Ancient Egypt Art & Writing
Function of Egyptian Art • Mostly created for religious purposes • Symbolism reveals much about the Egyptians beliefs about the world • In both social and religious context, the works of art played a practical role in Egyptian life: • the reliefs on temple walls depicting the king making offerings to the gods and fighting off Egypt’s enemies communicated the idea that the king was fulfilling his duty to maintain order in the universe. • Egyptians also believed that these images, through their very existence, were instrumental in making this order a reality
Theme 1: Role of Gods • Believed that the universe and all events that occurred within in were governed by the will of the Gods • Gods embodied natural and abstract concepts (justice, kinship, protection, truth) • To portray multiple powers, Egyptians imaged them in many different forms – often combining animal and human shapes • Example Thoth, God of Writing
Theme 2: Life after Death • Many surviving Egyptian works of art have been discovered in ancient tombs. • Officials were pictured with their wives, families, and servants on the walls of tombs. • Images reflect the Egyptians’ love of life and their consequent belief in the reality of a life after death. • This vision depicted in the sculptures, reliefs, and wall paintings of Egyptian tombs, with the deceased portrayed in the way he or she wished to remain forever
Elements of Egyptian Art: FORM and PLACEMENT • Egyptian artists developed ideal forms that became the standard, or conventional, way of expressing desired meanings. • The major figure of a composition, for instance, was usually larger than the more subsidiary ones, and its poses (standing, walking, sitting, or kneeling) were the most stylized. • Balanced forms and compositions, clear outlines, simplified shapes, and flat areas of color were used to create order and clarity, and figures • Scenes were arranged in horizontal rows (called REGISTERS).
Elements of Egyptian Art: Colour • Colours not only had an aesthetic appeal but also had symbolic meaning • Blue + Green = water, the Nile and Vegetation • Yellow + Gold = the Sun and Sun God • Red+ Orange = desert, power, blood and vitality • Men were portrayed with reddish brown colouring and women with yellow tancolouring
Elements of Egyptian Art: Involvement of Nature • Egyptian art characteristically demonstrates a keen observation of nature • Nowhere is this attention to natural detail more evident than in the way Egyptian artists depicted animals • In wall paintings and reliefs of hunting and fowling, species of animals are accurately portrayed in their environments, interacting in natural ways with other animals. In these detailed portrayals of the world, artists expressed the Egyptian love of life.
Elements of Egyptian Art: Representation & Scale • The shoulders are seen from the front. • The torso and hips turn in three-quarter view so that the legs and arms can be seen in profile. • The head is also shown in profile’s to display simultaneously the back and the front, with protruding nose and lips but the eye is drawn as if seen from the front, looking directly at the viewer. Size indicates relative importance. Images of the king are often much larger than life to symbolize the ruler’s superhuman powers.
Elements of Egyptian Art: Use of Hieroglyphics • From the very beginning of Egyptian history, writing and art were inseparable. • Before 3000 B.C., in the same time that scribes were finalizing the standards and signs of hieroglyphic writing, artists were creating conventions for representation of figures and objects in sculpture, painting, and relief. • Most Egyptian works of art are actually larger forms of the figures in hieroglyphs. • For example, the figure of a seated man, which appears frequently in sculpture and painting, is also the hieroglyphic ideogram for ‘man’ • As much care was taken in drawing the hieroglyphs as in creating the images in art
Let’s Practice! Task 1- Art Analysis • Read the description for each of the following pieces of artwork. • Identify the ‘theme’ of the art and the various ‘Elements of Egyptian Art’ for each piece
Hapi, God of the Nile This relief is from the restored temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel (c. 1270). It shows two Hapi figures tying the knot that binds Upper and Lower Egypt.
Gods of Egypt It is believed that each village community had a local god or goddess whose symbol or standard was housed in a special location. This symbol was carried to war and honored at festive occasions. Larger communities might have supported several gods. Priests at a central temple might have grouped gods into families or linked them into myths. This drawing shows a scene from the Life of Isis, the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus, the falcon god.
Agriculture Egyptians were successful farmers. Whenever Nile floodwaters receded, the remaining fresh, black, fertile soil was suitable for intensive agriculture. Irrigation ditches distributed water over the fields. Farmers used simple wooden plows for plowing and sowing in the light soil, as deep plowing was unnecessary and would only turn up sand. Pigs or goats trampled and buried the seeds, which readily germinated in the fertile Nile mud. Wealth in Egypt was measured in terms of cattle. Here, farmers tend to their livestock.
Geometry Egyptians developed geometry as a way of measuring land boundaries washed away by Nile flooding. They also discovered how to compute areas of triangles, squares, and circles, as well as such three-dimensional figures as cubes, spheres, and pyramids. Simpler measurements based on body parts were also used for less complex tasks.
Law and Order Judgment Hall of Osiris In death, All Egyptians were called to account for their actions in life. In this illustration from The Book of Dead, the deceased stands under the scales. The jackal god, Anubis, weighs the heart of the deceased against the pure white feather of maat. Thoth, with ibis head and scribe’s palette, stands by to record the results.
Labor Force This wall painting (c. 1800 B.C.) shows the accomplishment of a monumental project. To transport a gigantic statue, teams of men haul a sledge, while one man pours liquid beneath the runners. Another uses clappers to beat a rhythm for those pulling on the ropes.
Task 2 (Do): Create your Own Wall Art • Using the criteria for Egyptian wall art, create your own personalized ‘wall art’ showing yourself in Egyptian form. The art can depict your own life (family, interests, beliefs etc.) as if you were living in Ancient Egypt