Art was very important to the Egyptian culture. It symbolized Egyptian beliefs and their way of life. In western culture, art is a form of self-expression, for the Egyptians it was more about religion. The Egyptians were critical of their art and followed strict specific rules (canon), and believed that imperfect art (art that did not stick to the rules) upset the gods. Egyptian art comes almost exclusively from tombs and temples, which emphasized some basic elements, engraving, sculpture, and painting. Egyptian art was not intended for decoration, but rather to replicate the living world for the dead.
Egyptian art forms included architecture, in which the style developed during the Pre-dynasty period and remained unchanged for 2000 years; sculpture, symbolic elements were used and strict laws were applied; paintings, these pictures found in the Egyptian tombs were symbolically connected with the idea of afterlife; literature, this was characterized by it’s diversity with a wide array of topics; lastly, music had considerable attention since the 1st Dynasty. The most common form of Egyptian art is the engraving that lines the inside of the tombs. These engravings portray the pharaoh's life, the gods, and all legends about them. Paintings, another common art form, also portray legends about the gods and have captions below to explain them. Another form of Egyptian art was sculpture, which usually honored pharaohs and gods, but sculptures of animals have also been discovered.
The Egyptians followed the rules of frontalism, and strictly adhered to them. The subject's head is always drawn in profile form with the full eye shown. The upper body is shown from the front and the legs face in the same direction as the head, and one foot is always in front of the other. The individual is usually sitting or standing in a formal posture, but the facial expression remains calm and the head is usually tilted up. When looking at portraits, I notice that nothing obstructs the pharaoh's face or body. Servants or less important people were drawn more naturally and appeared relaxed, but pharaohs were more rigid in the drawing to show strength and power. Animals were drawn most realistically and very detailed because they were least important. Cats were the exception. Because they were sacred, cats were depicted similar to a pharaoh, stiff and rigid with their head slightly tilted (Figure8).
The pharaoh, Akhenaton (the father of the famous King Tutankhamen) did not follow the rules of frontalism, as he wanted to be portrayed in a more relaxed and natural manner. The reason he did this was because he believed that people should only worship one god, Aten. Aten was the sun god and the Egyptians believed he had a very relaxed and laid back personality. In one stone carving, Akhenaton was shown with his stomach hanging over his clothes (Figure 7). Other pharaohs would not have allowed themselves to be shown in this way because it was considered to be undignified.
As the cultural life of the people spread from the royal palaces, towns began to develop, and there were more and more examples of art, funerary art. Funerary art followed strict stylistic conventions despite their strong element of realism. Human figures were drawn to scales, which reflected their social status rather than a realistic depiction of relative proportions. The eyes and bodies had a frontal aspect, but the heads and legs did not. There was a lack of realism in these subjects depicted, since there was little representation of injury or disease except in the portrayal of animals or those from other countries. The Egyptians considered animals and individuals from other countries inferior. There was a prevalence of statuary in the temples and tombs and again this followed stylized forms and conventions, which were not necessarily representative of reality.
The Sphinx of Gizeh (Figure 1) is carved from the bedrock (sandstone) of the Giza...