Egyptian art

art for the dead 3000-1000 BC

frontality: carved or sculpted figures looking straight ahead

hieroglyphics: picture writing from Egypt

Ka: the spirit or soul of a dead person

osiris: god of the Nile and underworld

Isis: great mother goddess

Ra (re) : sun god

horus: falcon god, god of the sky

pharaoh: most important person in Egyptian society, a king and a god

mastabas: a burial chamber, a single layer, like a cake. Made of sun baked brick.

Sarcophagus: a stone coffin

stylization: subject is not accurately depicted, idealized, beautified

imhotep: first artist whose name is known. Designed the step pyramid of king zoser

tutankhamen: king whose tomb was found by Howard Carter in 1922 in the valley of the kings. It was filled with treasures.

Key concepts in Egyptian art:

  1. role of pharaoh in society
  2. importance of religion and gods
  3. belief in the afterlife
  4. rules of Egyptian art
  5. tradition was important

the artist tried to portray the body with all parts accurate, so that the Ka would recognize the body

why all this art for the dead?

  1. to have a future one must bring everything into it
  2. preserve the mummy (body) and protect it from everything. The pyramid was a monument of protection.
  3. the tomb was like a suitcase to the next world, if you needed something, bring it.
  4. the artist made eternal life possible
  5. the art was not meant to be seen (no audience)
  6. art is substituted for reality

time was divided into old middle and new kingdoms

pyramids are old kingdom

first female ruler was queen hatshepsut

all architecture was tomb architecture

forms of stability were designed to last forever

mastabas = step pyramids = real pyramids = funerary temples = large mortuary temples


frontal, one entrance, walls lead in, sloped,

serdah = sealed chamber for the substitute image it was a home for the dead

EX-step pyramid of king zoser at saquurra made of limestone

7 layers of mastabas, each on top is smaller than the ones on bottom

earliest large stone structure in the world

the true pyramid why the pyramid form?

  1. structural engineering efficiency
  2. aesthetic (mood) form is stable, step pyramid seems to have energy
  3. the symbol for the sun and sun god was a golden tipped pyramid

the three great pyramids at Giza: khufu (cheops), khafre, menkure

built of limestone with a granite top, covers 13 acres and is 480 feet tall

best known of 80 pyramids in Egypt

interior of the pyramids was a network of chambers, galleries, and air shafts

pyramids lack upward movement because their bases are larger than their height

this suggest stability and permanence

the great sphinx is 85 feet high and guard the pyramids lion shows power of the king

queen hatshepsut created a funerary temple, partly in stone, in 1480 BC.

The background of the cliff shows a nature statement and creates a mood

priest temples were also important. They were religious structures. They had rows of statues. The front and gate was called the pylon. The courtyard was open to the sky. Only the important people got to go all the way into the temple. It created a mood of mystery and increasing intensity as you walk deeper into the temple.

The palette of king narmer 3000BC narmer united upper + lower Egypt

the seated scribe from saqurra painted limestone, seated with legs crossed

men were dark colored, women were lighter colored

ahkenaten 1379-1362 amarna period monotheistic religion, changed art temporarily

softer, more descriptive , with a new sense of form, less idealized

the gold mask of tutankhamen 1340 BC.