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Ancient Egyptian art is the painting, sculpture, architecture and other arts produced by the civilization

of Ancient Egypt in the lower Nile Valley from about 3000 BC to 100 AD. Ancient Egyptian art reached a high
level in painting and sculpture, and was both highly stylized and symbolic. Much of the surviving art comes from
tombs and monuments and thus there is an emphasis on life after death and the preservation of knowledge of
the past.
Ancient Egyptian art was created using media ranging from drawings on papyrus through wood, stone, and
paintings. Ancient Egyptian art displays an extraordinarily vivid representation of the Ancient Egyptian's
socioeconomic status and belief systems. Egyptian styles changed remarkably little over more than three
thousand years.

Symbolism also played an important role in establishing a sense of order. Symbolism, ranging from the
pharaoh's regalia (symbolizing his power to maintain order) to the individual symbols of Egyptian gods and
goddesses, is omnipresent in Egyptian art. Animalswere usually also highly symbolic figures in Egyptian
art. Colours were more expressive rather than natural: red skin implied hard working tanned youth, whereas
yellow skin was used for women or middle-aged men who worked indoors; blue or gold indicated divinity
because of its unnatural appearance and association with precious materials; the use of black for royal figures
expressed the fertility of the Nile from which Egypt was born. Stereotypes were employed to indicate the
geographical origins of foreigners[1]

Hierarchical scale[edit]

Tomb of Sarenput II.

Main article: Hierarchical proportion

Egyptian art uses hierarchical proportion, where the size of figures indicates their relative importance. The gods
or the divine pharaoh are usually larger than other figures and the figures of high officials or the tomb owner are
usually smaller, and at the smallest scale any servants and entertainers, animals, trees, and architectural


Wall painting of Nefertari.

Not all Egyptian reliefs were painted, and less prestigious works in tombs, temples and palaces were just
painted on a flat surface. Stone surfaces were prepared by whitewash, or if rough, a layer of coarse mud
plaster, with a smoother gesso layer above; some finerlimestones could take paint directly. Pigments were
mostly mineral, chosen to withstand strong sunlight without fading. The binding medium used in painting
remains unclear: egg tempera and various gums and resins have been suggested. It is clear that true fresco,
painted into a thin layer of wet plaster, was not used. Instead the paint was applied to dried plaster, in what is
called "fresco a secco" in Italian. After painting, a varnish or resin was usually applied as a protective coating,
and many paintings with some exposure to the elements have survived remarkably well, although those on fully
exposed walls rarely have.[3] Small objects including wooden statuettes were often painted using similar
Many ancient Egyptian paintings have survived due to Egypt's extremely dry climate. The paintings were often
made with the intent of making a pleasant afterlife for the deceased. The themes included journey through the
afterworld or protective deities introducing the deceased to the gods of the underworld (such as Osiris). Some
tomb paintings show activities that the deceased were involved in when they were alive and wished to carry on
doing for eternity.
In the New Kingdom and later, the Book of the Dead was buried with the entombed person. It was considered
important for an introduction to the afterlife.
Egyptian paintings are painted in such a way to show a profile view and a side view of the animal or person at
the same time. For example, the painting to the right shows the head from a profile view and the body from a
frontal view. Their main colors were red, blue, green, gold, black and yellow.


A sculpted head of Amenhotep III.

The monumental sculpture of Ancient Egypt is world-famous, but refined and delicate small works exist in much
greater numbers. The Egyptians used the distinctive technique of sunk relief, which is well suited to very bright
sunlight. The main figures in reliefs adhere to the same figure convention as in painting, with parted legs
(where not seated) and head shown from the side, but the torso from the front, and a standard set of
proportions making up the figure, using 18 "fists" to go from the ground to the hair-line on the forehead. [4] This
appears as early as the Narmer Palette from Dynasty I, but there as elsewhere the convention is not used for
minor figures shown engaged in some activity, such as the captives and corpses. [5] Other conventions make
statues of males darker than females ones. Very conventionalized portrait statues appear from as early as
Dynasty II, before 2,780 BC,[6] and with the exception of the art of the Amarna period of Ahkenaten,[7] and some
other periods such as Dynasty XII, the idealized features of rulers, like other Egyptian artistic conventions,
changed little until after the Greek conquest.[8]
Egyptian pharaohs were always regarded as gods, but other deities are much less common in large statues,
except when they represent the pharaoh as another deity; however the other deities are frequently shown in
paintings and reliefs. The famous row of four colossal statues outside the main temple at Abu Simbel each
show Rameses II, a typical scheme, though here exceptionally large. [9] Most larger sculpture survives
fromEgyptian temples or tombs; massive statues were built to represent gods and pharaohs and their queens,
usually for open areas in or outside temples. The very early colossal Great Sphinx of Giza was never repeated,
but avenues lined with very large statues including sphinxes and other animals formed part of many temple
complexes. The most sacred cult image of a god in a temple, usually held in the naos, was in the form of a

relatively small boat or barque holding an image of the god, and apparently usually in precious metal none
have survived.

Head of Pharaoh & Face from a coffin

By Dynasty IV (26802565 BC) at the latest the idea of the Ka statue was firmly established. These were put in
tombs as a resting place for the ka portion of the soul, and so we have a good number of less conventionalized
statues of well-off administrators and their wives, many in wood as Egypt is one of the few places in the world
where the climate allows wood to survive over millennia, and many block statues. The so-called reserve heads,
plain hairless heads, are especially naturalistic, though the extent to which there was real portraiture in Ancient
Egypt is still debated.
Early tombs also contained small models of the slaves, animals, buildings and objects such as boats necessary
for the deceased to continue his lifestyle in the afterworld, and later Ushabti figures.[10]However the great
majority of wooden sculpture has been lost to decay, or probably used as fuel. Small figures of deities, or their
animal personifications, are very common, and found in popular materials such as pottery. There were also
large numbers of small carved objects, from figures of the gods to toys and carved utensils. Alabaster was
often used for expensive versions of these; painted wood was the most common material, and normal for the
small models of animals, slaves and possessions placed in tombs to provide for the afterlife.
Very strict conventions were followed while crafting statues and specific rules governed appearance of every
Egyptian god. For example, the sky god (Horus) was essentially to be represented with a falcons head, the
god of funeral rites (Anubis) was to be always shown with a jackals head. Artistic works were ranked according
to their compliance with these conventions, and the conventions were followed so strictly that, over three
thousand years, the appearance of statues changed very little. These conventions were intended to convey the
timeless and non-aging quality of the figure's ka. [11]

Facsimile of the Narmer Palette, c. 3100 BC, which already shows the canonical Egyptian profile view and
proportions of the figure.

Menkaura (Mycerinus) and queen, Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, 2490 2472 BC. The formality of the pose is reduced
by the queen's arm round her husband.

Wooden tomb models, Dynastry XI; a high administrator counts his cattle.

The Gold Mask of Tutankhamun, c. late Eighteenth dynasty, Egyptian Museum

The Younger Memnon c. 1250 BC,British Museum

Osiris on a lapis lazuli pillar in the middle, flanked by Horus on the left, and Isis on the right, 22nd dynasty,Louvre

The ka statue provided a physical place for the ka to manifest. Egyptian Museum, Cairo

Block statue of Pa-Ankh-Ra, ship master, bearing a statue of Ptah. Late Period, ca. 650633 BC, Cabinet des

Faience, pottery, and glass[edit]

Miniature Egyptian glassware from the New Kingdom period.

Egyptian faience, made from sand and chemicals, produced relatively cheap and very attractive small objects
in a variety of colours, and was used for a variety of types of objects including jewellery. Ancient Egyptian
glass goes back to very early Egyptian history, but was at first very much a luxury material. In later periods it
became common, and highly decorated small jars for perfume and other liquids are often found as grave
Ancient Egyptians used steatite (some varieties were called soapstone) and carved small pieces
of vases, amulets, images of deities, of animals and several other objects. Ancient Egyptian artists also
discovered the art of covering pottery withenamel. Covering by enamel was also applied to some stone works.
The colour blue, first used in the very expensive imported stone lapis lazuli, was highly regarded by Ancient
Egypt, and the pigment Egyptian blue was widely used to colour a variety of materials.

New Kingdom pottery c.1400 BC

Different types of pottery items were deposited in tombs of the dead. Some such pottery items represented
interior parts of the body, like the lungs, the liver and smallerintestines, which were removed before embalming.
A large number of smaller objects in enamel pottery were also deposited with the dead. It was customary to
craft on the walls of the tombs cones of pottery, about six to ten inches tall, on which were engraved or
impressed legends relating to the dead occupants of the tombs. These cones usually contained the names of
the deceased, their titles, offices which they held, and some expressions appropriate to funeral purposes.


The Book of the Deadwritten on papyrus

Papyrus was used by ancient Egyptians (and exported to much of the ancient Mediterranean world) for writing
and painting. Papyrus is relatively fragile, lasting at most a century or two in a library, and though used all over
the classical world has only survived when buried in the very dry conditions of Egypt, and even then is often in
poor condition. Papyrus texts illustrate all dimensions of ancient Egyptian life and
include literary, religious, historical andadministrative documents.

Amarna period[edit]

Two daughters of Akhenaten; Nofernoferuaton and Nofernoferure, c. 13751358 BC.

Main article: Amarna art

The Amarna period and the years before the pharaoh Akhenaten moved the capital there in the late Eighteenth
Dynasty form the most drastic interruption to the continuity of style in the Old and New Kingdoms. Amarna art is
characterized by a sense of movement and activity in images, with figures having raised heads, many figures
overlapping and many scenes full and crowded. As the new religion was amonotheistic worship of the sun,
sacrifices and worship were apparently conducted in open courtyards, and sunk relief decoration was widely
used in these. The human body is portrayed differently in the Amarna style than Egyptian art on the whole. For
instance, many depictions of Akhenaten's body give him distinctly feminine qualities, such as large hips,
prominent breasts, and a larger stomach and thighs. This is a divergence from the earlier Egyptian art which
shows men with perfectly chiseled bodies. Faces are still shown exclusively in profile.
Not many buildings from this period have survived the ravages of later kings, partially as they were constructed
out of standard size blocks, known as Talatat, which were very easy to remove and reuse. Temples in Amarna,
following the trend, did not follow traditional Egyptian customs and were open, without ceilings, and had no
closing doors. In the generation after Akhenaten's death, artists reverted to their old styles. There were still
traces of this period's style in later art.


Main articles: Ancient Egyptian architecture and Egyptian temple

Ancient Egyptian architects used sun-dried and kiln-baked bricks, fine sandstone, limestone and granite.
Architects carefully planned all their work. The stones had to fit precisely together, since there was no mud or
mortar. When creating the pyramids, ramps were used to allow workmen to move up as the height of the
construction grew. When the top of the structure was completed, the artists decorated from the top down,
removing ramp sand as they went down. Exterior walls of structures like the pyramids contained only a few
small openings. Hieroglyphic and pictorial carvings in brilliant colors were abundantly used to decorate
Egyptian structures, including many motifs, like the scarab, sacred beetle, the solar disk, and the vulture. They
described the changes the Pharaoh would go through to become a god. [12]


Pot with hieroglyphs.

Ancient art history

Middle East


Ancient Egypt



European prehistory






Classical art

Ancient Greece



Main article: Egyptian hieroglyphs

Hieroglyphs are the ancient Egyptian writing system in which pictures and symbols stand for sounds and
words. Jean-Francois Champollion first decoded hieroglyphs from the Rosetta Stone, which was found in 1799.
Hieroglyphs have more than 700 symbols.

Ancient Egyptian Art, Painting, Sculpture

Ancient Egyptian art is five thousand years old. It emerged and took shape in the
ancient Egypt, the civilization of the Nile Valley. Expressed in paintings and
sculptures, it was highly symbolic and fascinating - this art form revolves round the
past and was intended to keep history alive.
In a narrow sense, Ancient Egyptian art refers to the canonical 2D and 3D art
developed in Egypt from 3000 BC and used until the 3rd century. It is to be noted that
most elements of Egyptian art remained remarkably stable over the 3000 year period
that represents the ancient civilization without strong outside influence. The same
basic conventions and quality of observation started at a high level and remained near
that level over the period.

Ancient Egyptian art forms are characterized by regularity and detailed depiction of
human beings and the nature, and, were intended to provide company to the deceased
in the 'other world'. Artists' endeavored to preserve everything of the present time as
clearly and permanently as possible. Completeness took precedence over prettiness.
Some art forms present an extraordinarily vivid representation of the time and the life,
as the ancient Egyptian life was lived thousand of years before.
Egyptian art in all forms obeyed one law: the mode of representing man, nature and
the environment remained almost the same for thousands of years and the most
admired artists were those who replicated most admired styles of the past.

Old Kingdom (2680 BC-2258 BC)
Middle Kingdom (2134 BC-1786 BC)
New Kingdom (1570 BC-1085 BC)
Amarna Period (1350 BC-1320 BC)


In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oval with a horizontal line at one end,

indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name, coming into use during the beginning
of the Fourth Dynasty under Pharaoh Sneferu, replacing the earlier serekh. While the
cartouche is usually vertical with a horizontal line, it is sometimes horizontal if it
makes the name fit better, with a vertical line on the left. The Ancient Egyptian word
for it was shenu, and it was essentially an expanded shen ring. In Demotic, the
cartouche was reduced to a pair of parentheses and a vertical line.
Of the five royal titularies it was the throne name, also referred to as prenomen, and
the "Son of Ra" titulary, the so-called nomen, i.e., the name given at birth, which were
enclosed by a cartouche.
At times amulets were given the form of a cartouche displaying the name of a king
and placed in tombs. Such items are often important to archaeologists for dating the
tomb and its contents. Cartouches were formerly only worn by Pharaohs. The oval
surrounding their name was meant to protect him from evil spirits in life and after
death. The cartouche has become a symbol representing protection from evil and give
good luck Egyptians believed that if you had your name written down in some place,
then you would not disappear after you died. If a cartouche was attached to their
coffin then they would have their name in at least one place. There were periods in
Egyptian history when people refrained from inscribing these amulets with a name,
for fear they might fall into somebody's hands conferring power over the bearer of the

Character and Style

Homeometric regularity, keen observation and exact representation of actual life and
nature, and strict conformity to a set of rules regarding representation of three
dimensional forms dominated the character and style of the art of ancient Egypt.
Completeness and exactness were preferred to prettiness and cosmetic representation.
Because of the highly religious nature of Ancient Egyptian civilization, many of the
great works of Ancient Egypt depict gods, goddesses, and Pharaohs, who were also
considered divine. Ancient Egyptian art is characterized by the idea of order. Clear
and simple lines combined with simple shapes and flat areas of color helped to create
a sense of order and balance in the art of ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egyptian artists used vertical and horizontal reference lines in order to
maintain the correct proportions in their work. Political and religious, as well as
artistic order, was also maintained in Egyptian art. In order to clearly define the social
hierarchy of a situation, figures were drawn to sizes based not on their distance from
the painter's point of view but on relative importance. For instance, the Pharaoh would
be drawn as the largest figure in a painting no matter where he was situated, and a
greater God would be drawn larger than a lesser god.

Of the materials used by the Egyptian sculptors, we find - clay, wood, metal, ivory,
and stone - stone was the most plentiful and permanent, available in a wide variety of
colors and hardness. Sculpture wasoften painted in vivid hues as well. Egyptian
sculpture has two qualities that are distinctive; it can be characterized as cubic and
frontal. It nearly always echoes in its form the shape of the stone cube or block from
which it was fashioned, partly because it was an image conceived from four
viewpoints. The front of almost every statue is the most important part and the figure
sits or stands facing strictly to the front. This suggests to the modern viewer that the
ancient artist was unable to create a naturalistic representation, but it is clear that this
was not the intention.


Symbolism also played an important role in establishing a sense of order. Symbolism,

ranging from the Pharaoh's regalia (symbolizing his power to maintain order) to the
individual symbols of Egyptian gods and goddesses, was omnipresent in Egyptian art.
Animals were usually also highly symbolic figures in Egyptian art. Color, as well, had
extended meaning - Blue and green represented the Nile and life; yellow stood for the
sun god; and red represented power and vitality. The colors in Egyptian artifacts have
survived extremely well over the centuries because of Egypt's dry climate. Despite the
stilted form caused by a lack of perspective, ancient Egyptian art is often highly
realistic. Ancient Egyptian artists often show a sophisticated knowledge of anatomy
and a close attention to detail, especially in their renderings of animals.


The word paper is derived from "papyrus", a plant which was cultivated in the Nile
delta. Papyrus sheets were derived after processing the papyrus plant. Some rolls of
papyrus discovered are lengthy, up to 10 meters. The technique for crafting papyrus
was lost over time, but was rediscovered by an Egyptologist in the 1940s.
Papyrus texts illustrate all dimensions of ancient Egyptian life and include literary,
religious, historical and administrative documents. The pictorial script used in these
texts ultimately provided the model for two most common alphabets in the world, the
Roman and the Arabic.


Ancient Egyptians used steatite ( some varieties were called soapstone) and carved
small pieces of vases, amulets, images of deities, of animals and several other objects.
Ancient Egyptian artists also discovered the art of covering pottery with enamel.
Covering by enamel was also applied to some stone works.
Different types of pottery items were deposited in burial chambers of the dead. Some
such pottery items represented interior parts of the body, like the heart and the lungs,
the liver and smaller intestines , which were removed before embalming. A large
number of smaller objects in enamel pottery were also deposited with the dead. It was
customary to craft on the walls of the tombs cones of pottery, about six to ten inches
tall, on which were engraved or impressed legends relating to the dead occupants of
the tombs. These cones usually contained the names of the deceased, their titles,
offices which they held, and some expressions appropriate to funeral purposes.

During Neolithic times, known to Egyptologists as the Predynastic period, the dead
were buried in a contracted position in shallow pits dug in the sand and were
surrounded by grave goods consisting of pots that probably contained food and drink,
and personal items such as cosmetic palettes. These objects suggest that there was
already a belief in the afterlife. The vessel illustrated here is typical of the Naqada II
period, being decorated in red line on a light background. The elaborate motifs relate
in part to life on the Nile, and show oared boats, water plants, standards, and birds.
Other examples also include wild animals and male or female figures. Such vessels
were probably made specifically for burial, rather than for everyday use.

Textile and Dye Making

The beginning of the arts of weaving and dyeing are lost in antiquity. Mummy cloths
of varying degrees of fitness, still evidencing the dyer's skill, are preserved in many
The invention of royal purple was perhaps as early as 1600 B.C. From the painted
walls of tombs, temples and other structures that have been protected from exposure
to weather, and from the decorated surfaces of pottery, chemical analysis often is able
to give us knowledge of the materials used for such purposes.
Thus, the pigments from the tomb of Perneb (at estimated 2650 B.C.), which was
presented to Metropolitan Museum of New York City in 1913, were examined by
Maximilian Toch. He found that the red pigment proved to be iron oxide, hematite; a
yellow consisted of clay containing iron or yellow ochre; a blue color was a finely
powdered glass; and a pale blue was a copper carbonate, probably azurite; green were
malachite; black was charcoal or boneblack; gray, a limestone mixed with charcoal;
and a quantity of pigment remaining in a paint pot used in the decoration, contained a
mixture of hematite with limestone and clay.


A hieroglyphic script is one consisting of a variety of pictures and symbols. Some of

symbols had independent meanings, whereas some of such symbols were used in
combinations. In addition, some hieroglyphs were used phonetically, in a similar
fashion to the Roman alphabet. Some symbols also conveyed multiple meanings, like
the legs meant to walk, to run, to go and to come. The script was written in three
directions: from top to bottom, from left to right, and from right to left. This style of
writing continued to be used by the ancient Egyptians for nearly 3500 years, from
3300 BC till the third century AD.
Many art works of the period contain hieroglyphs and hieroglyphs themselves
constitute an amazing part of ancient Egyptian arts. Knowledge of hieroglyphic script
was lost after it was superseded by other scripts. The script was decrypted by
Champollion who studied the Rosetta stone for 14 years and discovered the key.


The Scribe
Ancient Egyptian literature also contains elements of Ancient Egyptian art, as the
texts and connected pictures were recorded on papyrus or on wall paintings and so on.
They date from the Old Kingdom to the Greco-Roman period. The subject matter of
such literature related art forms include hymns to the gods, mythological and magical
texts, mortuary texts. Other subject matters were biographical and historical texts,
scientific premises, including mathematical and medical texts, wisdom texts dealing
with instructive literature, and stories. A number of such stories from the ancient

Egypt have survived thousand of years, the most famous being Cinderella, where her
names is Rhodopis in the oldest version of the story.


Ancient Egyptian paintings survived due to the extremely dry climate. The ancient
Egyptians created paintings to make the afterlife of the deceased a pleasant place.
Accordingly, beautiful paintings were created. The themes included journey through
the afterworld or their protective deities introducing the deceased to the gods of the
underworld. Some examples of such paintings are paintings of Osiris and Warriors.

Tomb Paintings show activities that the deceased were involved

in when they were alive and wished to carry on doing for eternity.

In the New Kingdom and later, the Book of the Dead was buried with the entombed
person. It was considered important for an introduction to the afterlife.

The Amarna Period

During the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt the Pharaoh Akhenaten took the throne. He
worshiped a monotheistic religion based on the worship of Aten, a sun god. Artistic
changes followed political upheaval, although some stylistic changes are apparent
before his reign. A new style of art was introduced that was more naturalistic than the
stylized frieze favored in Egyptian art for the previous 1700 years. After Akhenaton's
death, however, Egyptian artists reverted to their old styles, although there are many
traces of this period's style in late art.
The Ancient Egyptian art style known as Amarna Art was a style of art that was
adopted in the Amarna Period (i.e. during and just after the reign of Akhenaten in the
late Eighteenth Dynasty, and is noticeably different from more conventional Egyptian
art styles.
It is characterized by a sense of movement and activity in images, with figures having
raised heads, many figures overlapping and many scenes are crowded and very busy.
The illustration of hands and feet were obviously thought to be important, shown with
long and slender fingers, and great pains were gone to be show fingers and finger
nails. Flesh was shown as being dark brown, for both males and females (contrasted
with the more normal dark brown for males and light brown for females) - this could
merely be convention, or depict the life blood. As is normal in Egyptian art,
commoners are shown with 2 left feet (or 2 right feet).
The depiction of the Royal Family is often seen as being informal, intimate and with a
family closeness, but this hides the conventions of the style. Central to most scenes is
the disc of the Aten, shining down on the Royal Family and literally giving life and
prosperity to Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Royalty are shown with left and right feet, each
with a big toe.
The decoration of tombs of non-Royals is quite different from previous eras, with not
many agricultural scenes, and the image of the king being central, rather than that of
the actual owner of the tomb.Obviously, the lack of depiction of gods other than the
Aten makes the style of decoration quite different from the standard tomb decoration.
Sculptures from the Amarna period were a lot more relaxed and depicted people as
they really were and not focusing on just some of their features.

Not many buildings from this persion have survived the ravages of later kings,
partially as they were constructed out of standard size blocks, known as Talatat, which
were very easy to remove and reuse.

The Tree of Life

On the Tree Of Life, the birds represent the various stages of human life. Starting in
the lower right-hand corner and proceeding counter-clockwise:
The light gray bird symbolizes infancy.
The red bird symbolizes childhood.
The green bird symbolizes youth.
The blue bird symbolizes adulthood.
The orange bird symbolizes old age.
In ancient Egypt, the direction east was considered the direction of life, because the
sun rose in the east. West was considered the direction of death, of entering the
underworld, because the sun set in the west. They believed that during the night, the
sun traveled through the underworld to make its way back to the east so it could rise
in the east again on the next day. On the tree of life, note that the birds representing
the first four phases of life all face to the east, but the bird representing old age faces
to the west, anticipating the approach of death.

In ancient Egypt, both men and women wore eye makeup, and to manufacture it they
ground up mineral pigments on a palette. Such palettes were often put into graves,
perhaps to ensure that the deceased had the means to grind eye makeup in the next
This palette is made from polished green slate, with two bird heads carved in profile at
the top. Three holes have been drilled: a central one may be for hanging, whereas the
other two, serving as eyes for the birds, may originally have been inlaid. The birds are
possibly falcons, perhaps an early reference to the sky god Horus.

This rectangular coffin was put together from local timber for a priestess of the
goddess Hathor called Nebetit. The head end is identified by a pair of stylized eyes,
known as wedjat eyes, painted in a panel on the side. The coffin would have been
oriented in the tomb with the head end pointing north. This would have enabled the
deceased, lying on her side, magically to look out through the wedjat eyes at the sun
rising on the eastern horizon - a symbol of rebirth.
The coffin has hieroglyphic inscriptions on the sides, end, and lid. The vertical
inscriptions on the sides and ends identify the owner. The long horizontal inscriptions
consist of "offering formulae" and ask for offerings for the 'ka' (spirit) of Nebetit.
These include beef, fowl, bread, and beer, and also a request for "a good burial in her
tomb in the necropolis of the western desert."

Funerary Cones

Clay funerary cones originally decorated the mudbrick facades of private tombs at
Thebes. They were embedded in rows to form friezes and may have been intended to
represent the ends of roof beams. The flattened base of each cone, which was all that
remained visible, was stamped with the titles and name of the tomb owner. The cone
shown here bears the name of Merymose, the viceroy of Nubia during the reign of
Amenhotep III.
The cone bears three columns of hieroglyphic text reading from left to right. The
name of Merymose is found in the third column. The first column and the top of the
second form the phrase "revered before Osiris." This is followed by "king's son of
Kush," the title given to the viceroy of Nubia, a territory to the south of Egypt
stretching into modern northern Sudan that was conquered and ruled by the Egyptians
during the New Kingdom (1550 - 1070 B.C.).


The goddess Isis, sister-consort of Osiris, god of the dead, is represented seated with
her son placed at a right angle to her on her lap. She wears a tight-fitting dress and a
vulture headdress surmounted by a sun disk enclosed by a pair of cow's horns, which
are now broken. The horns and sun disk were originally associated with the goddess
Hathor, but later they were used by Isis too. The child is supported by his mother's left
arm, while her right hand offers her breast for suckling.
Horus is given the attributes of a child, being shown naked, with a single lock of hair
falling on the right side of his otherwise shaven head, and sucking his forefinger.
However, he is also closely associated with the ideal of kingship - the living king
being a manifestation of Horus - and so he wears a uraeus(cobra), a symbol of
kingship, on his forehead.

Isis was revered as an emblem of motherhood and protector of young children.

Possibly due to the shift of political power to the Delta, where in myth Isis raised
Horus in secret, the cult of Isis and the child Horus strengthened from the Third
Intermediate period onward, and during the Greco-Roman period spread widely
through the ancient world. After the Emperor Constantine had made Christianity the
official religion of the Roman Empire, the mother-child image formerly attached to
Isis and Horus reemerged in representations of the Virgin and Child.

Temple Offerings

This fragment of temple relief comes from a scene that would have shown the king
offering to a standing or seated deity drawn on the same scale. The roundly modeled

high relief used here began to appear during the Late period and reached its peak
under the Ptolemies. Unfortunately, the royal cartouche is too damaged for the name
of the king to be identified lid depicts the deceased as a mummy wearing a divine,
tripartite wig and the long, braided beard associated with Osiris, god of the
underworld, with whom the deceased is identified.

Ancient Egyptian Funerary Texts

The Book of the Dead is a funerary text that emerged in the New Kingdom as a
descendant of the
Depicted above is part of a painted scene or vignette showing the funeral procession to the tomb.
The procession moves to the left. On the left of the scene is Anubis, the jackal god of
embalming, on a shrine. In the middle, a priest drags the canopic chest containing the viscera of
the deceased. On the right is a line of women mourners. Two of them, facing one another, display
the characteristic gesture of mourning, which consists of raised arms and backward-facing palms,
as though beating the forehead or casting dust over the body. Between the two women stands a
small male figure who may be Paheby, the owner of the papyrus. If the fragmentary scene had
been complete, Paheby's sarcophagus would have been seen at the head of the procession.


Canopic Jars

Canopic jars were used by the Ancient Egyptians during the mummification process to
store and preserve the viscera of their owner for the afterlife. They were commonly
either carved from limestone or were made of pottery. These jars were used by
Ancient Egyptians from the time of the Old Kingdom up until the time of the Late

Period or the Ptolemaic Period, by which time the viscera were simply wrapped and
placed with the body. The viscera were not kept in a single canopic jar: each jar was
reserved for specific organs. The name "canopic" reflects the mistaken association by
early Egyptologists with the Greek legend of Canopus. Canopic jars of the Old
Kingdom were rarely inscribed, and had a plain lid. In the Middle Kingdom
inscriptions became more usual, and the lids were often in the form of human heads.
By the Nineteenth dynasty each of the four lids depicted one of the four sons of
Horus, as guardians of the organs.

Burial, Afterlife

Egyptian Afterlife

In order to enter the afterlife, it was important that the deceased have a proper burial
with all the correct rituals and traditional funerary equipment. First, the body had to be
preserved through mummification, a process by which it was artificially dehydrated
and then wrapped in linen bandages. The invention of mummification may have
stemmed from the initial practice during predynastic times of burying bodies directly
in the ground. The preservative properties of the hot, desiccating sand may have
suggested to the Egyptians that survival of the body was necessary for continued
existence in the afterlife. Later, in the Early Dynastic period, when the body was no
longer directly surrounded by sand but was placed in a specially constructed burial

chamber, the natural processes of decay set in. When they discovered this, the
Egyptians over the course of centuries developed a way of keeping the body intact
using resins and the naturally occurring salt, natron.


The winged scarab symbolized self-creation. This potent symbolism appears in tomb
paintings, manuscripts, hieroglyphic inscriptions on buildings and carvings. In
addition to its use as an amulet for the living and the dead, scarabs adorned jewelry
including necklaces, bracelets, wrist cuffs and wide decorative collars. A bracelet from
the tomb of Tutankhamun featured a bright blue scarab holding a cartouche between
its front legs. A cartouche is an oval frame that encloses a name. The ancient
Egyptians sometimes painted or carved scarabs on a deceased person's sarcophagus,
the human-shaped coffin that held the mummy. Scarabs often hold a sun disk over
their heads.

This wooden anthropoid coffin consists of a separate bottom and lid. It is plastered
and painted on the outside, but the inside was left undecorated. It is made of irregular
pieces of native Egyptian wood, and gaps between planks are filled in with mud. The
underside of the base is decorated with a large figure of the goddess of the west,
recognizable by the falcon emblem, the hieroglyph for west, that she wears on her
head. Because the sun sets in the west, where it was believed to enter the underworld,
the goddess was associated with the necropolis and helped the dead make the passage
from this life to the next. As such, she often appears in tombs and on coffins.

Below an elaborate collar, a winged goddess with a sun disk on her head kneels with
arms outstretched to protect the deceased. Beneath her, the mummy of the deceased
lies on the lion bed that was used in the ritual embalming. Under the bed are four
canopic jars to hold the viscera, with stoppers carved in the form of the four sons of
Horus. These beings appear again on the lower part of the lid with mummified bodies.
Between them are five columns of text. The outer two identify the figures, and the
three middle ones contain the traditional offering formula asking for a series of
benefits for the deceased in the next life. The name of the owner would have been
included at the end of this text but is now lost through damage. Figures of Anubis, the
god of embalming, in the form of two black jackals lying on pedestals decorate the
foot of the coffin.

King Tutankhamun's Tomb

The Tomb of King Tut is much smaller than, any of the other kings tombs, with plain
walls, until you reach the burial chamber. It took almost a decade of meticulous and
painstaking work to empty the tomb of Tutankhamen. Around 3500 individual items
were recovered. Tutankhamen is the only pharaoh, in the Valley of the Kings, still to
have his mummy in its original burial location.


The ancient art of Egyptian sculpture evolved to represent the ancient Egyptian gods,
and Pharaohs, the divine kings and queens, in physical form. Massive and magnificent
statues were built to represent gods and famous kings and queens. These statues were
intended to give eternal life to the god kings and queens, as also to enable the
subjects to see them in physical forms.

Very strict conventions were followed while crafting statues: male statues were darker
than the female ones; in seated statues, hands were required to be placed on knees and
specific rules governed appearance of every Egyptian god. For example, the sky god
(Horus) was essentially to be represented with a falcons head, the god of funeral
rites (Anubis) was to be always shown with a jackals head. Artistic works were
ranked according to exact compliance with all the conventions, and the conventions
were followed so strictly that over three thousand years, very little changed in the
appearance of statutes.

Ramesses II at Abu Simbel

Ancient Flying Vehicles

Egyptian Dynasties

Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

Ancient Symbols Jewelry and Talismans

Masterfully Crafted by the Artist - David Weitzman

Emerald Tablet Bracelet

Emerald Tablet Pendant

Genuine Scarab Talisman

David's work harnesses the power of spiritual symbols and sacred geometry from around the world to bring those wearing them health,
happiness, vitality, abundance, excitement, and above all - love. David's jewels are meticulously crafted to work on conscious and subconscious
levels to inspire people's lives. David's Work is based on Egyptian Jewelry, Sacred Geometry, Astrology Talismans,Buddhism and other ancient

In the News ...

Ancient Priest's Tomb Painting Discovered Near Great Pyramid at Giza Live Science
- July 16, 2014

A wall painting, dating back over 4,300 years, has been discovered in a tomb located
just east of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The painting shows vivid scenes of life,
including boats sailing south on the Nile River, a bird hunting trip in a marsh and a
man named Perseneb who's shown with his wife and dog. While Giza is famous for its
pyramids, the site also contains fields of tombs that sprawl to the east and west of the
Great Pyramid. These tombs were created for private individuals who held varying
degrees of rank and power during the Old Kingdom (2649-2150 B.C.), the age when
the Giza pyramids were built. The tomb contains a central room, offering room and
burial chamber. The complex was first recorded in the 19th century and was noted for
its 11 statues, which include depictions of Perseneb and his family. Archaeologists
were conducting restoration work and did not expect to make a new discovery. This
image shows part of the central room with four of the statues. More Photos ...

Egypt's Oldest Known Art Identified, Is 15,000 Years Old National Geographic - July
11, 2007

Rock face drawings and etchings recently rediscovered in southern Egypt are similar
in age and style to the iconic Stone Age cave paintings in Lascaux, France, and
Altamira, Spain, archaeologists say.

Palaeolithic rock art, like Lascaux caves in France, discovered in Upper Egypt AlAhram - June 19, 2007
The discovery of huge rocks decorated with Palaeolithic illustrations at the village of
Qurta on the northern edge of Kom Ombo has caused excitement among the scientific
community. The art was found by a team of Belgian archaeologists and restorers and
features groups of cattle similar to those drawn on the walls of the French Lascaux
caves. They are drawn and painted in a naturalistic style which is quite different from
those shown in cattle representations of the well-known classical, pre-dynastic
iconography of the fourth millennium BC. Illustrations of hippopotami, fish, birds and
human figures can also be seen on the surface of some of the rocks.




Ancient Egyptian Art

Have you ever wondered what life was like in Ancient Egypt? The study of this culture is very interesting
because of the many remnants the Egyptians left for us. The Egyptians created exquisite and vivid works of art
that modeled their way of life and beliefs. Egyptian art from this time period we will see in this lesson (stretching
from 3000 BCE until around 300 BCE) has been found in the forms of pottery, sculptures and colorful
hieroglyphics in burial tombs. Much of the art centers on their gods and preparation for eternal life after death.
One of the themes that became dominant during this time period is the idea that the king is the son of a god
and goddess. Egyptian art often represents this belief.

Egyptian Paintings

Egyptian paintings were intended to help lead the dead into the

Paintings were created to decorate tombs with the intent of assisting the deceased in sustaining their lives in
the afterlife. Images often depicted the deceased completing daily tasks. The Egyptians believed they would
continue many of these activities in the afterlife. They were created with pigments made of minerals. Commonly
used colors were red, black, blue, green and gold. The dry temperatures in the area and lack of sun in the
tombs allowed many images to survive into modern times. Paintings generally depicted people or animals with
a profile, or side view, of the head. The body, however, was shown from a front view.

Egyptian Sculptures
Although the most well known sculptures from Egypt are the monumental sculptures, small sculptures and
reliefs have also been found. Sculptures were made of stone, wood and bronze. Statues of gods were often a
mixture of a human body with the head of an animal. For example, the god Horus was represented as a human
male with the head of a falcon.

Egyptian Pottery
Egyptians also created pottery out of clay. Pottery held images of gods, animals and people. Subjects were
depicted in the same manner as people in paintings, with a profile of the head and a frontal view of the body.

Some pottery included hieroglyphics, which was an ancient form of writing in Egypt. Within this writing system,
pictures and symbols were used to represent words or sounds. Ancient Egyptians also created canopic jars.
These funerary jars were made of stone, bronze, wood or gold. The jars were used to preserve organs
removed during mummification for the afterlife.

Much of the clay pottery displayed images of people and


Division of Art into Time Periods

Ancient Egyptian art has different qualities determined by the time in which it was created. We will now look at
the qualities of art during a few time periods. The period of time between 2649 BCE to 2150 BCE is referred to
as the Old Kingdom. Art during this time period consisted of early portraits and life-sized statues created in
stone, copper and wood. Artists also began making relief carvings of plants, landscapes and animals. The
purpose of these images was to ensure a person would continue his or her life in the next world after death. It
also ensured the person would have all necessities readily available in the next life.
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Appreciating & understanding ancient Egyptian art

Ancient Egyptian art must be viewed from the standpoint of the ancient
Egyptians to understand it. The somewhat static, usually formal, strangely
abstract, and often blocky nature of much Egyptian imagery has, at times, led
to unfavorable comparisons with later, and much more naturalistic, Greek or
Renaissance art. However, the art of the Egyptians served a vastly different
purpose than that of these later cultures.

Art not meant to be seen

While today we marvel at the glittering treasures from the tomb of
Tutankhamun, the sublime reliefs in New Kingdom tombs, and the serene
beauty of Old Kingdom statuary, it is imperative to remember that the majority

of these works were never intended to be seenthat was simply not their
Painted sunk relief of the king being embraced by a goddess. Tomb of Amenherkhepshef (QV 55)

(New Kingdom) Photo: Dr. Amy Calvert

The function of Egyptian art

These images, whether statues or relief, were designed to benefit a divine or
deceased recipient. Statuary provided a place for the recipient to manifest and
receive the benefit of ritual action. Most statues show a formal frontality,
meaning they are arranged straight ahead, because they were designed to
face the ritual being performed before them. Many statues were also originally
placed in recessed niches or other architectural settingscontexts that would
make frontality their expected and natural mode.
Statuary, whether divine, royal, or elite, provided a kind of conduit for the spirit
(or ka) of that being to interact with the terrestrial realm. Divine cult statues
(few of which survive) were the subject of daily rituals of clothing, anointing,
and perfuming with incense and were carried in processions for special
festivals so that the people could "see" them (they were almost all entirely
shrouded from view, but their 'presence' was felt).
Royal and elite statuary served as intermediaries between the people and the
gods. Family chapels with the statuary of a deceased forefather could serve
as a sort of 'family temple.' There were festivals in honor of the dead, where
the family would come and eat in the chapel, offering food for the Afterlife,
flowers (symbols of rebirth), and incense (the scent of which was considered
divine). Preserved letters let us know that the deceased was actively
petitioned for their assistance, both in this world and the next.

What we see in museums

Generally, the works we see on display in museums were products of royal or

elite workshops; these pieces fit best with our modern aesthetic and ideas of
beauty. Most museum basements, however, are packed with hundreds (even
thousands!) of other objects made for people of lower statussmall statuary,
amulets, coffins, and stelae (similar to modern tombstones) that are
completely recognizable, but rarely displayed. These pieces generally show
less quality in the workmanship; being oddly proportioned or poorly executed;
they are less often considered art in the modern sense. However, these
objects served the exact same function of providing benefit to their owners
(and to the same degree of effectiveness), as those made for the elite.
Hard stone group statue of Ramses II with Osiris, Isis, and Horus in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo

(New Kingdom). Photo: Dr. Amy Calvert

Modes of representation for three-dimensional art

Three-dimensional representations, while being quite formal, also aimed to
reproduce the real-worldstatuary of gods, royalty, and the elite was
designed to convey an idealized version of that individual. Some aspects of
naturalism were dictated by the material. Stone statuary, for example, was
quite closedwith arms held close to the sides, limited positions, a strong
back pillar that provided support, and with the fill spaces left between limbs.
Painted wooden model of the deceased overseeing the counting of cattle in the Egyptian Museum,

Cairo (Middle Kingdom). Photo: Dr. Amy Calvert

Wood and metal statuary, in contrast, was more expressivearms could be

extended and hold separate objects, spaces between the limbs were opened
to create a more realistic appearance, and more positions were possible.
Stone, wood, and metal statuary of elite figures, however, all served the same

functions and retained the same type of formalization and frontality. Only
statuettes of lower status people displayed a wide range of possible actions,
and these pieces were focused on the actions, which benefitted the elite
owner, not the people involved.

Modes of representation for two-dimensional art

Two-dimensional art represented the world quite differently. Egyptian artists
embraced the two-dimensional surface and attempted to provide the most
representative aspects of each element in the scenes rather than attempting
to create vistas that replicated the real world.
Each object or element in a scene was rendered from its most recognizable
angle and these were then grouped together to create the whole. This is why
images of people show their face, waist, and limbs in profile, but eye and
shoulders frontally. These scenes are complex composite images that provide
complete information about the various elements, rather than ones designed
from a single viewpoint, which would not be as comprehensive in the data
they conveyed.

Scenes were ordered in parallel lines, known as registers. These registers
separate the scene as well as provide ground lines for the figures. Scenes
without registers are unusual and were generally only used to specifically
evoke chaos; battle and hunting scenes will often show the prey or foreign
armies without groundlines. Registers were also used to convey information
about the scenesthe higher up in the scene, the higher the status;
overlapping figures imply that the ones underneath are further away, as are
those elements that are higher within the register.

Chaotic fighting scene on a painted box from the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Egyptian Museum,

Cairo (New Kingdom). Photo: Dr. Amy Calvert

Hierarchy of scale
Difference in scale was the most commonly used method for conveying
hierarchythe larger the scale of the figures, the more important they were.
Kings were often shown at the same scale as deities, but both are shown
larger than the elite and far larger than the average Egyptian.

Text and image

Highly detailed raised relief hieroglyphs on the White Chapel of Senusret I at Karnak (Middle

Kingdom). Photo: Dr Amy CalvertText

accompanied almost all images. In statuary,

identifying text will appear on the back pillar or base, and relief usually has
captions or longer texts that complete and elaborate on the scenes.
Hieroglyphs were often rendered as tiny works of art in themselves, even
though these small pictures do not always stand for what they depict; many
are instead phonetic sounds. Some, however, are logographic, meaning they
stand for an object or concept.
The lines blur between text and image in many cases. For instance, the name
of a figure in the text on a statue will regularly omit the determinative (an
unspoken sign at the end of a word that aids identificationfor example, verbs
of motion are followed by a pair of walking legs, names of men end with the
image of a man, names of gods with the image of a seated god, etc.) at the
end of the name. In these instances, the representation itself serves this
Essay and photos by Dr. Amy Calvert

Timeline of Ancient Egypt

Egyptian culture evolved over three thousand years, a period usually divided as follows:
The Early Dynastic Period; The Old Kingdom (26802258 BCE); The Middle Kingdom (2134-1786 BCE);
The New Kingdom (15701075 BCE), including the controversial Amarna Period of King
Amenhotep (Akhenaton) (13501320 BCE). After this, came an Intermediate Period until the Ptolemaic
Era (323-30 BCE) and the period of Roman rule (30 BCE - 395 CE).
Ancient Egyptian civilization is symbolized by the Pyramids, most of which were constructed during the Old
and Middle Kingdom periods, when the Pharaoh's power was absolute. Even today, the full significance of
these funerary monuments and tombs is imperfectly understood by archeologists and Egyptologists.
Testifying to the social organization and architectural ingenuity of Ancient Egyptian culture, the Great Pyramid
of Giza (c.2565 BCE) remains the sole surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as
compiled by the Greek poet Antipater of Sidon.
Egyptian Artists and Craftsmen
Egyptian sculptors and painters were not artists in the modern sense of being a creative individual. Ancient
Egyptian art was rather the work of paid artisans who were trained and who then worked as part of a team.
The leading master craftsman might be very versatile, and capable of working in many branches of art, but
his part in the production of a statue or the decoration of a tomb was anonymous. He would guide his
assistants as they worked, and help to train novices, but his personal contribution cannot be assessed. Artists
at all stages of their craft worked together. The initial outline sketch or drawing would be executed by one or
more, who would then be followed by others carving the intermediate and final stages. Painters would follow
in the same manner. Where scenes have been left unfinished it is possible to see the corrections made to the
work of less-skilled hands by more practised craftsmen. Many master craftsmen reached positions of
influence and social importance, as we know from their own funerary monuments. Imhotep, the architect
who built the Step Pyramid complex for King Zoser, 2660-2590 BC, was so highly revered in later times that
he was deified. The credit for any work of art, however, was believed to belong to the patron who had
commissioned it.

4th Dynasty (2575-2467 BCE)

Khufu (Cheops)
5th Dynasty (2465-2323 BCE)
Neferirkare Kakai
Shepseskare Ini

Niuserre Izi
Djedkare Izezi

6th Dynasty (2323-2152 BCE)

Rules of Painting

Pepy I
Merenre Nemtyemzaf
Pepy II

Egyptian civilization was highly religious. Thus most Egyptian artworks involve
the depiction of many gods and goddesses - of whom the Pharaoh was one. In
addition, the Egyptian respect for order and conservative values led to the
establishment of complex rules for how both Gods and humans could be
represented by artists. For example, in figure painting, the sizes of figures
were calculated purely by reference to the person's social status, rather than
by the normal artistic rules of linear perspective. The same formula for
painting the human figure was used over hundreds if not thousands of years.
Head and legs always in profile; eyes and upper body viewed from the front.
For Egyptian sculpture and statues, the rules stated that male statues should
be darker than female ones; when seated, the subject's hands should be on
knees. Gods too were depicted according to their position in the hierarchy of
deities, and always in the same guise. For instance, Horus (the sky god) was
always represented with a falcon's head, Anubis (the god of funeral rites) was
always depicted with a jackal's head.


(7th-11th Dynasties)
(2150-1986 BCE)
Neferkare II
Neferkare III
Djedkare II
Neferkare IV
Menkamin I
Neferkare V
Neferkare VI
Neferkamin II
Ibi I
Neferirkare II

Use of Pigments
The use of colour in Egyptian paintings was also regulated and used
symbolically. Egyptian artists used six colours in their paintings red, green,
blue, yellow, white and black. Red, being the colour of power, symbolized life
and victory, as well as anger and fire. Green symbolized new life, growth, and
fertility, while blue symbolized creation and rebirth, and yellow symbolized the
eternal, such as the qualities of the sun and gold. Yellow was the colour of Ra
and of all the pharaohs, which is why the sarcophagi and funeral masks were
made of gold to symbolize the everlasting and eternal pharaoh who was now a
god. White was the colour of purity, symbolizing all things sacred, and was
typically used used in religious objects and tools used by the priests. Black
was the colour of death and represented the underworld and the night.


For details of the colour pigments used by painters in Ancient Egypt,

see: Egyptian Colour Palette.

11th Dynasty (1986-1937 BCE)

Egyptian Arts And The Afterlife

Inyotef I
Inyotef II
Inyotef III
Mentuhotep I
Mentuhotep II

Nearly all of Ancient Egypt's surviving paintings were discovered in tombs of

the pharaohs or high governmental officials, and portrays scenes of the
afterlife. Known as funerary art, these pictures depicted the narrative of life
after death as well as things like servants, boats and food to help the
deceased in their trip through the after life. These paintings would be

Mentuhotep III
Mentuhotep IV
12th Dynasty (1937-1759 BCE)
Amenemhet I
Senusret I
Amenemhet II
Senusret II
Senusret III
Amenemhet III
Amenemhet IV
(13th-17th Dynasties)
(1759-1539 BCE)
13th Dynasty
Amenemhat V
Sehetepibre I
Amenemhat VI
Sehetepibre II
Sobekhotep I
Hor I
Amenemhat VII
Sobekhotep II
Antef IV
Sobekhotep III
Neferhotep I
Sobekhotep IV
Sobekhotep V
Ini I

executed on papyrus, on panels, (using encaustic paint) or on walls in the

form of fresco murals (using tempera). In addition, models (eg. of boats,
granaries, butcher shops, and kitchens) were included in the tomb in order to
guarantee the future well-being of the dead person.
As the spirit inhabited the body, the preservation of the latter against decay
was also critical. The use of tightly wrapped bandages to mummify the corpse,
and the removal and packaging of internal organs within ceramic canopic jars
and other opulent sarcophagi became widespread among the ruling elite. All
these arrangements helped to support a nationwide industry of Egyptian
artists and craftsmen who laboured to produce the artworks (paintings,
scultures, pottery, ceramics, jewellery and metalwork) required.
Egyptian sculpture was highly symbolic and for most of Egyptian history was
not intended to be naturalistic or realistic. Sculptures and statues were made
from clay, wood, metal, ivory, and stone - of which stone was the most
permanent and plentiful. Many Egyptian sculptures were painted in vivid
NOTE: In addition to pyramid architecture, stone sculpture, goldsmithing and
the Fayum Mummy portraits, Egyptian craftsmen are also noted for
their ancient pottery, especiallyEgyptian faience, a non-clay-based ceramic
art developed in Egypt from 1500 BCE, although it began in Mesopotamia. The
oldest surviving faience workshop, complete with advanced lined brick kilns,
was found at Abydos in the mid-Nile area. Egyptian faience is a non-clay
based ceramic composed of powdered quartz or sand, covered with a vitreous
coating, often made with copper pigments to give a transparent blue or bluegreen sheen. See Pottery Timeline.
The Rule of King Amenhotep (Akhenaton) (13501320 BCE)
Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (husband of Queen Nefertiti) triggered a sort
ofcultural revolution in Egypt. Born into the cult of Amon (Amen), a line
that worshipped a wide range of gods, he changed his name to Akhenaton
and, strengthened by his control of the army, instituted the worship only of
Aten, a sun god. The Egyptian capital and royal court was moved to Amarna in
Middle Egypt. All this led to a radical break with tradition, especially in the
arts, such as painting and sculpture. They became more naturalistic and more
dynamic than the static rule-bound art of previous eras. In particular, the
Amarna style of art was characterized by a sense of movement and
activity. Portraits of Egyptian nobles ceased to be idealized, and some were
even caricatured. The presence of Aten in many pictures was represented by a
golden disc shining down from above.
After the death of Akhenaton, the next Pharaoh - the child Tutankhaten - was
persuaded to move back to Memphis and change his name to Tutankhamen,
thus reverting to Amon. As a result, Egyptian painters and sculptors largely
returned to the old traditions which continued until the Hellenistic era from
323 BCE onwards.

Sobekhotep VI
Dedumes I
Ibi II
Hor II
Sekhanre I

NOTE: To compare earlier Middle Eastern works of Sumerian art (c.3,000

BCE), please see the Ram in a Thicket (c.2500 BCE, British Museum,
London),Kneeling Bull with Vessel (3,000 BCE, Metropolitan Museum, New
York) andThe Guennol Lioness (3000 BCE, Private Collection). For
contemporaneous sculpture, see for instance the Human-headed Winged Bull
and Lion (859 BCE) from Ashurnasirpal's palace at Nimrud, and the alabaster
reliefs of lion-hunts featuring Ashurnasirpal II and Ashurbanipal, both
characteristic examples of Assyrian art (c.1500-612 BCE).
Hellenistic Era (c.323-27 BCE)
The influence of Greek Hellenistic art on Egyptian artists, a process
accelerated during the Ptolemaic Era, encouraged the naturalistic
representation of individuals in paintings and sculpture, not unlike the process
initiated by Akhenaton. Portraits became realistic and the rules of colour were
relaxed. This trend was further encouraged by the practical Roman style of art.
The most famous example of Hellenistic-Egyptian painting during the era
ofclassical antiquity, is the series of Fayum Mummy Portraits, discovered
mainly around the Faiyum basin, west of the Nile, near Cairo. A type of
naturalistic portraiture, strongly influenced by Greek art, notably Hellenistic
Greek painting (323-27 BCE), Fayum portraits were attached to the burial
cloth of the deceased person. Preserved by the exceptionally dry conditions,
these paintings represent the largest single body of original art which has
survived from Antiquity.
Collections of Egyptian artworks can be seen in the Egyptian Museum,
Cairo; the British Museum, London; the Louvre Museum, Paris; the
Agyptisches Museum, Berlin; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

14th Dynasty

Egyptian Painting & Sculpture: A Brief Survey


Relief Carvings

15th Dynasty

The earliest incised figures and scenes in relief date from prehistoric times
when slate cosmetic panels and combs of wood, bone, and ivory were buried
in the graves of their owners. These were carved in the simple, effective
outlines of species familiar to the people of the Nile Valley - antelopes, ibex,
fish, and birds. More elaborate ivory combs and the ivory handles of flint
knives which probably had some ceremonial purpose were carved in relief, the
scene standing out from its background.
By the end of the prehistoric period Egyptian sculpture was unmistakable,
although up to this point there had been no great architectural monuments on
which the skill of the sculptors could be displayed. From the meagre evidence
of a few carvings on fragments of bone and ivory we know that the gods were
worshipped in shrines constructed of bundles of reeds. The chieftains of

Apachnan (Khian)
Apophis (Auserre Apepi)
16th Dynasty
Pepi III
Nikare II
17th Dynasty
Antef V
Sobekemzaf I
Mentuhotep VII
Nebirau I
Nebirau II
Sobekemzaf II
Antef VI
Antef VII
Tao I
Tao II
18th Dynasty (1539-1295 BCE)

prehistoric Egypt probably lived in similar structures, very like the ones still
found in the marshes of South Arabia.
The work of sculptors was displayed in the production of ceremonial maceheads and palettes, carved to commemorate victories and other important
events and dedicated to the gods. They show that the distinctive sculptural
style, echoed in all later periods of Egyptian history, had already emerged, and
the convention of showing the human figure partly in profile and partly in
frontal view was well-established. The significance of many details cannot yet
be fully explained, but representations of the king as a powerful lion or a
strong bull are often repeated in Dynastic times.
Tomb Reliefs
Early royal reliefs, showing the king smiting his enemies or striding forward in
ritual pose, are somewhat stilted, but by the 3rd Dynasty techniques were
already very advanced. Most surviving examples are in stone, but the wooden
panels found in the tomb of Hesire at Saqqara, 2660-2590 BCE, show the
excellence achieved by master craftsmen (Egyptian Museum, Cairo). These
figures, standing and seated, carved according to the conventions of Egyptian
ideals of manhood, emphasized in different ways the different elements of the
human form. The head, chest, and legs are shown in profile, but the visible
eye and the shoulders are depicted as if seen from the front, while the waist
and hips are in three-quarter view. However, this artificial pose does not look
awkward because of the preservation of natural proportion. The excellence of
the technique, shown in the fine modelling of the muscles of face and body,
bestows a grace upon what might otherwise seem rigid and severe. Hesire,
carrying the staff and sceptre of his rank together with the palette and pen
case symbolizing his office of royal scribe, gazes proudly and confidently into
eternity. The care of the craftsman does not stop with the figure of his patron,
for the hieroglyphs making up the inscription giving the name and titles of the
deceased are also carved with delicacy and assurance, and are fine
representations in miniature of the animals, birds, and objects used in ancient
Egyptian writing. The animals and birds used as hieroglyphs are shown in true
The great cemeteries of Gizeh and Saqqara in which the nobles and court
officials were buried near their kings, provide many examples of the skill of
the craftsmen of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Dynasties, a skill rarely equaled in later
periods. The focus of these early tombs was a slab of stone carved with a
representation of the deceased sitting in front of a table of offerings. The latter
were usually placed above the false door, through which the spirit of the dead
person, called the ka, might continue to enter and leave the tomb. The idea
behind this was that the magical representation of offerings on the stelae,
activated by the correct religious formulas, would exist for the rest of eternity,
together with the ka of the person to whom they were made.
In single scenes, or in works filling a wall from ceiling to floor, every figure had
its proper place and was not permitted to overflow its allotted space. One of
the most notable achievements of Egyptian craftsmen was the way they filled
the space available in a natural, balanced way, so that scenes full of life never

Amenhotep I
Thutmose I
Thutmose II
Thutmose III
Amenhotep II
Thutmose IV
Amenhotep III
Amenhotep IV / Akhenaten
Ay (Kheperkheperure)
Note: The rulers of Egypt were not
called Pharaohs by their own people.
This word was only used by the
Greeks and Hebrews. However,
today it is the accepted term for
for all the ancient Kings of Egypt.

19th Dynasty (1295-1186 BCE)

Ramesses I
Seti I
Ramesses II
Seti II
20th Dynasty (1186-1069 BCE)
Ramesses III
Ramesses IV
Ramesses V
Ramesses VI
Ramesses VII
Ramesses VIII
Ramesses IX
Ramesses X
Ramesses XI

seem to be cramped or overcrowded.

The horizontal sequences or registers of scenes arranged on either side of the
funerary stelae and false doors in 5th-Dynasty and 6th-Dynasty tombs are full
of lively and natural detail. Here the daily life of peasant and noble was caught
for eternity by the craftsman - the action of herdsman and fisherman frozen in
mid-step, so that the owner of the tomb would always be surrounded by the
daily bustle of his estate. The subjects were intended to be typical of normal
events, familiar scenes rather than special occasions.
Egyptian craftsmen did not employ perspective to suggest depth and distance,
but they did establish a convention whereby several registers, each with its
own base line, could be used to depict a crowd of people. Those in the lowest
register were understood to be nearest to the viewer, those in the highest
furthest away. A number of these scenes occur in the Old Kingdom: many
offering-bearers bring the produce of their estates to a deceased noble at his
funerary table, for instance, or troops of men are shown hauling a great
statue. Statues represented in reliefs, like the hieroglyphs, are shown in true
profile, in contrast to the figures of the men hauling them. Perhaps the bestknown scenes showing nearness and distance, however, are the painted
banqueting scenes of the New Kingdom, where the numerous guests, dressed
in their finest clothes, sit in serried ranks in front of their hosts.
The registers could also be used to present various stages in a developing
sequence of action, rather like the frames of a strip cartoon. In the Old
Kingdom, the important events of the agricultural year follow each other
across the walls of many tombs: ploughing, sowing, harvesting, and threshing
the grain are all faithfully represented. The herdsmen are shown at work in
the pastures caring for the cattle so prized by the ancient Egyptians, while
other scenes depict the trapping of waterfowl in the Nile marshes and fishing
in the river itself. Other domestic activities, such as baking and brewing, also
vital to the eternal existence of the dead noble are represented; other scenes
show carpenters, potters, and jewellers at work.
It was in these scenes of everyday life that the sculptor was able to use his
initiative, and free himself to some extent from the ties of convention. The
dead man and his family had to be presented in ritual poses as described larger than life, strictly proportioned, and always calm and somewhat aloof.
The rural workers on the estates, however, could be shown at their daily asks
in a more relaxed manner, capturing something of the liveliness and energy
that must have characterized the ancient Egyptians. While the offeringbearers, symbolizing the funerary gifts from the estates to their lord, are
depicted moving towards him in formal and stately procession, the peasants at
work in the fields seem both sturdy and vigorous. They lean to the plough and
beat the asses, tend the cattle and carry small calves on their shoulders clear
of the danger of crocodiles lurking in the marshes.
The natural details used to fill odd corners in these tomb scenes show how
much pleasure the ancient Egyptian craftsmen took in observing their
environment. Birds, insects, and clumps of plants were all used to balance and

complete the picture. The results of sharp-eyed observation can be seen in the
details that distinguish the species of birds and fish thronging the reeds and
shallow water of the marshes.


21st Dynasty (1070-945 BCE)
Psusennes I
Pinedjem I
Smendes II
Psusennes II
Pinedjem II
Psusennes III
22nd Dynasty (945-712 BCE)
Shoshenq I
Osorkon I
Shoshenq II
Osorkon II
Takelot II
Shoshenq III
Shoshenq IV
Osorkon IV

Little survives of the reliefs that decorated the royal temples of the early 5th
Dynasty, but from the funerary temple of the first king, Userkaf, c.2,460 BCE,
comes a fragment from a scene of hunting in the marshes (Egyptian Museum,
Cairo). The air above the graceful heads of the papyrus reeds is alive with
birds, and the delicate carving makes them easily distinguishable even without
the addition of colour. A hoopoe, ibis, kingfisher, and heron are unmistakable,
and a large butterfly hovering above provides the final touch.
Low Relief
The tradition of finely detailed decoration in low relief, the figures standing out
slightly above the background, continued through the 6th-Dynasty and into
the Middle Kingdom, when it was particularly used for royal monuments. Few
fragments of these remain, but the hieroglyphs carved on the little chapel of
Sesostris I, now reconstructed at Karnak, show the sure and delicate touch of
master craftsmen. During the late Old Kingdom, low relief was combined with
other techniques such as incision, in which lines were simply cut into the
stone, especially in non-royal monuments, and the result is often artistically
very pleasing. The limestone funerary stela of Neankhteti, c.2,250 BCE, is a
fine example (Merseyside County Museums, Liverpool). The major part of the
stela, the figure and the horizontal inscription above it, is in low relief, but an
incised vertical panel of hieroglyphs repeats his name with another title, and
the symbol for scribe, the palette and pen, needed for the beginning of both
lines, is used only once, at the point at which the lines intersect. The result is
a perfectly balanced design, and a welcome variation in the types of stelae
carved during the Old Kingdom.
A further development is shown in the stela of Hotep, carved during the Middle
Kingdom, 2000-1800 BCE (Merseyside County Museums, Liverpool). The
figures of three standing officials and the hieroglyphic signs have been crisply
incised into the hard red granite. Originally the signs and figures would have
been filled with blue pigment, to contrast sharply with the polished red surface
of the stone.

23rd Dynasty (828-725 BCE)

Sunk Relief

Pedubaste I
Osorkon IV

During the Middle Kingdom the use of sunk relief came into fashion, and in the
18th and early 19th Dynasties it was employed to great effect. The
background was not cut away as in low relief to leave the figures standing
above the level of the rest of the surface. Instead the relief design was cut
down into the smoothed surface of the stone. In the strong Egyptian sunlight
the carved detail would stand out well, but the sunk relief was better
protected from the weather and was therefore more durable.

24th Dynasty (725-715 BCE)

Shepsesre Tefnakht I

Egyptian Painting

Wahkare Bakenranef
25th Dynasty (712-657 BCE)
26th Dynasty (664-525 BCE)
Psammetichus I
Nekau II
Psammetichus II
Psammetichus III
27th Dynasty (525-404 BCE)
Cambyses 525-522
Darius I 521-486
Xerxes I 486-466
Artaxerxes I 465-424
Darius II 424-404
28th Dynasty (404-399 BCE)
29th Dynasty (399-380 BCE)
Nepherites I
Nepherites II
30th Dynasty (380-343 BCE)
The last Egyptian-born rulers
Nectanebo I

Painting in ancient Egypt followed a similar pattern to the development of

scenes in carved relief, and the two techniques were often combined. The first
examples of painting occur in the prehistoric period, in the patterns and
scenes on pottery. We depend very much for our evidence on what has
survived, and fragments are necessarily few because of the fragile nature of
the medium. Parts of two scenes depicting figures and boats are known, one
on linen and one on a tomb wall. Panels of brightly coloured patterns survive
on the walls of royal tombs of the 1st Dynasty, the patterns representing the
mats and woven hangings that decorated the walls of large houses. These
patterns occur again and again throughout Egyptian history in many different
ways. Some of the finest may be seen on the sides of the rectangular wooden
coffins found in the tombs of Middle Kingdom nobles at Beni Hasan and
elsewhere, c.2,000-1800 BCE.
Egyptian Tomb Painting
The earliest representational paintings in the unmistakable traditional Egyptian
style date from the 3rd and 4th Dynasties. The most famous are probably the
fragments from the tomb of Itet at Medum, c.2,725 BCE, showing groups of
geese which formed part of a large scene of fowling in the marshes (Egyptian
Museum, Cairo). The geese, of several different species, stand rather stiffly
among clumps of stylized vegetation, but the markings are carefully picked
out, and the colours are natural and subtle.
Throughout the Old Kingdom, paint was used to decorate and finish limestone
reliefs, but during the 6th Dynasty painted scenes began to supersede relief in
private tombs for economic reasons. It was less expensive to commission
scenes painted directly on walls of tombs, although their magic was just as
During the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom, the rectangular
wooden coffins of nobles were often painted with elaborate care, turning them
into real houses for the spirits of the dead. Their exteriors bore inscriptions
giving the names and titles of their owners, and invoking the pro-tection of
various gods. The remaining surface areas were covered with brightly painted
panels imitating the walls of houses hung with woven mats, and incorporating
windows and doors in complicated geometric patterns. Great attention was
paid to the "false door" situated at the head end of the coffin through which
the ka would be able to enter and leave as it pleased. This panel always
included the two sacred eyes of the falcon sky-god Horus, which would enable
the dead to look out into the living world.
The interior surfaces of the coffins were sometimes painted with the offerings
made to the dead, ensuring that these would continue in the afterlife. An
offering table piled with bread, meat, and vegetables was the central feature.
A list of ritual offerings was also important, and personal possessions such as
weapons, staffs of office, pottery and stone vessels, and items of clothing
were all shown in detail. Headcloths were painted at the head end, and spare
pairs of sandals at the feet.

Nectanebo II
31st Dynasty (343-332 BCE)
Ochus (Artaxerxes III)
Darius III Codomannus

These coffins were placed in the small rock-cut chambers of Upper Egyptian
tombs, where the stone is often too rough or crumbly to provide a good
surface for painting. Fragments of painted murals do survive, however, and
some tombs have lively scenes of hunting in the desert or of agricultural work.
Acute observation also produced unusual subjects such as men wrestling or
boys playing games, shown in sequence like a series of stills from a moving
film. Others are painted with outstanding skill. Part of a marsh scene in a
tomb at Beni Hasan, c.1,800 BCE, shows a group of birds in an acacia tree.
The frond-like leaves of the tree are delicately painted, and the birds, three
shrikes, a hoopoe, and a redstart, are easily identifiable.
Tomb painting really came into its own, however, during the New Kingdom,
particularly in the tombs of the great necropolis at Thebes. Here the limestone
was generally too poor and flaky for relief carving, but the surface could be
plastered to provide a ground for the painter. As always, the traditional
conventions were observed, particularly in the formal scenes depicting the
dead man where he appears larger than his family and companions. Like the
men who carved the Old Kingdom reliefs, however, the painters could use their
imaginations for the minor details that filled in the larger scenes. Birds and
animals in the marshes, usually depicted in profile, have their markings
carefully hatched in, giving an impression of real fur and feathers; and their
actions are sometimes very realistic. In the tomb of Nebamun, c.1,400 BCE, a
hunting cat, already grasping birds in its claws, leaps to seize a duck in its
Fragments illustrating a banquet from the same tomb give the impression that
the painter not only had outstanding skill but a particular delight in
experimenting with unusual detail. The noble guests sit in formal rows, but the
servants and entertainers were not so important and did not have to conform
in the same way. Groups of female musicians kneel gracefully on the floor, the
soles of their feet turned towards the viewer, while two in one group are
shown almost full-face, which is very rare. The lightness and gaiety of the
music is conveyed by their inclined heads and the apparent movement of the
tiny braids of their elaborately plaited hair. Lively movement continues with
the pair of young dancers, shown in profile, whose clapping hands and flying
feet are depicted with great sensitivity. A further unusual feature is the
shading of the soles of the musicians' feet and pleated robes.

Egyptian Frescoes
Painting not only decorated the walls of New Kingdom tombs, but gave great
beauty to the houses and palaces of the living. Frescoes of reeds, water, birds,
and animals enhanced the walls, ceilings, and floors of the palaces of Amarna
and elsewhere; but after the 19th Dynasty there was a steady decline in the
quality of such painting. On a smaller scale, painting on papyrus, furniture,
and wooden coffins continued to be skillful until the latest periods of Egyptian
history, though there was also much poor-quality mass-produced work.

C. Artistic Techniques of Relief Carvings and Painting

Before any carving in relief or painting could be done, the ground - whether
stone or wood - had to be prepared. If the surface was good, smoothing was
often enough, but any flaws had to be masked with plaster. During the New
Kingdom, whole walls were plastered, and sometimes reliefs of exquisite detail
were carved in the plaster itself. Usually mud plaster was used, coated with a
thin layer of fine gypsum.
The next stage was the drafting, and the scenes were sketched in, often in
red, using a brush or a scribe's reed pen. This phase was important,
particularly when a complicated scene with many figures was planned, or
when a whole wall was to be covered with scenes arranged in horizontal
registers. Some craftsmen were confident enough to be able to use freehand,
but more often intersecting horizontal and vertical lines were used as a guide.
These could be ruled, or made by tightly holding the ends of a string dipped in
pigment, and twanging it across the surface. Quite early in Egyptian history
the proportions of the grid were fixed to ensure that human figures were
drawn according to the fixed canon. Since the decoration in some tombs was
never finished, the grid lines and sketches can be clearly seen, together with
corrections made by master craftsmen.
The next stage in producing a relief was to chisel round the correct outlines
and reduce the surrounding level, until the scene consisted of a series of flat
shapes standing against the background in low relief. Then the final details
could be carved and the surface smoothed ready for painting. Any corrections
and alterations made to the carving could be hidden beneath a coat of plaster
before the paint was applied.
The painter worked directly to a draft on a flat surface, and began with the
background. This was filled in with one colour, grey, white, or yellow, using a
brush made of a straight twig or reed with the fibres teased out. The larger
areas of human figures were painted next, the skin colour applied, and the
linen garments painted. Precise details, such as the markings of animals and
birds or the petalled tiers of an ornamental collar, were finished with a finer
brush or a pen. The pigments were prepared from natural substances such as
red and yellow ochre, powdered malachite, carbon black, and gypsum. From
about six basic colours it was possible to mix many intermediate shades.
The medium was water to which gum was sometimes added, and the paint
was applied in areas of flat colour. During the New Kingdom delicate effects
were achieved by using tiny strokes of the brush or pen to pick out animal fur
or the fluffy heads of papyrus reeds. Shading was rarely used until the mid18th Dynasty, when it was employed, particularly in crowd scenes, to suggest
the fine pleating of linen garments.
Architecture: Pyramid Tombs and Temples
Egyptian architecture is world famous for its unique underground tomb
design, exemplified by the Egyptian Pyramids at Giza, along with its tomb

artworks (mummy paintings, sculptures, ceramics and precious metalwork)

and Sphinx. All the great monumental pyramids were erected during the era
of Early Egyptian Architecture, with only a handful of smaller ones being
constructed in the era of in Egyptian Middle Kingdom Architecture. After
this came the golden age of Egyptian New Kingdom Architecture, with its
huge temple precincts at Karnak and Luxor, after which the extended period
of Late Egyptian Architecture was a distinct anti-climax.