forum, 4th Floor
OUR BODIES OURSELVES founders
In this session, Our Bodies Ourselves founders present the films Abortion (1971) and Jane: An Abortion (1995) and lead a post-screening discussion.

12:30–2 pm; 3:30–5 pm D.I.Y. Zine-Making, Beaux-Arts Court, 3rd Floor
CON ARTIST COLLECTIVE
Before the internet there were zines. Learn about the history of zines and their political engagement, with artists from New York’s Con Artist Collective, which invites participants to make their own zines.

1–2 pm Google’s Love Letters, Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
MALIKA SAADA SAAR and others to be announced
Join Malika Saada Saar, Google's Senior Counsel on Civil and Human Rights, for a video presentation and discussion of Google’s project partnering with criminal justice reform groups to connect kids with their incarcerated parents.

1:30–3 pm Film Retrospective of the Global Women’s Health Movement, Sackler Center, Forum, 4th Floor
OUR BODIES OURSELVES
Our Bodies Ourselves founders present La Operación (1982), a seminal documentary by filmmaker Ana María García on the mass sterilization of Puerto Rican women in the 1950s and 1960s, and leads a post-screening discussion with a focus on contemporary activism.

1:30–4:30 pm Staging Change: The Fusion of Theater Arts and Activism, Robert E. Blum Gallery, 1st Floor (free teen workshop)
KATIE CAPPIELLO
This free hands-on workshop led by playwright Katie Cappiello guides teens in the creation of plays grounded in social justice themes. Through acting exercises, group discussion, and creative writing, teens collaborate to devise original performance pieces that shed light on the challenges they and their peers face locally, nationally, and even worldwide.

2–3:30 pm The Laundromat Project Presents: We the News, Beaux-Arts Court, 3rd Floor
LIZANIA CRUZ
Join the Laundromat Project’s 2017 Bed-Stuy Create Change artist-in-residence Lizania Cruz for a discussion and hands-on zine-making workshop from her project We the News, based on the idea of sanctuary. Lizania co-creates spaces of sanctuary through the use of language, personifying the role storytelling plays in uniting, empowering, and building community.

2–4:30 pm Film: New York Premiere of Winnie (2017), Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
The Brooklyn Conference in partnership with the March on Washington Film Festival proudly presents the New York premiere of Winnie (2017), directed by Pascale Lamche, followed by a conversation with Gay McDougall, U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and others to be announced. This is the untold story of the mysterious forces that combined to take down Winnie Mandela, who fought on the front line and underground against apartheid in South Africa while her husband Nelson Mandela served a life sentence. In the end, Nelson was labeled a saint and Winnie a sinner.

3:30–5 pm Open Access, Sackler Center, Forum, 4th Floor
CARMEN PAPALIA
In reaction to his own challenges in receiving institutional disability support services, artist and disability activist Carmen Papalia developed a new, relational model for accessibility called Open Access. In this participatory discussion-based workshop, Papalia introduces participants to the Open Access framework and discusses his experiences organizing for accessibility and mutual aid.

4:30–5 pm The Dream Unfinished Orchestra Performance, Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
Join us for a performance by activist orchestra The Dream Unfinished.

4:30–5:15 pm Artist’s Eye: Natalie Frank and Zoë Buckman, Sackler Center, 4th Floor
This series of intimate, in-gallery talks by contemporary artists illuminates our special exhibitions with fresh and alternative perspectives. Artists Natalie Frank and Zoë Buckman respond to Roots of “The Dinner Party”: History in the Making.

5–6 pm Hewing a Stone of Hope from the Mountain of Despair: The Art of a New Politics, Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor
For the concluding talk of the conference, writer and New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, Ambassador Patrick Gaspard, Vice President, Open Society Foundations, and Brittany Packnett, Vice President, National Community Alliances for Teach For America, are in conversation about the interplay of the creative imagination and practical politics. How is the society we actually build shaped by the worlds we can imagine? 

Generous support for The Brooklyn Conference has been provided by Open Society Foundations.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Use our award-winning app to get the most out of your next visit to the Brooklyn Museum.

Ask questions, get info, and share insights—via live, one-on-one texting—with one of our knowledgeable and friendly experts. Our team currently includes an archaeologist and anthropologist as well as art historians and educators.

It’s easy and fun, and you’re in control the whole time—use it a little, or a lot. All questions welcome!

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Explore our permanent collection or a special exhibition on a guided group tour led by one of our friendly and experienced Museum Guides, or on your own with a self-guided group tour. These tours are for adult groups with at least 10 people, last about one hour, and can be tailored to meet the interests and needs of your group.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

We're renovating our second floor to bring you a better experience, which means the Libraries and Archives are currently open by appointment only. If you're a researcher who would like to access our resources, send us an email and we'll do our best to assist you.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Exhibitions on the Fifth Floor

Restrooms are on the first, second, and third floors; those on the first and third floors are wheelchair accessible. The second-floor restrooms can be reached only via the stairs from the Schapiro Wing on the third floor. Water fountains are near the first- and third-floor restrooms.

Pick up Assistive Listening Devices at the Admissions Desk on the first floor.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Exhibitions on the Fourth Floor

Restrooms are on the first, second, and third floors; those on the first and third floors are wheelchair accessible. The second-floor restrooms can be reached only via the stairs from the Schapiro Wing on the third floor. Water fountains are near the first- and third-floor restrooms.

Pick up Assistive Listening Devices at the Admissions Desk on the first floor.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Exhibitions on the Third Floor

Also on the Third Floor: Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium

Restrooms are on the first, second, and third floors; those on the first and third floors are wheelchair accessible. The second-floor restrooms can be reached only via the stairs from the Schapiro Wing on the third floor. Water fountains are near the first- and third-floor restrooms.

Pick up Assistive Listening Devices at the Admissions Desk on the first floor.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Exhibitions on the Second Floor:

Also on the Second Floor

Restrooms are on the first, second, and third floors; those on the first and third floors are wheelchair accessible. The second-floor restrooms can be reached only via the stairs from the Schapiro Wing on the third floor. Water fountains are near the first- and third-floor restrooms.

Pick up Assistive Listening Devices at the Admissions Desk on the first floor.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Parking
Parking is available in the lot behind the Museum, off Washington Avenue. On Target First Saturdays, there's a flat rate of $6 starting at 5 p.m. Park your bicycle in the rack behind the building, next to our sculpture garden.

Shopping
Our Shop offers an eclectic mix of gifts, jewelry, books, clothing, crafts, and foods from around Brooklyn and around the world.

Dining
Have small plates, dinner, or drinks at The Norm restaurant and bar, led by Michelin-starred Chef Saul Bolton. Or stop by our Café. Planning a group tour? Consider a catered lunch for your group.

Restrooms
Restrooms are on the first and third floors (floor plan), are wheelchair accessible, and have baby-changing tables. A family restroom is located just off the main lobby.

Coat Check
A free coat check is available on the first floor, where you can leave any packages, large bags, umbrellas, or strollers.

Wheelchairs
Complimentary wheelchairs are available at the coat check on the first floor. Our entrances and restrooms are wheelchair accessible. For more information, visit our Accessibility page.

Strollers
You're welcome to use strollers throughout the building (although from time to time there are certain areas where we might need to restrict their use, on account of small spaces, especially fragile art, or other circumstances). If necessary, leave your stroller at the coat check.

Wireless Access
We offer free wireless access throughout our galleries and grounds. During your visit, we encourage you to switch to wifi (BrooklynMuseum) for faster download speeds. The wireless project was created by the Brooklyn Museum Technology Department, with help from NYCWireless.

Go Mobile
Need information on the go? Planning your next visit? Access www.brooklynmuseum.org from your mobile phone to view our mobile-friendly website.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

No matter what your interest, there's a tour for you:

  • Join our Museum Guides for daily public tours (free with admission) focusing on a variety of themes, eras, and movements in art.
  • Book a group tour for ten or more adults.
  • Explore tours and programs for school groups, all designed to help students and teachers construct meaningful experiences with works of art.
ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Exhibitions on the First Floor

Also on the First Floor

Restrooms are on the first, second, and third floors; those on the first and third floors are wheelchair accessible. The second-floor restrooms can be reached only via the stairs from the Schapiro Wing on the third floor. Water fountains are near the first- and third-floor restrooms.

Pick up Assistive Listening Devices at the Admissions Desk.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

By Subway

2/3 to Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum. Transfer to 2/3 from 4/5 (at Nevins Street) and B, D, Q, N, R, and LIRR (at Atlantic Terminal-Barclays Center). See a subway map. Make sure to check with the MTA for any service changes, especially on the weekend.


By Bus

The closest bus stops are:

B41 and B69 at Grand Army Plaza

B45 at St. Johns Place and Washington Avenue

Check with the MTA for the most up-to-date bus information.


By Car

From Manhattan:

Brooklyn Bridge; left at Tillary Street; right on Flatbush Avenue for about 1.5 miles to Grand Army Plaza; about 2/3 around Plaza; right on Eastern Parkway. We're at the first intersection (Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue). Or: Manhattan Bridge enters directly onto Flatbush Avenue.

From Westchester, the Bronx, Queens, or Connecticut:

Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (Triborough) to Brooklyn Queens Express (BQE); Manhattan Bridge exit to Tillary Street; left onto Flatbush Avenue and proceed according to the directions from Manhattan.

From Staten Island and southern or central New Jersey:

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Gowanus Expressway (Route 278 towards Manhattan); exit to 38th Street; left on Fourth Avenue for about 2 miles; right on Union Street; 5 blocks to Grand Army Plaza; go 1/2 around Plaza; right on Eastern Parkway. We're at first intersection (Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue).

From northern or north central New Jersey:

George Washington Bridge/Holland or Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan; follow directions from Manhattan.

From Long Island:

Grand Central Parkway to Jackie Robinson Parkway; exit at Bushwick Avenue; left at third traffic light to Eastern Parkway; about 3 miles to Washington Avenue. We're across intersection at left.


Parking

On-site parking is available in the lot behind the Museum, off Washington Avenue. On Target First Saturdays there's a flat rate of $5 beginning at 5 p.m.


Bikes

Park your bicycle at the racks behind the Museum, next to the Sculpture Garden. Bikes are parked at your own risk; we don't accept responsibility for vandalism or theft.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Why is there a distorted picture here?
Hi! That is a really interesting question!
The artist was trying to capture the feeling of rapid motion -- he created that blurred effect deliberately.
Some photographers in this show, on the other hand, really want us to look closely at an athlete's face or body...
...but this photographer specifically tries to give us the feeling this athlete must have had, moving at such a speed -- the whole world would look distorted to him in the moment!
Also, if we were really there watching, he'd almost look like a blur to us!
Thank you. That's helpful!
It's a fascinating thread running through the show, from the first gallery onwards -- how photographers keep finding new ways to catch motion in a split second.
Was this portrait damaged?
This portrait has experienced some light conservation around the edges, but nothing major. If you're referring to the black spots on her face, those were actually the height of fashion in much of 18th century Europe and its colonies.
Wow, that's interesting.
Indeed! Chiqueadores, or false beauty marks, were used to cover scars on the face. They were also worn just as accessories, like makeup or temporary tattoos! They fell out of fashion when the rise of the smallpox vaccine meant that most people didn't have scars to cover.
The Brooklyn Museum owns another portrait of Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes as a five-year-old girl. Even in that portrait she already wears chiqueadores. She was THAT fashionable!
What can you tell me about this?
This torso of the god Dionysus is made from basalt, a stone carved exclusively in Egypt. It was made during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over Egypt, around the 2nd or 3rd century CE. Dionysus is the god of wine, drunkenness, dancing, theater and all other "out of control" behavior, hugely popular with the Greeks and the later Romans under than name Bacchus.
Who is the person in the middle?
That's Alexander! Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, and a very successful general. He was so, well, great, that by the age of 24 he managed to conquer most of the known world! Starting from the Greek homeland, he conquered Egypt, Persia, Babylon and made it all the way to India, all in just a few years. He united the known world in a single empire, and people were crazy about him in the way today we like pop stars. Images of Alexander, like this figurine showing him at about 20 years old, twisting his body, caught mid-action, his hair flying everywhere, are markedly different from earlier Greek art, which is much more restrained.
Was this meant to be funny?
This is one of several enigmatic terracotta groups centered around figures with extremely oversized phalluses. Humor may have been a factor in such sexually graphic images, but the specifics of what would have been considered funny are very difficult to reconstruct. There is strong evidence, however, for the spiritual symbolism of such oversize phalluses, whose enormous size promised enormous fertility, and could therefore represent triumph over Death. 
I was drawn to the case because I just assumed it was a visual gag, but I can't figure out what's going on here.
That may have been the intended effect! The visual complexity of some Ptolemaic art reflects innovations happening in Greek art, where works of art rapidly begin to exhibit interest in the raw, physical appearance of things. Many small figurines self-consciously emphasize these ambiguous, non-ideal aspects of life, and we begin to see depictions of old age, unusual body shapes, unbridled states of mind (people asleep, or drunk), or deliberately random activities (people scratching their back, people twirling their hair). Our erotic sculpture kind of falls squarely into that kind of taste.
This cultural shift (known as the Hellenistic period) reflects a newly globalized world made possible by Alexander the Great, who in just a couple of years around 330 BCE, made one giant empire of the known world, thrusting previously isolated civilizations into one big melting pot, Egypt among them. All of a sudden, carefully analyzing the different way others look became an unavoidable part of daily life.
Were mummy portraits like this painted by Romans?
When these were made, Egypt was definitely a part of the Roman Empire and these works--thankfully well preserved when virtually all other Roman-era paintings have been lost--are squarely Roman in style: people are depicted realistically, with shaded areas indicating depth, and they have a non-generic face: they look like a specific individual.
At the same time, many people living in Egypt continued making Egyptian-looking art, like they had for centuries, with typical gold-heavy mummies and coffins, but some communities would insert these panels of wood above the face, it was woven into the linen wrapping like a mask.
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
As a ceramics artist, I'm deeply inspired by this piece, and grateful for my opportunity to see it today. But it was acquired by the museum in 1903, which implies that it was taken from a native community with little compensation. How do you suggest thinking about these contradictory facts?
Thank you for your thoughtful question. Unfortunately, what you mention was a common scenario in the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in the early 20th century. In 1903, this piece would have been purchased by the curator Stewart Culin who likely obtained it on one of his early collecting expeditions to the southwest. Culin considered himself an ethnographer, not an archaeologist, so likely did not remove this from a burial himself; but I am not sure how much he may have paid for it and/or if the payment went directly to a tribal member.
As for how to think about the contradiction between being able to see the piece in public and wanting to appreciate its beauty versus reckoning with a problematic colonial collecting history...I think it is powerful that you are able to see both sides of the contradiction! 
We cannot ignore the previous era's type of collecting (often called "Salvage Ethnography") -- when many curators/anthropologists/ethnographers in the United States were driven by the idea that Native American communities were going to completely vanish. They collected widely, quickly, and systematically with seemingly more care for the objects and their documentation than the living people that they collected from because they honestly thought that Native American culture was disappearing. Now, we know this was false and recognize the deep knowledge held in living source communities.
Are museums (not just in this one) ever asked to return artifacts?
Absolutely. There was a federal act passed in 1990 called Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Following NAGPRA guidelines, Museums and cultural institutions in the United States that held Native American cultural objects were required to send inventories of their collections to the appropriate tribal councils and representatives, who could then request objects be returned. The Brooklyn Museum supplied all Native American tribes with inventories of all objects attributed to each tribe and began hosting tribal consultations in 1995. From a museum perspective--Although tribal claims may result in the loss of certain objects or important parts of the museum's collection, tribal visits result in opening channels of communication. Native American delegations are most generous with sharing their knowledge and contribute greatly to information about the collection, as well as the proper methods of storing, handling, and exhibiting objects.
This was really interesting, I appreciate your thoughtful answers!
Is this from Egypt?
Yes! This Statue of Ity-sen likely comes from an ancient Egyptian tomb not far from the Great Pyramids. He is shown as a powerful man, striding forward, with broad shoulders and his arms to his sides. On the statue's legs, you can see some remnants of red pigment. Traditionally, men's skin was painted red in statues, which linked them to the sun god.
While the head is currently missing, it would have originally had one. A lot of Egyptian sculpture, especially that you'll see in the Museum today, has a funerary context and would have appeared in tombs. Intact statues could provide a home for the spirit of a deceased and allow them to function in the world of the living.
Thanks Alison. How many of these statues have been preserved in the world?
Of course! Quite a lot! And, due to their location in tombs, stone manufacture, and Egypt's stable climate, may have been preserved into the modern era. Wealthy individuals would have some sort of statue in their tombs, be it large or small, while royal individuals would have produced many for their complexes. The ancient Egyptians' desire to live forever inspired many individuals to commission statues in durable materials.
Where did the ivory come from for this?
Although ivory in the arctic can come from many sources (animal bones, walrus tusks, or whale teeth); for this particular piece, the curators believe the ivory is bone ivory -- likely from an animal indigenous to the area of Siberian where this Yupik artist lived. 
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.