LU 4 Ancient Egypt


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LU 4 Ancient Egypt

  1. 1. Chapter 3: Art of Ancient Egypt Egypt's impact on later cultures was immense. You could say that Egypt provided the building blocks for Greek and Roman culture, and, through them, influenced all of the Western tradition. Today, Egyptian imagery, concepts, and perspectives are found everywhere; you will find them in architectural forms, on money, and in our day to day lives. Many cosmetic surgeons, for example, use the silhouette of Queen Nefertiti (whose name means “the beautiful one has come”) in their advertisements.
  2. 2. ALL GOLD EVERYTHING Funerary Mask of Tutankhamun, from tomb of Tutankhamun, Valley of the Kings, Eighteenth Dynasty c. 1327 BCE. Gold inlaid with glass and semiprecious stones, height 21 ¼ “, weight 24 pounds. Egyptian Museum, Cairo
  3. 3. Longevity Ancient Egyptian civilization lasted for more than 3000 years and showed an incredible amount of continuity. That is more than 15 times the age of the United States, and consider how often our culture shifts; less than 10 years ago, there was no Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube. While today we consider the GrecoRoman period to be in the distant past, it should be noted that Cleopatra VII's reign (which ended in 30 BCE) is closer to our own time than it was to that of the construction of the pyramids of Giza. It took humans nearly 4000 years to build something-anything--taller than the Great Pyramids. Contrast that span to the modern era; we get excited when a record lasts longer than a decade.
  4. 4. “Gift of the Nile” Egypt is a land of duality and cycles, both in topography and culture. The geography is almost entirely rugged, barren desert, except for an explosion of green that straddles either side of the Nile as it flows the length of the country. The river emerges from far to the south, deep in Africa, and empties into the Mediterranean sea in the north after spreading from a single channel into a fan-shaped system, known as a delta, at its northernmost section. The influence of this river on Egyptian culture and development cannot be overstated—without its presence, the civilization would have been entirely different, and most likely entirely elsewhere. The Nile provided not only a constant source of life-giving water, but created the fertile lands that fed the growth of this unique (and uniquely resilient) culture.
  5. 5. View from the high peak of the Theban hills showing the sharp delineation between the lush Valley and the barren desert. Each year, fed by melting snows in the far-off headlands, the river overflowed its banks in an annual flood that covered the ground with a rich, black silt and produced incredibly fertile fields. The Egyptians referred to this as Kemet, the “black lands”, and contrasted this dense, dark soil against the Deshret, the “red lands” of the sterile desert; the line between these zones was (and in most cases still is) a literal line. The visual effect is stark, appearing almost artificial in its precision.
  6. 6. Time - Cyclical and Linear The annual inundation of the Nile was also a reliable, and measurable, cycle that helped form their concept of the passage of time. In fact, the calendar we use today is derived from one developed by the ancient Egyptians. They divided the year into 3 seasons: akhet ‘inundation’, peret ‘growing/emergence’, and shemw ‘harvest.’ Each season was, in turn, divided into four 30-day months. Although this annual cycle, paired with the daily solar cycle that is so evident in the desert, led to a powerful drive to see the universe in cyclical time, this idea existed simultaneously with the reality of linear time. These two concepts—the cyclical and the linear—came to be associated with two of their primary deities: Osiris, the eternal lord of the dead, and Ra, the sun god who was reborn with each dawn.
  7. 7. Consistency & Stability • • Egypt’s stability is in stark contrast to the Ancient Near East of the same period, which endured an overlapping series of cultures and upheavals with amazing regularity. The earliest royal monuments, such as the Narmer Palette carved around 3100 B.C.E., display identical royal costumes and poses as those seen on later rulers, even Ptolemaic kings on their temples 3000 years later. Palette of Narmer, c. 3000-2920 B.C.E. (left) and Ramses III smiting at Medinet Habu (1160 B.C.E.) (right)
  8. 8. • A vast amount of Egyptian imagery, especially royal imagery that was governed by decorum (a sense of what was ‘appropriate’), remained stupefyingly consistent throughout its history. This is why, especially to the untrained eye, their art appears extremely static—and in terms of symbols, gestures, and the way the body is rendered, it was. It was intentional. The Egyptians were aware of their consistency, which they viewed as stability, divine balance, and clear evidence of the correctness of their culture. • This consistency was closely related to a fundamental belief that depictions had an impact beyond the image itself—tomb scenes of the deceased receiving food, or temple scenes of the king performing perfect rituals for the gods—were functionally causing those things to occur in the divine realm. • Greek historian Herodotus thought the Egyptians were the most religious people he ever encountered. In their world the movements of the heavenly bodies, the workings of gods, and the humblest of human activities were all believed to be part of a balanced and harmonious grand design. Death was to be feared only by those living their lives that disrupted the harmony, upright citizens could be confident about their spirits living on eternally.
  9. 9. • • Early Development: The Predynastic Period The civilization of Egypt obviously did not spring fully formed from the Nile mud; although the massive pyramids at Giza may appear to the uninitiated to have appeared out of nowhere, they were founded on thousands of years of cultural and technological development and experimentation. ‘Dynastic’ Egypt—sometimes referred to as ‘Pharaonic’ (after ‘pharaoh’, the Greek title of the Egyptian kings derived from the Egyptian title per aA, ‘Great House’) which was the time when the country was largely unified under a single ruler, begins around 3100 B.C.E. The period before this, lasting from about 5000 B.C.E. until unification, is referred to as Predynastic by modern scholars. Prior to this were thriving Paleolithic and Neolithic groups, stretching back hundreds of thousands of years, descended from northward migrating homo erectus who settled along the Nile Valley. During the Predynastic period, ceramics, figurines, mace heads, and other artifacts such as slate palettes used for grinding pigments, begin to appear, as does imagery that will become iconic during the Pharaonic era—we can see the first hints of what is to come. Dynasties A dynasty is a series of rulers belonging to the same family. Groups of dynasties make up periods. • Dynastic divisions modern scholars use were not used by the ancients themselves. These divisions were created in the first Western-style history of Egypt, written by an Egyptian priest named Manetho in the 3rd century BCE. Each of the 33 dynasties included a series of rulers usually related by kinship or the location of their seat of power. Egyptian history is also divided into larger chunks, known as ‘kingdoms’ and ‘periods’, to distinguish times of strength and unity from those of change, foreign rule, or disunity.
  10. 10. Early Dynastic Egypt c. 2950-2575 BCE Since about 5000 BCE Egypt was divided into Two Lands, or major kingdoms, Upper in the South (upstream on the Nile) and Lower in the North (downstream). Around 3000 BCE a powerful ruler united upper and lower and this is the early Dynastic period. This is where we see the development of the lasting ideas of kingship and cosmic order. What we know about Egypt are from the art and artifacts found in tombs and temples, so everything is rooted in religious practice and the lives of the wealthy class.
  11. 11. The Pharaoh—Not Just a King • • • • • Kings in Egypt were complex intermediaries that straddled the terrestrial and divine realms. They were, obviously, living humans, but upon accession to the throne, they also embodied the eternal office of kingship itself. The ka, or spirit, of kingship was often depicted as a separate entity standing behind the human ruler. This divine aspect of the office of kingship was what gave authority to the human ruler. The living king was associated with the god Horus, the powerful, virile falcon-headed god who was believed to bestow the throne to the first human king. Horus is regularly shown guarding and guiding the living ruler; as in this image of a falcon (Horus) wrapped behind the head of Ramses III in the tomb of Khaemwaset Horus’s immensely important father, Osiris, was the lord of the underworld. One of the original divine rulers of Egypt, this deity embodied the promise of regeneration. Cruelly murdered by his brother Seth, the god of the chaotic desert, Osiris was revived through the potent magic of his wife Isis. Through her knowledge and skill, Isis was able to sire the miraculous Horus, who avenged his father and threw his criminal uncle off the throne to take his rightful place. Osiris became ruler of the realm of the dead, the eternal source of regeneration in the Afterlife. Deceased kings were identified with this god, creating a cycle where the dead king fused with the divine king of the dead and his successor ‘defeated’ death to take his place on the throne as Horus.
  12. 12. Horus in the tomb of Khaemwaset Osiris (in the Valley of the Queens)
  13. 13. Egyptian artists followed strict conventions for 3 millenia of history (with subtle and significant variations). A system of mathematical formulas were developed to determine design and proportions. Relief sculptures were made on registers, with scenes laid out in inked lines on a square grid to guide in the proportion of the human figures. Figures are designed 18 squares tall, measuring from the soles of the feet to the hairline; the tops of their knees are 6 squares up. Shoulders are aligned with the top of square 16 and are 6 squares wide. This is the canon of proportions representing an ideal system in pictorial relief established in the Middle Kingdom.
  14. 14. The Narmer Palette A stele significant for representing the unification of Egypt and it’s establishment of being a powerful nation-state. It’s got all the representational conventions for Egyptian art:  Heirarchic scale  Bold silhouette  Use of symbols: horus (falcon head), papyrus, crown  Multiple perspectives in composite poses: head in profile, fully frontal torso, hips, legs and feet in profile The artistic convention for representing the human figure as a conceptualized composite of multiple viewpoints is followed for several millennia in Egypt when depicting royalty and other dignitaries. People of lesser rank are represented in ways that are more life-like.
  15. 15. Vessels for the “ka” The Egyptians needed a body (mummy for the dead) or a statue/sculpted likeness of the human in order for the ka to live on and move safely into the afterlife. For the king, his ka had a fabulous home because the well-being of his ka ensured the well-being of Egypt. The bodies were preserved and placed in burial chambers with all sorts of lavish comforts. The mastaba was the building that held the serdab, a small sealed room housing the ka statue of the deceased and chapel designed to receive mourning relatives and offerings. Mastabas were grouped together in a necropolis, or “city of the dead” at the edge of the desert on the west bank of the Nile. Two of the most extensive necropolises are at Saqqara and Giza, just outside modern day Cairo.
  16. 16. The earliest known monumental architecture in Egypt is at Saqqara, commissioned by King Djoser and designed by Imhotep, Djoser’s prime minister. Imhotep is the world’s first recognized architect, creating the Step pyramid and Djoser’s funerary complex.
  17. 17. The Step Pyramid, Funerary Complex of Djoser, Saqqara, c. 2630-22575 BCE Limestone, 204’
  18. 18. At first Djoser’s tomb was planned as a single story mastaba. Then Imhotep decided to enlarge the concept and form six mastaba-like elements on top of one another like steps. It looks like a ziggurat, but it’s different. The steps are for Djoser to step up to the Sun god Ra, and it’s also for protection of his tomb. The adjacent funerary temple is for the priests to perform rites and prepare the body and also for continuing worship of the dead king. Now we are going to look at Egyptian art divided up into different dynastic periods: the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom. After the New Kingdom Egypt was ruled by a series of different dynasties who took the art in slightly different directions while still maintaining the traditions, which is called the Intermediate period. After the Intermediate period Egypt was taken over by outside forces so this changed the conventions that lasted 3,000 years.
  19. 19. The Old Kingdom c. 2575-2150 BCE Relatively stable politically, despite lots of military defense needed at the borders. The ruling families and upper level government officials were growing their wealth significantly, this is reflected in the construction of pyramids at Giza. The pyramids at Giza are four sloping triangle faces on a square base, first erected in the Fourth Dynasty (2575-2450 BCE). The angled sides are thought to represent the slanting rays of the sun. The most famous are the three pyramids at Giza built successively by three Fourth Dynasty rulers: Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. The oldest and largest is of Khufu, about 481 feet high. Khafre’s is smaller and Menkaure’s is the smallest. The site was carefully planned to follow the the sun’s east-west path.
  20. 20. Khafre’s Complex The Great Sphinx: 65 feet tall, limestone sculpture, combines his head with body of a crouching lion, merging human intelligence with animal strength. Great Sphinx, Funerary Complex of Khafre. Giza, Old Kingdom, c. 2520-2494 BCE. Limestone, 65’
  21. 21. Sculpture from Khafre’s Valley Temple Carved out of one stone, joined together Menkaure and Queen Khamerernebty II
  22. 22. Statues of less prominent people are rendered in a more relaxed, life-like, naturalistic fashion. Notice the round head, facial expression, flabby body, irregular contours on his face. Its more lively, rather than statuesque. Seated scribe, found near tomb of Kai, Saqqara, Fifth Dynasty, c. 2450-2325 BCE Painted limestone with inlaid eyes of rock crystal, calcite, and magnesite mounted in copper, height 21”
  23. 23. The interior walls of the tombs were decorated with paintings and relief to provide the ka with the most pleasant living quarters for eternity. This is where we get a lot of our information about Egyptian culture and life. Hippos had significance, hunting them in the relief walls symbolized the triumph of good over evil. The river here is seen from above while the crocodile, fish and hippos are viewed in profile. Ti is rendered in heirarchic scale, stylized and smooth musculature. The papyrus stalks show the Egyptians privileging the line as a foundation of visual art. Composite view when the face, feet and arms are in profile but the torso is depicted in the frontal view. Sometimes the eyes are a frontal view although the face is in profile.
  24. 24. The Middle Kingdom c. 1975-1640 BCE Here we have a king who is expressing awareness of hardship and human fragility. Look at the wrinkle in his brows and his cheeks are sagging. Egypt just came out of a period of political turmoil and warfare after the Old Kingdom, a time called by historians the First Intermediate period. Middle Kingdom rulers came and regained control of the empire, expanding its borders and fostering growth in arts and writing. Are we looking at the face of a wise man, lonely and saddened by his responsibilities, or is it a reassuring pose, that in spite of troubled times Egypt will prevail? Head of Senusret III, Twelfth Dynasty, c. 1836-1818 BCE. Yellow quartzite, height 17 ¾“
  25. 25. Unfinished Stele of Sculptor Userwer, Twelfth Dynasty, c. 1850 BCE. Limestone, red and black ink, 20 ½“ x 19”
  26. 26. Let’s compare two paintings from the Middle Kindgom and the New Kingdom. What are the subtle differences? Stele of Amenemhat, from Assasif, Late Eleventh Dynasty, c. 2000 BCE. Painted limestone Queen Nefertiti Making an Offering to Isis, Wall painting in the tomb of NEfertari, Valley of the Queens, Nineteenth Dynasty, 1290-1224 BCE
  27. 27. Hatshepsut female ruler of Egypt (reigned in her own right c. 1473–58 BCE) who attained unprecedented power for a woman, adopting the full titles and regalia of a pharaoh.
  28. 28. Funerary temple of Hatshepsut (with the Middle Kingdom mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II at left), Deir el-Bahri, Egypt, Dynasty XVIII, ca. 1473–1458 BCE.
  29. 29. Amarna style: revolutionary style of Egyptian art created by Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton). His innovations were centered upon a new religion based on the worship of Aton, or the sun‘s disk. The artistic elements that Akhenaton introduced in the decoration of the Aton temples and on other monuments of his reign, both at Karnak and at his new capital of Akhetaton (Tell el-Amarna), are referred to collectively as the Amarna style. It represents the human body: Faces with a hanging jaw, pronounced facial folds, and narrow, slitted eyes, while the body itself consisted of a thin, reduced neck, sloped shoulders, a heavy paunch, large hips and thighs, and rather spindly legs. The princesses are usually shown with greatly elongated skulls. Colossal Figure of Akhenaten, Temple of Gempaaten, Sandstone with traces of polychromy, height of remaining sculpture 13’
  30. 30. Akhenaton (also spelled Akhnaton, or Ikhnaton , also called Amenhotep IV), king of Egypt (1353–36 BCE) of the 18th dynasty, who established a new monotheistic cult of Aton (hence his assumed name, Akhenaton, meaning ―One Useful to Aton‖). He transformed the political, spiritual, and cultural life. He founded new religion of honoring one supreme god (Aton, sun god). Akhenaton, means ―One who is effective on behalf of Aton. He brought about the new Amarna style and he also moved the capital of Egypt from Thebes further north and called it Akhetaten “Horizon the Aten.” Aten/Aton = sun god Akhenaten and His Family, from Tell el-Amarna, Egypt, Eighteenth Dynasty, c. 1353–1335 BCE. Limestone, approx. 12 ¼“ high
  31. 31. Thutmose, Nefertiti, from Tell el-Amarna, Egypt, Eighteenth Dynasty, c. 1353–1335 BCE. Painted limestone, height 20”
  32. 32. Tutankhamun king of Egypt (reigned 1333–23 BCE), known for his intact tomb discovered in 1922. During his reign, powerful advisers restored the traditional Egyptian religion and art that was neglected by his predecessor Akhenaton, who had led the Amarna revolution.
  33. 33. Ramses II third king of the 19th dynasty of Egypt, whose reign (1279–13 BCE) was the second longest in Egyptian history. he is known for his extensive building programs and for the many colossal statues of him found all over Egypt. He and Tutankhamun represented a return to tradition that was briefly broken by Akhenaten. His temples at Abu Simbel were not funerary monuments. Ramses’ and Nefertari’s tombs are in the Valley of Kings and Queens in Upper Egypt. Temple of Ramses II (Left) and Nefertari (Right), at Abu Simbel Nineteenth Dynasty, 1279– 1213 BCE
  34. 34. Queen Nefertari Making an offering to Isis, Wall painting, Nineteenth Dynasty, 1290–1224 BCE, In the tomb of Nefertari, Valley of the Queens, near Deir el-Bahri The walls of Nefertari’s tomb are covered in paintings in the fresco secco style. She is offering goddess Isis jars of perfumed ointment. The outline drawing and use of pure colors within the lines reflect traditional practices, but what is new is the slight modeling of the body forms by small changes of hue to enhance the 3-dimensional appearance. The skin color of the women is much darker, women are traditionally portrayed as light and men are darker. There is shading for the eyes and lips.