Paint was also used on statues which were made of wood, stone, or metal. Stonework first developed in the Early Dynastic Period in Egypt and became more and more refined over the centuries. A sculptor would work from a single block of stone with a copper chisel, wooden mallet, and finer tools for details. The statue would then be smoothed with a rubbing cloth. The stone for a statue was selected, as with everything else in Egyptian art, to tell its own story. A statue of Osiris , for example, would be made of black schist to symbolize fertility and rebirth, both associated with this particular god.
Metal statues were usually small and made of copper, bronze , silver , and gold. Gold was particularly popular for amulets and shrine figures of the gods since it was believed that the gods had golden skin. These figures were made by casting or sheet metal work over wood. Wooden statues were carved from different pieces of trees and then glued or pegged together. Statues of wood are rare but a number have been preserved and show tremendous skill. Cosmetic chests, coffins, model boats, and toys were made in this same way.
Jewelry was commonly fashioned using the technique known as cloisonne in which thin strips of metal are inlaid on the surface of the work and then fired in a kiln to forge them together and create compartments which are then detailed with jewels or painted scenes. This work is fashioned of thin gold wires attached to a solid gold backing inlaid with semi-precious stones.
Cloisonne was also used in making pectorals for the king, crowns, headdresses, swords, ceremonial daggers, and sarcophagi among other items. Although Egyptian art is famously admired it has come under criticism for being unrefined. Critics claim that the Egyptians never seem to have mastered perspective as there is no interplay of light and shadow in the compositions, they are always two dimensional, and the figures are emotionless.
Statuary depicting couples, it is argued, show no emotion in the faces and the same holds true for battle scenes or statues of a king or queen. These criticisms fail to recognize the functionality of Egyptian art. The Egyptians understood that emotional states are transitory; one is not consistently happy, sad, angry, content throughout a given day much less eternally. Artworks present people and deities formally without expression because it was thought the person's spirit would need that representation in order to live on in the afterlife. A person's name and image had to survive in some form on earth in order for the soul to continue its journey.
What is ancient Egyptian art?
This was the reason for mummification and the elaborate Egyptian burial rituals: the spirit needed a 'beacon' of sorts to return to when visiting earth for sustenance in the tomb. The spirit might not recognize a statue of an angry or jubilant version of themselves but would recognize their staid, complacent, features. The lack of emotion has to do with the eternal purpose of the work. Statues were made to be viewed from the front, usually with their backs against a wall, so that the soul would recognize their former selves easily and this was also true of gods and goddesses who were thought to live in their statues.
Life was only a small part of an eternal journey to the ancient Egyptians and their art reflects this belief. A statue or a cosmetics case, a wall painting or amulet, whatever form the artwork took, it was made to last far beyond its owner's life and, more importantly, tell that person's story as well as reflecting Egyptian values and beliefs as a whole.
Egyptian art has served this purpose well as it has continued to tell its tale now for thousands of years.
Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication. We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers. Become a Member. Mark, J. Ancient Egyptian Art. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Mark, Joshua J.
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Bibliography Bunson, M. The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Gramercy Books, David, R. Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt. Penguin Books, Robins, G. The Art of Ancient Egypt. Harvard University Press, Shaw, I. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press, Silverman, D. Ancient Egypt. Strudwick, H. Metro Books, Van De Mieroop, M. A History of Ancient Egypt. Wiley-Blackwell, Wilkinson, R. About the Author Joshua J.
Mark has lived in Greece and Germany and traveled through Egypt.
He has taught history, writing, literature, and philosophy at the college level. Related Content Filters: All. Articles 6. Art is an essential aspect of any civilization. Once the basic Religion in ancient Egypt was fully integrated into the people's The ancient Egyptians had a great appreciation for life which is The nude figure is a universal visual theme, deeply rooted in the Of all the pharaohs who ruled ancient Egypt, there is one in particular One of the most fascinating aspects of the female pharaoh Maatkare Help us write more We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers.
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His fundamental discussion of the conventions informing Egyptian art is generally accepted, even though specific features of his interpretations and even his general outlook on the world are disputed. As you work through this course you will need various resources to help you complete some of the activities.
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From the Land of the Pharaohs
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Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Art
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