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Egyptian Art

 
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 12:47 am    Post subject: Egyptian Art Reply with quote

Great site!

I need help supporting the statement that "all Egyptian art is functional".

I know that the art mainly served a religious purpose. I would, however, still appreciate some good examples and perhaps a short outline.

Thank you! Smile
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VBadJuJu
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Part of the reason "all Egyptian art was functional" was because of the way their society functioned.

The king (pharoah) was a god on earth and part of his job was to act as an intermediary with the gods on behalf of the people. This would include building and decorating temples in honor of the gods. The king would make REAL sure his name was included so that the gods would know who built this beautiful thing to them. This would please the gods with the whole kingdom.

When the king died he was supposed to continue his work in the next world. So his tomb would include oodles of stuff to help him (or her) get to the next world. Lots of the inscriptions are like books and instructions on how to get there, what to do and even sort of 'letters of introductions' to the gods telling who this is and so forth. This was not just art, because hopefully when he got there, he would help his former subjects.

The tombs of common folks were not nearly as elaborate or filled with religious text. If they could afford it, they would decorate them with pictures of things they like to do: hunt fish, weave etc. They would be scenes of more everyday life. That way when they rose in the next world, the gods would know what they liked to do and what their profession was. There was less religious text in part because to hire a literate decorator would have been very expensive.

The tombs of nobles and those who served the king would be more like a photo album of their life: important events they participated in or were witness to. Often this meant the king was the star of the scene with the person whose tomb it is is bowing and scaping before them or in the background.

Anyone and everyone who could afford it would include little statues called shabti (or sometimes shawabti). We see these as art, but to them they were VERY functional. These were statues of yourself which were made during the 70 day embalming period and inscribed with a magic spell to make them rise and go to work for you (the next life was just like this life, but with better clothes and air conditioning). Tut had some 400+ shabti - one for each day of the year plus overseers to make sure the workers rose and went to work like they should.

Some of the stuff was more secular and like PR though. Depictions of kings smiting the enemies of Egypt are very very common. Even in a simple statue of a king seated, if you look under his feet there is almost always a depiction of 7 bows. These represent the 7 traditional enemies of Egypt and is more of the Our King is Soooo Powerful type propoganda. There are also major battles won and peace treaties engraved on walls and such. These are meant to awe visitors to the land as well as remind the people what a swell king they have.

It seems like nearly all art is religious because temples and tombs are made of huge stone blocks and they survived. Houses (and even most of the palaces) were made of mudbrick. Temples and tombs were meant to survive forever, not so for a house. In those that have survived, there are lots of examples of natural scenes: birds, fish, streams, fields of flowers etc. This type of art was far less functional, but also much less of it survives.

Personal objects certainly seem to be functional art: spoons and combs and such in the form of crocodiles, swimming women, certain household gods and so forth. There seems to me to be a great deal of royal art found in private homes - scarabs, pendants, rings and so forth with depictions or the names of the kin on them. I dont know what it means beyond the fact that they seem to have held thier ruler(s) in higher regard than we do.

There are several others here that can probably speak on the subject in more detail and provide links (one seems to be redoing her living room wall in Late 18th Dynasty durbar fresco). This should give you a start though.

I also didnt do this in outline form - but I was never good at following instructions (I'm a rebel)
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 2:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No that's fine ! Thanks a lot. I love it. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm working on something that is due Thursday, but I'm stilll looking foward to seeing what anyone else has to say...when ever. Cool
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think maybe holiday shopping and such is keeping our resident artists away.

Here is neat page on AE Art: http://www.bergen.org/AAST/Projects/Egypt/art_report.html
The section on "Akhenaten and Nefertiti" has some errors. The picture is almost certainly not Akhenaten but Smenkhare or Tut; and Akhenaten was never known as Akenahmun.

One thing worth mentioning is the Armana Period, which points up the importance of art in their society. In the later part of the 18th Dynasty, a king came to the throne who had some different ideas. Basically, he promoted a rather minor god, Aten (or Aton) and said Aten was supreme to all the other gods. Before, the Aten was just the sun disk and chariot for Re the sun god.

Now the Egyptians were conservative and didnt like change at all. After all, if you never have to worry if it rains or not and still get 2-3 harvests a year, the gods MUST like you right? So why change? His ideas were very controversial and certainly upsetting to many (still, LOL).

He did many things different. He changed his name from Amenhotep (which means the god Amun is Content or Pleased) to Akhenaten (Servent of the Aten). He built a new city to the Aten and moved the capital there. He also changed the art style - DRAMATICALLY.

His 'new' god was special and depicted very differently: instead of a man with an animal head this was abstract - Aten was just a sun disk. One of his mottos was 'Living in Truth' so in his art style he and his family were shown warts and all. Instead of idealized with no blemishes, the blemishes were actually exaggerated in the early Armana style! This was very very different from before.

Here is an early image in the Armana Style. Notice that the sun has a little cobra at the bottom - it is the uraeus or snake symbol the king wears. He was using art to say that Aten was king of the gods (and/or maybe that he was co-ruler with the Aten). Notice the lumpy thighs and large rear end on the king - he even has breasts like a woman! At first they thought he might be a woman king. Nefertiti has thick thighs as well and notice the little kids behind her and their oddly shaped heads. In other pictures the sun has little arms with hands that bring the sign of life to the nostrils of the king and family. The art was telling the story of the new religion.

Here is another picture too small for great detail but you can see his overall form is far from idealized. Even his head seems oblong. (He is never shown without some sort of hat or crown, but his whole family is depicted with egg shaped heads). Here is a bust of this king and here is a colossus of him. There is obviously something wrong with him: look at the jutting chin, thick lips, flowing hips and 'long' face.

Now, he probably didnt really look that odd (his mummy was never found). Some limestone statues from earlier show him with a paunch but not to the grotesque extent shown later. Some plaster life masks show an elongated face and jutting chin, but not as much as shown in the bust or colossus. Nor is it likely his whole family had the same affliction. Tut was Akhenaten's brother or maybe son, this picture shows an egg head, but his mummy's skull isnt nearly that oblong.
http://www.egyptarchive.co.uk/html/cairo_museum_41.html

Now, there is no way an artist would decide to make a king or prince look like that on his own. This had to be with the king's urging and guidance or encouragement even. He had to be trying to say something to his subjects, because art would be the only way many many people would get any exposure to the king's new ideas. We arent sure just what he was trying to say, but for certain the changes in art were an important part of his movement.

Maybe he was saying 'I have nothing to hide' or maybe he was trying to show he was special or that everything was going to be different from now on. Part of the new religion was that he alone understood the Aten, so maybe he was saying his appearance was a "gift" from the Aten. Some think maybe the female hips and breasts were symbolic of him as Mother and Father to the kingdom (I think thats farfetched in light of the other peculiariies , but certainly possible).

What is curious is this: he pursued his religious reforms for about 15 years, but the art changed and softened rather quickly (see the mislabeled picture of "Akhenaten and Nefertiti" in the first link). The art was still different, but he wasnt shown quite so grotesquely. It is certain he was using art as a part of his religious reform program. It seems likely that people were repulsed by the radical change in art and he had to scale it back in order to get his religious message out. To be sure the religious changes were more upsetting to the people, but the radical change in art was not helping things.

(To wrap up the story, he went overboard with his changes. When he died, Tut took his place and the Aten movement petered out fairly quickly. The art style largely reverted as well.)

HTH
PS, Stop back and tell what what kind of mark or grade you got, ok?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting. Cool

I wrote my term paper on the King Tut "Blue crown" statue fragment (At the MET in nyc). That particular work is still considered to be sort of Armana influenced because of the emotional facial features and the sentimental aspect of Amun's hand touching the back of Tut's head. I find it interesting how Tut was born Tutankhanten but later changed his name to Tutankhamun because he wanted the God Amun to be the official God.

I have another essay type question that I'm working on.

"Ancient Egypt has fallen off the face of the earth. You have been selectd by a global committee on preservation of ancient Egyptian Art as the curator in charge of creating one last exhibition on Egypt. What is included on that exhibition will be reserved. What would you save and why to best reresent this civilization for posterity?"

I'd want to save the Pyramids but I'm not sure if thats practicle. lol

Another obvious one might be King Tut's golden funeral mask.

Any ideas? and reasoning?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

preserved*

represent*
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anneke
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are some interesting articles online:
http://www.skillspublish.com.au/Workshops%20and%20the%20Palace.pdf

There are some beautiful art objects found in several tombs and like both of you mentioned a lot of the art seems functional. Beds, chairs, decorated vessels etc.

It seems that art for art sake is a bit of a modern invention. Very Happy

The Boston Museum of Fine arts has made quite a few articles available in pdf format. There are some interesting articles about Old Kingdom art there.
http://www.gizapyramids.org/code/emuseum.asp?newpage=authors_list

Tomb decorations are rather interesting. They show religious scenes, offerings to the dead, daily life, and they sometimes record important events in the life of the individual.

The religious scenes vary a bit. In the old and middle kingdom they showed the preparation of food offerings and later there seem to be depictions from the book of the dead etc.
There are also scenes showing the dead offering to either kings or gods or both.

In the old Kingdom I have seen several scenes where the deceased is seated behind an offering table and there is an inscribed list of all the items offered to them. This includes bread, wine, beer and I think sometimes linnen. These scenes were meant to ensure that the deceased had these items to his/her disposal in the afterlife.
There are some examples here:
http://www.gizapyramids.org/pdf%20library/manuelian_slab_stelae2003.pdf

There are also scenes in tombs that outline the job of the deceased. In Rekhmire's tomb for instance we see the "job description" for a vizier.

In one of the Amarna tombs we see the head of the police in action pursuing criminals and presenting them to the vizier after he has captured them.

In the Amarna tombs we also see impportant events from the lives of the deceased. We see many a reward scene where they are standing beneath the window of appearance being awarded gold collars.

There are also scenes from a sculptors workshop, scenes showing some sort of plan of the grounds of the temples and the palace. (Those are not entirely consistent from tomb to tomb and sometimes hard to present.)

These scenes from daily life in Amarna are not quite a prevalent in other time periods.

I know of one other award scene showing Ramses II and Nefertari in the window of appearance and I think they are awarding Neferweben I think.


The scenes in the tombs show that there were plenty of very simple vessels used. No decorations at all. But there are also many examples of beautifully decorated vessels both in tomb scenes and as part of the funerary equipment. There are many vessels decorated with animal motifs. I don't know quite what those animals mean.
There are often gazelles used. There are vessels in the form of fish and other animals as well.

It's interesting that in the tribute scenes in the tombs of Meryre and Huya from the time of Akhenaten we see many of the foreigners bringing in beautifully decorated vessels as gifts to the King (and Queen). Some of these vessels are shown decorated with gazelle heads, others with a cow/bull, and one has a lid with a lion's head.

Very Happy I have no idea if this was what you were looking for?

Like VBad mentioned I have done some paitings of scenes in tombs. They can be found on a page I put together.
click here to see the scenes from the tombs I did.
Very Happy The egyptian themed ones are toward the bottom of the page.

I really enjoy statues as well. In Leiden (the Netherlands) they have a hall of New kingdom statues which is amazing. The detail in these statues is wonderful.
http://www.siteclx.nl/rmo/index.php/do-permanent/language-en
The site above shows a view of this hall of statues and the statues of MAya and Meryt which were discovered in Saqqara.
If you click on "egypt" you will see more info about their collection.

Another page I like is the site maintained by the people who do the excavations in Saqqara
http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/saqqara/Excavation/Tombs.html
There are pictures on this site of some of the finds.

For as far as preserving egyptian art? That's a tough call. I sometimes feel that more attention has always been given to royal objects. I would probably choose to preserve more every day items? Things that belong to nobles, workers, etc.
The royal inscriptions are nice, but I personally like seeing scenes from the tombs of the nobles and the craftsmen even more. As well as items they used. These people somehow seem a little more real to me. Less state propaganda Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

VBadJuJu wrote:
one seems to be redoing her living room wall in Late 18th Dynasty durbar fresco.


LOL And some food offering scenes for the kitchen, temple scene for the hallway....

Still looking for a good scene for the bathroom Razz
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 4:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

anneke wrote:
Still looking for a good scene for the bathroom
I'm thinking a nice bust (or colossus) of Akhenten placed at eye level would scare the crap out of even you. Wink
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 5:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What to save, hmmmm.

If it is a full exhibit you can do more than one thing so:

Definately the Narmer Palette. It is from the very earliest times of history, perhaps of the first king of Egypt, yet nearly all the symbols in it persists in their art to the very end. The Crowns he wears came to symbolize the Pharoah, the smiting scene was copied by many many kings, the help of Horus holding the head of a foe; the king wears a bull's tail which remained a symbol of power to the end and the kilt or girdle he wore is very similar to the end. And of course the general message of mess-with-us-and-die was important and often repeated thru their history. In general it shows how consistent they were in their art and symbolism.

I'd personally skip the pyramids, but I'd form a subcommittee to select an obelisk to save. A sphinx or two would be nice as well.

I'd save some of their writings. The Story of Sinuhe was copied by scribes as a learning tool. The Ebers medical Papyrii details what they knew about medicine. Maybe transcribe pyramid texts so you dont have to save an entire pyramid.

I'd have a section on Who They Were: statues of non-royal people like this guy and his beautiful wife. THere is more to choose from here. Some of their daily utensils and such would be appropriate.

I'd do a section on who they worshipped and copy some reliefs from tombs showing various gods helping with the birth of the king. Gods with animal heads are always a hit. Along with that some stuff representing what they believed in terms of an after life. So a mummy, canopic jars, a coffin or two, some shabti and Tut's golden mask and maybe his throne would be appropriate. You could also save the entire temple at Abu Simbel - it is already cut into pieces and moved from an area to be dammed and flooded, so moving it again should be easy Wink .

I'd save the kings list of Seti. Not only lists all their kings (the ones they liked anyway) but depicts hieroglyphs and how long they were around (ie the length of some dynasties is longer than the history of the US and some are as long as there have been Europeans in North America).

And of course Who Their Rulers were. A selection of statues of certain kings or well done figures. Cheops, Menkuare, Pepy II, Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Amenhotep III, Ramesses II and III and a few others would be nice. You could add a Queens section: Tiye, Ankhesen-Pepy, Twoseret, Ahmose-Nefertari, Ramesses-Nefertari, the famous Berlin bust of Nefertiti (though it very likely isnt actually her, but a daughter - it's still beautiful and still of a queen) etc.

If you can only choose one thing (your post isnt clear), everyone will do something from Tut or the Berlin bust. I'd do the Narmer Palette. Or a mummy.

HTH
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 4:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot for all the great links and info. I was asked to write the essay supporting that "all egyptian art was functional". Hopefully I'll be able to see the graded version and I'll try typing it up for you guys because I think it's pretty good. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, please let us know what you wrote Very Happy
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