A Progression of Idealistic Perfection in Sculpture: Khafre Enthroned to Kritios Boy
Early Egyptian art from the Old Kingdom, ca. 2575-2134 BCE, demonstrates uniform structure. Egyptian artists and sculptors adhered to a system of strict rules known as canon to create this consistency. The Egyptian canon suggested perfection to be a rigid, ageless idealization of reality. Roughly 1,500 years later, a progressive canon emerged in Greek art reflecting new ideals of perfection. Greek art beginning in the Early Classical Period, ca. 480- 450 BCE, digressed from the acceptance of formula (influenced by Egyptian canon) to reflect greater naturalism, an adherence to close observation of reality. Greek perfection was achieved through rational ordering of the world, in which the canon was based on a mathematical system of proportion.
A comparison of two sculptures, Khafre Enthroned from the Egyptian Old Kingdom Period and Kritios Boy from the Greek Early Classical Period, illustrates a progression of desire to achieve perfection from Egyptian ideals of knowledge and completeness to Greek ideals of vision and the natural. These sculptures represent an advancement of artistic technique from set formula to fluid rationality, both with a shared desire for excellence.
The granite sculpture of Khafre Enthroned from Gizeh, Egypt, ca. 2500 BCE was recovered from the valley temple of pharaoh Khafre. Functioning as a funerary statue, it provided a substitute for the pharaoh’s soul, or ka. Khafre wears a plain kilt and displays Egyptian royalty with headdress and false beard. His flawless, muscular body sits upright with one hand clenched in a fist. In addition to rigid posture, Khafre’s face is emotionless yet serene. Iconography of divine rule and unification embellish the sculpture; with lion’s bodies and papyrus plants decorating the throne, and a falcon sheltering pharaoh’s head. Like the immortality of the soul, Khafre appears to be timeless without regard to his real...
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