Lecture, Ancient Egypt


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  • Themes: -Art and power: political, social, and spatial hierarchies -Power of tradition: formal conventions (vocabulary) in Egyptian art -Power of myth: Egypt of/in the imagination (the afterlife) Similar to the art of the Ancient Near East, Ancient Egyptian artists were devoted to expressing the absolute power of their leader (pharaoh) and their belief in the afterlife. Here we will continue to explore the visual vocabulary of power through the built environment and in representations of man.
  • Egyptian art also presents the opportunity to discuss the establishment of artistic conventions and the desire to control the representation of the human body. In representations of the human form, particularly of leaders like pharaohs and noblemen, pose, proportions, skin coloring, gender roles, etc, become canonized and remain consistent for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The consistency of image is central to our modern understanding of the ideal human form and may be one of the reasons for our continued fascination with and indebtedness to Egyptian culture.
  • Myth making has also significantly affected our understanding. Since the early 19 th century when Napoleon invaded Egypt, Westerners have long been fascinated with all things Egyptian, from its architecture, to its fashions, to its kings (pharaohs) and queens. This was further escalated by the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1923 by archeologist Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings. As a result, Hollywood responded with scores of movies, skits, and songs. As legend has it, eleven people connected with the discovery died within 6 years of the tomb’s desecration. The mythic curse of the Egyptian pharaohs served as continued fodder for the imagination.
  • Moving past the myths about ancient Egypt, let’s take a look at the facts.
  • As seen in the Mesopotamian ziggurats, the axis mundi of the Egyptian pyramids represents the desire to connect and exert control over the material and spiritual realms. Through the plans of the temple or pyramid complexes we can also consider how power was communicated through the marking of ceremonial spaces that similarly reflect a sense of hierarchy and power. Along a horizontal axis, Egyptians established processionals that served as gradual transitions from open secular spaces to the innermost sanctuaries that few accessed. These spaces frequently incorporated the symbolic use of light, reflecting transitions from life to death. Thus, organization and planning of architectural spaces reflect the hierarchy and beliefs of society.
  • The Egyptians practiced mummification as a means of providing an eternal home for the spirit ( ka) of the deceased, believing that the soul of the dead continued to live on long after the body dies. The embalming process was lengthy (70 days) and involved. Major internal organs were removed from the left side, then individually wrapped and placed in jars for inclusion in the tomb next to the mummy. The brain was pulled through the nose and discarded. The heart remained in the body since it was thought to be the seat of the life force and of its intelligence. The body was then embalmed with a salt compound, resin-soaked linens were placed inside, and the incisions covered with an amulet (Horus’s eye) to ward off evil. Finally, the body was covered in lotions and wrapped in hundreds of yards of linen to maintain its shape. The mummified body would then be entombed with all manner of needs (food, servants in effigy, furniture, ka sculptures) in the afterlife.
  • This preoccupation with the afterlife converged with the Egyptian interest in a highly stratified and hierarchical society. Therefore, their burial practices and tombs reflected this hierarchy. Here, we see the pyramids of the pharaohs Menkaure, Khafre, and Khufu. They are the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. The tomb of Khufu is the oldest and largest. At its base, the length of one side is 775 ft. The surface area is 13 acres. Its current height is 450 ft. 2.3 million blocks of stone, each weighing 2.5 tons (enough to encircle France in a 10ft high wall).
  • Old Kingdom
  • To carve this sculpture, the artists used a subtractive process. First, they drew the design on the block of stone. Then, they carved away the excess with chisels. Finally, the master sculptor smoothed the form.
  • Hatshepsut was the first recorded female pharaoh. She ruled for 2 decades. Here is her temple, which stands as the first great tribute to a woman’s achievements in art history. Within it included painted reliefs detailing her expedition to the “land of Punt” on the Red Sea, and representations of her birth and coronation. Representations of Hatshepsut show how gendered such portrayals of powerful figures were. In the above Sphinx of Hatshepsut, we can see how she adopted the visual vocabulary of male pharaohs (the headdress, false beard) to indicate eternal power and legitimize her rule.
  • Here is a model from the hall of the sprawling complex of the Temple of Amen-Re in Karnak, Egypt. It is a hypostyle hall, which in its most basic form, means that columns support a roof. In this case, extraordinarily tall columns (66’) would have supported lintels resting on cubicle blocks, which rest on 22 ft wide capitals. In order to illuminate the interior of the hall, the central columns were taller to allow for window openings above. This Egyptian-invented element is called a clerestory, which, like the post-and-lintel system of the hypostyle hall, creates the basic vocabulary for many structures built thereafter. Some of these include Gothic cathedral and later, the modernist skyscraper.
  • With the reign of Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV), a religious upheaval altered not only religious practices in the New Kingdom but artistic representations of the king and his family.
  • Lecture, Ancient Egypt

    1. 1. The Art of Ancient EgyptArtfortheAfterlife Seated Scribe ca. 2600 BCEPainted limestone Old Kingdom http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/seated-scribe.html
    2. 2. The Measure of a Man Vanessa Beecroft, VB45.007.DR, 2001 c-print Illustration of the Egyptian canon of proportions
    3. 3. Egyptomania Luxor Hotel Las Vegas, NV Steve Martin, King Tut, SNL, 1979 http://www.hulu.com/watch/55342 Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra 1963 Howard Carter, Tutankhamen’s Tomb, 1923http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZWB5-aXMXQ The Bangles, Walk Like an Egyptian, 1986
    4. 4. EgyptDates and Places:• 3500-1000BCE• Nile River Valley (fertile-- then a lush land of marshes and ridges)People:• Divine rulers• Agriculture• Hieroglyphic writing system• Polytheism (many gods) Map of Ancient Egypt
    5. 5. EgyptThemes:• Gods• Rulers• Life and death (the afterlife)• OfferingsForms:• Stone and mud brick construction• Natural and conceptual treatments of figures• Strict adherence to Egyptian canon Menkaure and (rule of representation according to Khamerernebty(?), unity of measurement) ca. 2490-2472BCE.• Registers of space Fig. 1-27.• Hierarchy of scale
    6. 6. Egypt: The Vocabulary of Power Narmer (crown of Lower Egypt)Hathor(divinemother) BeheadedNarmer enemies(crown ofUpperEgypt) Horus (protector Papyrus Circular of pharaohs) (Lower depression Egypt) (surrounded Slain by feline enemies Heads) Palette of King Narmer, ca. 3000-2920BCE, Predynastic period
    7. 7. Egypt: The Vocabulary of Power• Ceremonial palette (stone slab with circular depression) commonly used to prepare eye makeup• Marks transition from prehistorical to historical Egypt• Story of unification of Upper and Lower Egypt• Divine ruler (Narmer) and gods (Hathor (cow), Horus (falcon), etc)• Symbols of authority• Canon of proportions (would last for Palette of King Narmer, ca. 3,000 yrs) 3000-2920BCE. Fig. 1-22• Hierarchy of scale (Narmer much larger than attendants and enemies)• Composite view (head profile, chest frontal, legs in profile• Hieroglyphs (Narmer’s name)
    8. 8. “Regarding the Pain of Others” (Sontag)from Abu Ghraib Prison Iraq, 2004 Francisco de Goya, Disasters of War (What more can be done?), 1810-20, etching
    9. 9. Egypt – Tombs & the Afterlife• Knowledge of Egypt from tombs & burial artifacts• Preoccupation with afterlife• Mastaba (stone or brick structure erected over burial chamber)• Shaft connected tomb with outside world (so ka (spirit) could escape)• Contained chambers & compartments (statues, paintings, reliefs, etc. to accompany dead)• Axis mundi (ziggurat) Imhotep, Stepped Pyramid and mortuary precint of Djoser, 2630- 2611BCE. Fig. 1-24. Ziggurat at Ur, ca. 2100BCE. Fig. 1-11.
    10. 10. Egypt - Mummification King Tut’s Death maskReconstruction of King Tut’s face by Elisabeth Dayneshttp://www.daynes.com/en/home.php http://fieldmuseum.org/explore/multimedia/video-gilded-lady-mummy
    11. 11. Egypt – SpatialHierarchies(Old Kingdom) Hammurabi and Shamash, detail of the stele with Law Code of Hammurabi ca. 1780BCE, Babylon (Ancient Near East) Great Pyramids, Gizeh, Egypt, 4th Dynasty, ca. 2551-2528BCE. Fig. 1-1.
    12. 12. Egypt – Spatial Hierarchies Great Sphinx, Gizeh plateau, ca. 2551-2528BCE• Funerary precinct with burial pyramids and temples (enormous expense, built over 75 yrs)• Pyramid symbol of god Re (god of the sun, reborn daily)• Testifies to king’s power (oversee huge workforce quarrying, carrying, and dressing stone (wooden rollers/sleds)• Masonry (ashlar) construction with internal chambers (hoisted Man-headed lion (image of up on ramps with ropes/pulleys) Khafre & symbol of Re)• Stone facing reflected sun Fernand Khnopff The Sphinx (The Caress) 1896 oil on canvas
    13. 13. Egypt: Old KingdomTomb Sculpture –The Measure of a Man(God and King) Khafre Enthroned Gizeh, Egypt 4th Dynasty diorite, 5 ft 6” ca. 2500 BCE
    14. 14. Old Kingdom Tomb Sculpture• Ka sculpture for king’s temple (Valley of Kings)• Stone (diorite) used for tomb statuary• Quarried 400 miles up river• Attributes of pharaoh (nemes headdress (uraeus cobra), kilt, false beard)• Enthroned (resembles two lions’ bodies)• Between legs intertwined lotus and papyrus (symbolize united Egypt)• Horus (protector) behind head Khafre Enthroned• Idealized body (youthful divine Gizeh, Egypt 4th Dynasty leader) diorite, 5 ft 6”• Compact, frontal, solid, ca. 2500 BCE symmetrical (eternal power)
    15. 15. Egypt - OldKingdom TombSculpture Ti Watching a Hippopotamus Hunt, painted limestone in mastaba of Ti, Saqqara 4’ high, Egypt, ca. 2450 BCE
    16. 16. Egypt - Old KingdomTomb Sculpture• Painted relief for tomb of Ti• One of many depictions of agriculture and hunting• Hippopotamus hunt (an allegory for Detail Hall of defeat of evil) Bulls• Ti and attendants in thick grove of Lascaux ca. 25,000 BCE papyrus• Animals (birds, foxes, fish, hippopotami) at top and bottom• Strict adherence to canon (system of proportions) in Ti Ti Watching a Hippopotamus Hunt,• Composite (conceptual) painted limestone relief in representation (head in profile, mastaba of Ti, Saqqara 4’ high, Egypt, ca. 2450 chest frontal, legs in profile) BCE• Timeliness and enduring power in Victory Stele of Naram-Sin Ti’s aloof stance (detail) ca. 2254-2218BCE
    17. 17. Egypt – NewKingdomArchitecture Colonnade (row of columns usually spanned by lintels above) Mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, Deir el-Bahri, New Kingdom, ca. 1473 BCE Sphinx of Hatshepsut, New Kingdom, ca. 1473 BCE
    18. 18. Hypostyle hall ClerestoryEgypt – NewKingdom 22’Architecture CapitalAmiens 66’Cathedral13th century ColumnCEFrance Model of the hypostyle hall Stonehenge, Temple of Salisbury Plain Amen-Re Wiltshire Karnak, Egypt England ca. 1290 BCE 2550 – 1600 BCE
    19. 19. Egypt - Defying theCanon (New KingdomSculpture)AkhenatonTemple ofAtonKarnak, Egyptca. 1350 BCEsandstone13’ high
    20. 20. Egypt – Defying the Canon • New Kingdom pharaoh • Changed name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaton Akhenaton Temple of Aton • In honor of Aton (only god, sun) Karnak • Declared monotheism and moved ca. 1350 BCE temple down river (to Akhenaton) 13’ high • Brief departure from strict adherence to canon • Naturalism and realism • Androgynous & effeminate representation (thin, elongated face and arms, swollen belly, hips) • Identifying himself with Aton (not represented naturalistically but as sun itself)?The Royal FamilyAkhenaton, Nefertitiand their family
    21. 21. Egypt –Defying theCanon Thutmose, Nefertiti, ca. 1353-1335BCE. Painted limestone, 1’8”, Fig. 1-34.
    22. 22. Egypt – Defying the Canon• Akhenaton’s wife• Name means “The Beautiful One Has Come”• Influential queen (shared power?)• Named sculptor (Thutmose)• Deliberately unfinished (left eye not inlaid)• Ideal beauty over true likeness• Possibly resembles flower (enlarged head over thin, delicate neck) Thutmose, Nefertiti, Painted limestone 1’8” tall ca. 1353-1335BCE