Egyptian Art

Topics: Ancient Egypt, Egypt, Nile Pages: 11 (3267 words) Published: June 17, 2013
Chapter 3: Egyptian Art c. 3500 – 30 BC

• Ancient Egyptian civilization, like the civilizations of Sumer and the Indus Valley, grew up along a great river (Nile) that provided irrigation for agriculture and also a thoroughfare for transport of men and materials. • Largely a desert country crossed on a SN axis by the Nile river

• Central role in Egyptian economy
• Annual floods –constant & dependable occurrence (the flood water carried rich slit which was eventually deposited over the alluvial plain –agriculture) • Nile not only shaped their lives, it shaped their beliefs • Along with Nile the Sun was also worshiped

• Sun = Re, father of the gods
• in Egyptian art, nearly everything had a specific or indirect religious significance, and illustrated the special response the people of the Nile valley to their environment. • Predictability of life >> rising and setting of sun, annual flooding of Nile gave the Egyptian people a sense of order and inevitability & sense of continual rebirth. • Egyptian art: conservative & formulaic

“Kingdom of the Two Lands”
• sometimes around 3000 BC, the Lower and Upper Egypt were unified –through conquest. The time preceding, the unification is called Predynastic • the period of time right after the unification –about 3 dynasties – Early Dynastic. • after that the classification of Egyptian history is split into 3 main categories : Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom. • The periods between the kingdoms are called Intermediate Periods. These intermediate periods were characterized by economical and political instability and consequently civil strife - largely due to drought caused by low levels of the Nile inundation, which resulted in a drier climate and lower crop yields. • an exception to the rule is the Amarna period which is part of the New Kingdom but because of its distinct features and ideology needs to be known on its own.

Palette of King Narmer, from Hierakonpolis, Predynastic
• Marks transition from prehistoric to historical period
• it is one of the earliest historical records
• Commemorative rather than funerary
• records Narmer’s victory over the a city or a region in Lower Egypt –it was believed to record the unification of the two regions into “the kingdom of two lands” • Elaborated version of a utilitarian object commonly used in for mixing pigments for eye makeup –used by Egyptian as protection against sun glare. • Establishes formula for figure representation which will last for 3000 years • Tiered composition

• Formal organization of the elements on the 2d surface into a pattern is derived from writing. -surface split into registers framed by lines • very clear indications of how the palette should be read: the main character is at the center of the action and bigger in size than the other figures (hierarchy of scale) • Narmer’s name is repeated through out the surface by the hieroglyph showing a – Nile catfish and chisel • Two of the occurrences of his name appear on the very top register in the Hieroglyph showing a palace – means Narmer is in the palace –aka the king. • Narmer’s figure = standard representation of human anatomy - the artist did not mean to render human body anatomically correct, instead he took the body parts from their most recognizable position and constructed a body that could be recognized as a human body : frontal view of the feet could be ambiguous –profile view very specific –no mistake. The same thing with the torso –from profile could be ambiguous but not so from a frontal view – eye frontal as well. • This is a standard representation of human figures in Egyptian art and it will be seen as such to the end. Back:

• King is accompanied by an attendant who carries his sandals • (barefoot = sacred)
• King Narmer is more than 2X height of attendant (hierarchy of scale indicates the order of importance) • Narmer has a bull tail = indicates god-like status –associated with the Egyptian rulers; endowed with...
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