English 101 09
26 October 2011
Ancient Egyptian Art
The combination of geometric consistency and keen observation of nature are characteristics of all Egyptian arts. “Ancient Egyptian art reflected that civilization's religious beliefs, according to which the terrestrial life was merely a brief interlude compared to the eternal life which followed”(Egyptian art). Everything had to be represented from its most characteristic angle. Egyptian crafts in all the statues, paintings, jewelry and pottery seem to fall into place as if they obeyed one law. ”Egyptian art hardly changed, setting some kind of record for conformity and convention in the creative sphere”(Robinson). It remained the same through the Predynastic period, the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom; that is roughly 3000-1000 B.C. Everything that was considered good and beautiful in the age of the pyramids was held to be just as excellent a thousand years later, the mode of representing man and nature remained essentially the same through thousands of years. The art was concerned about pharaohs, nature, and life after death. We can easily recognize it through wall art, temples, statues, and pyramids which have lived for thousands of years. The Predynastic period is a period of some 500 years or more at the beginning of what is conventionally considered as the history of Ancient Egypt. In the course of the Predynastic period, artists and civil servants working for the central government fashioned the highly sophisticated traditions of art and learning that later established the basic pattern of Pharaonic civilization. It was the culmination of the influential stage of the Ancient Egyptian culture that began centuries before during the prehistory. “It was during this period that the divine kingship became well established as Egypt's form of government, and with it, an entire culture that would remain virtually unchanged for the next 3000 or more years. Writing evolved from a few simple signs mainly used to denote quantities of substances and their provenance, to a complex system of several hundreds of signs with both phonetic and ideographic values”(Kinnaer). The Egyptian Predynastic Period set the characteristics of the Egyptian Old, Middle, and New Kingdom. Predynastic Egypt was divided geographically and politically into Upper Egypt (southern), which was dry and rocky and Lower Egypt (northern), which was urban and populous. An example of this in Predynastic art is The Palette of Narmer. This object, which dates from around 3200 B.C., is a palette used for preparing cosmetics. It illustrates events from reign of Narmer, the first pharaoh of Egypt. The hawk is the symbol of the sky god Horus, who is holding a tether attached to six papyrus plants, the symbol of Lower Egypt. The central figure is wearing the crown of Upper Egypt. “A few palettes from the Predynastic Period have been found, some like the Bull Palette similar in content and style to the Narmer Palette which was found at Hierakonpolis and dates to about 3200 BCE. It was carved from a single piece of soft greenish slate and is about 65 cm tall. Both sides are decorated and the hieroglyphic inscriptions are among the oldest ever found” (Waddell). Despite its small size, this document is one of the most important sources informing us about Early Dynastic Egypt. It marked an early example of a prevalent trend in Egyptian art to glorify the king. The message is conveyed not through narrative but through symbolic imagery and relies on some basic artistic conventions. The Egyptians had a marvelous knack for distilling an idea to its purest form in an abstract and powerful way. During this time Egyptian artistic style and conventions were formulated, together with writing. The process led to a complete and remarkably rapid transformation of material culture, so that many dynastic Egyptian prestige objects hardly resembled their forerunners. The Predynastic...
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