Art of ancient Egypt
Learn more about Art of ancient Egypt
Bold text''''''Ancient Egyptian art is five thousand years old. It emerged and took shape in ancient Egypt, the civilization of the Nile Valley. Expressed in paintings and sculptures, it was highly symbolic and fascinating — this art form revolves around the past and was intended to keep history alive.
In a narrow sense, ancient Egyptian art refers to the canonical 2D and 3D art developed in Egypt from 3000 BC and used until the 3rd century. It is to be noted that most elements of Egyptian art remained remarkably stable over the 3000 year period that represents the ancient civilization without strong outside influence. The same basic conventions and quality of observation started at a high level and remained near that level over the period.
 Character and style
Homeometric regularity, keen observation and exact representation of actual life and nature, and strict conformity to a set of rules regarding representation of three dimensional forms dominated the character and style of the art of ancient Egypt. The completion and precision of the piece were preferred to cosmetic representation and style.
Because of the highly religious nature of ancient Egyptian civilization, many of the great works of ancient Egypt depict gods, goddesses, and Pharaohs, who were also considered divine. Ancient Egyptian art is characterized by the idea of order. Clear and simple lines combined with simple shapes and flat areas of color helped to create a sense of order and balance in the art of ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptian artists used vertical and horizontal reference lines in order to maintain the correct proportions in their work. Political and religious, as well as artistic order, was also maintained in Egyptian art. In order to clearly define the social hierarchy of a situation, descriptive perspective was used and figures were drawn to sizes based not on their distance from the painter's point of view but on relative importance. For instance, the Pharaoh would be drawn as the largest figure in a painting no matter where he was situated, and a greater God would be drawn larger than a lesser god.
- Old Kingdom (2680 BC–2258 BC)
- Middle Kingdom (2134 BC–1786 BC)
- New Kingdom (1570 BC–1085 BC)
- Late Period
Symbolism also played an important role in establishing a sense of order. Symbolism, ranging from the Pharaoh's regalia (symbolizing his power to maintain order) to the individual symbols of Egyptian gods and goddesses, is omnipresent in Egyptian art. Animals were usually also highly symbolic figures in Egyptian art. Color, as well, had extended meaning— Blue and green represented the Nile and life; yellow stood for the sun god; and red represented power and vitality. The colors in Egyptian artifacts have survived extremely well over the centuries because of Egypt's dry climate. Despite the stilted form caused by a lack of perspective, ancient Egyptian art is often highly realistic. Ancient Egyptian artists often show a sophisticated knowledge of anatomy and a close attention to detail, especially in their renderings of animals.
 Art forms
Ancient Egyptian art forms are characterized by regularity and detailed depiction of human beings and nature, and were intended to provide company to the deceased in the “other world”. Artists endeavored to preserve everything of the present time as clearly and permanently as possible. Completion took precedence over style. Some art forms present an extraordinarily vivid representation of the time and the life, as the ancient Egyptian life was lived thousand of years before.
Egyptian art in all forms obeyed one law: the mode of representing man, nature and the environment remained almost the same for thousands of years and the most admired artists were those who replicated most admired styles of the past.
Ancient Egyptian architects used both sun-dried and kiln-baked bricks, fine sandstone, limestone and granite. Absence of trees prevented extensive use of woods as building materials. Architects carefully planned all their work, as the stones had to fit precisely together and the construction was without the use of mortar. Ramps were used to allow workmen to move up as the height of the construction grew. When the top of the structure was completed, the artists decorated from the top down, removing ramp sand as they moved down.
Over a period of time, primitive structures of clay and reeds matured, and there emerged magnificent monumental structures of granites, with very thick walls. The massive sloping exterior walls contained only few small openings. Hieroglyphic and pictorial carvings in brilliant covers were abundantly used to decorate the structures, including many motifs, like the scarab, sacred beetle, the solar disk and the vulture.
The belief in existence of life beyond death resulted into mammoth and impressive architectural style to house the mummified bodies. Construction of a burial monument commenced as soon a pharaoh was named, and continued till he was deceased. Some of constructions are very large and finely decorated, while some are relatively small like King Tutankhamen’s tomb, as he died very young. Another interesting aspect of ancient Egyptian architecture is that no structural support was provided, except the strength and balance of the structure itself.
The word paper is derived from "papyrus", a plant which was cultivated in the Nile delta. Papyrus sheets were derived after processing the papyrus plant. Some rolls of papyrus discovered are lengthy, up to 10 meters. The technique for crafting papyrus was lost over time, but was rediscovered by an Egyptologist in the 1940s.
Papyrus texts illustrate all dimensions of ancient Egyptian life and include literary, religious, historical and administrative documents. The pictorial script used in these texts ultimately provided the model for two most common alphabets in the world, the Roman and the Arabic.
Ancient Egyptians used steatite ( some varieties were called soapstone) and carved small pieces of vases, amulets, images of deities, of animals and several other objects. Ancient Egyptian artists also discovered the art of covering pottery with enamel. Covering by enamel was also applied to some stone works.
Different types of pottery items were deposited in burial chambers of the dead. Some such pottery items represented interior parts of the body, like the heart and the lungs, the liver and smaller intestines , which were removed before embalming. A large number of smaller objects in enamel pottery were also deposited with the dead. It was customary to craft on the walls of the tombs cones of pottery, about six to ten inches tall, on which were engraved or impressed legends relating to the dead occupants of the tombs. These cones usually contained the names of the deceased, their titles, offices which they held, and some expressions appropriate to funeral purposes.
The ancient art of Egyptian sculpture evolved to represent the ancient Egyptian gods, and Pharaohs, the divine kings and queens, in physical form. Massive and magnificent statues were built to represent gods and famous kings and queens. These statues were intended to give eternal life to the “god” kings and queens, as also to enable the subjects to see them in physical forms.
Very strict conventions were followed while crafting statues: male statues were darker than the female ones; in seated statues, hands were required to be placed on knees and specific rules governed appearance of every Egyptian god. For example, the sky god (Horus) was essentially to be represented with a falcon’s head, the god of funeral rites (Anubis) was to be always shown with a jackal’s head. Artistic works were ranked according to exact compliance with all the conventions, and the conventions were followed so strictly that over three thousand years, very little changed in the appearance of statutes. These conventions were intended to convey a timelessness and non aging representation of the figure's ka, or life for an eternal afterlife.
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A hieroglyphic script is one consisting of a variety of pictures and symbols. Some of symbols had independent meanings, whereas some of such symbols were used in combinations. In addition, some hieroglyphs were used phonetically, in a similar fashion to the Roman alphabet. Some symbols also conveyed multiple meanings, like the legs meant to walk, to run, to go and to come. The script was written in three directions: from top to bottom, from left to right, and from right to left. This style of writing continued to be used by the ancient Egyptians for nearly 3500 years, from 3300 BC till the third century AD.
Many art works of the period contain hieroglyphs and hieroglyphs themselves constitute an amazing part of ancient Egyptian arts. Knowledge of hieroglyphic script was lost after it was superseded by other scripts. The script was decrypted by Champollion who studied the Rosetta stone for 14 years and discovered the key.
Ancient Egyptian literature also contains elements of ancient Egyptian art, as the texts and connected pictures were recorded on papyrus or on wall paintings and so on. They date from the Old Kingdom to the Greco-Roman period.
The subject matter of such literature related art forms include hymns to the gods, mythological and magical texts, mortuary texts. Other subject matters were biographical and historical texts, scientific premises, including mathematical and medical texts, wisdom texts dealing with instructive literature, and stories. A number of such stories from the ancient Egypt have survived thousand of years, the most famous being Cinderella, where her names is Rhodopis in the oldest version of the story.
Ancient Egyptian paintings survived due to the extremely dry climate. The ancient Egyptians created paintings to make the afterlife of the deceased a pleasant place. Accordingly, beautiful paintings were created. The themes included journey through the afterworld or their protective deities introducing the deceased to the gods of the underworld. Some examples of such paintings are paintings of Osiris and Warriors.
Some tomb paintings show activities that the deceased were involved in when they were alive and wished to carry on doing for eternity.
 Evolution of ancient Egyptian art
 Middle Kingdom
 The Amarna period
During the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt the Pharaoh Akhenaten took the throne. He worshiped a monotheistic religion based on the worship of Aten, a sun god. Artistic changes followed political upheaval, although some stylistic changes are apparent before his reign. A new style of art was introduced that was more naturalistic than the stylized frieze favored in Egyptian art for the previous 1700 years. After Akhenaton's death, however, Egyptian artists reverted to their old styles, although there are many traces of this period's style in late art.
 Late Period
 Greco-Roman Period
 See also
 External links
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